To say that we are completely enamoured by vintage steel bikes, is an understatement. In fact, the attraction to any bike shop with history is similar to the gravitational pull of a very large planet on a passing meteor. So with a couple of days to spare before one of our recent Italian cycling tours, we happened to find ourselves in the Emilia Romagna region of Italy, where the gravitational pull is extreme, and we took the time to drop in to visit one of our favourite bike building brands, Paletti.
Paletti is a bike builder with a rich history and is still in existence today with Michele the son, who rode in the 1993 Tour de France, now running the business after father Luciano passed away in 2015.
Luciano Paletti started building bikes in 1971 and was one of a handful of people from the Emilia Romagna region who were at the forefront of innovation and design at the time. He was a true craftsman and during his career, he designed, made and patented some revolutionary innovations in and on the bike frame. His imagination, creativity and thinking was ahead of the large international brands by some thirty years.
A few of the contributions that Luciano made to bike design include:
- Creating the first prototype of an elegant, functional, light and adjustable in height front derailleur that is fixed directly to the frame;
- Designing gear shifters with the cables housed inside the diagonal tube;
- Designing a braking system that is housed inside the bike frame;
- Designing tubes with a special outer concave shape that were made by ORIA.
So with such accolades, is it any wonder we were dying to get to the Paletti bike shop, given it had only taken four years and a whole lot of admiring the brand from afar…or not so far… Every time a Paletti bike comes across Damian’s daily vintage bike feed, there’s a discussion about whether it’s up for being ‘another one for the collection’ and as part of our L’Eroica Cycling Tour this year, Damian’s selected jersey to wear on the day of L’Eroica, was a Paletti.
We had to delay our arrival to the shop to take into account the local custom of the afternoon siesta, which turned out to be to our good fortune, as it allowed us to find a great little spot for lunch, where we had some of the most amazing local tortellini con panna.
When we did arrive at a building sitting off on its own, it was a case of sensory overload; team cars parked outside, old school frames and bikes everywhere, advertising from the 80’s, photos adorning the walls, bidons lining the shelves, boxes of trophies on the floor and seriously heavy duty machinery in the workshop.
Damian was in awe and with Signora Paletti, wife of Luciano and mother of Michele, hot on his heels helping him find anything in a 57 size frame, while chatting away and explaining the ins and outs of her late husband’s achievements, this was yet another of those ‘I’m in heaven’ moments. The depth of Italy’s cycling heritage and another of its bike building families with a big name, yet a local, humble existence, was right here before our eyes.
With beautiful steel frames and bikes that had been built by Luciano on display, specifically the 1972 built Specialissima, with it’s superbly drilled out or “lightened” Campagnolo groupset, was another highlight in illustrating that form and function doesn’t have to be at the expense of beauty.
After wandering around and exploring every nook and cranny of the shop, it dawned on Damian that we really didn’t have the capacity to take a new toy home with us this day, even though he went awfully close. So we took a last look, said our arriverderci’s and started to think about scheduling in a follow up visit next year.
If you’re interested in vintage bikes and artisan Italian bike brands, the greatest display is at the L’Eroica Market in Gaiole in Chianti, which forms part of our L’Eroica Cycling Tour 2020.