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Memorabilia from our days of owning Torelli Imports

Tour of Flanders, the Inside Story

Les Woodland's book Tour of Flanders: The Inside Story - The rocky roads of the Ronde van Vlaanderen is available in print, Kindle eBook and audiobook versions. To get your copy, just click on the Amazon link on the right.

The story:

I have boxes of pictures saved from the days we owned Torelli Imports. I'm starting to scan the eclectic collection and hope you enjoy a bit of a blast from the past.

Growing out of our initial importing frames and other parts directly from European manufacturers for Bill's Bike Shop, as well as our efforts to run a mail-order retail business, we decided to set up a new company in 1980.

We ran it until 2007, when health concerns forced us to sell Torelli to the company's current owners.

Cycling is very glamorous. This should be about 1978 in front of my bike shop. We were importing frames from MKM in Harrogate, England and branding them "Vulcan". In this picture I think I had just finished riding a century.

Torelli as a wholesaler morphed from our early attempt at mail-order retail under the name Rosewood Cycle Supply. Here's an ad from perhaps 1978. It might have run in the old Bicycle Guide or Bicycling magazine.

We ran Rosewood out of Bill's Bike Shop, which was three retail spaces with the walls knocked out. The office for Rosewood was one of the bathrooms. Hence, "Headquarters".

Here's the flashy mailer we sent out. Typed on an IBM Selectric typwriter.

Here's the other side of the one-page mailer.

Here's the artwork for our first water bottle, which we had made in Italy. Our first logo with the Cheetah was designed by Camarillo artist John Dillingham.

Against fools even the angels strive in vain. Here I am in obvious pain while on a break in the late 1970s with Thurlow Rogers, who looks just fine. This might be the industrial park in west Camarillo. I think Richard Guerra took this picture.

This should be late 1970s, perhaps Research Park in Goleta. That's Dan Laumann in front, intelligently being one of the first to ever wear a real helmet. In the center I believe is Randy Reyes riding for Hendrickson's Bicycles. He was damn good. I am the third rider, also wearing a leather hairnet (actually shiny patent leather so I could be like the Euro 6-Day guys).

By 1982 (still at the Las Posas Road address of Bill's Bike Shop) we were advertising in "Bicycling".

In 1982 we began selling our own line of clothing. We used the cheapest model we could find.

Here's an ad we ran in about 1982 for Torelli clothing.

1982: We wanted a top-of-the-line frame to go with our Faggin frames. The American Cinelli rep said that the Cinelli atelier had a little capacity to build some frames for me. So our first super pro frames were the Torelli/Cinelli Project bikes. They were sweet. The hand-sewn leather covered bars, Super Record groups and Vittoria tubulars completed a nice package.

Here's just the red bike.

And here's a little closer view of this beautiful Italian workmanship.

In 1983 I journeyed to the Milan bike show where I ordered the first complete Torelli bike, the Corsa Strada, made by the Vicini shop. That was a home run, the first two containers being sold out before they arrived. They were equipped with Michelin's revolutionary smooth tread Bib tires. I believe this was the first time these advanced tires had arrived in the US and many dealers and retail customers, unfamiliar with  them, insisted that the tires be changed. Vicini proved to be a difficult supplier and upon the recommendation of a knowledgeable friend, we took our business to a shop called Technotrat, owned by a builder now well-known, De Bernardi.

Here's a slightly later version (1984 or 1985?) of the Corsa Strada with two sets of bottle bosses and updated graphics.

In 1987 we brought out the Torelli Super Strada. Higher-end Ofmega parts, better Mazzucato tubing, even pantographed chainring and stem.

In 1987 we also put the Super Strada parts kit on an Alan aluminum frameset to make the Torelli Alu Sport.

Here's a 1987 Torelli Tre Tubi SL built with Shimano 600. It has a "retinato" paint scheme. The fade has a netted pattern.

And here's just the 1987 Tre Tubi SL retinato frameset

A bike race in Research Park in Goleta, California? Or another Crit in another industrial park? I'm the guy with the Bell Helmet. Behind me might be Randy Reyes and then Brian Ash. Up ahead is Jan Russell, I'm sure, and other PAA riders.

1989. The complete bikes from Italy were discontinued. We needed to get a handle on both delivery and quality. We tapped, faced and aligned each frame and assembled the bikes in house. The Corsa Strada frame (3 tubes Columbus Aelle) was fitted with a Sachs Rival group, making a bike that retailed for $639.00. Sold a ton of them.

Here's all I have of our first mountain bike, a picture of the head-tube art and description from a dealer mailer, January, 1988.

