A history of innovation combined with the creativity, style and top quality that are the hallmarks of the best “Made in Italy”
The extraordinary business venture of Cicli Cinzia started more than one hundred years ago when grandfather Primo Bombi went to work for Maserati as a boy. Today, we are celebrating the 50th anniversary of both the company, founded in 1967, and of Cinzia, the folding bike of which more than three million have been sold and which has, for many, become synonymous with the bicycle. This booklet provides an overview of the history of Cicli Cinzia, of its products and of the two families that founded and are still at the helm of the company. A history of innovation combined with the creativity, style and top quality that are the hallmarks of the best “Made in Italy”, appreciated for more than fifty years by bikers and bike tourists all over the world. A history spent in Bologna, the city home to companies envied the world over with a strong tradition of cultivating personal relationships. The fascinating history of an Italian company that we are pleased to share while celebrating our 50th anniversary.
[ Maurizio Bombi - Sergio Maccaferri ]
OriginsPrimo Bombi, Maserati and Tazio Nuvolari
Certain men are destined to leave their mark and Primo Bombi certainly left his mark on the history of the bicycle. Born in 1901, he was called Primo because it was the first year of the new century and also to augur his success in the future. At that time, children started working at a very young age and, at 14, Primo was already working as assistant at a bicycle painting firm. Diligent, intelligent and creative, a few years later he was hired by Maserati, set up in 1914. At that time, Maserati, which was to become one of the most famous automakers in the world, comprised only five persons: the three Maserati brothers, a mechanic and Primo Bombi, painter (and much more). At the outset, the company was a garage with machine shop. Alfieri Maserati drove the cars on the racetrack and the workshop also acted as a service centre for the tuning and adaptation of Isotta Fraschini cars for road races. In 1926, Maserati started to make its own models and Primo Bombi became head painter. Primo liked to relate many anecdotes of those years, but his most cherished memory was his cooperation with Tazio Nuvolari, considered the greatest driver of all times. In 1933, Nuvolari, who had left Ferrari, was driving a Maserati 8CM. Primo Bombi, who accompanied him to the track, related that, after that of his mechanic, he always gave the final touch to the car (“a caress” as he called it) and its colour was, in fact, the distinctive element of the car during the race: Nuvolari’s car.
[ Tazio Nuvolari with the Maserati 8CM ]
The Verniciatura emiliana and the “motor valley” of Bologna
In 1937, Maserati moved to Modena while Primo, who had five children, decided to remain in Bologna and open a painting shop, subsequently dubbed Verniciatura emiliana. Primo Bombi hired and trained Severino Maccaferri, a young astute and promising painter to whom he revealed his secrets. The company sealed an important agreement with the Malaguti and Testi companies for the painting of bicycle frames and, subsequently, an agreement with the German DKW, the largest motorcycle manufacturer in the world. The motorcycles were assembled by the DKW importer in Bologna, modifying the cyclistics and colour to adapt these to Italian requirements and taste. Bombi’s company painted the fuel tanks and mudguards which were then decorated by hand by Primo’s two older daughters: Diva and Rossana. The area around Bologna is known as the “Motor Valley”, an industrial district home to a cluster of leading Italian motorbike manufacturers: Ducati, Morini, Malaguti, Malanca, Minarelli, Cimatti. Verniciatura emiliana works for many of these and is located in the same area. In the small world of the factory where people know each other and spend time together, Severino and Diva fell in love and married. Severino subsequently joined the company with Primo and, from that moment, the members of the Bombi and Maccaferri families became that single family that still manages the company today.
Why not make bicycles?The 1960s and the wind of change
In the Post-War period, bicycles and mopeds were the most frequently used means of transport. Working alongside the manufacturers, Verniciatura emiliana enriched the two-wheelers with a fundamental element, colour, doing this better than most so there was no shortage of work. With the explosion of the economic boom, Verniciatura emiliana became the most soughtafter company in its sector. Some years later, on the other side of the ocean, students started to demonstrate against the war in Vietnam, wearing long hair and brightly-coloured clothes, speaking of freedom and revolution and, in 1969, less than a month after the landing of the Apollo 11 on the moon, organized the most epic rock concert of all times, Woodstock. This wind of change swept across Europe, bringing with it the idea that the times were changing (echoed in 1964 by Bob Dylan in his song The times they are a-changin’) and that the time had come to explore new roads and invent something new. Bombi and Maccaferri started to develop new painting techniques and new colour effects, but felt that this was not sufficient. They wanted to create something new, to put their entrepreneurial instinct to the test and achieve the same success as their bicycle and motorcycle manufacturer customers.
