This page of Masi lore was generously supplied by Brian Baylis, master frame builder* and early employee at Masi Carlsbad.

These comments are in response to specific questions fromprevious postings on the Classic Rendezvous mailing list. The questions have been edited out for clarity, but are interesting bits of trivia which stand alone on their own merits.

*Brian also offers selective frame restoration, paint and repair, including Masi.Contact him at
Brian Bayliss
Vintage Cycle Studios
1997 Freiendship Dr., Ste. E
El Cajon, CA 92020
619-449-5977
E-mail  rocklube@adnc.com


The early California Masi days

Just to clear a few things up, since I spend a lot of time trying to lay this stuff out straight.

Jim Cunningham as a painter was one of at least 4 people who were involved with painting Masis in Carlsbad. The original painter, Ron Smith taught both myself and Jim Cunningham how to paint, at two separate times. Me first, then Jim. That makes a total of 3 painters so far. When I came back in 1976, I trained another helper who carried on painting when I left, who makes four. So Jim and I never worked there together, nor was I a framebuilder while he was the painter at any time. Just the facts, Ma'am.
You're meaning Mike Howard but saying J. Howard, meaning to some John Howard. Mike Howard and John Howard are two completely different people.

Of all of the people involved in the "Masi Saga" Gian Simonetti has to have the most intertwined and lengthy key role in all of the goings on at Masi and on through Medici and Simo Cycles.

Gian was primarily the interpreter in the early days. He was hired very shortly after I was to replace Marcel Calborne who was the previous interpreter and wheelbuilder. Faliero didn't get along with Marcel apparently and so he left and Simo was hired to be the mouthpiece between the American management and employees (like myself) and the Italian speaking Faliero, Mario, and Roberto. Roberto never came back to California after their first Christmas holiday trip home in December 1973. Mario and Masi returned.

Simo took up assembling bikes and being an ambassador to visitors to the Shop. Simo also was the one who stamped the serial numbers on the frames. Gian was the link between the rich and powerful owner of the company Roland Sham, to Faliero Masi himself, and Mario Confente, and everyone else down the line. That is a key position to be in, regardless what actual work you do there. Long story short, Gian was never a framebuilder at Masi per say, but he was exposed to many things, both technical and actual, having to deal with the daily doings of the Masi shop. He was the connection to everything and pretty much everyone.
As far as I know, Gian didn't pick up any framebuilding duties until Medici started. At some point there they came to realize that if between the two of them (Gian and M. Howard) they could build and paint the frames from start to finish, they could survive times when they didn't have a painter or maybe a grunt worker or two to do the filing and finishing of the frames. At that point Gian got a lot more involved. This was at a time when some things were still being done the old way (i.e. none of these "plug on" dropouts and cast brake bridges and such) even though Medici were the first and only company to use the Mario designed and built investment cast lugs. So Gian shows all of the signs of being a framebuilder and painter also, but not back in the early Masi days. He picked up a lot of information along the way until he could do it as necessary when the time came.

Just wanted to clarify those things.
Brian Baylis

See more lore on Masi employees here.

Read stuff about Masi wheel building here.

 

Dating early California Masis

The serial number should be stamped above the "MC58" stuff on the tang of the BB shell socket above the oval cutout. If there isn't one then it may have been a bike that belonged to a Masi employee or something, or it's buried in paint.

The first batch of Masi GCs (25 frames per [size] batch) were 57cm frames and were completed just about Nov. 1973 (I started on Nov. 28, 1973 if I recall the date correctly) and the first frames were pretty much being finished up. BTW, the first 25 57cm GCs had a serial number system that was too complex and was dropped after the first 25 frames. Simonetti started off with this system. Forgot about the "A" before the size. I remember the other part which was "1 S" which stood for 1st series, and then the number between 01 and 25. It was considered potentially too complicated so the second batch of frames (56cm) began in with the MC bit and the frame size and then the serial number above as we normally see. Mario and Faliero had their hands all over that thing along with several other talented people. The only early batch of frames that happened before I was hired. Date of birth can be considered about Oct. or Nov. 1973. On early original CA Masi's expect to see the 3ttt bar and stem, 3ttt saddle, Everest freewheel and chain.

To be honest there are quite a few odd turns that apply to Masi serial numbers. One thing that will help make a mess out of this is the fact that frames got serial numbered as they were sold as opposed to when they were actually made. If 25 frames were made and only 15 were sold; the remainders hung without numbers until an order for a frame that size was specified to be painted a certain color. The early batches got numbered in a less fragmented manner than subsequent runs. It would be interesting to have a LARGE number of Masis in one place at one time so we could take a better wack at sorting out some of these small details. MASI GATHERING anyone?

The lack of the word "Milano" on a head badge is because someone cut it out of the decal before application to the frame, could have been me. We did that for a short time in the early days because we weren't in Milano. I don't know if that went on at other times or not. Didn't last long when we were doing it. No point in it in my opinion.

