The Frera Motorcycle Museum

Frera Motorcycle Museum

A historic company from Tradate.

No, we’re not in the province of Modena or in the Motor Valley, but rather in the province of Varese, perhaps once better known for its numerous footwear factories and textile mills. However, there was a period at the beginning of the last century and for some decades after the immediate post-war period when the Varese area was a great forge of motorcycle manufacturers. Some lasted only a few years, while others, like MV Agusta, still produce high-quality motorcycles today on the shores of the Varese’s Lake.


But it’s a lesser-known brand, at least today, that we want to talk about. We want to talk about Moto Frera, which had its headquarters in Tradate from the beginning of its production in 1905 until its production ceased, after various events, in 1936. The founder, Corrado Frera, was born on March 23, 1859, in Kreuznach, present-day Germany, to a family of French origins, and moved to Milan in 1885. Once naturalized, Frera started a toy shop in the Lombard capital, then moved on to selling rubber articles for cyclists, which he soon expanded into repairing and selling bicycles and later motorcycles.

repairing and selling bicycles and later motorcycles

In the late nineteenth century, Frera’s shop-workshop in Piazza Missori became one of the main points of reference for cyclists and motorcyclists in Milan, where special motorcycles with Swiss engines mounted on reinforced bicycle frames could be purchased, specially made in Germany and assembled by Corrado Frera.

In 1903, due to high demand, the Corrado Frera & C. bicycle factory was established in Tradate, south of Varese, well connected by railway to Milan, which two years later would be transformed into a motorcycle company. Founded in 1905 under the name Società Anonima Frera by Corrado Frera, it was one of the first Italian motorcycle manufacturers and one of the largest in terms of production volume at the time. In 1908, the first military orders came from the Bersaglieri, and in 1911, the company was further strengthened by orders from the Army, which purchased significant quantities of motorized bicycles and motorcycles.

In the early years of operation, Frera motorcycles used engines built by the German NSU or the Franco-Swiss Zedel. Then production shifted to building the latter under license at the Tradate factory until 1914 when the company began designing and producing its own engines. Its commercial success was due to the quality of its models and military contracts; in fact, Frera was the largest supplier of motorcycles to the Royal Army during World War I.

Frera also participated in cycling and motorcycle competitions, winning numerous victories; among these, we remember the Rome-Naples-Rome race in 1912 and the North-South Raid in 1923 and 1925. It’s worth noting that in 1920, it was the first Italian company to design motorcycles explicitly for racing.

Frera Motorcycle Museum

In 1919, a second plant, “Frera 2,” was opened for assembly, warehousing, and administrative activities. Frera’s production followed and often anticipated the rapid evolution of motorcycles during those years, ranging from early models with 1.25 horsepower engines and rigid frames to models with V-twin engines with displacements up to 1140 cubic centimeters and chain transmissions, returning to single-cylinder engines with overhead valve distribution and parallelogram front suspensions and swinging arm rear suspensions. The large displacement of some models allowed for successful pairing with a sidecar.

From 1923, greater production standardization was introduced to lower costs and increase production. Due to the loss of state orders, exacerbated by the depression that occurred in 1929, the business entered a crisis; in 1926 and 1927, production had declined by around 50%.

Frera Motorcycle Museum

In 1929, Corrado Frera, in disagreement with the Board of Directors, left the company, replaced by Emilio Fossio. Frera was not spoken of for almost half a century until, in 1990, some Venetian entrepreneurs acquired the brand and began producing and marketing bicycles again under the Frera name.

The name did not fall into oblivion, thanks to the passion of some local collectors, foremost among them the founders of the Museum, Pietro Allievi with his wife Natalina Sartori, the current President Gianfranco Crosta, and the brothers Enrico and Roberto Colombo, who sought, acquired, and restored numerous motorcycles from around the world. The brand was able to be reborn in the Museum dedicated to motorcycles in Tradate, which also boasts the distinction of being the first museum affiliated with ACI Storico, which, founded in 2013, now has around 20,000 members, 50 Clubs, and 20 affiliated Museums.

Carlo De Bernardi

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