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Cicli Gasparetto - Italy

Gasparetto 4Author Maurice Bartle
Past-President Bygone Bikes (Yorkshire) Club

This is in response to your comment on the entry of your excellent web-site regarding the Campag Paris Roubaix geared Bianchi (of which, incidentally, I also own one). You state in your write-up that you had heard that there was a pedal forward version of this device.

Some time ago I had a visit from the late departed Ron Sant, who was intrigued by my Gasparetto. He commented that the book "The Dancing Chain" featured the Campag Paris Roubaix gear and took photos of my bike to send off to the author who apparently no knowledge of the existence of such a mechanism. To cut the story short, it is mentioned in the second edition, but under the incorrect name of Gasparetto - this being the make of bike, not the gear.

Gasparetto 1The bike is equipped with a GI-EMME  gear. This works on a similar principle to the Campag, but with the difference that the Campag's change fork points upward (as in your photo) requiring the pedals to rotated backwards, the GI-EMME points downward so enabling the change to be effected when pedalling forwards. The rear wheel is unclamped by turning the lever beneath the seat outwards and the change is made by moving the lever up or down. The wheel then floats back or forth as necessary, alignment being maintained by the splines on the spindle engaging the rack in the rear fork slots.

This machine was imported specially into this country by my Spartan Wheeler clubmate, Maurice Sprentall. He worked in the cycle trade, being employed as the enameller at Anelay's No.1 Record Cycle works in Darlington. On a visit to London in 1948 he went to Fonteyn's cycle shop where he was shown a catalogue from the Milan Cycle Show. Featured in it was a model of the Gasparetto road bike with the GI-EMME gear. An order was placed, but it was many months before it was delivered, not the least by being locked in snow in the Alps for six weeks!   Alas, there were to be problems with the frame.

The top tube had concealed cables for the brakes and it was found to be cracked. It was returned to Fonteyn's for repair, and re-enamelled black from the original blue. The ornate lining was added at this time. The misfortune continued when an accident resulted in the top tube being bent.  A replacement top tube was fitted at Anelay's with conventional cable stops. It was at this point that I acquired the bike in 1955. Only the forks had the decorative lining, so I took tracings and reproduced the decoration on the frame.

Gasparetto 3I attempted to ride the machine, as equipped, in several races but found it to require much more dexterity than I could muster. I found a temporary solution to the problem by fitting an Osgear tension arm to obviate the necessity of releasing the wheel. Eventually, I replaced the whole thing with a Simplex ten speed. Fortunately I put the mech. in box and so was able to restore it to original some 30 years later!

Cicli Gasparetto were, I believe, situated in Milan, since the head badge is identical to the badge on Alfa Romeo cars which were made in that city.  I am told that this bike is unique in the UK; certainly the only other Gaspo which I ever saw was an exhibition circus machine.

For your information and I hope your interest, it is fitted with Coppi bars (my favourites), Lytalloy brakes, Stronglight alloy chainset, Allez pedals, San Georgio sprints on FB hubs and an original (early)  Pennine CO2 pump.

If anyone can add to my knowledge of this marque I would be most grateful and can be contacted via the webmaster

Gasparetto 2

Close-up of the gear lever which is turned to unlock the rear wheel and then the 'conventional' looking lever is used to change the gear.

Note also the Pennine CO 2 racing pump held by a clip mounted on a special boss on the rear of the seat tube and the Lytalloy brakes.