Pino Morroni 1920-1999
By Russell W. Howe,
February 26, 1999
Pino Morroni 1920-1999 - Cycling Looses a True Innovator
One of cycling’s most prolific and unheralded inventors died on Thursday, February 11th 1999 from pneumonia and emphysema. Pino Morroni was seventy-nine years old.
Pino is best known for his revolutionary wheels and frame designs. His wheels and parts have been ridden to victory by a number of cycling greats including, Merckx and Moser (during their setting of their Hour Records), Felice Gimondi, Gianni Bugno, Wayne and Dale Stetina, Greg LeMond, and Andy Hampsten. In 1972, at the Brussels Invention show, Pino won two silver medals. One for his new shoe/cleat design and the other for his innovative magnesium railed saddle design.
Giuseppe “Pino” Morroni was born in Italy in 1920. As a young man, his first love was soccer. He later apprenticed as a machinist and was awarded the title “Journeyman lathe hand” at age sixteen. With the encouragement of some friends, he entered his first bicycle race. He broke away and was caught four times. On his fifth breakaway attempt, he was caught at the line and finished eighth.
World War II brought an abrupt end to his brief cycling career. Morroni served as a paratrooper in the Italian Army. Although he was a prisoner of war for a period, the experience wasn’t as terrifying as one might imagine. According to Mike Fraysee (former USCF president), “Pino is swapping war stories with my uncle. They are playing one-upmanship, trying to prove who had it harder. Pino tells us that he was captured and taken as a POW and was relating how hard it was to be a prisoner. Just when we began to feel sorry for him, Pino shows us a photo of himself playing soccer with British troops in North Africa!”
In 1958, Morroni immigrated to the USA and worked as a machinist for Chrysler in Detroit. On the weekends, he raced cars. Driving an old 1500cc Maserati, which he reworked in his backyard, Pino won his class at Indianapolis. In one race, he passed eighteen cars in one lap, a record that has never been broken at Indy. His performance was so spectacular that it caught the attention of Mr. Enzo Ferrari. Ferrari contacted him to discuss the possibility of driving for the Ferrari team. Although that never happened, it was the thought of driving for Ferrari that brought Pino back to cycling. He says, “I got back into cycling in 1968-69 for physical fitness; I’d hoped to drive for Ferrari.”
In the early seventies, Pino and Cecil Behringer built an eleven-pound titanium track bike. Pino machined the lugs and tubing from solid bar stock. This would be a tremendous feat today, a nearly impossible one over twenty years ago. Cecil did the brazing and the resulting bicycle was named the “PinBehr” after its two creators. Pino took the bike to Rome to show it off. The conservative Italian cycling industry snickered. To prove the bikes strength, Pino threw down a gauntlet. He challenged all comers to a bike ride down the famous Spanish Steps in Rome. Pino rode down all 138 steps alone as no one was willing to follow on their own bicycle.
Shimano’s sales manager, Wayne Stetina along with his brother, Dale, used Pino’s products with great success. Wayne recalled that Pino’s wheels carried him to victory in several races. He road them in the TTT at the Montreal Games and Dale rode them at the Junior World Championships. Wayne said, “ the wheels were very fast.” Mike Fraysee confirmed that Greg LeMond won a silver medal at the 1979 Junior World Championships astride a bicycle equipped with Pino’s wheels and a bottom bracket.
Additionally, Wayne used Pino’s bottom bracket when he won the Nationals for the 1975 Time Trial and the 1976 and 77 road race. Dale was using one when he won the 78-road race. Stetina is quick to point out that Pino’s first bottom bracket is the predecessor of today’s cartridge systems. Morroni was still working on new frame and a wheel designs up until is death.
Pino Morroni is survived by his wife and daughter. He will be buried in Rome Italy.
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