How to identify a Colnago Arabesque

Colnago Arabesque 1984 anniversary edition
Colnago Arabesque 1984. Colnago 30th anniversary edition.
Images courtesy of

The Colnago Arabesque bicycle is a wonderful example of Italian craftsmanship. In the early 1980’s Colnago began experimenting with crimping main frame tubes to increase stiffness. Colnago referred to these crimps as ‘ribs’ in their early brochures. I would expect that like the Nuovo Mexico, the early crimped versions of the Arabesque were built from a mix of Columbus SL and Record tubes.

Special feature of a Colnago Arabesque.

Colnago Arabesque lugs - 2018 Catalog

The most instantly recognisable feature of the Colnago Arabesque are the special decorative frame lugs (2 on the head tube, 1 on the seat tube). These lugs were said to be crafted by an Italian bicycle manufacturer known as ‘Rauler’ and were also used in other Colnago models, namely the Colnago Regal and 2016 Colnago Master Arabesque. So you also need to look at the frame tubes to correctly identify the frame as a Colnago Arabesque.

This image is an extract of the 2018 Colnago catalog which offers a modern version of this classic steel frame built with the original lugs produced in the 1980’s.

Colnago Arabesque Lower head tube lug
Decorative lower head tube lug.
Images courtesy of

Different versions of the Colnago Arabesque frame.

The original Colnago Arabesque was in production from around 1983 to 1985 and I have identified 3 different versions of the frame manufactured during this period. These versions are;

First version of the Colnago Arabesque frame.

It seems the early Colnago Arabesque frames were crimped in a similar fashion to the second version of the Super Profil. This frame featured a single crimp on either side of the top tube and a single crimp on either side of the down tube.

Colnago Super Profil second version diagram
The red line in this diagram represents the crimp in the top tube and down tube.

You can see this crimp style in the following photos. Also note that there are no gold clovers in the seat stay caps as found on later models.

Second version of the Colnago Arabesque frame.

Later Colnago Arabesque frames were built using tubes from the Colnago Nuovo Mexico, which features a single crimp on either side the top tube and two offset crimps on each side the down tube (total of 4 crimps on down tube) as shown below. These models also seem to feature a gold club in the seat stay caps.

Colnago Nuovo Mexico diagram
The red lines in this diagram represents the crimp in the top tube and dual offset crimps in the down tube.
Colnago Arabesque top tube
Single crimp in top tube.
Colnago Arabesque downtube
Down tube features 2 offset crimps on each side (total 4 crimps).
Colnago Arabesque seat stay caps
Special gold clubs in seat stay caps.
Images courtesy of

Third version of the Colnago Arabesque frame.

The Colnago Master had just been released in the mid 1980’s and was built using a brand new tube profile which is still used in Colnago’s modern steel framesets (2019). It is not surprising that in the mid 1980’s, Colnago decided to release a Colnago Arabesque using this new tubing also. Learn more about the Master Arabesque.

Columbus Tube Profiles
Columbus tube profiles of the Arabesque frames:
Left: Gilco Master profile.
Right: Nuovo Mexico profile.

General features of the 1980’s Colnago Arabesque.

Here are a collection of images that show features typically found on the first two versions of the Colnago Arabesque frame. Images courtesy of

Different Fork Crown Markings

After recent feedback from a reader, it seems that some models of the Arabesque were supplied with different markings on the forks. Some fork crowns featured a club logo with COLNAGO lettering underneath, whilst others featured a club logo inside a C.

Colnago Arabesque 1984
Fork Crown features a club inside a C
Image courtesy of

Colnago 30th anniversary Colnago Arabesque.

In 1984 Colnago celebrated their 30th anniversary (1954 to 1984). To mark this milestone, Campagnolo created a special Super Record groupset which featured gold clubs set into many of the components.

Colnago Arabesque Lower head tube lug
Shift levers with decorative gold clubs on the 30th Anniversary group set.

This 30th anniversary Campagnolo Super Record groupset was then fitted to a limited release of Colnago Arabesque bikes and sold to the public as a limited edition Colnago Arabesque as adverstised in the following Colnago brochure. These bikes are considered the most valuable of all the Colnago Arabesque’s.

Colnago Arabesque 30th Anniversary flyer 1983
Colnago Arabesque 30th Anniversary flyer 1983

Campagnolo 50th anniversary groupset.

Campagnolo celebrated their 50th anniversary (1933 to 1983) and to commemorate the occasion, they released a special 50th anniversary Super Record groupset. This should not be confused with the 30th anniversary Campagnolo Super Record groupset released around the same time which was to commemorate Colnago’s 30th anniversary (as mentioned above).

Colnago Literature.

The following websites have a large selection scanned Colnago literature including reviews, catalogues and brochures.

Article References.

I hope you found this article interesting. I have listed the following website pages as general references.


Please remember that this information is only to be used as a guide.
I consider myself an enthusiast, not an expert. The information I have presented in this article is based on my many hours of online research.

In addition, there will always be frames that don’t quite match the characteristics of a particular model as they could have been a custom build, prototype etc. Note: forks can also be swapped between different frames.

About Me.

I have been riding and working on my own bikes for many years now. I wanted to share my experiences, knowledge and research with others. My aim is to inspire people to get involved in all aspects of this amazing sport. Cheers.


I welcome reader feedback in the comments section. Should you wish to suggest an amendment, please include a note advising the source of your information so that myself and other readers can ascertain the accuracy of your information. Note: Trolling or argumentative comments will be removed as they are counter-productive.

11 thoughts on “How to identify a Colnago Arabesque

  • My brother in law just inherited one from his fathers basement. Any chance you can help identify which arabesque model, and possible value? Thanks.