We sobered up and realized we didn't need another brand to promote, so we had the maker, Yokota, brand our mountain bike a "Torelli" instead of "Dirt Research". Still made in Japan with Tange Infinity double-butted tubing.

In 1989 Torelli became the distributor for Masi USA. Here is the incredible Masi Tre Volumetrica: Oversize, thin-wall Reynolds 753 joined with internal investment-cast lugs.

Here's a 1989 photo of the Masi Record, a time-trial frame that used two 700c wheels.

Michael Farr racing on a Torelli at Olympic Valley Sept 8, 1991.

This should be what Michael Farr is riding, a 1991 Torelli Express SLX built by Antonio Mondonico. This one is built up with a Mavic group.

Here's an early 1990s Torelli Express SLX built with Shimano 600 Ultegra. I think it could be no earlier than 1992, when Shimano came out with 600 STI.

And here's an early 1990s Torelli Express SLX built with Campagnolo.

I had a lot of pictures taken of the Torelli Express SLX. Here's just the frameset. In this picture you can see it has a sloping external Cinelli fork crown (I thought it gave the best blend of stability & comfort) and a Cinelli "Spoiler" bottom bracket. Built by Mondonico, the master.

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Around 1992 the brilliant Barbara Mizuno re-designed our logo. Here's the original artwork.

And here's Barbara's seat tube art, wheich was done in the late 1980s. I was so lucky to have such brilliant and talented people there to help me.

Bill, Faliero Masi

In November of 1991 I got to meet and interview the great framebuilder Faliero Masi at the Milan Bike show (EICMA). We are Mondonico's booth.

Here's the interview.

Here's the front of the 1992 Torelli brochure.

Here's the back

In 1992, along with other suppliers, we equipped the Quick Release Bike Club. Here are Susan Duenas, Erin Lynch and Julie Freelove before the La Canada Kiwanis Bike Race, May 2, 1992.

A 1992 Torelli Nitro Express EL-OS (built by Antonio Mondonico) with a Mavic group. To this old guy a bike simply doesn't get any better.

Here's an EL-OS Nitro Express frameset.

In 1992 we added to the Corsa Strada complete bike to the Torelli Super Strada (3 Tubes Columbus SL), built up in-house with a Sachs News Success group.

1992: Here's the Torelli Express SLX with Microfusione-Italia lugs and Cinelli investment-cast bottom bracket shell and fork crown, built by Antonio Mondonico.

Here's our mid-1990s Masi brochure

The back of the Masi brochure.

From 1989 until 1997 we were the American distributors of Masi

In 1992 Masi made 200 special-edition Barcelona Olympic Commemorative framesets to celebrate all the Olympic medals won on Masi bikes. Note the Hellenic lettering.

In the early-mid 1990s we had budget track frames built. One of Oria 0.9 tubing, and a better one (pictured), the "Pista Speciale" that was 3 tubes Columbus SL that was also drilled for brakes. You can see that we tapped and faced the bottom bracket. We did full frame prep: tap, face, ream and align each and every frame.

In the mid-1990s we also did a sloping top-tube Columbus 3-tube SL time trial frame painted by Jim Allen.

Here I am with Carol in our Torelli warehouse on Calle Suerte in Camarillo. Should be early to mid-1990s.

Here I am in the warehouse playing with my toys in the early to mid 1990s. Given that there is a Masi on the bottom shelf this picture was taken before 1997.

Carol and I are in the upstairs office of our warehouse on Calle Suerte in Camarillo in the 1990s. That's Timothy, our beloved Sheltie. It looks like there's a mailer about to go out judging by the papers just behind Timothy.

Mavic had been a core product for Torelli. In 1993 Mavic, after repeatedly denying that it had such plans, went direct to the bike shops, bypassing its distributors. In response we developed our own line of rims. Here's our first rim brochure.

LE Groupement

In 1995 we started marketing a Torelli cycle computer which we called "The Bikebrain". One of our European suppliers hooked us up with the management of a new French pro team sponsored by a pyramid marketing company called "Le Groupement". The team had some fine riders, including World Champion Luc Leblanc.We came to an agreement to become the team's cyclometer supplier. By the time the Tour de France rolled around the Le Groupement company was bankrupt and the team folded. And so it goes. Here are some of the stickers we had made.

Here is the 1994 Mondonico brochure.

Here's the back of the Mondonico brochure.