The economic boom and the new road
In 1964, an Italian manufacturer, inspired by the folding bike of the Bersaglieri (the elite corps of bicycle-mounted infantry of the Italian Army) launched the Graziella, an easy-to-transport folding bike that was soon to soar to the top of the wish-lists of both boys and girls. Intrigued by this idea, Bombi and Maccaferri decided to discover how it was made, buying a Graziella in the summer of 1965, riding it around, and agreeing that it could be improved:
“the 16” wheels are really too small with, therefore, an inefficient pedal stroke”.
“Increasing the wheels to 20” would certainly make a difference.”
“And with a softer handlebar, it would be even more attractive.”
“Without mentioning the colour. Imagine it with metallic paint!”
Looking each other in the eyes, they concluded that this could be the road they were seeking. As was their habit, while thinking, they set to work, disassembling the bike, measuring the tubes of the saddle and handlebar, studying the mechanism for folding and locking the frame, the pedals and crank set and started to consider how to make it. They drew a sketch of the frame, requesting the assistance and advice of customer and friend Testi who worked in an adjacent shed and started to work on the prototype.
The birth of CinziaThe birth of a new bicycle that was to be an immediate success
They built their first bike, but this was still not exactly what they had in mind. They redesigned the frame, also reconsidering the folding point and hinge. They then studied the details from the saddle to the handlebar and, when it finally looked as they imagined, exclaimed: “Spectacular!” “Just wait until it’s painted, then you’ll see!” They tested it, had it tested by their wives and children and concluded that it had turned out extremely well and that they would have to move quickly to steal a march on competitors. “How long will it take to produce 500 frames of this type?” “Folding and for the wheels of the 20? A couple of months.” “Then we fit the wheels and all the rest and off we go!” “Let’s hope it’s fast and conquers the market!” They sealed agreements with component manufacturers, set up an assembly line and started to produce the first bicycles. At this point, all they needed was a name. A woman’s name, something familiar
Bombi and Maccaferri were well aware that their bicycle would be a competitor of the Graziella and, wishing to suggest this immediately in its name, they decided to call it Annabella. They had not, however, considered the reactions of the publisher of the famous magazine of the same name which sent its lawyers to request the fees for use of the name. These were so high that they were forced to reconsider their decision. The paint shop bordered on a pram factory and the caretaker’s daughter was always around. All the workers were very fond of the child who was a regular playmate of the owners’ children, in particular of Maurizio, Primo’s grandson, also aged seven. While Bombi and Maccaferri were working on their new bicycle, they heard the caretaker calling his daughter: “Cinzia? Cinzia! Where are you?”
Looking each other in the eyes, they exclaimed almost in one voice: “Cinzia?” “Cinzia!” “Why not!” From that moment, the name became naturally associated with the bicycle. Neither Bombi nor Maccaferri knew how important this was to be and how it was to determine their future and that of the company.
1967The success of Cinzia and the setting up of Cicli Cinzia
The first Cinzia was a beautiful high gloss blue, a unique colour. A metallic blue. No-one had ever attempted a finish of this kind before. Retailers were enchanted and acquired a few examples to showcase the new bicycle and test the market. The Graziella had become a fashion icon but the Cinzia had larger wheels, more striking colours and also a lower cost. The bicycles were sold in just a few days and the word started to spread. Demand soared so high that daily production was sold by the same evening. Three new colours were introduced: moss green, lake green and metallic orange. The painting oven continued to operate during the night to allow the paint to dry and the shop-owners continued to arrive after closing to load the bicycles even before they were finished, taking with them pedals or brakes in order to complete assembly at their workshops and deliver the bikes the next morning. Bombi and Maccaferri, aware that business was expanding very quickly, were forced to take a decision. Therefore, they set up the Cicli Cinzia company on January 25, 1967 with a new headquarters, more workers and a production line that, in three years, was to turn out 400 bicycles a day. For many, Cinzia became “the Cinzia”, synonymous with the bicycle. A bicycle increasingly popular and desired.
