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Tech Gallery: Inside the Colnago museum

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On the top floor of Colnago's headquarters, a museum houses dozens of historic bikes, including this 1980 Olympic champion track bike

On the top floor of Colnago's headquarters, a museum houses dozens of historic bikes, including this 1980 Olympic champion track bike
(Image credit: Ben Delaney/Immediate Media)
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One day this carbon-fiber road machine with an electronic 11-speed drivetrain and hydraulic disc brakes will look old, too. But not today

One day this carbon-fiber road machine with an electronic 11-speed drivetrain and hydraulic disc brakes will look old, too. But not today
(Image credit: Ben Delaney/Immediate Media)
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The 'sticker flicker' could be of use today

The 'sticker flicker' could be of use today
(Image credit: Ben Delaney/Immediate Media)
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Lugs have long been a part of Colnago's life. Even today, the top-end carbon machines employ lugs

Lugs have long been a part of Colnago's life. Even today, the top-end carbon machines employ lugs
(Image credit: Ben Delaney/Immediate Media)
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File this one under "You know you're an old-school cyclist when…"

File this one under "You know you're an old-school cyclist when…"
(Image credit: Ben Delaney/Immediate Media)
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The first bike of Ernesto Colnago, as restored and somewhat recreated by the company

The first bike of Ernesto Colnago, as restored and somewhat recreated by the company
(Image credit: Ben Delaney/Immediate Media)
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A Colnago-branded Delta brake caliper

A Colnago-branded Delta brake caliper
(Image credit: Ben Delaney/Immediate Media)
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Handlebars just had too much material in them. This problem was remedied with a drill

Handlebars just had too much material in them. This problem was remedied with a drill
(Image credit: Ben Delaney/Immediate Media)
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The axle and nut were minimized, and the bearings left uncovered for every possible weight savings

The axle and nut were minimized, and the bearings left uncovered for every possible weight savings
(Image credit: Ben Delaney/Immediate Media)
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A 4.5kg/9.9lb bike is impressively light today. In 1975, when it was produced, it was incredible

A 4.5kg/9.9lb bike is impressively light today. In 1975, when it was produced, it was incredible
(Image credit: Ben Delaney/Immediate Media)
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The car-racing inspired down tube shifter controlled the internal gearing

The car-racing inspired down tube shifter controlled the internal gearing
(Image credit: Ben Delaney/Immediate Media)
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The internal gearing was functional but not exactly light

The internal gearing was functional but not exactly light
(Image credit: Ben Delaney/Immediate Media)
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Internal routing? Nothing new here

Internal routing? Nothing new here
(Image credit: Ben Delaney/Immediate Media)
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There are Campagnolo derailleurs on Colnago's today, but they function a tiny bit differently

There are Campagnolo derailleurs on Colnago's today, but they function a tiny bit differently
(Image credit: Ben Delaney/Immediate Media)
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The next time you find yourself out of gears on a climb, remember this

The next time you find yourself out of gears on a climb, remember this
(Image credit: Ben Delaney/Immediate Media)
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The Master line of bikes included a number of prototypes as well as stock machines

The Master line of bikes included a number of prototypes as well as stock machines
(Image credit: Ben Delaney/Immediate Media)
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The shifters work similarly to Campagnolo, with one thumb lever and one index-finger lever

The shifters work similarly to Campagnolo, with one thumb lever and one index-finger lever
(Image credit: Ben Delaney/Immediate Media)
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The co-branded Colnago/Formula electronic/hydraulic levers beat Shimano to the punch

The co-branded Colnago/Formula electronic/hydraulic levers beat Shimano to the punch
(Image credit: Ben Delaney/Immediate Media)
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Thanks to its partnership with Formula, Colnago was the first brand to market with a disc-brake road bike

Thanks to its partnership with Formula, Colnago was the first brand to market with a disc-brake road bike
(Image credit: Ben Delaney/Immediate Media)
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Colnago was late to get into mountain biking, but the company is embracing new trends like 1x drivetrains

Colnago was late to get into mountain biking, but the company is embracing new trends like 1x drivetrains
(Image credit: Ben Delaney/Immediate Media)
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Many decades of machines, many decades of great stories