In 1985, Carol and I went to the Milan show with the specific project of finding a top-of-the-line Italian superbike to complement the lower-cost Faggin frames, Cinelli at that time not being a good match as a supplier to Torelli. It was at the 1985 show that I met the Mondonicos and Paolo Guerciotti. There was no question that the candy-apple red Mondonico frame at center of the booth was by far the most beautiful frame at the show. By 1986 we were Mondonico's American distributor and a wonderful friendship was born. To this day I consider myself fortunate to count Antonio, Mauro, Giuseppe and Gabri Mondonico among my friends. Also, Paolo Guerciotti and his firm became among our most trusted and valued suppliers.

I believe it was in 1995 that we helped equip the Scott-BiKyle Flyers pro team. Among the team riders were Graeme Miller, Ryan Oelkers and Jeff Rutter. The gent on the left is Kyle Schmeer, owner of the Cycles BiKyle bike shop. He was one of my best customers and an all-around good guy. By the way, the team won a ton of races.

Here's a Mondonico EL-OS Monostay bike from about 1996.

Here's just the Mondonico EL-OS Monostay frameset, also about 1996.

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August, 1996: Stopping for a moment. I think this is just north of Sausalito, California. I'm riding with Len Luke and his hammer dogs from Luke's Bike Nook bike shop.

August 1996: Here I am with Len Luke in the beautiful Northern California countryside.

In 1997 we sponsored a couple of pros, Jeff Rutter and Graeme Miller. Here's Jeff winning the Race for Pulaski.

And here's Graeme Miller in 1997 being interviewed after his zillionth race win.

In the early 2000s we imported a titanium frame made in... wait for it... Russia. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, there were people skilled in titanium fabrication in the arms industry who were out of work. A group of them began using their incredible skills in working with titanium to build these beautiful frames. Importing them was complex, but they were well-priced and we never had a failure. These guys knew what they were doing.

Here's the July, 2002 VeloNews ad advertising our Titanium frames.

Gianpaolo Parentini

In 2002 we became the USA distributors of Parentini clothing. Here is the owner, Gianpaolo Parentini, in front of the sublimation machines that transfer the jersey designs onto the fabric before it is cut.

Here's the sewing room in the Parentini clothing factory. His clothing is truly made in Pisa, Tuscany.

Here's our T-shirt art to go with our motto" Ride Hard. Go Fast. Have Fun."

After Antonio Mondonico measured me and built the best-riding and best-fitting bike I had ever ridden, I realized that there were others that would like to enjoy Antonio's gifts. So, starting in the late 1990s, I would meet Antonio on the East Coast and we would cross the country, visiting shops. Antonio would measure people for custom frames and go home and spend the better part of a year building them. There were some years he nearly sold out his entire year's production on these trips. This photo is of Antonio signing a frame on one of our trips. Probably about 2003.

Here's Antonio Mondonico signing a customer's Torelli Anniversary frame, which Antonio built.

Here's Antonio Mondonico working on sizing a customer for a custom frame on the 2003 measuring Tour. Looking on his his son, Mauro.

Here are Antonio & Mauro still working on the same fitting.

And here's a last shot of the very precise Antonio Mondonico working on a custom bike fitting.

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I am riding in sunny Italy in the early 2000s in this picture. Can't tell you where.

Early 2000s in a restaurant in Italy with Carol, my beautiful bride.

I'm guessing we ran this ad in VeloNews in 2002 or 2003. We again used the cheapest model we could find.

Here's an ad from a 2004 VeloNews for Torelli Inner Tubes. We had fun with this.

Our Moda Chunky Tape might have been our best-selling product. It seemed that every order had a few packs in it. Here's a VeloNews ad from 2004.

This is from the Velonews 2004 Buyer's Guide, featuring our aluminum/carbon Stiletto frame. David Stanley, who voices our audiobooks and contributes insightful essays sent this to me.

Here's the ad we placed in the April, 2004 issue of VeloNews for our aluminum "Spada" frame. It was made in Northern Italy out of Columbus Altec II tubing.

Here's a 2004 VeloNews ad for the Torelli Stiletto. Again, thanks to David Stanley who kindly sent this to me.

In March of 2004 we ran this ad for the Torelli Countach in VeloNews. By this time higher-end Torell's were tig-welded out of a tubeset that we had worked together with Columbus to develop: Nemo 747.

We were Guerciotti's distributor for just a short while. When his kids took over we were kicked to the curb. Here's an ad from 2005 that we ran in VeloNews.

Here's another Guerciotti VeloNews ad we ran in 2005.

Here's an ad we ran for the Torelli Toccata carbon frame in 2005.

Here's an ad we ran in the trade magazine Bicycle Retailer & Industry News in September 2006.

About 2006: Proposed design for a Torelli saddle box.