In the early-ish days of club and national cycle racing, like the 1940s and 50s for example, riders had one bike, which they rode to races, and possibly, if they were good riders, he/she would have a second set of lighter wheels that they would use for the race, then they’d swap back to the everyday wheels and ride home. Simple. Also, most people didn’t have the cash in the Euro-post war years to have more than one bike, although some families might have splashed out on a tandem for the weekend get-aways.
Moving on twenty years and riders in the 1970s had a race bike and a training bike. The training bike was the commuter, tourer and shopping bike. Add on another 10 years or so and things had changed again. Club cyclists would have added a track bike to their collection and the training bike also became the all-winter bike with long mudguards on it. The 1990s saw the arrival of the specialist time trial (TT) machine, so this meant adding another bike to the shed. Then came the mountain bike (MTB)……..
By the millennium, bike sheds were getting bigger, having extensions added and in some cases, the best bike was hung on the wall in the house. A club rider would then have one each of the following: TT bike, track bike, road racer, tourer/winter hacker, MTB, and for the 365 days a years fanatics, a cyclocross bike. There would also be some other possibilities like a uni-cycle or a bike permanently attached to a turbo trainer.
Flash through to today and its even more complex. We now have the trend of the vintage bike, which is raced in one of the many retro-rides or sportives that are being organised around the world. This means that the restoration market for bikes and parts has exploded, with new-old-stock (NOS) parts fetching big money.
So, how many bikes should you have before your partner/wife/husband/anyone else, starts to ask you ‘how many bikes can you ride at once?’ Or, ‘you’ve just spent HOW MUCH on another bike, which you don’t have time to ride?!’ One bonus for having so many bikes means that you don’t wear tyres out so quick. A fleet of bikes requires all of the ‘appropriate gear’ to go with them, so your single drawer that held a jersey and some shorts in it is now a whole wardrobe extension, just like the shed. Even washing baskets for the extra cycling laundry have got bigger and cycling shoe racks are now double deckers.
So lets now assume that you have a bike for every eventuality, except a vintage bike. What better way to get into vintage cycling than to buy something a bit of a less mainstream brand, and one that has quality in its heritage and genes. How’s about a Swiss made Cilo?
As a form of introduction, this is how I started with Cilo cycles. It was whilst wandering around a Swiss car boot sale, or ‘Vide Grenier’ in French, when my gaze was attracted to a metallic green and chrome, Swiss made Cilo track bike, which was propped up against the car of one of the vendors. Three things occurred; I loved it at first sight, I didn’t actually own a track bike, and I didn’t live far away from the world governing body of cycling, the UCI (L’Union Cycliste Internationale) and their velodrome, which allows ‘cycling nobodys’ like me to ride around it (for a fee obviously). The bike was my size too! Hurrah! The vendor-owner had bought the bike from the Cycles Cilo factory in Lausanne, and on the shores of Lake Geneva. He had used it 3 times on the track and then put it in the garage for 10 years. I bought it, and it was cheap. This was Cilo number 1 for me and you can see pictures of it in the post ‘Going Underground‘ on this site.
Cilo manufactured 99% of their cycles. However, there was one exception. As a fellow cyclist, you will have no doubt heard of Vitus, which was the brand name of a French bike frame building company, Ateliers de Rive, and they pioneered a way of bonding aluminium (Duralinox) frame tubes to alloy castings, which led them to launch their first full bicycle in 1979. These frames were premium, light and strong and the tubes came in an anodised, coloured finish of either silver, light blue, dark blue, red, black, pink and white. The latter white colour was the only painted frame. This allowed customers to even mix different frame tube colours if they wanted to. Vitus frames were provided to other French manufacturers such as Motobecane, Peugeot and Gitane. They also supplied a Swiss cycle manufacturer called Cilo with some frames, who then badged them, and sold them as part of their very premium range, as did quite a few other Swiss cycle builders at the time, and here’s mine below.
