Here is some history of the brand, courtesy of Angel Garcia and his excellent Italian Cycling Journal blog, and he actually interviewed the current owners of the shop in 2007 here.
Chesini was founded in 1925 by Gelmino Chesini who had been a bicycle mechanic before he began building bicycles. The first business location was in Nesente on the outskirts of Verona, later moving to Verona. He developed what became a well known slogan in Verona,"O Chesini o cammini". The son, Gabriele Chesini, continued the business. Chesini built bikes only for their own brand and were not a sub-contractor for another brand at any time. They also performed their own pantographing. Photos of their manufacturing facilities in the 1980s show a very impressive capability.
Large numbers of Chesini's were sold in Europe, particularly in Austria, Germany, and other European countries through representatives. A much smaller number were sold to the USA.
Four world championships have been won on Chesini bikes:
100KM race 1964,
100KM race, 1965,
|Verona's Roman Amphitheatre (photo Wikipedia Commons by Chensiyuan, 2009)|
The workmanship is very neat and the fancy paint job convinced me that I needed an espresso pick-up bike, along with the condition of the frame. There is only a bit of pitting in the chrome chainstays and fork and only some minor marks in the paint. Unlike my Raleigh SBDU bike, which is pristine, I would not be worried about riding the gravel roads of Chianti for L'Eroica next October on this bike.
I picked it up on October 10 at the shop and discovered I could not get my feet into the clips and straps, but after some adjustments, I managed to get underway. My maiden ride took me into the Grafenberger Wald on the outskirts of Düsseldorf where I discovered several things. First of these was that the right shift lever was not quite tight enough, so the Campagnolo Nuovo Record rear derailleur proceeded to shift for me, in the wrong direction naturally. I tightened this up easily, so one problem solved. Of course, I discovered this on what must have been a 15% grade in the forest, so I actually had to walk for a moment or two to a spot where I could straighten things out.
I learned that not only is the Grafenberg Wald impressively hilly, it has about the worst roads I have seen anywhere, with massive potholes that I had to carefully pick my way around. Of course on the descents, I also discovered that the brake levers were positions exactly where I could not really reach them, so that was exciting too. Again, a minor adjustment as I only had to reposition the handlebars when I got home. The bike rides superbly and the mixed componentry works well enough. The vintage Sella Royal Superleggera saddle looks great and is quite comfortable as well.
When I did return to my apartment after my 15 km maiden ride, I checked out the bike more carefully. The front brake is a bit weak, the rear freewheel cogset of 13-21 is probably not going to work too well in Chianti, and I was astonished to see that the Continental tires were 18 mm, a size I was not aware was even produced. They are impressively narrow and will probably be replaced with Continental Grand Prix 24s sooner rather than later. In terms of other parts, I would like to switch the Tange headset (the only non-Campy part besides the bottom bracket) for a Campagnolo one, and possibly change the recent Campy front derailleur for a more period-appropriate one.
A friend near Cologne has recently purchased his own L'Eroica bike, an early 1980s Faggin in tricolore as well, so the fever is contagious. I will loan this bike to a colleague who is interested in riding a lightweight bike (although I will suggest clipless pedals and shoes for him) to introduce him to the sport and ensure I have a riding buddy! Viva Italia!
Thanks to Klaus Hogrebe of Eisenherz-Bikes, here are excellent photos of my latest Tin Donkey:
And who could resist this 1951 picture of a young amateur, Adriano Zamboni, proudly standing with his Cambio Corsa-equipped Chesini? Signore Zamboni went on to compete in the Giro d'Italia six times, winning a stage in 1961.