Tuesday, February 23, 2010
De Rosa History, Part II
De Rosa history, Part II, as it appears currently (February, 2010) on the De Rosa website:
Ugo De Rosa:
"I am a man who goes straight to the point. And, by force of habit, I never look back and count the years I have spent making frames. I prefer to look ahead because, after working for half a century, I am still convinced that the bicycle has room for improvement. And just as I have done up till now, in the future too I want to contribute to the evolution of this fascinating vehicle, which is at the same time so simple and so complicated.
Everything began just after the war. It was 1947, I was 13 years old and crazy about bikes. It was the time of the Sunday magazine, the Domenica del Corriere, with its covers drawn by Walter Molino illustrating the feats of Bartali and Coppi. For me, it was a time for studying but also for dreaming. And in the workshop of Filippo Fasci, one of my relatives, I dreamed of building myself a bike and becoming a champion. It was in that little workshop that my destiny was decided. When I was 18 I set up business on my own and began this difficult but wonderful adventure that I am still experiencing today, with the same strength, desire and enthusiasm as in those early years.
I remember that...
It may happen that the memories of fifty years of a lifetime in cycling build up and become confused with one another. But there are some that are unforgettable for their intensity, emotion and satisfaction. All these memories are linked with champion cyclists. Like Raphäel Geminiani, whom I met in 1958 and who immediately wanted me as a mechanic in his team. Or like Van Looy, the king of fast finishes. Like Gastone Nencini, the never-forgotten “Yellow Cloud”. Or like Gianni Motta, elegant in the saddle. Like Eddy Merckx: a champion par excellence, on the cycle and in life, Eddy was so scrupulous that sometimes he might seem capricious. How many sleepless nights, for Eddy…but how many satisfactions! After that came many more, thanks to Moser, Argentin, Berzin, Gonchar, Vainsteins, Casagrande, Baldato, Pellizzotti...and all those champions who have ridden or are still riding my bicycles. And whom I group together in a symbolic photo to commemorate their and our successes."
De Rosa “mastercraftsman”
His charismatic figure is closely linked with the name of the Italian racing bicycle and his name is part of a restricted list of frame artists, animators of that “movement” who, around the Sixties, with their skill and imagination were decisive in the success of the special bike “made in Italy”. Advocate of a philosophy based on healthy realism, according to which “first you have to know how to make bicycles, and then know how to sell them”, in fifty years of activity Ugo De Rosa has brought his business from a small workshop to one of the world’s finest companies linked with the cycling world. A world where Italian is not the only language spoken.
It’s true: behind a great man there is always a great woman. And behind Mariuccia and Ugo De Rosa, who have shared the joys and toils of fifty years of work, there are also three sons really worthy of their parents: Danilo, Doriano and Cristiano. A closely knit family, true strength of the company that bears their name and reflects their character, geniality, seriousness, precision and taste for beautiful things. A family with great unity of intent, in which each member has a well defined task, without conflict but with the precise aim of increasing the prestige of the De Rosa brand year after year.
Three sons with the same DNA
Danilo, born in 1958, the eldest. His high technical training, the manual skill inherited from his father and constant exercise in cycling at good levels enable him to transmit the spirit that has always animated every De Rosa product to the aluminium and carbon frames which he designs and plans right down to the minimum details. With his distinctive aesthetic sense and good taste, it is his job to decide the graphic aspect and the colours of the various lines of frames and bicycles.
Doriano, born in 1961, defines himself as “very much in love” with his work. His speciality is titanium: he knows all about alloys and the methods for processing them. In fact, every De Rosa titanium frame bears his signature, because he personally follows up all the stages from the drawing board to production. As well as titanium, he is an expert in steel. He supports the theory that the evolution of the product must go step by step with tradition, with which it is integrated and epitomised. And the results prove he is right.
The third son, born in 1963, also served his time, learning the trade under his father wing. Then he gradually began to deal with the commercial aspect of the company, in which he is now occupied on a full-time basis. From his mother he inherited an inborn sense for public relations which allows him to manage all-round contacts with the cycling world. He is the “official voice” of the family business which he represents, along with his brothers, also at fairs and international events.
Behind the name “Ugo De Rosa srl” we don’t find the usual, typical family-run artisan company, but one of the finest cycle companies in Italy. Certainly it is firmly in the hands of a strong and united family, who work at artisan level but with absolutely modern criteria and with state-of-the-art technologies that enable them to keep in step with the times and often to anticipate them.
How steel has changed in the half century! It seems only yesterday when we had to handle untreated tubes, shiny with oil, to be cut by hand, the joins to be filed one by one, to refine its shape and thickness so that they look more like embroidery than couplings. And we had to heat it with an oxyhydrogen flame, cast the brass and weld everything. And then file and file again…Instead now we are in the days of TIG, of welds made directly from tube to tube, so fine that they seem invisible, and very difficult to perform if you are not well trained. And if you don’t know the metal you are working on, always lighter, always thinner…The only thing that has not changed, and that is because we want it that way, is the typical De Rosa meticulousness in always wanting to do things well. First with the brain and then with the heart. And this can be seen in our steel frames, from the ever popular Neo Primato to the brand-new Corum.
Noble, exclusive, intended for a select few. And above all, fascinating. As fascinating and enthralling as the challenge that we De Rosa have undertaken with this material. So difficult to work with, but also unique for the satisfactions that it gave us when we understood its secrets, concealed in its precious alloys. Secrets that we now guard jealously because they enable us to process it better to achieve our aim. The aim to obtain frames that are not only nice to look at, but also to use both at the purely competitive level and in amateur sports. Ours is a niche production, with only two models in the in which we are personally involved. Because only in that way are we sure that we can catalogue, both realised in an artisan manner, made with maniacal care for detail and with procedures achieve our set aim. Because only in that way our Titanio and Titanio XS acquire an absolute identity that makes them stand out among a thousand others. And makes them worthy to bear the De Rosa mark.
