Masi – Vintage Steel Bikes

Country: Italy
Founded: Milano

The history of Masi Steel Bikes

Faliero Masi was a master framebuilder held in the highest esteem by the many professional riders for whom he built made-to-measure bicycles, and by successive generations of students who learnt the secrets of framebuilding under his tutelage. He built his first frame at the tender age of 16, working at home and teaching himself. The first great champion to win on a Faliero Masi bicycle was none other than Fiorenzo Magni, around 1924. As early as 1942 Falerio was building frames under contract for the Learco Guerra brand.

In 1952 Faliero Masi opened his store on the ground floor of the Vigorelli Velodrome in Milano. Masi designed all the frames that bore his name, and painstakingly measured his customers, earning the nickname „the tailor“. He would carry out the detailed finishing work on frames that had been brazed together by his employees. Every Masi bike was thus subject to the strict quality control of the maestro himself, who set the highest and most demanding standards. For almost two decades his most trusted colleague was Dicimo Merlo, but many aspiring framebuilders were to undertake apprenticeships under Masi. By the 1970s the Masi workshop had attained a reputation for training and educating many who would go on to become recognized leading framebuilders themselves.

Masi worked closely for many years with the Italian National Team, and later with many leading professional racing teams such as Faema, KAS, Peugeot and Raleigh. In many cases he not only made their frames but built up the complete racing bicycles and served as head mechanic at the races they competed in. On many occasions the top team bicycles that were created by Masi Servizio Corse were branded with the team name rather than that of their famous creator. Amongst those who rode into the history books upon Masi bicycles were Vittoria Adorni, Jacques Anquetil, Louison Bobet, Federico Bahomentes, Fausto Coppi, José Manuel Fuentes, Reg Harris, Antonio Maspes, Eddy Merckx, Gastone Nencini, Arnaldo Panbianco, Roger Riviere and Tom Simpson, to name but a few.

In 1973 Faliero’s son Alberto took over the Vigorelli premises, and Masi senior relocated to Carlsbad in California where he opened a new manufacturing facility, anticipating the boom in cycling that was to see the US bicycle market expand hugely later that decade. The bikes from the SoCal facility are known as the Masi California bikes. Masi bicycles and Masi California bicycles were ridden to Olympic podium finishes in Melbourne (1956), Rome (1960), Munich (1972), Montreal (1976), Los Angeles (1984) and Seoul (1988). Faliero Masi was to return to Italy having sold the rights to market bicycles bearing his name to an American businessman. Ownership of the hallowed name having changed hands, the Masi family were unable to trade in the US under their own name. Instead, Alberto would export bikes to the US bearing the Milano 3V brand name.

In the 1980s Alberto Masi was an early proponent of oversized steel tubing, and patented a method of frame construction which featured unique Masi 3V internal lugs. The straight gauge thin wall chromium-molybdenum tubing is silver brazed to the investment cast lug, and the resulting frame benefits from increased rigidity and thus reduced flex, all whilst saving weight. This proprietary method of construction means that the mitred tube ends are all visible, leaving no margin for error, in contrast with traditional external lugs which can hide a multitude of framebuilders’ sins!

Masi frames (other than very early models which used ‘Pela’ B.B castings) almost always feature a large capital letter M cut-out of the underside of the bottom bracket shell. The fork crown was almost invariably flat topped and would often include long tapered reinforcements on the inner face of the fork blades.

Top Masi models

Masi Speciale

Masi Prestige

Masi Gran Criterium

Masi Barcelona Commemorative (1991)

Masi 3V Volumetrica

Masi 3V Pista

Masi Pista

Masi Special Pista