That’s enough of my bikes. Since writing the first Cilo blog, I’ve been contacted by a few people from around the world with Cilos, and who either wanted to seek information or just wanted to share their Cilo story and pictures. It turns out that Cilos got around the world, just like Swiss watches and pen knives. Here’s a few of them so far……..
Todd from Minnesota, USA has proudly brought another Cilo back to life. Todd has a long association with cycling. Back in the early 1980’s he sold Raleigh, Trek, Cannondale, Specialized and Ross Bicycles at a local Bike shop, and before he left the shop in 1983, he bought a classic 25″ Raleigh Prestige with Suntour Superbe components, and he still owns it to this day, 40 years later.
Todd is a self-proclaimed ‘Bicycle Projecteer’ and is passionate about restoring ‘diamonds-in-the-rough’ that he has sought out. His Cilo find was so exciting because it was a) his (large) size, and b) it has a Reynolds Frame, which is what he aspired to acquire. As with all Projecteers, Todd would normally put the bike on a stand and strip it down to the frame, do a deep clean, polish and replace any parts if needed.
The process with the Cilo was slightly different as he bought it in Florida where he stays sometimes, but his workshop is in Minnesota, so he needed to improvise during the renovation as he had no tools. To get the Cilo back on the road at least, Todd bought and fitted a new wheelset, pedals and a comfortable seat. Whilst the bike hasn’t had Todd’s usual full renovation, which it might one day, it’s overall condition is great, so for the total cost of $200, Todd has a beautiful, Swiss classic, Cilo bike.
Chris, from the U.K., bought his Cilo new in 1984 when he was living and working in Lausanne, and where his Cilo Cycle was made. The brochure showed Chris’ bike as a “mi-course” model, and it came with the rack and dynamo, which are still on it, as is the stand. The colour is “tilleul”.
Chris’ Cilo has Shimano Altus gears, a double 52/42 chainring and six gears. He has since replaced the bottom bracket, the chainwheel and pedals. He also put a different handlebar stem on it some years ago, and has kept the original. The front wheel is the original one, but he has had to have a new rear rim, circa 1988.
Purchasing and collecting the bike from the dealer, Uiker Sports, in Lausanne, it was a very Swiss experience for Chris. He had studied the Cilo brochure and knew it pretty much off by heart, so when he went to buy the bike, he asked if the saddle could be raised a bit, which was agreed to, but when he requested that the handlebars be raised too, he was told “absolument pas”. The shop owner, Ernst Uiker, who was doubtless right, of course, on safety grounds, told to pick the bike up the following day so that they could prepare it properly. Chris was also instructed that before he could ride the bike, he would need to go to the police station to buy a licence plaque, and which would have to be attached to the bike. This cost 15 Swiss francs at the time.
Chris’ rides on his Cilo along the side of Lake Geneva are still hugely memorable for him. He also remembers two classic Swiss-Cilo moments; The first was when he lived in a fifth-floor studio in Lausanne, and where he used to keep his Cilo. The Concierge saw him shouldering the bike down the stairs one afternoon to go for a ride, and asked him where he kept it. He told her, and she said that she would throw it out the window if she found it in his studio. Luckily after that a friend let him keep it in her basement storage area.
The second Cilo related instance was when he went to an Ironmongers in Lausanne to get a security lock and chain for the bike (this was the era before U-locks). He explained what he wanted and the Ironmonger went out the back and returned with a chain not much chunkier than a lady’s necklace. Chris said that he wanted something a bit stronger to lock up a bike and the Ironmonger replied, “This is Switzerland. Nobody is going to steal your bike.”
Chris says that his Cilo has been a great bike over the years and Its very special to him.
