When I was a kid - and I mean a pretty young kid, like no more than 10 or 11 years old - I started subscribing to car magazines like Road & Track and I read those all through my teens and twenties. One of my favorite writers was Peter Egan who wrote the "Side Glances" column every month (and another column in the motorcycling magazine Cycle World, which I also read). His style was mostly anecdotal/autobiographical with a touch of humor - and if anybody ever compared my writing to his, I'd take it as a great compliment. (nobody ever has).
|Just above the headmast - "Maserati's New |
Super-Economy Sports Vehicle."
In reality, Maserati bicycles were only tangentially connected to the motor company. The bicycle branch was headed by Alfieri Maserati (a grandson, I believe, of one of the original Maserati brothers of automotive fame) but was a separate entity from the car factory in Modena, Italy. The bikes were imported and sold in the US by Elsco Corp of Jacksonville, Florida, which was owned by Ed Hugus who raced Maserati cars and was a friend of the Maserati family.
Some people would insist that R&T conducting a road test of a bicycle was an April Fools joke (it was the April issue, after all), but I'm not entirely certain that that was the intent. The article definitely has some tongue-in-cheek elements to it - but it doesn't exactly read as a "joke." I believe it's possible there may have been at least some earnestness to it.
Whatever humorous effect the article contains mostly comes from the fact that they approach the bicycle "test drive" from an obviously car-centric background, and evaluate it using the same criteria for which they would evaluate a 4-wheeled test subject. For example, the photo that leads off the article shows the bicycle on a drag strip with their data-collecting "5th wheel" (or "3rd wheel", in this case) attached:
|"All the usual electronic test gear was connected to the MT-3, but we found that it reduced performance so sharply that it would be better to test it at curb weight plus driver."|
|Some data highlights: "Engine type . . . biped" ; "Torque . . . negligible" ; "Fuel requirement . . . high protein" ; "Headroom . . . ∞" - and of course, all the usual acceleration, handling, and braking data.|
|I'd say that really sums up the typical driver attitude towards bikes.|
There were also several remarks about the difficulty of shifting a derailleur-equipped bike. "From time to time we make derogatory remarks about vague shift linkage or some such thing, but in this mechanism, there are actually no detents for the five speeds of the derailleur mechanism. So until you have plenty of practice, you will (as we did) have trouble going from one speed to the next." No detents? Well, this was about 10 years before Shimano Dura Ace SIS. There were some earlier indexed shifting systems, but they were not that reliable and were mostly on lower-priced bikes.
One other thing they didn't seem to grasp: that performance bicycles, unlike cars, tend to be comprised of a frame built by a builder or shop whose name appears on the frame - then completed with a collection of components sourced from another company (or several other companies). In this case, the MT-3 was mostly built with Campagnolo components - and the reviewers found themselves annoyed at how many times the Campagnolo name appeared on the bike.
"Nearly all the running gear on the MT-3 is by Campagnolo, a name we all know from the beautiful wheels seen on beautiful Italian cars . . . One beef here, though: the Campagnolo name appears over 40 times on this machine and one is reminded a bit of the over-badgery of certain Japanese cars. By contrast, however, the name Maserati appears only twice."
In the end, though, they did show the bike some respect. "We do not test many racing machines; after all, few readers will ever be able to buy or drive one. But the MT-3 was different. Here is a racing machine that many can buy, and one whose speed is perfectly within the range of use on public roads (or bikeways)." They wrapped it up saying, "Whatever its eccentricities compared with the usual 4-wheel machines we drive, we certainly enjoyed the MT-3. There are several sore legs and bottoms among the R&T staff now, but also several healthier-feeling people. In fact, among the staff some have decided to add similar machines to their stables."
Another word about Maserati bicycles. I'm not 100% certain who made the frames, but I've seen some fairly reliable sources that say it was the Fiorelli shop. Those Maserati bikes were only available for a few years in the mid-70s, but were offered in a range of models and prices. The MT-1 was the top of a line which went all the way down to a model MT-14. The top models were made with Columbus tubing and Campagnolo parts, while the bottom-tier models were basically gas-pipe tubing with parts typical of a lot of budget-priced bike boom bicycles.
By the way, bicycles bearing the Maserati name are available again, made (I believe) by Montante cycles in Italy - purveyors of style-conscious bicycles-as-luxury-goods for fashionistas. They all seem to be "urban" single speed machines and range in price from $1980 - $4026. There were also some carbon fiber Maserati bikes about 10 years ago, made by Milani. See the current offerings at the Maserati website. Like their 1970s counterparts, they are Maseratis in name only, even though the company does more to link them to the car company history by giving them names and colors derived from the company's racing cars of the past.