    • Hi Niko.
      Always happy to look at an Arabesque. Feel free to post some links to pictures of the bike in the comments section. Alternatively, my identification pages on this website will also help you identify the exact model. All Arabesque frames have the same distinctive lugs. There were 2 versions of the regular Arabesque (with slightly different crimping), plus the Master Arabesque and the Regal. The later 2 are very easy to identify. An Ebay auction should generate a fair price for an Arabesque as the condition and componentry can make a big difference to the value.

    • Lots of photos there. From the pictures it appears to be the second version of the Arabesque with 4 offset crimps on the down tube. Overall it looks to be fairly good condition with a bit of a mix of components, but would probably clean up very nicely. Definately original condition. Probably the biggest challenge is removing the surface rust from the chrome. Frame looks to be quite large maybe 58? It would be a good idea to clean it up properly now to stop any further rust. These bikes are regarded as a collector’s item. If you are not ready to sell it, keep it well preserved for the future.

  • Good article but I have a bit of a mystery for you. I have an Arabesque with a single crimp on the top tube, and two crimps on the down tube. However, it doesn’t have gold florets. When I read your article I thought “eureka, I have a second generation Arabesque” but then I saw that it should have a gold floret on the seat stay caps. The tops of my seat stays say “Colnago” but the tube isn’t flattened like it is in your photo of the first version of the frame. So, still a bit confused.

    • Hi Bruce, there were definitely a few variations of the 1980’s Arabesque frame. The rare 30th anniversary Arabesque frames featured gold clubs in the seat stay caps that you mentioned. These clubs match the rest of the special 30th anniversary group set they were sold with. Later versions of the Arabesque frame featured a rounded seat stay cap with Colnago lettering (commonly seen on the Master Arabesque and Regal). There are most likely other Arabesque frames out there with minor variations. Regardless of the type you have, the 1980’s Arabesque is highly sought-after.

  • Excellent article. Thanks.

    What are your thoughts on the modern reissues? Do they advance the Arabesque reputation or diminish it?

    I have come across a new classic Colnago Arabesque reissue with Campagnolo Super Record Groupset and Shamal Mille Wheels, 2020 model. It is quite beautiful but the concept of the reissue has me scratching my head.

    Interested in your thoughts.

    • Hi Christo. That is a very good question and raises a lot of thoughts.

      Firstly, I find it interesting to see a large manufacturer like Colnago still build steel frames ie. Master and modern Arabesque. I’m not sure what their sales volume would be, but I suspect it is a very niche market. There are plenty of used vintage Colnago frames out there and they can also be fitted with modern rim brake group sets if you don’t want a vintage group set. Obviously some people prefer to buy a brand new frame, but these modern steel frames will not be as collectible as the original models. I suspect Ernesto was keen to continue offering steel frames to embrace the company’s heritage and provide jobs to Italian frame artisans that have probably been working with the company for years. However, with road cycling rapidly moving to electronic group sets and disc brakes, I don’t see Colnago offering steel frames much longer, but I could be wrong..

      According to Colnago, the modern Arabesque was born after Colnago found a box of Arabesque lugs in storage a few years back. Even though the original Arabesque frames were sold in 3 variations, they appear to have been sold in low volumes making them so rare and collectible today. Why I wonder? Was the Arabesque not used by pro riders? Was it overpriced or too ornate? Were people buying other frames instead like the Master which was newly released around the same time?

      In reference to your original question, I think it depends on individual prospective. If I were looking to buy a modern steel Colnago frame, I would buy the modern Arabesque because I really like the ornate lugs and the modern cult status of the original Arabesque frames. However, if I were the owner of an original Arabesque frame, I wouldn’t be happy to learn that Colnago were making new frames that were similar. Whilst they are not identical, there are now more Arabesque frames in circulation. Having said that, probably very few of the original Arabesque frames are actually being ridden, with most likely stashed away in a collection.

      Finally, from an identification point of view, the modern Arabesque could easily be confused with the vintage Master Arabesque as they both share the Master tube profile. Visually, the biggest difference between them is the curved vs. straight leg forks, but if you take the forks out of the equation, the smaller distinguishing frame details can be harder to spot. So I’m sure the owners of original Master Arabesque frames were disappointed with the release of the modern Arabesque. The other 2 original Arabesque frames feature tubes that are considerably different to the modern Arabesque and therefore easier to distinguish.

      I would buy a modern Arabesque if I were buying a brand new Colnago steel frame, but I would like even more to own an original Colnago Arabesque. However it is unlikely I will end up with either. I already have a few vintage Colnago steel bikes which is enough for now. Enjoy!

  • Hi, Many thanks for this awesome article and beautiful pictures… from my personal experience I always wanted a Colnago, and when they relaunched the new models I bought one in 2019…which was my only option as I need a size 60cm, which is a bit rare…I have never found something I could afford on my size for a vintage original Arabesque…. The bad news is that the frame got fractured 4 months ago. I tried to claim a replacement or repair from Colnago and they did not wanted to reply or comments as it was more than 3no years from purchase… I went to a professional steel frame builder for a welding repair…She tried twice to weld the crack (in the chainstay) and it appeared again and again. She also found another crack near the headset and multiple welding errors in the lugs, which is unfortunate for a Colnago. Apparently the combination of lugs storage (more than 30 years) and the frame being overheated when build, result in my steel Colnago frame to be unusable. Has anyone experiences something similar in the new Colnago Masters or Arabesques that were relaunched? Many thanks, XV

    • Thanks for your kind words regarding the article. Sorry to hear that you have had problems with a modern Colnago Arabesque frame, that is disappointing for sure. You would expect a steel frame to last a lot longer than 3 years.

Leave a Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.