Many decades of machines, many decades of great stories
(Image credit: Ben Delaney/Immediate Media)
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Tiny aspiring roadies, Colnago has a bike for you

Tiny aspiring roadies, Colnago has a bike for you
(Image credit: Ben Delaney/Immediate Media)
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The K.Zero was a big step forward, although installing brake calipers behind the fork was done by the company decades prior

The K.Zero was a big step forward, although installing brake calipers behind the fork was done by the company decades prior
(Image credit: Ben Delaney/Immediate Media)
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The strings were taped on to observe air flow around the bike

The strings were taped on to observe air flow around the bike
(Image credit: Ben Delaney/Immediate Media)
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Recently, Colnago's design work has taken the company into the wind tunnel

Recently, Colnago's design work has taken the company into the wind tunnel
(Image credit: Ben Delaney/Immediate Media)
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Not every bike in the Colnago museum hails from road or track racing

Not every bike in the Colnago museum hails from road or track racing
(Image credit: Ben Delaney/Immediate Media)
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On this 1983 prototype, two down tubes were welded together to form a unique split design

On this 1983 prototype, two down tubes were welded together to form a unique split design
(Image credit: Ben Delaney/Immediate Media)
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The way hydraulic brake calipers might have looked

The way hydraulic brake calipers might have looked
(Image credit: Ben Delaney/Immediate Media)
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Colnago hydraulic brake levers never made it to market — until the recent collaboration with Formula

Colnago hydraulic brake levers never made it to market — until the recent collaboration with Formula
(Image credit: Ben Delaney/Immediate Media)
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In addition to an incredible amount of handlebar drop, the prototype had a direct drive with an extra mechanical advantage

In addition to an incredible amount of handlebar drop, the prototype had a direct drive with an extra mechanical advantage
(Image credit: Ben Delaney/Immediate Media)
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This prototype from 1980 featured a few wild concepts

This prototype from 1980 featured a few wild concepts
(Image credit: Ben Delaney/Immediate Media)
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As bicycle supplier to many of the sport's top names over the years, Colnago often experimented with new designs

As bicycle supplier to many of the sport's top names over the years, Colnago often experimented with new designs
(Image credit: Ben Delaney/Immediate Media)
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The C59 Ottanta celebrated Ernesto Colnago's 80th birthday

The C59 Ottanta celebrated Ernesto Colnago's 80th birthday
(Image credit: Ben Delaney/Immediate Media)
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The original hoods are showing their age

The original hoods are showing their age
(Image credit: Ben Delaney/Immediate Media)
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Naturally for an Italian company and an Italian Pope, the bike had Campagnolo

Naturally for an Italian company and an Italian Pope, the bike had Campagnolo
(Image credit: Ben Delaney/Immediate Media)
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Many amateur riders have their names on the top tubes these days. But do you know anyone with self-branded chainrings?

Many amateur riders have their names on the top tubes these days. But do you know anyone with self-branded chainrings?
(Image credit: Ben Delaney/Immediate Media)
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Ernesto Colnago presented this bicycle to Pope John Paul II in 1979. After the Pope's death, the bike was auctioned off to a collector from whom Colnago later repuchased it

Ernesto Colnago presented this bicycle to Pope John Paul II in 1979. After the Pope's death, the bike was auctioned off to a collector from whom Colnago later repuchased it
(Image credit: Ben Delaney/Immediate Media)
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This gift to Mrs Colnago, who lives with Ernesto literally across the street from Colnago headquarters, was handpainted to commemorate their 50th wedding anniversary

This gift to Mrs Colnago, who lives with Ernesto literally across the street from Colnago headquarters, was handpainted to commemorate their 50th wedding anniversary
(Image credit: Ben Delaney/Immediate Media)
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At 82 years old, Ernesto Colnago has enjoyed quite a life with many people, from world champions to the Pope to his wife of more than 50 years

At 82 years old, Ernesto Colnago has enjoyed quite a life with many people, from world champions to the Pope to his wife of more than 50 years
(Image credit: Ben Delaney/Immediate Media)
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When the head tube simply cannot be short enough, you can always go this route to get low