Growth and entry to the European marketThe second generation and new models
In 1970, the factory moved to the current 15,000 sq. m facility of Osteria Grande, started independent production of frames and forks and increased its output to 600 bicycles a day, more than 120,000 per year. Giuseppe Bombi, who as a young man had replaced Primo, took over all the commercial and promotional aspects of the business, while Severino Maccaferri and his son Sergio followed up the production, research and design of new models. The second bicycle to roll off the production line was dubbed Diva (the name of Giuseppe sister’s and wife of Severino) and new versions of the Cinzia were proposed. One of these – designed to cater to female taste – featured chromium mudguards and chain guard painted in the same pastel colour as the bicycle: this was to be another great success. Immediately afterwards, the company started to construct bicycles for children such as the Juanito, from the name of the mascot of the Mexico ‘70 World Cup famed for the “match of the century” between Italy and Germany. In addition to high quality and meticulous attention to details, the strong point of Cicli Cinzia, “that extra touch” that was to make its bicycles so popular and “drive competitors crazy”, were their colours. New, glossy colours of exceptional brilliance for bicycles, the same brilliance given by Primo to Maserati cars. Easy rider, austerity and Sunday bike rides
When, after the film Easy rider, motorbikes with long handlebars known as choppers became popular in Europe, Cicli Cinzia presented the Phantom, a bicycle with curved handlebar and rear-view mirrors, a long saddle and backrest, suspensions and handlebar-mounted control lever. The dream of all youngsters of that time. In this period, the company signed an important contract with an American Bank that offered a new bike to all those who opened an account. An excellent contract but, when the oil crisis exploded in 1973, the Bank interrupted its purchases and 10,000 bicycles ready to be shipped remained in the warehouse. The entire world was forced to reduce energy consumption and a law was passed in Italy banning circulation of any engine-driven vehicle on public holidays. This marked the start of a period of “austerity” and the fashion of Sunday bike rides. Entire families took up cycling for their excursions, with a consequent upsurge in demand and the 10,000 bicycles produced for the American market were sufficient to meet demand only for a few weeks. Cicli Cinzia and its racing team
Cicli Cinzia also produced racing bikes and, from 1972, sponsored a cycling team that competed in major national and international events. The main events in 1976 included the “Six-day race of Milan” and the “Tour of Sardinia”. The Ebo Cinzia team engaged the Belgian professional road bicycle racer Ferdi Van Den Haute, six times Belgian track pursuit champion and 20 times Belgian road race champion. Van Den Haute participated in the Milan-San Remo race, competing with such high-calibre riders as Merckx, Basso and Gimondi, and in the Tour of Flanders and of Spain, reaping various successes. In this period, Bombi and Maccaferri became close friends of Vittorio Adorni, 1968 world champion, creating a line of bicycles for him bearing his name and featuring fluorescent paint. Cicli Cinzia has always maintained very close relationships with the world of sport, sponsoring amateur bike racing for 25 years and, for 13 years, the Castel San Pietro football team, bringing this into the Italian Serie C.France and production for major brands
The 1980s were marked by a boom in sales to France, a breakthrough promoted by Giuseppe Bombi who contacted Peugeot which, in addition to cars, also produced mopeds and racing bikes, and Motobecane-MBK, the French marque set up in 1924 which produced mopeds. After signing two major contracts, he started to produce bicycles for the two firms. This was followed by an agreement with Decathlon, the chain of shops set up in 1976, for which hundreds of thousands of bicycles were to be produced. The first international trade fair attended by Cicli Cinzia was that held in Paris in 1982. From that moment, the company participated regularly at all the most important European events, in particular, the bicycle and motorbike trade shows of Milan and Cologne. In 1984, Cicli Cinzia won an international call for tenders of the Algerian Government for the supply of 100,000 bicycles while, in Italy it produced a series of bicycles for Legnano. International successNew Ideas, Speed and the Encounter with Shimano