The George Fisher(sp?) sandcast BB shells came into usage right after the disappearance of the Nervex BB shells on Masi Specials (about 1963 or 64) and lasted until the introduction of the investment cast BBs somewhere in the 1976/77 period. The IC lugs appeared first and the more complex BB casting followed some time after. Many (if not all) of the Eisentraut built GCs have IC lugs and GF bracket shells.

In the early days of Masi (pre introduction of the 3V) there was only one model. First the Special (very early ones I understand were labeled"speciale" or something similar) and then the Gran Criterium, introduced in 1970. In the early days of Masi California there are only Gran Criteriums or track frames that simply said "Masi". Just chop off all the extra crap for that decal.

Technically, in 1977 there was a "one off" frame I built for myself out of Columbus Record tubing (discussed earlier this month I think) which was labeled"Masi Record". I still have a picture of it.

 

Dating late '70's California Masis

All of the frames I've seen so far with similar serial numbers (B7835) are bikes that were left in stock when Masi sort of went into "limbo" for a period after Simonetti and Howard went to work for Medici and I stayed in the San Diego area. Ted Kirkbride and Jim Allen then became involved and started selling Masis in stock while they arranged to produce new Masis. Jim started the new serial number system, and it tells the date of manufacture quite accurately except for one thing. Frames built previously but unnumbered got new style serial number. It goes like this, beginning with '78. The letter A, B, C, or D denotes the quarters of the year. Yours is B so that means between Apr. and June. The year is 1978. the last two numbers are the frame number for that quarter; yours was # 35 built between that quarter in 1978. Simple. By 1980 the situation had stabilized and Dave Moulton, Dave Tesch, Rob Roberson, and Joe Starck had become or would become involved.

Brian Baylis

More low-down on Masi frame dating click here.

Dating Italian Masis

Masi expert Jim Allen had some helpful advice on dating Italian Masis. He says "in MOST cases, not all, the Italian Masi serial numbers indicate the year and month of production. That is a serial number of "764" indicates an April 1976 build date. A serial number of "822" indicates a February 82 build date, and a serial number of "8511" indicates a November 85 build date. The same number is USUALLY, but not always, stamped on the fork. For others with a letter and number such as "B60", check the numbers stamped on the fork steerer. SOME frames with only a frame size stamped on the Bottom Bracket will have the date of production stamped on the steerer."

Jim Allen


Placement of Faliero signature on California Masis

Early CA Masi GC's have the Faliero Masi signature on the top tube at the seat lug. There is a proper side to lovate that decal on as well. We were instructed to place the decal on the left side of the top tube. Many Masis that were painted after Faliero stopped coming to the US periodically have the decal placed on the right side, which is actually more sensible because the brake cable housing goes to the left side to reach the campy brake. I personally place my decal on the right side of the frame, but technically first generation GC's and early CA Masis should have the decal on the left.

Brian Baylis


Stars & Stripes decals on some '70's California Masis

The American stars and stripes decals were made and on hand when the first American Masis were completed late in 1973. They were made for use on Carlsbad Masis. There was no dictate as to which seat tube decals were put on the frames. I decaled many frames myself using both styles early in 1974. I don't remember off hand if the first 25 Masi frames (of which I've spoken many times for various reasons) completed in about November 1973 had the American version decal, but I strongly suspect that they did. All of those frames were painted and decaled by Ron Smith (the first and original Carlsbad Masi painter) so I don't remember now that detail, since at the time it wasn't a (big) issue. As it turns out, both Ron and I preferred the world bands and used them as much as possible. BTW, I would like to dispel a "Masi Rumor" that is not a fact. For some reason many people think that the first 200 Carlsbad Masis had no serial number on them. That is absolutely FALSE! Every CA Masi had a ser. # from day one, again I mention the first 25 frames finished, numbered with a system that lasted exactly 25 frames and then changed into the system we are all familiar with for CA Masis of that period.

Masis have a chamfer inside the head tube that is cut during the facing operation. It is a Masi innovation if I'm not mistaken. It goes back a long ways. One might notice that more modern Campag. tools cut this chamfer; older Campag. tools do not. I think it was introduced at some point when it became necessary to cut that chamfer to accommodate a new headset design; I'm not sure when. It must be pre 1982 because the tool case I have now was purchased then and it cuts the chamfer, which by the way is a great thing for the look of a headset; especially older ones.

Brian Baylis

 

Determining early California Masi built frames by Eisentraut

The Eisentraut stay caps are like this:
Tend to be a longer flute than the original ones Different curve on the "profile" of the tube. Concave not as deep as the original. Top of cap is a more pointed curve as opposed to a more rounded curve.

It also seems that Albert did not square off the inside of the triangle on the rear dropouts, which is something we always did at Masi in Carlsbad. The dropouts on the Albert bikes will be the long Campag. 1010 w/ no eyelets (of course).

