The following interview appeared on the Torelli website. Bill McGann is owner of Torelli (aka
Chairman Bill talks to Faliero Masi
In the Fall of 1991, I sat down with Faliero Masi at the Milan Bicycle show. Cicli Masi of
California was planning the "Barcelona Commemorative" frameset and needed to know exactly
what Olympic games had riders earning gold medals on Masi frames. The post-1972 games were
no problem, as they had all seen California Masi frames ridden to gold medals. Those were
known. The earlier history needed to be nailed down.
I took this as an opportunity to learn more about the great man's history. I wanted to know
more about his relationships with some of the great riders, and also about his work as team
mechanic. In the days before the huge dollar expenses of a pro team, a mechanic such as Faliero
Masi would not only service the bikes on a tour, he would build them. This gave him a
magnificent opportunity to observe every aspect of bicycle design, construction, and use from the
raw tube to the end of the race.
My wife Carol and I met with Masi, along with Antonio and Mauro Mondonico. Mauro
Mondonico served as translator, my own Italian being hopeless for the task. At the time,
Mauro's English was not as fluent as it is now. The responses Masi gave us were short, clipped,
and precise. We could not take down his responses literally. The conversation is reconstructed
from our notes and I believe, accurately captures the essence of Masi's responses. Unfortunately,
time was short, and the translating process was cumbersome and time consuming.Antonio
Mondonico & Faliero Masi at the Milan Bicycle Show
Masi walked to the show grounds from his house dressed impeccably in a houndstooth
sportcoat and sportshirt buttoned at the top button, but no tie. His handshake was dry, solid
and firm. He brought with him an early issue of "Winning" magazine that carried an interview
of him. He thought it would give me help. He also brought a copy of a letter to him from Fausto
Chairman Bill: Signor Masi, when did you build your first frame?
Faliero Masi: I was 16 years old. I went to school, came home and built frames. I learned by
CB: When you first started building frames, we know that you thought that the bicycle as it
then existed needed much improvement. What were the specific areas of cycle design that you set
about to change?
FM: Everything. There needed to be different tubing for racing bikes.
CB: Who was the first champion to win a major race on a Masi?
FM: Magni, around 1924.
CB: When did you open the bike shop under the Vigorelli?
FM: 1952. And in 1942, I built frames for Learco Guerra. (This referred to the previous question)
CB: What Olympic games had riders winning medals on a Masi?
FM: Melbourne, Rome, Munich. (Note, Montreal Los Angeles, and Seoul were sites for wins on
Cicli Masi frames from California).
CB: What events?
FM: I am 83 years old. It is hard for me to remember all these details. Maybe the magazines can
help you on this.
CB: What Tours de France were won on Masi frames?
FM: Bahamontes, Nencini, Riviere.
CB: What great Classics were won on Masi?
FM: I can't remember them. There are so many. The KAS team rode Masi frames for 11 years. I
built for Faema and Peugeot. In 1946 I built the Raleighs.
CB What professional world championships were won on Masi?
FM: Adorni, Merckx, Van Looy. For 7 years I was Van Looy's builder.
CB: Are there any other world hour record besides Coppi's that have been won on a Masi?
FM: Timoner. He was world champion 6 times and won the world hour record. (Note, this was
for motor-pace racing).
CB: There is a famous picture of Coppi holding you after he won the World Hour Record. Do
you have a copy of this picture?
FM: I don't have any of the old pictures any more. You might check with La Gazzetta Dello
CB: We know of some of the great riders for whom you have provided cycles: Merckx, Coppi,
Anquetil, Simpson, Maspes, Adorni, Harris. Are there any other great champions that rode Masi
we should know about. FM: I built frames for Maspes for 6 years. I built for Panbianco for the
Giro in 1964. I was the director sportif that year. Also Bobet.
CB: The Italian art tradition is one of technology and techniques passed on from teacher to
student over a long apprenticeship. Donatello to Bertoldo to Michelangelo, for example. Who did
you learn from?
FM No one. I had to start from scratch.
CB: How long was it before your frames were accepted?
FM: They were an immediate success!
CB: Because of the huge dollars involved, it seems that it is rarely possible for a builder to be
both supplier and mechanic to a professional team these days. Did these multiple jobs in racing
contribute to the development of your racing bikes?
FM: It is not possible today to be all things. Racing as a laboratory for innovation is probably
over. Today, a builder can collaborate with one racer. Racers don't seem to care about this sort of
CB: Who was the most demanding racer?
FM: Maspes was the most difficult. He was a meticulous racer. He even boiled his ball bearings in
CB: What do you think of non-steel bikes: Aluminum, carbon, titanium?
FM: Most don't serve any purpose. They are no good. Most of this sort of innovation is to make
money, not to make a better bike.
CB: We know that you collaborated with Tullio Campagnolo on the derailleur. You also
invented the internally lugged frame. What other inventions were you involved in:
FM: I made brakes for Campagnolo. Adorni won the championship with them. I have also
invented a way to make wheels round. Four years ago I was on my way to Mavic when the head
of Mavic died in a car accident. (Note: since then, Ambrosio has licensed Masi's rim balancing
CB: What do you think of the components of today?: (This was asked before Campagnolo had
come out with their modern "Ergopower Supergroups").
FM: The Nuovo Record and Super Record were the most functional and beautiful ever. Today's
groups are "tanto fumo, no arrosto" (all smoke and no fire).
CB: There is a story that when you were a Director Sportif for one of the tours, you saw an
opposing racer discard a food wrapper. You then ordered the follow car to stop so that you
could see what the racer was eating in order to know how the rider was doing. This story is told
to demonstrate your very careful approach to your work.
FM: The food wrapper story is not true.
CB: With what racer did you enjoy the closest working relationship?
FM: All of them.The Bicycle of Grand Champion