Ricar from Madrid in Spain contacted me as he had bought a frame for €50 that was painted red and had Colnago decals on it, but when he started stripping the paint off, he realised that the original paint underneath was a metallic blue, and his research led him to believe that the frame was in fact, a Swiss Cilo. Even though the frame was missing it’s head tube badge, the serial number and it’s location on the frame identified it as a 1986 Swiss-made, Columbus steel tubed Cilo. Ricar stripped the frame down to bare metal and a friend of his did the amazing Cilo blue paint, and with some new decals, it was then ready to build. Ricar completed the full restoration of the bike recently, and has fitted a full Campagnolo group set and it looks magnificent. The bike will be used at the Eroica Hispania ride in 2022. Ricar is still looking for a Cilo head tube badge and I’ve promised to find him one so that the bike will look factory fresh again.
Zoltan from Zurich owns this beautiful 1979 Cilo. His father bought it new and it has a Reynolds 531 frame and Shimano 600 Arabesque groupset. It was passed down to Zoltan in the late 1980s. The bike stood around for a few years and was ridden a few times, but more recently, Zoltan has been bitten again by the racing bike bug. At present, he is pedalling full speed again on his Cilo! Several parts of the bike have been replaced over the years, for example, the saddle, pedals, and the rear rim, but on the whole, everything is original. Zoltan loves his orange racer: “When you have a Cilo, you never give it back.” As a teenager, he also had a green Cilo sports bike that had 12 gears and was his pride and joy. Unfortunately, it was stolen and he has no photos of it.
Jerry, from Evansville Indiana in the USA has got this very original Cilo and he’s had it since 1971! He really loves his Cilo and he’s had it longer than anything else he’s ever owned. The bike was a year or two old when he got it and it’s in quite original condition. Like all Cilo owners, Jerry says it’s a great bike to ride. He finds himself also having to answer questions about it every time he takes it out, as there aren’t too many Cilos around, or people who actually know about them. Top bike!
This lovely 1985 bike below carries the ‘Cilo Swiss’ brand used on the export bikes, and belongs to Mike in the USA. The bike was given to him by a friend who also, ‘got it from a friend’. Neither of the previous owners really liked to ride apparently, and when Mike took up ownership, this Cilo looked like it had been “ridden hard and put away wet”, but cleaned up really well in the end.
Mike is 68 years old, has been riding since he was a child, and really loves this bike. Mike claims that whilst he has never been a racer, he does like to roll along at a good pace, and importantly, his Cilo rides and looks just as a real bike should. Mike is very complementary about the bikes ability to tackle descents, being both stable and true. It is now set it up as his rain bike with fenders, and apart from a more modern saddle and brake levers, it is original.
Amy in the USA has just finished this great 1988 Cilo restoration. It was a birthday present from a friend 5 years ago and has now had a really nice re-paint in a slightly darker blue than the original. It certainly looks like all of the ‘project planets got aligned’ on this Cilo renovation because a friend offered up a full Shimano 7800 Dura Ace groupset with silver components that also complement the chrome forks really well. In addition, Amy also found a mint pair of 7800 Dura Ace wheels which were advertised locally, and at a great price.
To date, Amy has done a few a few short, shakedown rides, and finds it is perfect fit. The ultimate speed test will be to find a nice tailwind and flat road to really see how it flys, and then Amy will tackle a big hill climb! In Amy’s words, “It is gorgeous with the chrome and the photo below does not do the bike justice.” Another vintage Cilo brought back to life. Top job!
