Ital Cicli Systems Zurich bicycle company forged their beginnings in the mid 1970’s. This now defunct Swiss bicycle company is best known for their engineering innovation and penchant for decorating Italian bicycle frames and components. A deluxe bicycle company providing bespoke bicycles with sumptuous gold and chrome finishes. If ever there was a bicycle engineering and finishing firm predestined to collide with the excesses of 1980’s European bicycle styling, Ital Cicli Systems Zurich was it. The obsession in the 1980’s for pantographed, cromovelato coated, electro plated, highly stylised custom bicycles was exemplified in the Zurich workshops of Ital Cicli Systems. Production of ICS bicycles began in about 1975, a time when European gold class bicycle decorating hadn’t fully hit it’s straps, bicycle production at ICS in the company’s early years was more utilitarian.
In it’s heydey the crowning glory of ICS Swiss bicycle production was their custom built “Exklusiv” bikes. When built for the English speaking market the spelling was changed to “Exclusive”, Ben Smith’s Ital Cicli Systems show bike, made for an American trade show is one example. Renowned for their seductive cromovelato finishes and gold plated Cinelli and Campagnolo components, notably Corsa Record and earlier Super Record, Ital Cicli systems stamped their authority on Italian made bicycle components by re-designing then re-finishing these components to exacting standards. That’s what Ital Cicli Systems did best, yet ICS did not always operate at that “carriage market” level.
Before all this Swiss innovation could begin, ICS required a framework, a muse upon which to hang their deliriously opulent hand crafted bicycles. It’s all in the name Ital Cicli Systems. Italian frames and components re-worked into timeless collectables in Switzerland, mostly bearing the name PEP Magni.
Dig deep enough and you’ll find Giovanni Losa’s name embedded in the ICS timeline. Losa provided the unembellished Italian passion in raw steel built frames for ICS to work with. Reputedly from Erba Como, Losa’s most recent workshop was tied to an address at Via Trieste in Vittuone west of the city centre in Milano. Losa also built Cinelli Supercorsa frames and by all accounts Losa built for other Italian bicycle brands. A thread on Classic Rendevous by George Hollenberg MD outlines Losa’s involvement with PEP Magni. George wrote “After a conversation with Mr.Artemio Granzotto, the owner of the former ICS Company. PEP Magni was a bikeshop located in Baggio, Italy, and owned by Peppino Magni, the former mechanic of the Italian Professional Team (Fiorenzo Magni, the great "third man ofItalian cycling," was a member of this team) - thus the name "PEP" Magni. However, the framesets were made for Peppino Magni during the period 1975-1980by Giovanni Losa in Vittuone. Losa is a very respected framemaker who producedbikes under his own name and for others including Cinelli.”
Undoubtedly other builders produced frames for ICS, one notable example is a Columbus SL Casati Gold Line ICS from 1983. Much to the horror of some died in the wool bike collectors, the current owner of the Casati ICS recently rode the machine at L’Eroica. Contrast this with another ICS owner who occasionally rides a Magni Exklusiv and has proposed riding his special machine on one dry sunny day, wearing white cotton gloves for maximum protection of precious ICS painted and plated surfaces. Apparently being disappointed with himself for having let his head go by riding the bike once without the protection of his white gloves, thus hastening the machine's return to nature.
Campagnolo and Cinelli became default components for the top of the range 1980’s models. Go back to the 1970’s and you’ll find ICS examples completed with brands like Universal, Fiamme, Roto and Ofmega. Names like Prestige, Elite, Premier and Olimpiade were given to ICS models kitted out with more utilitarian equipment, not aimed at the same market segment as the Exclusive made to special order bikes of the 1980’s. The genesis of the ICS concept was embedded in the 1970’s when the full potential of gold and chrome embellishments had not been fully realised. Bicycles were produced with a wider scope for usage, not the narrowly focused carriage market bikes which are the bicycles that most velo aficionado’s associate Ital Cicli Systems with. Yet 1970’s ICS examples, sporting PEP Magni decals surface form time to time. These honest bicycles provide us with a snapshot into the development of Ital Cicli Systems, first with Artemio Granzotto building a relationship with the Peppino Magni bicycle store at Baggio for the supply of Giovanni Losa built frames. Then building these bicycles up with practical every day components, branding their saddles with the ICS logo and steadily building a concept of what the future ICS premium bespoke bicycle would be.
