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 story ‘Going Underground‘ on page 2 of 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 (on page 2 of this site if you are interested), 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……..

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.
If you’ve got a Cilo and want to share its story with others, don’t hesitate to send them in to me.

4 thoughts on “More about Swiss Cilo cycles”

  1. Hello Guy nice to see more Cilo news, clearly an exclusive club. You mentioned the number of bikes a person has these days. I have 8 complete vintage bikes, this includes 3 mountain bikes, one of which is over 25 years old and a new gravel bike (which I do not like) plus my latest project, bought as a frame and forks for very little money. It appears to be an Olmo made from Columbus SL tubing (I found the faint detail of a SL decal) although the forks are Super Vitus 971, not original I suspect. My wife suggests I do not buy anymore bikes. The trouble is I have an auction coming up soon that has a couple of bikes that interest me. I work as an Antique Toy and Transport specialist for an auction company.

    1. Hmmm…..only 8! I would write “must try harder” on your cycling report. I think (so I’ve clearly lost count) I have about 22, but I do sell some, and then buy another one or two. It could be much worse. I have friends that collect stuff like vintage guitars, motorcycles, vintage tractors and cars, and none of these will give the same value-for-cash-&-pleasure like a bicycle does. Nor do they keep you fit like a bicycle does. I like the sound of that auction already and I don’t know what’s in the catalogue yet. Keep up the good work saving Velos from the scrap heap.

  2. Another bicycle brand for me to be looking out for that’s not as yet in the collection. Turnabout being fair play, I have another Swiss brand for you to be looking for: Titan. Most Titans seem to have been built in Italy by Billato but there may have been other builders. I have owned 3 but am down to 2 at present. One is Columbus SP and has a dark blue/light blue/white fade paint job and a chromed fork with fully sloping crown. The 2nd is Columbus Thron and has a flashy purple and silver fade with blue and yellow graphics that bring to mind 1990s Colnagos. The third was SL and had the same smoke over magenta paint as this one in Croatia:

    https://www.ebay.com/itm/Titan-Swiss-Columbus-SL-airbrush-road-race-frame-vintage-retro-campagnolo-record/323691101529?hash=item4b5d7e3d59:g:s7cAAOSwaP5cYfiR:rk:6:pf:0

    Judging by the number of listings on ebay for each brand, finding a Titan in your size may be considerably more difficult than me finding a Cilo. There are a few more pics of Titans here, including bikes that are painted just like the two I have:

    https://forums.thepaceline.net/showthread.php?t=4171&highlight=titan

    Several other threads on paceline forum that mention/have pics of Titans.

    1. Interesting. I’ll look out for the brand more. I have seen them, but they are obviously rarer in Switzerland than Cilos. The world is full of interesting bike builders, past & present. Thx!

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