French Motorcycles

Today in Motorcycle History

Bondi Motorcycles

Built by Alfredo Bondi in Italy and France between 1934 and 1958.

Bondi had a long history in the motorcycle industry. He worked as a designer with the MM factory in Italy and was a close personal friend of champion rider Luigi Bonazzi. In the late 1920s he built the Saturnia motorcycle with Ernesto Masina in Bologna.

In 1930, at the age of 23, he formed the idea to built his own machine. Designed as a fast road bike with a nearly horizontal 175cc overhead cam engine, a pre-war version had disc rear wheel and pressed-metal forks with rigid rear. Construction began in 1933 and it saw its first race in early 1934, ridden by Italian 350cc champion Lome. He was doing well until the fuel tank developed a leak a few laps from the finish.

After a series of engine failures, compounded by his dislike of the fascist government, Bondi decided to join his older brother in Villefranche de Rouergue, France (130km NNE of Toulouse). There he found employment with the Boyer concern before establishing his own workshop on the avenue du Quercy. A quick trip to Italy rescued his motorcycle, which he registered with the French authorities in February of 1938. Then came war.

When Mussolini became a good fascist and a semblance of normality returned to the world Alfrédo redeveloped his motorcycle. It took on a decidedly French appearance, lost the wheel flanges (les flasques de roues) and gained rear suspension. New rules meant it could no longer run on alcohol. (Sans alcool. En France? Quoi!).

The Bondi's first race was at Varen in 1953 with Jacques Bonnal at the helm. The crankshaft gave up the ghost (rend l'âme) on the first lap.

The machine then gathered spiderwebs at the back of the workshop before Bernard Delmas, a local rider, talked Alfrédo into having another crack in 1956. During practice at the GP de Villefranche the Bondi reverted to form and blew up. It did it again at the next outing, at Montlhéry.

Gritting his teeth, Alfrédo took a hacksaw to the bike and gave it new wheels, bigger brakes, the latest rear suspension, telescopic forks and a number of other improvements. The engine was thoroughly revised with new crankshaft, valve train and a different engine angle to improve cooling. Its next race was again at Montlhéry with Delmas where they gained a 5th. Yee hah!

In 1958 in the first race of the season, at Cote Lapize, motorcycle journalist JC Bargetzi took a fifth place. It was the last track appearance of the Bondi.

That year Alfrédo Bondi entered the burgeoning moped market and presented two prototypes powered by SER engines which were reviewed in issue 207 of Motocycle magazine, in April 1959. This was not followed by a flood of orders, and M. Bondi spent his remaining years running his workshop. During his retirement he restored the Bondi and it is now in the collection of Musei Patrimonio Industriale, Bologna.

Sources: Article by Michel Antraygues at Villefranchoises, et al

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