One special 1970’s ICS bike has made it’s way to Australia. This example is fitted with Losa trademark lug cutouts which are painted in with yellow, the paint scheme is a classic 1970’s dark blue colour with a chrome plated fork crown. There’s a mix of components including 3ttt, Campagnolo, Ofmega, Shimano, Rigida, Gipiemme, Selle San Marco and Universal.
The current owner has a collection of old bicycles and when this ICS Magni was added to his collection, he thought he’d bought a 100% pure Italian bicycle. Little did he know the degree of Swiss influence that had been brought to bear on his new “Italian” machine. Even in the 1980’s Ital Cicli Systems bicycles were not widely known, it’s taken a further three decades for their highly decorated creations to gain a wider appreciation. In it’s own right this 1970’s ICS Magni charts the beginnings of this precision Swiss bike re-finishing atelier.
This collector of bikes talks about how he found his ICS Giovanni Losa built Magni bicycle.
What attracted me to buy the ICS Magni Elite? To be perfectly honest it was for all the wrong reasons.
The bike must be Italian, nothing more, nothing less.
I was interested in this “Italian bike” when it was advertised for sale in Queensland. Without the possibility of an easy inspection and being in Victoria the distance dampened my enthusiasm. For many years I’ve had a love affair with Italian steel bikes, so the thought of calling the seller was tempting.
After thinking it over I decided to call the seller anyway, he told me a bit about the Magni’s history. The bike once belonged to his uncle who had bought the Magni in Switzerland (that could have been my first clue that there was more to this “Italian” bike) and the current owner received the bike after his uncle’s untimely death. The owner was leaving Australia and moving back to Switzerland (clue number 2) which is why it was being sold.
Although the price was quite reasonable, I still hadn’t had the opportunity to inspect the bike and my contacts in Queensland had already done a few bike related favours so I could hardly hit on them again. I called the seller and pretty much said thanks but no thanks, explaining my reasons, and put the ICS Magni out of my mind. Besides, by now I had a few Italian steel bikes that needed care, polishing, admiring and even occasionally riding.
The ICS Magni’s seller was persistent and called me a while later, also the price had dropped as his departure was imminent. The lower price would help cover freight, so “what the heck” I told myself and I bought the bike anyway.
Now to get the Magni to Victoria. One of my mates Maso often says “everybody needs mates like us”, this point of view seemed quite apt, as Maso often drove within range of where the bike was kept. So Maso collected the bike then dropped it off to another mate “Brother Dick”, who took the bike to work, boxed it and had it couriered to Melbourne. Perhaps Dick knew he was going to tear a leather saddle on one of my bikes a short time later (which is another story all of its own) so felt compelled to help me out, however, knowing Dick he was just being a good bloke who is often looking out for me with “rusty old bikes”.
At this point I had done little and had a lovely, so I thought, all Italian bike, delivered to my door.
Upon unpacking there were no real surprises as I had already seen numerous photos. I could see the bike had some surface rust on a few items but nothing that was really going to concern me or likely to cause structural damage, certainly not in my lifetime. Straight out of the box I was able to pump up the tyres and I went for a short ride.
Where possible I try to keep complete bikes original. The ICS Magni looked to have very little changed from the day it was rolled out of the store, probably Radsport Wenger in Switzerland (or as I had initially assumed, Italy) but I did make one quite substantial change. Again I don’t know why but perhaps this time it wasfate. I swapped the original wheels which were built up with Shimano hubs and Rigida rims. The current wheels fitted are Campagnolo Record High Flange hubs with Mavic MA2 rims. The original wheels were a little tired and a bit rusty. I had just on-sold a bike and I had kept a wheelset from that bike for a project like the Magni. I suggested fate of changing wheels as at the time of the change I had no idea of how highly modified and or personalised future ICS bike production would become. It was only through some of the earlier posts that I’d read on Velo Aficionado, relating to ICS Magni bikes and had some contact with Rob that really gave me an idea of what I had in my garage.
