|This version of the classic Columbus tubing decal would|
likely have been seen on bikes from the mid 1970s.
The history of Columbus goes back to 1919 when Angelo Luigi Colombo (or A.L.) first set up a shop to produce steel tubing. In the 1920s Colombo's tubing was used for aircraft applications, and also, according to their own history page, frames for motorcycles. They first began making double-butted tubing for bicycles in 1930, the same year they created the "Columbus" brand name.
|An early 80s decal.|
|A lot of mid - late '80s decals specify|
if the tubing is SL, SP, etc., signifying
the wall thickness of the tubes.
|The wider-section of the fork blades became a Columbus|
In 1977, Antonio Columbo, son of founder Angelo, turned Columbus Tubing into a separate entity from the A.L. Colombo company. Soon after, the new company purchased Cinelli, gaining access not only to the bicycle manufacturing, but also to Cinelli's lug business -- a perfect complement for the tubing company. Along with Cinelli bars and stems, and the historically close relationship with component giant Campagnolo, Columbus would come to dominate the Italian cycling scene, and also greatly increase market share elsewhere as well.
|With the purchase by Columbus came a logo change|
for Cinelli. The purchase gave the tubing company the
perfect complement in that they could now offer
builders everything they needed to build frames.
|Scanned from a 1986 Bicycle Guide|
story about Columbus.
|1986 Dave Moulton Fuso. Moulton built only|
with Reynolds when he lived in England, but
when he moved to America, he found his U.S.
customers expected Columbus on a high-end
Today, steel obviously isn't nearly as popular as it had once been -- with aluminum and carbon fiber now dominating the industry. Columbus has a hand in that market too, though, offering carbon fiber frames and frame components. But steel has made a bit of a comeback recently, as evidenced by the growing list of participants in the North American Handmade Bicycle Show -- many or most of whom work in steel. But many of today's builders don't use one brand of tubing across the line, or even in a single frame, but rather will custom mix and match tubes from different makers to get a desired quality. And Japanese tubing, from manufacturers like Tange and Kaisei are today considered just as desirable as the classic brands of Reynolds and Columbus. So as often as not, there won't even be a tubing sticker on a top-quality custom frame. Time was, you could hardly find a high-quality bike without one of those little stickers. Funny how things change.