Thursday, January 24, 2008

Another old bike

Yep, I'm starting this with another seat cluster.
From a (purported) mid-1950s Maino. (say “My-ee-no”) The bolt is in front and on top! On a brand-new bike, you might hear, “oh, that’s a new idea!” Guess again. This is from fifty years ago. The bike is Italian, but the lug shape reminds me of some French bikes; that upside-down mouth cutout looks like a Singer or Herse.

This 57cm frame has 71.5/72 degree head and seat tube angles and 46cm chainstays; that’s not exactly a speed-demon geometry by modern standards, but it’s not a farm truck, either. It appears to have a fairly normal fork rake for the time-kinda long but not ridiculous. For bad roads (think post-war Europe) it is a nice compromise and probably a pretty neutral-handling bike.
As outfitted, with 32mm tires and fenders, it makes a nice fast but practical bike for cobbles or gravel or rain or whatever. But you could use it for racing or sport riding, too...nix the fenders, swap the wheels for some lightweight tubulars, and in ten minutes you’re ready to go. It turns into a completely different bike. The present Pneumatici Clement tires (presumeably original) are 700c, so a tubular wheelset will basically fit right in and you might not even have to adjust the brake blocks. Clamp the rear wheel far forward in the dropouts to gain another half-degree or so on the frame angles and nip off a few centimeters from effective chainstay length, too, causing the handling to be a tad quicker to complement the faster wheels.

Before carbon fiber cranksets there were aluminum. And before aluminum there were steel. And the best cranksets were made out of steel because, well, there wasn’t anything else. Wood broke. So did bone. And iron was brittle. My picture doesn’t do this piece justice-all those cheesy ugly cheap cottered cranks you’ve seen on ‘70s bike boom imports are nothing compared to this jewel. Made by Marinoni, or perhaps Gnutti-there are some companies you don’t hear from any more. Stamped “Maino,” like most of the components used on the bike.
Notice the lack of cables around the bottom bracket. The rear derailleur housing dives into the down tube next to the shift lever, swings right through the bb shell and into the right chainstay before emerging again a little forward of the dropout. Four gears are controlled by a drum-spring Benelux derailleur. Do you really need more than four? In some quarters (England, for example) even that was seen as excessive.

The bottle (canteen?) is aluminum and has a cork stopper. High levels of Aluminum have been observed in the brains of Alzheimer patients. You can draw your own conclusions...
What you don’t see is that under this bottle there is a little button which (when depressed) releases the cage from its clamps, so if you’re not going far you just leave the bottle and cage at home.

This bike just blows me away. As far as I can tell, it is all original (except for that French saddle?), right down to the whitewall Pneumatici Clement tyres.

The great racer Constante Girardengo turned pro in 1913 with the Maino-Dunlop team, and Learco Guerra won the 1933 Milan-San Remo and the 1934 Giro d’Italia both with Maino. Guerra also was 1931 World Road Racing Champion and Champion of Italy from 1930-34, presumably also while riding with Maino. They called him "the locomotive." Someone please correct me if I have erroneous information, or add what you can find...I have pieced this all together from various sources. An acquaintance gave me an “wayback machines” article by Jim Langley, found in Bicycling! featuring a Maino, and at
you can see a picture of one of Guerra’s actual bicycles. Also, a Maino motorcycle was made in Italy from 1902-1956. Other than these references, the company has vanished. Even doesn’t have a listing for the brand. Didn’t they import much to the U.S.? Are they blacklisted Commies? Fascists? What’s the deal?
Here is another link, to a pre-WWII poster with Girardengo and his Maino bicycle; notice the cluster shape and fixing bolt location:
It’s a good bet that the company pulled some weight in the Italian cycling industry in their time-aside from the evidence of a successful pre-war team, many of the parts are branded “Maino,” including pedals, crankset, pump, hubs, rims, and brake levers. It seems unlikely that these were all made BY Maino, but rather FOR them by others. The hubs, for example, have Gnutti skewers, for whatever that is worth.

Even the fender hardware is custom-made with an “M” stamped in. Check out the front fender extension-there’s something vainglorious about that little piece-something about its shape that works subconsciously, maybe, to a guy? I have never seen such before-keeps the water contained a little perhaps, but I thinks its main purpose is to attract the eye. Sort of a mixture of practical and blustery, maybe a little bragadoccio. Like a codpiece. Or one of those rubber scrotums that cowboys (among others) like to hang under their pickups. It also reminds me a little of the nape of a helmet il Duce was photographed in, or maybe Lorenzo de Medici or Caeser Augustus? Italian. And why doesn’t the fender extend forward past the front brake?? It hasn’t been cut-the leading edge is rolled and painted. Hmmm, strange....
Since this bike was discovered a few years ago, the only work that has been done is some careful, conservative, cleaning. And only on the drive side, at that. I did put air into the tubes, which are fortunately sound. I don't see that the old guy will ever be ridden again, so it's stupid to destroy the tires just to replace them with incorrect modern ones so somebody could ride it around the block once or twice. And I certainly would never repaint it...that original yellow paint and decals can't be replaced. That is the paint the bike had all those years ago, it's the paint it had on the boat coming from Italy, it's the paint and the grease and maybe even some of the dirt from its very first ride all those years ago, and maybe even Don Maino himself touched that bike. Even if I could find a perfect match for the paint and decals, they would still be just reproductions. Once lost, the original condition will never be regained. Never. What a shame that would be. When I see old bikes all primped and polished and posed, I often think of the Antiques Roadshow, like when the assessor says, "If this Boston tea table retained its original finish, it could be worth, at auction, $450,000, but now since it has been refinished...."


Unknown said...

My mother rode a Maino bought from an Ohio bike shop in the mid-1970's. The shop was mainly Raleigh but handled other quality European bikes, such as LeJuene, Gitane, Peugeot, etc. I think he had the Maino line to offer a quality ladies-frame bike.
She took it (along with two daughters) for a month ride in Scotland in 1977.

Unknown said...

Just picked up a Maino that looks mid-seventies w/Campy hardware. Very hard to find info on this.