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. The Colnago Master Arabesque bicycle was the last of 3 versions of the mid 1980’s Colnago Arabesque models and was essentially a more glamourous version of the Colnago Master, built using the same Gilco Master profile tubes. Like all Colnago Arabesque’s, this frame featured the same decorative lugs as illustrated below.
In 2015, Colnago decided to revive production of the Colnago Arabesque as a made-to-order frame which you can still buy in 2019. You can read more about this version at the end of this article.
Special feature of a Colnago Arabesque.
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 only two Colnago models, the Colnago Arabesque and Colnago Regal. So you also need to look at the frame tubes to correctly identify the frame as an Colnago Arabesque.
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;
- Arabesque built using Super Profil crimp layout.
- Arabesque built using Nuovo Mexico crimp layout.
- Arabesque built using Gilco Master profile tubes (Master Arabesque).
First and second versions of the Colnago Arabesque frame.
The early Colnago Arabesque frames were built using crimped tubes similar to the Super Profil and the Colnago Nuovo Mexico. Read more about the first 2 versions of the Arabesque.
The 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.
General features of the Colnago Master Arabesque.
Here are a collection of images that show features typically found on the 1980’s version of the Colnago Master Arabesque frame. Images courtesy of steel-vintage.com.
2015 Re-release of the Colnago Master Arabesque.
In 2015, Colnago announced they had found a box of the decorative lugs used to manufacture the Colnago Arabesque in their basement. They decided to revive the Colnago Arabesque as a made-to-order frame, which you can still buy in 2019.
These modern Colnago Arabesque frames are manufactured using modern Gilco Master tubes which creates a bit of a headache for owners of the original 1980’s Colnago Arabesques that were also built with Gilco Master tubes.
How do you tell them apart? Well obviously not the lugs as they are the original ones used to build the 1980’s versions. Thankfully there are some noticeable differences, but remember that paint, chrome, decals and forks can be changed to alter the appearance of any bike.
- Original Colnago Arabesque frames have Campagnolo rear drop-outs which are different to those used on modern reproductions.
- Original Colnago Arabesque frames generally feature only one set of bottle cage bosses on the down tube. No provision for mounting a water bottle on the seat tube.
- Original Colnago Arabesque frames have rear brake cable guides located on the top tube, not below the top tube as configured in the modern version. However, it may also be possible that an original Arabesque could feature the rear brake cable routed inside the top tube (Più style).
- Original Colnago Arabesque frames should be fitted with curved forks rather than the Precisa straight fork introduced in the late 1980’s.
- There are probably some minor variations in the tube shape and diameter as I believe they were altered over the course of 30+ years, but you would need both bikes for that comparison.
- The paintwork and decals on an original frame may help to differentiate the old from the new.
Images courtesy of steel-vintage.com and colnago.com.
The following websites have a large selection scanned Colnago literature including reviews, catalogues and brochures.
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.
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.
2 thoughts on “How to identify a Colnago Master Arabesque”
Hi, I’m sure you must have heard it a 100 times, but a neighbor of mine asked me to assist him in identifying a Colnago he has had since the 80s and I have read some of your articles and to me it seems you are the guy to ask.
Here is a link to some photos. I can get more if necessary. he says it is an Arabesque:
Thank you in advance for any info regarding this beautiful bike.
Hi Marco, yes looks to be a Colnago Arabesque with Colnago Nuovo Mexico profile tubes. Assuming the group set is original, the bike must have been purchased from 1986 onward as the Campagnolo C-Record group set was released in 1986. The retinato style paint work and chrome look to be original and in good condition considering the age of the bike now. Interestingly, the frame size of 55cm x 55cm C-C is the same as my 2 bikes! With all those photos and measurements, I presume he wants to now sell it?