Light aluminium alloys are strange. And above all they are many. So many that if you do not take care in choosing the right one…you risk putting your good name in jeopardy. This is the real reason why we De Rosa were particularly cautious in approaching alloys. The aluminium question had to be tackled with full knowledge of the facts, and that is just what we did. The first alloy frame by De Rosa arrived when the market was already offering all kinds of things. But it earned a place on the market without any problems and these spaces were followed by others. The proverb says “Breeding will out”. This old saying also applies to our light alloy frames. Safe, reliable frames, made even more comfortable by the latest technologies linked to the interaction of aluminium with carbon fibre. Frames that met with immediate approval. Confirmed by the response of a market which again placed its trust in us.
You cannot fail to fall in love at first sight with composite material, a material with infinite potential. If it is correctly treated and processed, of course. Our project for carbon, for example, began a long way back. We arrived at the King following a long path during which, step by step, we learned all the secrets of carbon fibres and fabrics. And all about the respective work processes, for which we built a separate department in our factory. A special laboratory, where only carbon is processed, where the absence of dust and humidity and constant temperatures are absolutely necessary factors to ensure the final result. Where specialised personnel work on the products in composite fibre and assemble them according to well defined procedures in order to arrive at the complete frame. Realised in this way, the frame guarantees the right parameters of mechanical strength and elastic modulus, necessary to make the King an authentic machine born to race. Reliable testimonials are provided not only by the professionals in the Alessio Team, but also by a great many enthusiasts who once again have placed their trust in us.
Research, studies, tests
In our half-century, our history has taught us that nothing can be left to chance. At our level we cannot allow ourselves to put a foot wrong, we have an enormous company heritage to safeguard, in other words our customers. We must offer them quality, safety and the guarantee of maximum reliability. For this reason, before going into production, every frame model is planned thoroughly right down to the slightest detail, studying the reactions with special laboratory tests, some of which are performed directly in the factory, others in university facilities. Static and dynamic tests which are followed by countless tests directly on the road, carried out both by experienced professional racers and by amateurs. All people with “explosive” legs, valid testers who are able to put a racing bike through its paces like few others can. And production starts only when the results exceed the parameters of resistance, safety and duration. And the items are not mass produced, for we respect the values of artisan tradition that has made the De Rosa brand famous throughout the world.
De Rosa evolution
Those were difficult years. For Italy just recovering from the war, a racing bicycle was still a luxury. But cycling has the power to arouse people’s passions and everything led to believe that, in just a short time, the Italians would be clamouring for special bikes. Among the few to believe this there was also Ugo De Rosa, who in that very year began his great adventure on two wheels. The only material available for making frames was steel. Cut by the skillful hands of the craftsman, welded and filed, it was transformed into authentic gems born to race. And to win.
The boom of the Seventies and early Eighties, in which the “racing bike” phenomenon literally exploded, strangely did not lead to a real technical evolution of the product. It was only in the second half of the Eighties that the bicycle underwent transformations not only in its shape but also in its contents. Starting from the materials, among which titanium alloys drew the attention of manufacturers who were most sensitive to technological innovation, first of whom De Rosa. After thoroughly studying titanium and its alloys and learning the respective work techniques, the craftsman from Lombardy began producing frames with this material which immediately
distinguished themselves for their elegance and neatness of form, lightness and reliability. The same characteristics which make our “EOS” and “XS” titanium frames stand out among a thousand others today.
The racing bike finally assumed the role it had earned on the two-wheels panorama, undergoing continuous technical updates. Aluminium alloys had now been used for years also on frames for road bikes. Sometimes this was done without due consideration, too superficially. To avoid this pitfall, De Rosa began making alloy frames only when that material had no more secrets for him. It was with that attention, that philosophy combining tradition and evolution, that masterpieces such as the Dual and the Merak took shape, frames that are appreciated all over the world.
If aluminium has had a lot to say in the field of frame making, carbon is certainly not far behind. Composite materials, used in the most varied industrial fields, gradually entered our world to, and in the form of components they allowed us to produce completely new frames. Frames in which the sharp reactivity of light alloy is wedded with the high modulus of elasticity, the mechanical strength and the light weight characteristic of carbon. The success of these innovative frames, a perfect equilibrium of performance and comfort, was immediate perhaps it excellently interpreted the demands of modern cycling, in both the competitive and the amateur field.
To make our first all-carbon frame we were inspired by the King and by its modularity concept which enables us to produce real tailor-made frames. We worked hard to create a steering coupling made entirely of composite fibre and to guarantee the perfect operation of the mechanisms built into the steering. We succeeded thanks to our experience and to the technology at our disposal. In this way we achieved our set goal, that is a full carbon frame that is modular like the King and weighs only 1050 grams, not including the fork. Often “celebrative” bikes end up being more collectors’ items than mechanical means for using in earnest. The “Cinquanta”, created to celebrate our golden wedding with the bicycle, is instead a highly special racing frame to all effects. Following the path of active modularity, on which we embarked with the King, and working with carbon fibre to obtain a steering configuration with built-in mechanisms, we obtained an all-composite frame. Although it is composed of various segments, it possesses the rigidity of a monocoque, with in addition high riding comfort. Without counting the possibility of being able to choose from a complete range of customised sizes.
Stories for the Italian Cycling Journal about rides, granfondo, having a good time cycling in Italy, Italian cycling history, etc. are very welcome. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. There are more than 1,200 stories in this blog. The search feature to the right works best for finding subjects in the blog and there is also a translate button at the bottom so you can translate each page.