The following is from an
was already an apprentice mechanic when he
started his career as a bicycle manufacturer in 1896, but unfortunately for
his financial means, which were limited, he had to settle with limiting
himself to building frames for local merchants and racing bikes for his
friends and companions who would cover in advance the cost of the tubing and
building materials and with which they would then hold fun races between
"It was in 1897 that Umberto Dei who had trained [water stain]
was selected by the UVI and sent to Paris along with three other of the best
Italians to take part in a race with the most well-known French racers of
the time. The Italians won the competition and Umberto contributed very
effectively to the win, placing second behind the Italian Minozzi, then
"Dei recalls with great pleasure that he used a self-made
bicycle on that occasion and that his teammates held that the bike was
smoother because he had had the foresight to lighten and make the rims
narrower (at the time wood rims were used.)"
"From that year, Umberto Dei became the banner holder of
mechanical means and the constant ascent of his products started,
notwithstanding that his financial means were still quite limited, but
nonetheless the best professionals (already paid by the other makers) began
to turn themselves to him for the construction of their special bikes, with
the same happening with many foreign racers."
"He was the first to make bikes with 68 cm diameter wheels,
hence the same diameter of tubulars, tending to be lighter, using parts that
other manufacturers only used for racing bikes, in such a way that his bikes
that would initially be for racing but with a simple switch of the
rims/tires could be transformed into touring/roadsters."
"Later at the ANCMA (Milan bicycle trade fair), from 1929, Dei
would display his bikes hanging from scales, showing that they were sensibly
lighter than more common bikes and with signs with descriptions of the
lightweight alloys required and other minimal weight saving measures that
permitted to reduce the weight of other parts without prejudicing the
solidity and durability of the bike."
"With these new types, he reached a sensibly improved
smoothness, not only because of the lighter weight but also because of close
attention paid to the lightening of the wheels."
"Umberto Dei had already given up his brilliant personal
sporting ambitions in racing and his craftsmanship from Via San Vito, was
developed in the new premises in Via Pasquale Paoli, 4 increasing the size
of the shop floor size as they saw their biggest production period."
"For many years, he was involved in all types of sports
cycling events and had riders of all specialties on bikes with his brand
winning all types of championships and classic races, on track as on the
road, both in Italy and abroad. At the same time, he also frequently offered unconditional
prizes and primes."
"In the years following the great war of 1915-18, Dei took the
initiative to prepare numerous models with special features for the
"In 1936, in the event of the Berlin Olympics, Dei had the exceptional and
well-merited satisfaction of being commissioned and paid to supply the bikes
for the riders of the official delegations of such foreign teams as
Argentina, Brazil, Egypt, Uruguay, Peru, Romania, Bulgaria, Columbia and
Turkey. This conspicuous preference was undoubted proof of the recognized
superiority of the Dei products in that his bikes then cost considerably
more than those of competitors."
"From 1923, a company of former glories of Italian Cycling
elected him to be the President of the Unione Veterani Ciclisti Italiani
[Union of Italian Veteran Cyclists], this same organization later
consistently recognized the Italian cyclists who have been able to
distinguish themselves abroad, in 1951, assigning 4 gold medals to the 4
Italians who won World Championships titles.
"The Veteranís Union is headquartered in the retirement home
of Umberto Dei, where the relics of the first period of Italian cycle sport
are cared for with loving and devoted care."
"Umberto Dei was the promoter of the "Costamagna" prize, once
director of the "Gazzetta dello Sport", later founder of the "Premio Romolo
Bruni" and then of the "Premio G.F. Tommaselli."
In the sad year 1943, Umberto Dei had both his complete production facility
and most of his home destroyed by a war bombardment, and was forced to
interrupt his production."
"However, no matter how drastically the largest part of his
fortune had been destroyed, and notwithstanding his already advanced age, he
was able to react and after only a few years to reestablish himself in the
new premises of Via San Vincenzo where he has quickly returned his brand to
highest consideration. "