Podia recently met with Momentum Workshop to talk about their work and we soon realised they share a passion for visiting the makers of great hand built bicycles. Last summer they went to Northern Italy and visited Giovanni Pelizzoli, a frame maker we have been trying to meet for a while. Below is their account of the visit.
Words by Michał Krzyżanowski
The plan was simple. At the beginning of the year contact some of the living legends of frame building, go to Northern Italy, see their workshops and watch them at work. We managed just that.
Curno is a small town near Bergamo. Everyone we ask knows where the workshop is and they show us the way. No wonder, because the person we are looking for is a living legend, still cultivating an old-school Italian way of making steel frames. His name is Giovanni Pelizzoli.
We are standing and looking at quite a big hall, where a few employees are busy at work. We smell the familiar scent of wet paint and freshly cut metal. The place is quite messy, everybody is working hard. The first person we meet is Simona, Giovanni’s daughter, who is responsible for orders and dealing with clients and suppliers. She is the only person who is willing to speak English. That’s how our adventure with this place, simply called Pelizzoli World, begins.
Pelizzoli’s company has grown to become an internationally well-known brand. It’s not a small workshop anymore. Production is based on all kinds of frames; steel, alloy as well as carbon fibre and the whole manufacturing process, including painting, is done on the premises. Up to 300 frames leave the workshop every year; a few dozen of them are made of steel.
A surprising fact is that all steel frames are made by Giovanni Pelizzoli himself. Only he is able to meet the high standards of quality set by himself. As a result anyone buying a steel frame from Pelizzoli can be certain that it was made by the owner’s hands.
Giovanni’s achievements are impressive. His professional work was always connected with the best cyclists and the most well known brands, especially during the golden years of road cycling between the 70’s and 80’s. Ciocc, the bicycle brand established by Pelizzoli at the end of 1969 was successful in many races. The San Cristobal, the most recognizable bicycle model, became the icon of the brand.
Since 1993 Pelizzoli has participated in the design and has personally built many frames for cyclists associated with the Fausto Coppi brand. However, from 1983 he has been producing frames under his name, simply Pelizzoli.
The second room we enter is not too big, but the amount of equipment and general stuff everywhere make it very narrow. There are a few pieces of heavy machinery: a few frame JIGs, an iron plate for frame measurements, pillar drill, milling machines and of course gas bottles and torch for brazing. All of them are old and weary, but in perfect working condition. It is the exact place, where all steel frames are built.
Finally Pelizzoli appears and after saying a few words in Italian, he gets on with his work. His movements and confidence in brazing are incredible. We discover, that frames and forks are welded with brass, not with silver solder, so popularised nowadays by American builders. Fork brazing is really quick in his hands, so after less than 30 minutes one of them is ready. All processes here are well thought through, even some machines are set to do only one specific task.
When Giovanni learns that we are from Poland, he asks us to come with him to look at some old photographs. The pictures show some famous polish cyclists, for whom he has made the frames. Without hesitation, he pronounces perfectly few names, including Szurkowski. Ciocc frames were used by polish professionals in 70’s and 80’s, helping them to train and win medals in the International Championships. Among many photographs we also spot one, where Giovanni offers one of his bikes to John Paul II.
Before the arrival we did not know that meeting with an Italian frame building legend would be so close to our expectations. Despite his age, Pelizzoli still makes frames and openly shares his knowledge and experience with others. He has many stories to tell, but what is the most important, he still has a great passion for bikes that drives him. This is what we were looking for…
Photos by Piotr Lisiecki