While I have kept the wheels I now do not feel all that guilty of the change. While this is an early ICS Magni it appears that, depending on your budget, you could have almost anything you wanted. I don’t know if the conversation was like this but we have all heard the clichéd phrase and tone of “A different set of wheels sir, no problems sir”. I may be well off the mark but it certainly happens now and I when I bought my first Hillman in 1985 it happened so why not suggest the Swiss were doing it the late 70’s?
My first “real ride” was some time after I purchased the ICS Magni. A fellow collector and enthusiast in Melbourne organises a quarterly retro ride. While the ride is open to any bike, the main criteria is that your retro bike used is not your current ride. There are other rules, always post ride entertainment and sometimes a display plus a chat and coffee. The event is pretty informal and a focus for many participants is making sure their latest pride and joy is ready for the ride.While no-one will admit it, turning up with the rarest/oldest or most exotic steed is most rider’s plans, well at least that is how I see it. The organiser takes an ”inventory” of who is on what bike and what year, if known, before the ride.
When I took the Giovanni Losa built Magni out I said I was riding a 70’s ICS Magni. Not many participants even looked sideways at the bike. Few riders know of the exclusivity of the ICS brand. I was curious to see how this would be received. My first impressions when I unpacked the bike was that the sentiment translated to “while a nice bike, it’s nothing too special.” The same was the case for the ride in December 2014. I could almost hear the comments along the lines of “nice bike, but…..” The other riders are more used to seeing me on bikes that are more “flashy”.
On this occasion I was also providing the coffee entertainment which was a Colnago Carbitubo TT bike ridden by Abdujapaorov. This TT Colnago is nothing like what was raced c1993 but it is striking and it created a much greater fuss than the ICS which was seen as a 70’s steel bike with a few nice components. If only they knew, then again they were just like me when I first bought the Magni.
While I have other bikes that are more visually appealing, which are fitted with superior components, the ICS is certainly a keeper. There are plenty of Colnago’s, Pinarello’s or many other marques around. Often they are beautiful bikes with exceptional attention to detail, completed with special edition parts. Some of these bicycles may have been the rider’s first bike or perhaps a relative’s bike. These bikes become all the more special with their family provenance, especially when linked to a good story. It is great that these bikes are still ridden and cherished. Unfortunately there is no family or provenance for me with this one but it is an ICS Magni built by Giovanni Losa and the 219th one produced.
Not many people in Australia have one of these beauties and it was a good degree of luck that lets me ride it whenever I want.
Ital Cicli Systems Magni Elite Components
Frame & Fork - Ital Cicli Systems Zurich Magni built by Giovanni Losa
Paint - Ital Cicli Systems classic 1970’s dark blue with yellow accents painted into Losa lug cutouts. Chrome fork crown and chrome rear dropouts.
Headset - Ofmega
Quill Stem - 3ttt Record
Handlebars - 3ttt Competizione
Bar Wrap - Generic cloth tape white
Bar Plugs - Cateye model 300
Front Brake- Universal Model 77
Rear Brake - Universal Model 77
Brake Levers - Universal Model 77
Front Derailleur - Campagnolo
Rear Derailleur - Campagnolo Nuovo Gran Sport
Gear Shift Levers - Campagnolo Record friction downtube.
Freewheel - Shimano 600
Chain - not known
Crankset - Ofmega
Crankset - Gipiemme
Bottom Bracket - Gipiemme
Pedals - Gipiemme Dual Sprint
Toe Straps - REG
Toe Clips - REG Special
Front Wheel - Mavic MA2 rims with Campagnolo Record High Flange Hubs
Rear Wheel - Mavic MA2 rims with Campagnolo Record High Flange Hubs (Original wheels Shimano hubs with Rigida rims.)
Saddle -San Marco Professional suede, (that I have knocked some suede off)
Seatpost - Campagnolo 26.4
Bidon Cages - REG
All photographs by the collector and current owner of the ICS Magni. Special thanks to the owner of this ICS Magni for his words and photographs.