Q & A: Dave Yee's Marinoni Special

Dave's 1985 Marinoni Special...
a steel lugged beauty!
All photos courtesy: Dave Yee

One of the fun aspects that I enjoy is the email’s I receive from time to time about Marinoni bicycles. If you have been following my humble blog, you know I have happily restored my 1987 Marinoni. I call it my 25-year old present to my faithful two-wheel companion. Yes, I’ll go as far as saying a bicycle has a soul, mine certainly does.

Last month, Dave Yee from Richmond Hill, Ontario sent me interesting info of his cycling love, a 1985 Marinoni Special. I don’t know why Marinoni called some of their frames Special. I mean, I know all their frames are pretty special. But, after scouring the vast Internet I discovered that the Special covers steel frames of the eighties into the nineties. 

Far be it, that I'm an expert on Marinoni bikes. Yet, interviewing Dave on his Marinoni love affair places it all in perspective that there is something intrinsic and timeless owning one of Gisueppe's brilliant steel masterpieces. 

Dave acquired his Marinoni recently from his Uncle Jeff who lives in Montréal and used to work in bike shops when he was younger. It’s quite unique, one that I haven’t seen before.

So, dear readers, this is my first question and answer interview with Dave Yee and his very interesting Marinoni Special…

That’s quite the catch. How long have you had your eyes on this?

I’ve had my eyes on this ever since I saw it at my uncle’s. It has spent quite a while in the laundry room, out of the sun and garage where his many bikes go. My uncle used to be involved in the cycling scene in the early to mid 80s. When he worked at a bike shop in Montreal, he had a chance to order a custom one at a great price. My family used to make the trek from Toronto to Montreal yearly to pay respects to my late grandmother, so when we went to visit, without fail I would always make sure I went down and saw the Marinoni in the laundry room. So as far as an actual number, let’s say about 20 years?  That’s a while!

I’m in love with my Marinoni, what is it that turns you on to Marinoni?

It wasn’t until later that I came to learn of the real mystique of Marinoni. At the time as I was growing up, my uncle would explain to me a little bit about Giuseppe and his operation. My uncle did a good job with using period-appropriate components, which I will talk about later. So before I acquired the bike, whenever I looked up bikes/racers from the mid 80s, I would see bikes that closely resembled the Marinoni – the Cinelli stem and bars, along with the shiny Benotto tape gave away its age! 

Maple Leaf... forever!

I like the detail that went into this frame, notably the special fork crown with the maple leaf and Marinoni script, as well as the maple leaf cutout in the lower head tube lug. As with many Marinoni’s, this one also has a big “M” cutout at the bottom of the Italian-threaded bottom bracket lug.
To me, what makes this frameset more special than what I’ve mentioned is the fact that when this frameset was produced, steel was essentially the only material around with a proven track record. Titanium was in its infancy, Cannondale was just beginning their beer can aluminum frames, and Alan was just starting their aluminum lug, carbon tubed frames which looked ohhhh so sexy in those old issues of Bicycle Guide that we hid under our pillows at night. Did I just say that?
So at the time, steel was not the romanticized, nostalgic material some people regale today. It was the proven, dependable and best material to use at the time. I have 2 other steel bikes so I am not hanging onto the material for sentimental value. I think this Marinoni is a great example of how performance steel is supposed to be made, given the available knowledge and technology at the time.

You had this recently re-built, what kind of components did it originally come with?

Good thing I have a decent memory! The bike, as I received it, had a Mavic gruppo, which I still have, and which I brought home from my parents’ house after receiving Richard’s questions! Some of the parts from Mavic at the time were just rebadged components from other companies; the brakes and horrible pads were from Modolo, for example. So it had Mavic front and rear derailleurs, Simplex shifters, Mavic 501 hubs with Ambrosio tubular, a Campy Record seatpost, a white perforated Selle Italia Turbo saddle (that I am still using), a Mavic threaded headset that uses those special funky wrenches, and Mavic-branded (but probably Modolo) brake levers.  Cinelli quill stem with matching deep drop handlebar with blue Benotto tape. I took off the entire handlebar assembly and never disassembled the individual components off of it.

