Tuesday 27 February 2007

A Herd of Tin Donkeys: My Marinoni

Touring in Germany with the Marinoni

When I first began to relate the travels of the Tin Donkey, life was much simpler as I only had two bicycles: my 1991 Bianchi Limited and my custom-made 1998 Marinoni Ciclo. Now I have, uh, six bikes in my apartment.

For those unfamiliar with them, Marinoni bicycles are built near Montreal by Giuseppe Marinoni and when I first began to get serious about cycling in the mid-1990s they were the dernier cri for Canadian cyclists. Stylish, nicely-finished and nearly affordable, they came in a range of models. My bicycle was the entry-level version and was constructed with lugged steel tubing (Columbus Brain O/S, to be precise). I had it set up with a Campagnolo Athena group, a Racing Triple and Campy Atlanta aero rims. The bicycle has extra-long chainstays, an extra set of water bottle braze-ons and braze-ons for a rear rack and fenders. It is with this bike that I have ridden most of the Tin Donkey adventures and we have covered nearly 20,000 kms together so far. The bike, by current standards, is pretty heavy but it is amazingly comfortable and excellent for lightweight "credit card" touring.

Riding the Frankenwald Radmarathon in August 2001

This was the first bicycle I ever owned with integrated shifters and a triple chainring. Although I had done a few warm-up rides in Ottawa before I left for my German posting in 1998, my first introduction to serious cycling came when I was riding near Berlin in Brandenburg and got somewhat lost, turning what was supposed to be a 90 km ride into something approaching 150 kms. However, the Marinoni was so comfortable I felt that I could have just kept on going forever and this is when I realized how important bike fit is to a comfortable ride. And this is the bicycle I used for very long rides (224 km in one day in Holland; 220 km in one day around Lake Constance) and for hard climbing in the Swiss Alps and Sicily, as well as my epic ride along the Camino de Santiago.

En route to Castrojeriz

The bicycle is starting to show signs of wear and tear, but for a very reasonable amount the people at Marinoni will refinish it for me and we will continue to ride the scenic roads. The bicycle was a major investment for me, costing C$ 2000 but when I consider the immense pleasure it has given me since 1998 I consider it money well-spent. And not only is it painted in British Racing Green, as I requested, but the lettering is done in Sahara, a light gold colour and my name is even painted on the top tube. O Bliss!

There is a lot to be said for lugged steel bikes. They are high on the style quotient, with truly classic good looks. There is a Cult of the Lugs developing in North America and it is apparent at events such as the Cirque du Ciclisme and the North American Handmade Bicycle Show. Not everyone wants to race their bikes (I do that too!) but just to sit back and enjoy the ride. Pride of ownership means a lot with something as personal as a bicycle, which was a significant milestone in industrialization yet remains a symbol of strong individualism.


Anonymous said...

i have just hopped on looking for reviews of marinonis. i own a 2008 fango (cyclocross) with brazons and fenders as well that my wife and i will be using as tourers and off roaders. it is indeed lovely.

i came from the road aluminium from opus bicycles and find the weight to be a little hard to get used to but with my touring tyres and the steel frame, the long rides whilst physically more demanding, are much easier to sustain. lovely lovely ride.

Sprocketboy said...

As you can see on the blog, I have taken the Ciclo on a lot of trips where the comfort factor was a big plus. Whether on the cobbles of Flanders or big climbs in Spain and Switzerland, the bike has worked very well for me. I also have postings on a visit to the Marinoni factory and the restoration of my bike on the blog. Not only rides well but looks good too! I think this brand is one of cycling's best-kept secrets. Thanks for the comment!