Saturday, November 17, 2018

3 Italian bicycles - a history

A Tale of Three Bicycles

We know that most bike tour companies or cycling resorts now offer rental bikes. How do they go about choosing what to offer you? Is a big-brand name important? Do they offer whatever they can get free or at low-cost? 

Our priorities are Made-in-Italy first and foremost. Campagnolo components are a must - how can someone claim to be passionate about all things Italian and equip their bikes with anything else? 
Finally, they must be bikes we have test-ridden and found enjoyable to ride with trustworthy handling characteristics.

Here's the history of our bike rental program:

We've always thought the best bike for your Italian cycling vacation is YOURS. No bike is going to fit as well or be as familiar as your own and for many years that was it with us - bring our own bike. With our major airport pickup/dropoff that was pretty easy, something that can not be said for a lot of our competitors who begin their tours in a tiny town, which means you either drag your bike box onto a train or pay some big fees to be hauled out there with it in a taxi. We've now made it even easier, click HERE to find out how.

But starting in 2002 our clients bicycles didn't always arrive with their flights. It seemed the TSA (thousands standing around as some would say) would take so long inspecting the luggage that your bike might not not go on the same flight with you, but instead on the next one to your destination, causing some clients a few chewed fingernails or worse, missed riding opportunities until their bike arrived.

After a season or two of this we began to think seriously about adding a small rental fleet. After speaking with a few clients who said they'd jump at the chance to rent a Made-in-Italy bike rather than worry about theirs in the custody of the airline "gorillas", we called our friend "Chairman Bill" of Torelli.

In 2005 the result was the bike you see above, a Torelli Gran Sasso that Bill kindly (a total surprise to us) had painted up in our favorite color scheme. We'd owned a few of Torelli's tig-welded steel bikes over the years so we knew they'd well match the personal Mondonico bikes that Bill and Antonio had nicely provided us a few years earlier. A great ride, sure handling and 100% made-in-Italy with Campagnolo Mirage 9-speed triple components and a weight of 10 kg*.

We named each one after an Italian winner of the Giro d'Italia so our clients could pick theirs out each morning as Larry lined them up, ready-to-go.

Our clients loved them! Quotes like "I don't miss my Colnago" were quickly added to our website and soon we'd be hard-pressed to supply a properly sized bike to everyone who wanted to ride one.

We needed more bikes! By 2009 Bill had sold Torelli and move on to publish BikeRaceInfo, but we knew who in Italy had produced those (now out-of-production) Gran Sasso bikes and contacted them directly for something more up-to-date. We chose a bike that at one time had actually been sold by Torelli but had since been discontinued as the market moved to full-carbon machines. 

We're very conservative when it comes to bikes, waiting to make sure something is well-proven before offering it to our clients. Our new "Standard" bike (the Gran Sasso was now called "Classic") was anything but standard with an aluminum tubeset similar to Columbus' 7000 series "Airplane" and a carbon front and rear fork along with our now familiar tricolore paint scheme.

In fact, just a few years before, bikes like this were standard-issue to the top pro teams. They were light, sturdy and could easily be made-to-measure to fit the pros properly. It was rare to see (compared to nowadays) oddball stem lengths and angles on pro bikes. We were confident these would delight our clients

They were built-up with Campagnolo's 10-speed Veloce groupset, offering compact gearing rather than the venerable triple. Campagnolo's Khamsin wheelset was installed to provide a total weight of 9 kg*.

Again, our clients loved them! The sloping top tubes gave us a bit more flexibility in sizing while the combination of aluminum frame and carbon fork (front and rear) provided a great ride. The ride was described as superior to some high-end, very expensive big-brand names that we won't mention here but Larry might tell you in person. The proven Torelli-Mondonico frame geometry offered handling just as sure and steady as the Gran Sasso. We now had enough bikes to delight everyone.

But a few years later we began to think about a full-carbon bike as the marketplace became dominated by this material. Some of our clients told us they'd never ridden a bike not made from carbon fiber! Carbon Torelli bikes were not Made-in-Italy but we weren't real keen on switching brands or ending up with something we didn't have 100% confidence in. If we're not willing to ride one, we're certainly not going to ask you to ride one!

So we waited...and waited. Then waited some more. In 2016 our carbon prayers were answered when our friends at Albabici (who'd replaced Torelli as official supplier soon after the new Standard bikes were added) showed us bikes 100% Made-in-Italy by Michele Favaloro, a guy who has been making bikes since he was a teenager and has been compared to Ernesto Colnago.

Each one is made individually to measure starting with sheets of carbon fiber cloth that Michele wraps around mandrels to create the tubes. We asked for a bike similar to our Standard model but made entirely from Toray carbon fiber. Uncle Larry was able to work with Michele to produce the same geometry, sizing and other features, meaning you get the great ride and handling of our previous bikes in a lighter weight, full-carbon package with the same great paint scheme. Weight just 8 kg*.

We chose Campagnolo's Potenza 11-speed groupset and Ursus Athon wheels and again, our clients loved them! And even better, you can get one of your own, made-to-measure and painted any way you like. Contact us for details.

Each rental bike is serviced exactly the same way as our personal machines with regular washings and careful attention to wear on the components, so all you have to do is enjoy the pedaling!

Bike rentals* are at extra cost so those who still want to bring their own pay no penalty, but in most cases, the cost of bringing your bike as luggage with your airline will be more than the price of a week's rental from us.

*Bike rentals are limited exclusively to Piedmont Cycling Resort clients. 
Weights are approximate w/o pedals but include bottle cages, pumps and cyclocomputer.

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