DISRAELI GEARS

Gian Robert

Gian Robert Campione derailleur (1st style) main image Gian Robert Campione derailleur (3rd style) main image Gian Robert Competition derailleur main image

Based in Legnaro, near Padova, Gian Robert manufactured a range of bicycle components, including chainsets and derailleur systems. It is difficult to find clear information, and I have been told any number of alarmingly conflicting stories, but my best guess at the history of Gian Robert might be:

  • In the late 1940s, an engineer called Marcello Gambato was a designer of rod type derailleur gears (in the style of the Campagnolo Corsa, see French patent # 988,772). It is possible that he actually worked with, or for, Tullio Campagnolo on these designs.
  • In 1952 Marcello Gambato was granted an Italian patent for a more modern derailleur design. The French version of this patent (French patent # 1,087,957) was granted to Tullio Campagnolo, implying that Marcello Gambato was still working with or for Campagnolo at this time.
  • Some time in the 1950s, Marcello Gambato started his own business manufacturing bicycle components, particularly derailleurs.
  • Initially this company was possibly called ‘Gambato’, and was possibly based in the Padova area. After a short period the company was called ‘Gian Robert’.
  • One of Gian Robert’s most successful products was a set of chain pliers - for breaking and joining riveted chains. These were a regular feature of every pro mechanic’s tool box from the 1950s to the 1970s.
  • Sometime around 1960 Gian Robert manufactured its first parallelogram derailleur. It generally manufactured derailleurs that were cheaper than Campagnolo models for the more popular bicycle models made by brands like Torpado (who were also based in Padova).
  • For a period, possibly from the 1960s to about 1975, Gian Robert manufactured rebadged derailleurs for Albert Raimond’s Cyclo company in France.
  • Sometime, possibly in the 1960s, Marcello Gambato was involved in founding the ‘Gambato’ company in Argentina, manufacturing derailleurs branded ‘Gambato’. It is likely that this business also manufactured derailleurs branded Gian Robert in Argentina - and imported derailleurs branded Gian Robert into Argentina.
  • Sometime in the 1980s Gian Robert in Italy went out of business. However the Gambato business in Argentina continued to exist at least into the 1990s.

This history is generally backed up by the patents issued to Marcello Gambato - for a rod type derailleur mechanism in 1948, for chain pliers in 1954 and for two identifiably Gian Robert derailleur designs in the 1977 and 1982. There are also reports on the web of Gian Robert derailleurs being original equipment on 1959, 1960 and 1963 models (particularly from Torpado). Frank Berto shows derailleur models dated 1962 and 1964. Gian Robert derailleurs also feature in the 1981 Ron Kitching catalogue. Classic Rendezvous shows a Torpado spec sheet from the ‘early 1980’s’ showing a Gian Robert derailleur (model unknown) fitted to their cheapest ‘Alfa’ model. Classic rendezvous also shows a 1981 Bicycle Magazine test of the twin seat tube Rigi fitted with a special Gian Robert front derailleur.

However there are also some questions that have to be asked about this version of history. If the Argentinian Gambato company was effectively the child of Gian Robert, why did it produce copies of Campagnolo designs rather than of Gian Robert’s own models? Why were Gian Robert designs also manufactured in Argentina? Also Gian Robert’s Argentinian models share no obvious common parts or features with Gambato models.

Gian Robert used one basic design concept throughout their history of making parallelogram derailleurs, a derivative of Campagnolo’s design, with one sprung pivot, but with the adjustment screws integrated more tidily into the knuckles. They delivered this design at different times in bronze(?), in pressed steel, in plastic and in aluminium. All the examples that I have seen have the pulley cage pivot off-set from the axis of the pulleys.

When considering the chronology of Gian Robert derailleur designs, I think there is some virtue to the ideas that:

  • The earlier parallelogram designs had the spring visible in a cutout in the parallelogram plate. Later parallelogram designs had completely concealed springs.
  • Early pulleys are round and early pulley bolts have screwdriver heads. Later pulleys are toothed and later pulley bolts have hex heads.
  • Earlier logos are ovals with no pattern inside them, later logos involve the writing on a criss-cross background.

In terms of finish and quality Gian Robert were never up to Campagnolo standards (and never really seemed to care). However, Campagnolo deliberately made their cheaper Sportman, Valentino and Velox gears look very different from their better Gran Sport, Record, Nuovo Record and Nuovo Gran Sport designs. This left an opening for companies like Gian Robert to produce low-price derailleurs that (from a distance at least) looked more like these more expensive and refined models than Campagnolo’s own offerings.


see also French Patent # 988,772 1948

see also French Patent # 988,772 1948

French Patent 988,772 - Gian Robert thumbnail


see also French Patent # 1,087,957 1952

see also French Patent # 1,087,957 1952

French Patent 1,087,957 - Campagnolo thumbnail


see also French Patent # 1,139,424 1954

see also French Patent # 1,139,424 1954

French Patent 1,139,424 - Gian Robert thumbnail


see also Italian Patent # 1,082,551 1977

see also Italian Patent # 1,082,551 1977

Italian Patent 1,082,551 - Gian Robert Campione thumbnail


see also Italian Patent # 1,157,854 1982

see also Italian Patent # 1,157,854 1982

Italian Patent 1,157,854 - Gian Robert thumbnail


Gian Robert - sticker 1982?

Gian Robert - sticker 1982?

Gian Robert - sticker thumbnail
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