Since very shortly after my inception into the bicycle racing world in my mid teens, the name on the frame, “Masi” irreversibly etched its image into my mind.
As time went on and I learned more of this (even at that time) long standing builder, Faliero Masi would reign as my supreme racing bicycle creator. I would challenge anyone to come up with a legitimate contender. His attention to detail, passion and devotion to the fast bike world is unsurpassed.
An enormous number of the champions of the sport rode his bicycles. Most times the bikes they rode would have another name painted on the down tube. Fausto Coppi rode a Masi painted as a Bianchi. Eddy Merckx rode Masis painted as both Peugeots and with his own Eddy Merckx name in the Faema years. Then there was Gimondi with his Chiorda (Salvarani) and Van Looy….the list goes on.
This is the bike I had Masi build as my replica to Eddy Merckx’ Faema bike. I love those colours. This is now in the Fritz Durenburger collection. Note: I didn’t do the weird taping job on the bars…it ain’t a track bike.
These riders all knew his attention to detail was not just with fit and finish but the importance of the correct fit for the rider. He did not just take into account the riders anatomic dimensions but also their physique so that the riders power could best be applied. In addition he would consider the terrain on which the cycle would be largely used ie flat lands or hills.
As a bike builder in an age of marketing bicycles with hype instead of practical intelligence, I often feel like a voice from a vanished era when I constantly harp of the importance of perfect frame fit for one’s ultimate performance. So many riders today spend more time and money on fancy bits for their bike when they are on a frame that may as well be used by their dog.
In spite of the enormous reputation Faliero Masi carried, he remained humble and passionate throughout. For many years his small shop was located under the banking of the Vel Vigorelli (the bike track in Milano). During my last visit there in the Eighties I quietly smiled to myself as I watched this absolutely revered icon of the cycling world and my all time hero of bike fabrication, sitting at his bench spoking a wheel, all the time cursing the fact that the only he spokes he could ‘get these days were junk’. Imagine some executive from Trek or suchlike even getting their hands dirty in a shop…not bloody likely.
Masi was always looking for what he thought would create the best there could be. His desire for durability was huge. Inspite of obviously being Italian, he used tended to use Reynolds 531 tubing very often as its manganese content gave a more durable frame. At times he would use Columbus in a fork and/or seat stays as the chrome-moly configuration of its make up gave a stiffer, snappier ride.
Interestingly many classic bike fans put Cinelli as the pinnacle of the field. Having had many Cinellis myself and having seen many without paint, I can assure all, that Masis were always finished to a higher degree. Faliero Masi was the quintessential hands-on builder where as Cinelli did it for his pleasure. Masi for a time, even served as a directeur sportif to gain a closer relationship to the racers.
Sadly today, as with so many, the Masi name has vapourized into a marketing name for yet another group riding on a name built by someone else. Some months ago as I looked in a bike shop window at some sort of stupid ladies commuter bike emblazoned with the Masi logo AND the Faliero Masi signature, a lad from the shop came out just as I was shaking my head in a mix of sadness and disgust. A couple of words from him allowed the fact that he knew nothing of this great name and after my retort that “this was about the same as Enzo Ferrari producing a minivan”, he could only comment that, “the world goes on”.
For my part, I will always produce and deliver bicycles with the same type of focus on detail, performance and durability as my late hero. There a lot of better ways to make money in this world than messing about with bikes, so I figure I better really do it because I love it or there is no point. If ever I should take the attitude of lad outside the bike shop, “Martha, pass me the razor blades…I’m done.”