Spurred by exports, production soared to 200,000 bicycles a year in the 1980s. Giuseppe Bombi continued his activities of promotion and research, studying personal requirements and travelling all over Europe to visit trade shows and potential customers. On his return, he worked with Severino and his son Sergio on incorporating the ideas and suggestions he had gathered in the design of new models. He then set off again while Maccaferri and son started to produce the new bicycles. Speed has always been one of the company’s main strong points. Flexible organization and in-house production of frames and forks and also painting means that new models can be designed and placed on the market in 15-20 days, a speed unequalled by any competitors. When the success of the film ET triggered the fashion of BMX bikes and the first Mountain Bikes arrived from the USA, Cicli Cinzia decided to produce its own models. The company contacted also the Shimano company to assess the group sets to be fitted on the new bikes: the BMX bikes were called Thunder and the Mountain Bike, Colibrì. In view of the numbers involved, negotiations took place at the highest levels and, in 1992, Shozaburo Shimano’s private helicopter landed in the courtyard of Cicli Cinzia. The Founder and President of the largest manufacturer of group sets in the world was amazed by the professional expertise and organization of the company headed by Bombi and Maccaferri.
[ Severino Maccaferri, Maurizio Bombi, Shozaburo Shimano, Giuseppe Bombi, Sergio Maccaferri ]
Record-breaking figures: 360,000 bicycles in a year
Cicli Cinzia continued to expand, reaching a record output of 360,000 bicycles in 1993 when the company became one of the leading bicycle manufacturers in Italy and leading exporter to the rich French market, also due to the supply agreement with Decathlon. Apart from France, the company also operated in Belgium, Spain and Portugal, England, Greece, Switzerland and, from 1997, in Russia. Astride the new millennium, Maurizio Bombi and Sergio Maccaferri replaced their fathers at the helm of the company, promoting a further expansion of business. The company continued to turn out new models, adopting cutting-edge technologies and dedicating particular attention to Cicli Cinzia’s most distinctive characteristic: colour. As Primo Bombi used to say: “When looking at a bicycle, the first thing you judge is its colour and shape. If you don’t like the colour, you don’t even look at its shape.” For Primo and Severino, born and raised as painters, colour was essential, as for Maurizio and Sergio. Able to create practically any shade of colour, they also invented an optical effect obtained using the flame of a candle that leaves the sign of the smoke on the paint, generating unique, inimitable products.
A history of fifty years The strength of Italian spirit and identity
Cicli Cinzia has developed in an area famous for engines. Bologna and the Region of Emilia Romagna are home to some of the most famous motorcycle manufacturers in the world – first and foremost Ducati - and the birthplace of legends such as Ferrari, Lamborghini and Maserati. An area with a high number of craftsmen and companies with an exceptional flair for research and experimentation that have created innovation and culture. Cicli Cinzia is no exception and has developed new models and new solutions for 50 years, accompanying the evolution of the bicycle with the typical creativity, style and quality of the best “Made in Italy” appreciated worldwide. Tradition and innovation
Cinzia, a historic brand
Today, the Cicli Cinzia catalogue comprises 100 models, ranging from folding bicycles to bicycles for children, men and women, racing and mountain bikes. The company continues to introduce technological innovations with great attention to health and safety, modifying existing lines and producing new models aligned with the new requirements of city cyclists and cycle tourists and market trends. With its in-house painting shop, the company maintains all the hallmarks of its brand at a very high level: surface resistance, original colours and prestige finish. The Cinzia model has been sold to 3 million persons who have shared the famous folding bike with brothers and sisters, cousins and friends, embedding this in the memory of entire generations. For many, Cinzia still denotes the name of a bicycle rather than of a woman. A bicycle tied to the happier moments of life. Cicli Cinzia has not only constructed bicycles, it has penned part of the history of two-wheelers and today, after 50 years, continues to symbolise the very best Italian entrepreneurial spirit.
Best wishes Cinzia!