Canadian Framebuilder History Series #2 : Joe Gardin Cycles
On March 4th, 2009, Joe Gardin passed away. For those that don’t know him, he’s a legend of the Canadian bicycle industry and he especially active in the 80’s. Originally from Italy, he arrived in Canada in 1955 with nothing but the money he had in his pocket. He was a businessman and had a great passion for cycling. In the early 80’s he acquired the Canadian rights for the Cambio Rino derailleurs and sold bikes under that name. Then, he started Gardin Bicycles with his immigrated master frame builder. His frame manufacturing shop was in his pallet factory. At first, he brought italian frame builders here and opened a store front in Toronto, on Bloor St. called Veneto Cycles.
While not known internationally for being constantly super high-quality bicycles, most Gardin bikes are still well made. He made track and road frames, and was quite ingenious about it. He’s famous for designing bikes with very short chain stays, that allowed great power transfer, by making a s-shaped seat tube. Most pro-cyclists and riders of the time that know Gardin are aware that it was not extremely high-quality stuff, but it was an incredible value for the money. While affordable, compared to something like a Marinoni or Mariposa, there were some inconsistencies in the manufacturing. Some bikes were super high-quality and well, and others were iffy.
He’s known not only in the bicycle world for his industry, but also for his support of the community. He will be remembered as a generous man that lived off making people happy by helping them succeed in cycling competition.
National team member Denise Kelly said :
” Joe was instrumental in helping amateur athletes reach their potential in the sport. I was very fortunate to benefit from Joe’s big heart and his passion for cycling. He sponsored me during the entire time I was racing on the National Team in the eighties and early nineties. “
” His famous line was, ‘I won’t give you money but take all the equipment you need.’ He wasn’t kidding. I’d go visit him at the warehouse on Mavis Rd. and literally take a shopping cart to pile it high with wheels, tires, components … you name it. I was one of the first riders to try out the prototype frames he built on site – the ‘compact’ frame (with the curved seat tube) and his first carbon frame.”
Those words speak for themselves, and the bicycles he made were beautiful. If you go to one of our favorite bike shops, Bikurious, you can see one hanging on the wall. It was bought by the previous owner, and it’s history is uncertain. One thing is , though, and it’s that it has never seen the streets. This gorgeous track bicycle is made for the track, with ovalized tubing, high pressure tubular tires and various panto’d components.
For the full photo report, click here.