To those who appreciate the fine art of handmade Italian road bikes there are many builders whose names come to mind. Colnago, Pinarello, Guerciotti, along with many others are marques that are familiar to us all, but there are some whose names are not so well known. Many of the makers of the finest bicycles never achieved the level of commercial success as those mentioned above, but their work was unsurpassed. Sancineto is among the elite of this select group of frame builders. They were one of the oldest continuous manufacturers of high quality bikes in Italy but also one of the least known marques. Sadly, they are a mystery of the highest quality!
In 1919 bicycle racer Pietro Sancineto followed the classic path of bicycle makers and (after his racing career) began building bicycles, marking the beginning of three generations of custom frame building for this family. Pietro’s son Sabastiano, also a bicycle racer (on the track), and later grandson Gianni followed in their father’s footsteps and continued the family legacy of building high quality custom bicycles for the racing community.
The original factory was located on the family farm outside of Cuneo Italy, a northern town in the Piedmont region of Italy. Little is known about the early years of the business with Pietro and Sabastiano, but they likely produced limited numbers of high quality bicycles to discerning clients. These bikes were probably unbranded since there are no known examples of frames from this period bearing the family name.
In more modern times, Gianni was known to have produced bicycles for other marques in the 1980’s. This perhaps was the continuation of the practice of his father and grandfather. Torto was one such brand which was manufactured by Sancineto but labelled as another. Featuring superior workmanship, excellent pantographs and attention to detail that Sancineto was known for, the Torto was a beautifully built bicycle.
Later on, Gianni built custom bicycles for many professional bike racing teams, including the Lithuanian national team, the German women’s Olympic team and other Swiss, Danish, Finish and British teams. It is said that in the 1990’s his custom frames often sold for more than 3000 Swiss Francs, which was more than $4000 USD at the time! Gianni was most prolific in the 1990’s, even supplying approximately 50 bicycles for an importer to the US in 1994. Most of his production however, it is said, stayed in northern Europe where he primarily served local demand for his work. Gianni may have also relocated his factory north, to Turin Italy around this time.
The paint work on mid to late 90’s Sancineto’s was more flamboyant than earlier years but strikingly similar to another Italian marque, that of De Bernardi. Both bicycles were manufactured in the Cuneo/Turin region and possibly used the same paint finisher.
After the 1990’s there seem to be no further examples of Sancineto’s work. It is assumed that around this time he may have stopped working. It had been 80 years or so since his grandfather first started making bicycles, but now carbon fiber frames were common and had taken over the market. Sadly, there appeared to be little demand for his work anymore. It was to be the end of an era. Three generations worth of knowledge, of hand forming steel tubes into bicycles, into works of art was to be lost as old masters like Gianni hung up their torches and laid down their files.
In the new millennium there were almost no major manufacturers’ still building high quality lugged steel frames. Outside of the occasional “tribute” model that was offered now and then, the mastery and knowledge of building these classics was becoming a lost art. To be sure, some small builders such as Dario Pegoretti, Richard Sachs and others have taken up the torch, but I cannot help but wonder how much knowledge has been lost in this transition. Very few of the new generation of steel frame builders have ever apprenticed with one of the old masters. As clever and skillful as modern builders may be, they may never be able to replicate the “magic” qualities achieved by their predecessors.
Some of the images I have gathered below were identified as being of certain years of manufacture. In some cases, I have corrected the “said” dates to a more correct date based on frame characteristics. If you have a factual or photographic contribution to make to the knowledge base for Sancineto bicycles and their history please use the comments section below to contact me. This page will continue to be a work in progress with your input. Thanks!
These later examples show a different font in the logo on the down tube as well as a different head badge.
This seems to be the first year in which the seat stays take this flattened shape with the Sancineto panto-graph.
These are some pics of my own 1991 Sancineto. The frame and fork are the only original parts, all else is provided by me.