Čeněk from the Czech Republic acquired a Cilo frame and has just completed his build with a very Czech flavour to it, sporting a lot of Czech Favorit parts. He has recently ridden it in a vintage event in Austria, called InVeloVeritas so it has had its first, successful shakedown ride. Even though he still has a couple of jobs to do on it to get to final completion like new decals, he has created a really great example of a Swiss-Czech Bike. It is the first time I’ve seen a bike with so many Czech parts on it so here’s the full specification and photo below:
Front Derailleur: Campagnolo
Crank: Sakae Ryongo Silstar
Drop bars and stem: Favorit Special
Hubs are original Favorit, reconstructed using new stainless spokes and Remerx 27 1 1/8 rims
Saddle: Favorit Sport 05 – ’70 czechoslovakian copy of Brooks B17
Larry from the USA has this great story to tell about his Cilo………
In 1987, I was a 23 year old new graduate working and living on Long Island, New York. The group I ran around with decided to try cycling and so I went to the local bike store and bought what my meagre salary could afford at the time. $700 for a brand spanking new 1987 Cilo Sport. Size 60cm. It came with Columbus tubing, Shimano 600 SIS shifting, a 12-25 6 speed cassette, downtube shifters, toe clips and 53-43 Biopace chainrings. As I recall this was Shimano’s experiment in oval chainrings to minimize the “dead zone” where cranks have no leverage. Anyway, I loved that bike and it served me well through a couple of Ancient Mariner centuries, a few Biathlon’s and many rides to the beach along the Bethpage Bikeway. I was young, single and had plenty of time on my hands. I moved to the mid-west a couple years later and continued to enjoy my bike occasionally until 2003 when I got more involved in the running and cycling scene in the St. Louis area and upgraded to a more modern aluminum frame albeit w/ comparably inferior components (105 groupset).
The Cilo sat in my basement until I convinced a friend who was roughly the same size to try cycling and loaned him the Cilo. He fell in love with cycling and a few months later bought a new bike and returned the Cilo. Back into storage it went. I loaned the bike out occasionally over the years until this year.
March 2020. Covid hit. We all got locked down at home and I’m now a 57 year old IT manager living near some of the best cycling in Missouri and working from home. My regular (2003) bike has been used sporadically the last 5-10 years, but most recently in my basement workout room sitting on an old fluid trainer. I spoke to a few of the other working-from-home and retired folks in the neighborhood and tried to get a riding group together — more to get out of the house and have some human interaction than anything else. Most had road bikes, but one guy (about my size) who was willing to give it a shot, did not. Out of mothballs came the Cilo to the rescue. A few test rides to get him up to speed and then weekly rides with the group and some mid-week morning sessions later and the LBS had sold a modern bike after its new owner had fallen in love with cycling by riding my old 1987 Cilo. That was April. May saw the Cilo loaned out to another in the group who was w/o his bike due to much needed repairs. In late May, another “recruit” from the neighborhood took her. The Cilo was too big for him, but he bravely gave it a shot and got plenty of looks and comments on a store sponsored 50+ mile group ride with comments like “Nice Classic dude”. My classic old Cilo had hooked another one. He bought a new bike in July from the same LBS and the Cilo went into that same shop for some much needed TLC. I don’t think they realized what this bike had meant to their bottom line or they would have likely done the fixes for free.
I went on vacation a couple weeks ago and took my “new bike” in for repairs while I was gone. It’s now 17 years old and getting a bit long in the tooth. When I got back, my bike wasn’t ready, but the Cilo was. So I adjusted the seat up and forward, found my old shoes, and for the first time in 17 years, I took her out myself for a short spin. Twenty three miles in rolling hills. Really brought back memories. I forgot what it was like to have to anticipate gear choice and to have to wait that second after a click before the shift actually occurs. There was no muscle memory but I caught on rather quickly. I still pushed sideways on the brake levers several times before realizing that nothing was going to happen. It was a thoroughly enjoyable experience.
The neighborhood group graduated from texting our plans to GroupMe for communication and we now have a Strava club. We’ve expanded outside of the neighborhood and hold organized group rides every week. We have folks from late 30s to mid-60s and although most rides are nice and relaxed, some get a bit frisky. We’re even getting our own jersey — designed by our CiLO (Chief Logo Officer). The Cilo is our unofficial/official mascot. We’re growing as a group. What’s constant is the love of cycling that has been realized through a combination of circumstance (Covid) and opportunity — a loaner bike in the form of a 1987 Cilo Sport. After all of the riding I’ve done just this year both solo and with the group, I’m thinking of retiring my 2003 Klein for a new ride. Not sure my wife will allow another bike in the basement. But there’s another guy down the street who’s about my size and although unwilling to buy a new bike right now, he is willing to ride a couple times with the group to see if he likes it. I have just the bike for him to try.