When the head tube simply cannot be short enough, you can always go this route to get low
(Image credit: Ben Delaney/Immediate Media)
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Long before anatomic cut-outs or split-rail saddles, Colnago tinkered with this design

Long before anatomic cut-outs or split-rail saddles, Colnago tinkered with this design
(Image credit: Ben Delaney/Immediate Media)
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Before the UCI began banning various designs for excessive aerodynamic advantage, framebuilders were allowed much more freedom

Before the UCI began banning various designs for excessive aerodynamic advantage, framebuilders were allowed much more freedom
(Image credit: Ben Delaney/Immediate Media)
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For the world team time trial, Colnago used small front wheels so the Italian team members could ride closer to each other for a better draft

For the world team time trial, Colnago used small front wheels so the Italian team members could ride closer to each other for a better draft
(Image credit: Ben Delaney/Immediate Media)
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Too early for its time, Colnago said of the Concept bike

Too early for its time, Colnago said of the Concept bike
(Image credit: Ben Delaney/Immediate Media)
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Colnago and Ferrari worked on a bike with internal gearing and hydraulic braking

Colnago and Ferrari worked on a bike with internal gearing and hydraulic braking
(Image credit: Ben Delaney/Immediate Media)
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The 1972 machine of Eddy Merckx's hour-record ride. The Cannibal set a mark of 49.431km that stood for 12 years. Note the drilled handlebars

The 1972 machine of Eddy Merckx's hour-record ride. The Cannibal set a mark of 49.431km that stood for 12 years. Note the drilled handlebars
(Image credit: Ben Delaney/Immediate Media)
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Rominger used a 60x14 for his hour record. He completed 55.291km in that hour, the same year he won the Vuelta a España for the third time

Rominger used a 60x14 for his hour record. He completed 55.291km in that hour, the same year he won the Vuelta a España for the third time
(Image credit: Ben Delaney/Immediate Media)
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Tony Rominger's bike for his 1994 world hour record-setting ride

Tony Rominger's bike for his 1994 world hour record-setting ride
(Image credit: Ben Delaney/Immediate Media)
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If you wash off this mud you will be fired

If you wash off this mud you will be fired
(Image credit: Ben Delaney/Immediate Media)
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From the days of quill stems and Ballerini to threadless steerers and Museeuw, Colnago enjoyed a good run at the Hell of the North

From the days of quill stems and Ballerini to threadless steerers and Museeuw, Colnago enjoyed a good run at the Hell of the North
(Image credit: Ben Delaney/Immediate Media)
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Paris-Roubaix is always touted as a convincing proving ground for new techology, and with good reason. While some were skeptical early on about carbon-fiber bikes on the pavé, Colnago's five victories make a strong case

Paris-Roubaix is always touted as a convincing proving ground for new techology, and with good reason. While some were skeptical early on about carbon-fiber bikes on the pavé, Colnago's five victories make a strong case
(Image credit: Ben Delaney/Immediate Media)
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The bikes of world champions abound in Colnago's museum

The bikes of world champions abound in Colnago's museum
(Image credit: Ben Delaney/Immediate Media)
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If one down tube is good, aren't two better?

If one down tube is good, aren't two better?
(Image credit: Ben Delaney/Immediate Media)
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Italy won the world team time trial championship in 1990 with these bikes

Italy won the world team time trial championship in 1990 with these bikes
(Image credit: Ben Delaney/Immediate Media)

This story originally appeared on Bikeradar.

For a relatively small family business, Colnago has a huge amount of history. Just across the street from where founder Ernesto Colnago has lived for years, Colnago's factory and headquarters host a museum with machinery that has been under the ownership of everyone from Pope John Paul II to scores of world champions and victors of the world's biggest races.

Wild-shaped prototypes that never saw the light of day sit next to production bikes that won Paris-Roubaix, still encrusted with the mud from the Hell of the North.

Among the many notable designs are not one but two distinct milestones in road hydraulics. Colnago was first to market with a fully hydraulic disc-brake road bike with electronic shifting, the C59 Disc, in 2012. But Colnago's first attempt at hydraulic braking came much earlier, in a collaboration with Ferrari in 1986.

Take a closer look at these bikes and many, many more in the photo gallery at above right.

Click here for our gallery.