The radius at the end of the seat stays, chainstays (at the dropout), and fork blades were filed with a round file of small diameter (6" or 8" round file) whereas the ones I did( and the way I was taught by Mario and the way I taught others who worked there) was to use a 12" round file to make the radius; making a much more graceful look than ones where the radius is too small, making a curve that doesn't blend into the dropout that it meets. Also with the small file there is a great tendency to "undercut" into the dropout which is sloppy and unsightly compared to the large graceful radius that blends perfectly into the surface of the dropout without any undercutting.

It appears that the Albert Masis have a reduced fork rake, but not by much. This one is 1 7/8" (4.7cm) and is not bent at the crown. Interesting note regarding the practice of bending the steerer at the crown. Chuck Schmidt says his Confente fork is like that, and he had always wondered why it was like that. So Mario seems to have carried on that way, at least for some frames.

The last detail that seems common to most of the Eisentraut Masis I've seen that have original paint and decals, is that frequently they have the Masi USA seat tube bands, and every one has had the chainstay decals (brev. MASI) located too far forward on the chainstay and too high up on the tube. In addition, the early Carlsbad Masis had the signature on the right side of the top tube; these Albert bikes all seems to have the Faliero signature on the left side of the top tube. Since I learned to put c/s decals centered in the chainstay and down a bit lower, I know this one isn't one that came in after Mike and I came back.

The serial number of this frame is 0370. It is an early Eisentraut as far as I can tell, so I would guess that others that exist would have similar numbers (0 before 370 means 1000, so this is frame #1370) and not too many lower than this.

I think with these details at hand, one could possibly determine whether they have an Eisentraut built frame or not.

Brian Baylis

 

Faliero Masi as frame designer

Don't think for a minute that what Eddy rode while riding Masis is what the same size frame would be like if you got one at the same time, I'll bet anything it wasn't. Furthermore, Eddy rode at a time and in a place where roads were still relatively poor in many places, not to mention cobblestones. Faliero insisted that that amount of rake was necessary because of the road conditions. The problem comes when assuming that all roads and conditions were, and were to remain,that poor. As we all know, roads in the US even back then were much better off than those that most of the Europeans were riding on. My main point here is that as a frame designer, one must account for the conditions that the bike will encounter. Failing to account for that means that the builder didn't attend to those details, or believed the old way to be correct, regardless of the roads.

My experience with Masi was that he was slow to change at times, and way ahead of his time (i.e. Masi 3V concept) at other times. Quick story to illustrate how Faliero thought. When I was working there I brought in my Eisentraut "A" bike one day. We were sitting around having lunch and figured I'd see what Faliero thought about my bike. He looked at it for about 30 seconds and said "that bike is no good" at which point he pointed at the fastback seat stay arrangement. He just said "that is no good". End of conversation. I thought to myself, wow, rather narrow-minded and definitely not interested in really looking the bike over to see what is really there. Fact is that how the seat stays are attached is the thing that matters the least on a frame in so far as how it rides or whether it is a well designed and built bike or not. And as I have mentioned before, the Eisentraut was the best overall riding bike I had owned up to that point, including the Colnago Super I had and the 1972 Italian Masi I owned. I have to admit, I was very disappointed with that lack of interest; and also resolved at that time not to make judgments like that about the merits of any bicycle I ever encountered from then on.

That is how I became concerned about having personal and first hand experiences upon which to make such determinations. Having owned and ridden lots of different frames has been very valuable to me. It seems that many builders (out of pride or something) discontinue experiencing new or different things once they begin building frames. Often, that's when learning and progressing stops for them. A shame really.

Brian Baylis


breaking away film title

Remember Breaking Away...

The film Breaking Away was about a group of Indiana townies who enter the annual Little 500 bike race at Indiana University, actor Dennis Christopher rode a 1978 Masi GranCriterium. ‘‘It floats over small bumps... as if the bike is barely touching the ground.’’

The following is from Tom Schwoegler, who was the technical adviser on the 1977 movie "Breaking Away."

"We purchased 2 Masi's from Faliero (or was it Alberto... the one who was building in California at the time). We also had 2 extra forks. One fork was bent to simulate the wreck when the pump is put in the front wheel. I bent the fork and it was not easy. We also had a Sears Free Spirit painted and hand decaled to look like a Masi. We had to hand-paint the decals because Masi would not give us an extra set. The Sears bike was mounted on a special platform for the close shots of Dennis Christopher. You can tell if he is on the Sear bike because it had Weinmann brakes and the brake cable came down on the opposite side when compared to the Campy brakes.

Both Masi's returned to California after the film was shot. Steve Tesich ended up with one of them (he was the one who insisted on getting Masi's for Dave and Colnago's for the Italian Team. We only had to buy 2 Colanago's as two of the guys who played those riders already had Colnago's (one of the guys was Christian VanDeVelde's dad, John). I still have one of those bikes, a gift from Director Peter Yates and the other was sold to a friend of mine in Indianapolis who later sold it. I also ended up with the bent fork from the "wrecked" Masi." – Tom Schwoegler

 

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