Tailor made by Ugo: At DeRosa Custom is key

By Cyclingnews staff in Milano

As a pallid late winter sun bathed the grimy industrial districts of Cusano Milanino, hard by Milano's chaotic tangenziale ring road, the fading rays glinted on gold accents on the elegant DeRosa Cinquanta displayed in window at the eponymous Italian artisan bike maker's shop. And next to the exclusive anniversary model, was DeRosa's latest two wheel thoroughbred, the Protos. As we were buzzed in to see the legendary Ugo DeRosa and his three sons, the reps from an American components company desperate to get their gruppo into the euro peloton had just finished their own pilgrimage to "il laboratorio di DeRosa".

Ugo's son Cristiano ushered us in and we sat down with Ugo and Cristiano to talk about the latest and greatest from DeRosa for 2006. We noted a photo of Ugo receiving an award and were told, "that was taken at La Scala", the iconic opera house in the very heart of Milano. Ugo DeRosa recently received a special prize awarded to artisans who are considered part of the essential fabric of Milano by the Camera di Commercio Industria Artigiano e Agricoltura (Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Craft and Agriculture). DeRosa is considered an "Impresa Storical" (Historical Company). "There are not many companies left that have been around for fifty years," joked Ugo, but you could tell that the artisan bicycle maker was very proud of his prestigious award. DeRosa started his firm 53 years ago on via Lanfredo della Pila in Milano, but moved just north to Cusano Milanino in 1957.

Cristiano then asked us to take a look at DeRosa's new advertising campaign that portrayed his father Ugo as a bespoke Milanese tailor who makes up his clients bicycles made to measure. "Besides our many years of experience, one thing that distinguishes DeRosa from almost any other bicycle brand. We'll always have products that can compete with with other bicycle brands, but what we have that others don't is the ability of make custom bicycles for our customers. Our standard frame geometry is already unique to DeRosa but when we make a special custom frame for a customer, it has the unique fit they want." And Ugo added, "something we say at DeRosa is 'prima di vendere una bici da corsa bisogna saperla costruire'." (Before you sell a racing bike, you've got to know how to build it).

A few years ago when Cyclingnews visited DeRosa, we saw a very special bicycle created for Stefano Garzelli to ride in mountain stages in the Giro d'Italia called Prototype One. DeRosa's new top of the line model for 2006 is called Protos, which was developed from the Garzelli bike. After a pausa for a café, we went into the DeRosa workshop for a tour. Right up front was a new DeRosa Protos, ready for delivery to a German customer. We asked Cristiano what was so special about Protos and he explained "We took the racing experience from Garzelli's bike to make the Protos, using expensive and hard to source unidirectional carbon fibre from Mizuno in Japan that is lighter than the Mizuno K1 material we use in our King XLight. That way the frame weight in a 55 regular or a 49 sloping is 950 grams and with the 320 gram fork, the Protos is very light and with unidirectional carbon fibre it is also very rigid and strong. Protos is certainly the best expression of carbon fibre we have."

Cristiano then pointed out that, "not only do our DeRosa bicycles have a unique geometry that is completely our own, but we also make this bike in 17 different sizes; 11 regular and 6 sloping. And the big difference between DeRosa and most other brands is that if the client can't find the right fit among our size range, we can build a custom frame." We asked Cristiano how that worked and he explained that, "at your DeRosa dealer, they can take the proper measurements working with our distributor, then via distributor they send it to us to build. Normally this process takes about 90 days."

DeRosa is proud to explain that they are one of the few bicycle builders who can make frames in carbon fibre, titanium, aluminium and steel and all four materials can be custom-made in DeRosa's small factory just north of Milano. Cristiano's brother Doriano is well know as one of the most expert titanium welders in the world and his precise, elegant work is a hallmark of of DeRosa's sweet titanium bikes. We asked Cristiano about titanium, as it was our impression that the former wonder material had been surpassed by the recent carbon fibre boom. "We still have a lot of requests for titanium and that's why we decided to introduce a new model for 2006 called Titanio XS. We use a special 6A1/4V Extra Low Interstital tubing from Reynolds and every one is built by hand by Doriano. With the 6-4 titanium, our XS is light and rigid. Perhaps titanium is not as fashionable as it was before, but we think it's still a valid material to build with."

Before we departed DeRosa, we noticed their attractive new Avant carbon fibre bicycle that got so much attention at last year's bicycle shows displayed in the window. We asked Cristiano about the Avant and he explained that, "with the boom in carbon fibre bicycles, and all of our experience with the King, King Xlight and Protos, we had the confidence to do something different with the Avant. We wanted it to have a young and innovative look as well as a classic DeRosa impact and we are happy the way it came out. Avant was designed specifically for the middle of the market, and it's a monocoque frameset in Mizuno carbon fibre available in six sizes. Since it's a monocoque frame, Avant isn't available in custom sizes like most of our other bikes."

Once again, as we left DeRosa, despite its less than elegant location in a factory district, we had a distinct feeling that we'd been on a visit to a high-fashion Milano atelier like Giorgio Armani. After all, Ugo DeRosa is clearly one of the few masters of Made In Italy bespoke bicycles.

Further reading

DeRosa's website

More Italia Bici

Above: Doriano DeRosa puts the finishing touches on a custom DeRosa Titanio XS for a customer at London's Condor Cycles. Lucky bloke!
Ugo DeRosa (right) is presented with an award recognising his status as one of Milano's historically important craftsmen.
Fast & Custom: DeRosa Protos. Derived from the Prototype One, built for Stefano Garzelli, the protos is the ultimate realisation of Derosa's burgeoning expertise in carbon fiber.
Multo Bello: DeRosa's new Avant monocoque carbon fibre is available in six sizes.
DeRosa Titanio XS. DeRosa gets many requests for titanium frames and in response to these, the Titanio XS uses Reynolds 6Al/4V titanium tubing for a bike that's both light and durable.
DeRosa's Prototype One, ridden by Stefano Garzelli in the 2004 Giro d'Italia.