Did that cover everything?  I think at this point, the only things I am using off the entire bike are the frame, fork, and seatpost binder bolt. The rear spacing for this frame was the old standard of 126mm, so I had Noah Rosen of Velocolour (NAHBS Award Winner) spread out the frame at the back to 130mm – to me it seems perfect – modern wheels slide in with no effort. Switched the headset to a Chris King, using a Zipp stem and handlebar, Cane Creek brake levers, Tektro 530 brakes, fizik seatpost, Dura Ace hubs, Alex rims (tied and soldered), Suntour Sprint front derailleur and Microshift rear, coupled with 9 speed Dura Ace down tube shifters to operate the Ultegra 9 speed rear cassette. Crankset is Shimano 105 Hollowtech II with FSA big chainring, pedals are Shimano Dura Ace alloy SPD-SLs. Right now the bike is used as an occasional commuting bike (used in conjunction with my Extrawheel trailer), plus as an aggressive-riding ‘training’ bike (whatever that means since I’m a teacher). My goal essentially was to get this frameset going with fairly modern components on a decent budget. Hope that explains why it looks the way it does.

The 'beta' test...
for Jeff Yee. 

Your Uncle Jeff is in a ‘special’ world and this is the first I’ve seen a name on the seat stay caps. How did he come to that?

The way he explained it to me was, his frame was to use as a ‘beta’ test to see if it would work. Because the frame is custom, doing the seat stay caps was just another part of the customization. Not even sure how they would do that?  Some special engraver or funky pantographing?  Whatever the case, I think it looks really nice and I haven’t seen it on any other bike so far either. Certainly takes ‘special’ to a higher level, and I bet Richard would have loved that option when he got his!

Wonderful Maple Leaf details.
The eighties was my era that I got the cycling bug, seems that you caught the eighties Marinoni bug. There’s something mystique about Marinoni …do you feel that you have a ‘special’ bike?

Of course I feel that I have a ‘special’ bike! Not because it specifically won a major Tour, not because it was ridden by a World Champion, and not because it was the lightest or stiffest in its time. I am sure that had Richard or I lived in Quebec for any length of time, you would hear the locals go on and on about Marinoni, as it deserves to be. I mostly appreciate the fact that after all this time (frame is circa 1985 approx.), with just a little bit of work, the frame can be ridden and enjoyed today. This frame certainly won’t win any beauty contests – the way it is built now, it can be ridden day after day without too much trouble. My uncle has asked – ‘Why didn’t you just ride it the way it was built?’  To that I would reply that I realize today’s components are lighter, stiffer and more reliable than components of the past. I think it would almost be scary riding it the way it was. Sean Kelly probably rode those noodly Vitus frames and flexy components within an inch of their lives, but I am NO Sean Kelly. 
There is enough attention to detail in the frame that I smile a little every time I work on it, details that get lost when you buy an off-the-shelf frame. I think it takes a different person to appreciate such small details, like the maple leafs or the engraving. Whether or not such attention to detail is still a trademark of Marinoni steel, I do not know. I think it would be almost silly to get a new frame built exactly like this one, knowing what we know about the new steels out there as well as oversized tubing. My next frame is likely to be steel but will definitely look a lot different than this Special, but that doesn’t diminish anything about this frame. 
I plan on riding and enjoying it for as long as I can. I love this frame, and I love the story of Marinoni, but I don’t intend to baby it – it was meant to be ridden! I think Giuseppe would approve. I’ve never met the man behind the frame, but if I ever get the chance, I might say, ‘thanks for making something I am able to use, and use well, after all these years’.

That’s real Marinoni love. Thank you Dave!

Original Marinoni script, remarkably showing no signs of wear, with superb cross-hatching.


Michael said…
That is an appropriately named bike. "Special" is right.
Unknown said…
I have a frame that has M at the top of the bottom tube along with an M cut into the bottom of the crankshaft with 20 stamped beside it. What can you tell me about this. The decals say Marinoni Special with (I believe) B R E V CAMPAGNOLO stamped on the area where the back tire bolts on? Any info would be much appreciated.
Richard said…
Hello Sean,

It seems to me your Marinoni Special is perhaps a 20th anniversary edition. The Special model include all steel frames produced in the 80s and 90s. Cheers!
Unknown said…
Recently purchased Marinoni Special frame that the serial number shows to be made in '87. Cannot make out the tube set from the columbus sticker. Would you know what Columbus tubing was used on this run of frames?
Shane Jones