February 22, 2017
This edition of our Vintage Bike of the Week hails from Belgium. You'd be forgiven for assuming Giovani to be Italian, but in fact these bicycles were built by Martens, an incredibly important marque that goes back to the 1930s.
The name began with Arthur Maertens, an excellent rider from the pre WWI era who later changed his name to Arthur Martens. He built frames out of his bike shop until soon after the 2nd World War when his son took the reigns. From then until the 1980s Martens built thousands of frames for various teams, and many pro riders. The list is both extensive & significant, including huge names such as Coppi, Cornelo & Concorde, and that's just the ones beginning with C. Many frames were built 'secretly' for big brands, where raw frames were supplied directly to painters to be finished off as team frames, as happened with the Flandria team in the 80s, an instance shared by Eddy Martens himself. This is just one of the stories we know about, so who knows what else Martens have been responsible for.
In the 1980s Eddy Martens took over the business & the name was changed to Martelly, and the business is still going strong today, building quality steel frames by hand from Columbus & Dedacciai tubing.
Our Giovani dates to 1976, so could have been built by either Eddy Martens or his father. The frames were made by Martelly but supplied to Destoop of Ghent, the exact same process that happened with Coppi in the early 80s before the Ghent business closed down.
Martens did build from Columbus, Vitus & Ishiwata tubing, but this one was most likely aimed at the Benelux market as it's built from double butted Reynolds 531 tubing throughout. The frame building expertise is on show all over, as you can see here with the semi-scalloped seat-stay caps & perfectly filed cut-out lugs. You can tell they've made a few frames before.
The most striking feature when you see this bike for 1st time is the paint. We tried to photograph this in the perfect light to show off just how bright the enamel is, but a photo is never going to do it justice. Without seeing it in the flesh, all we can say is take what you see in the photos & turn up it up to 11, cos this really pings. If Prince was still alive, and a foot taller, and a keen cyclist... this is the bike he would ride.
Armed to the teeth with 1st Generation Dura-Ace, Shimano's maiden offering for the professional market, it's a machine that reflects race bikes of the time. This is a groupset that we're particularly fond of, stunning & reliable, but also a change from the Nuovo Record, and Super Record as of 1974, groups we see adorning the majority of steel racing bikes of the era.
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