Saul from the USA finally got around to completing his Cilo restoration and he’s done a great job as you’ll see from the photos. He Doesn’t have any history on the bike unfortunately, although his own chapter in its history started when he purchased the bike from someone in Austin, Texas, who was planning to restore it but ended up picking up another project instead. Saul drove approximately 4 hours each way to go and pick up the bike. He says it’s been a joy to build this Cilo and he loves riding it, so much so, that it has quickly become his favorite bike to ride!
Robin from the UK was the first person to respond to the Cilo call and sent me this picture below of his Cilo Stratos. He did not know much about the bike, as he purchased it as a frame and forks only, from a man in London. This previous owner had removed the wheels and the groupset (why would you do that?) and said they were were really nice Campagnolo components. He told Robin that he had purchased it from a French speaking man, who could have possibly been Swiss, and who had who had owned the bike from new. The dropouts on the frame are stamped Campagnolo, so it was obviously a custom build from the start and specced accordingly. What is interesting about this bike is that the frame only has a 3 digit serial number, so it could well have been a team bike for one of the sponsored teams. Who knows, but its a good find anyway and its good to see that Robin has got it back on the road. The paint is original apparently and has in Robin’s words, ‘got a few battle scars’, although he has treated it to some new Cilo decals.
Michael from the USA sent me some photos of his Cilo, which turns out to be a 1973 bike, and very similar to my 1971 bike. The previous owner of Michael’s bike was French. Apparently, he was a fan of Swiss bikes and he moved to Oregon in the USA to start a French Restaurant in 1960’s. The restaurant is still there to to this date, and is very popular according to Michael. The previous owner wanted a Cilo bike but there were none to be purchased in Oregon, as most of the bikes in Oregon were Schwinns or lots of Japanese bikes like Fuji, Nishiki, Seraph, which had all been imported post-1945. The closest bike shop that sold Cilo bikes was down in California and the bike shop was called Hans Ohrt. Hans and his brother Ernie Ohrt were professional bike racers, and they opened up a bike shop once their career had come to an end. The shop opened in 1920 and was eventually sold in 1980. Hans loved all Swiss bikes, so he had them shipped to USA to sell. He sold mainly premium bikes as his shop was located in Beverly Hills, and most of the people in the city were Actors, Actresses and other famous celebrities, so he had an easy time selling expensive bikes.
Nikola sent me a picture of his Cilo Prestige made from Columbus SLX and which was made in August 1998. This bike (like a few in my fleet) that were destined for alpine rides, has a triple chainset as not everyone can climb the big mountains on a 42-23 bottom gear. The castings on the tops of the forks are particularly nice quality on this bike. He got the bicycle from someone that’s importing used bicycles from Switzerland and selling them in his country. Nikola was in the market for old steel bike frame since he liked them more then the modern frames, so he bought this bike.On the frame there is sticker of the shop Cycles Cherpillod, in Lausanne, and where the original owner bought the bicycle or ordered it from. He says that the bicycle is very light (under 9kgs) and a joy to ride. He has his doubts about the current groupset. Nikola suspects that his bicycle was a full 600 tricolore groupset originally, which would fit with the date of the bike, but someone replaced the shifters, cassette and derailleurs for 105, and he says that its taken some time to get it all sorted out.
Balazs from Romania sent a picture of his Cilo that he has restored and it now has a really striking and cool custom paint job, which looks great with the white saddle and bar tape.
My friend Heniz got the Cilo bug and curiosity led him to find this beauty on a Swiss e-advertising site, so he contacted the seller and jumped in the car to drive 2 hours to pick it up. It is in amazing, original condition, right down to the blue striped saddle and toolbag. Apparently, it was also great value for money (read as: cheap), but I don’t think Heinz’ bike or any other Cilos will be cheap for long. It is a super-stylish bike and I’m sure his wife will look super cool on it, and have great fun riding this Cilo. Heinz says that because its a large frame size and he’s really tall, and its really great to ride, he’ll be using it to go for the bread on a Sunday morning.