"I come from a world of carbon fibre. Lightweight, smooth lines, marginal gains - all that stuff," explains MotoAmerica Supersport racer Wyatt Farris. It's early September, and we're talking on the phone about bikes - those with and without engines. "Bicycles are massive in the motorcycle world now," he continues. "Pretty much everyone racing motorbikes also rides a road bike. And of course, when they're looking to buy one, they come at it with a racer's frame of mind, like, 'what's the equivalent of my super tuned, high tech motorbike? What's the raciest-looking thing out there? I got to be on that!" he says, laughing because the bike he rides couldn’t be further from the wind tunnel-obsessed, one-year-and-obsolete product cycles of mass-produced road bikes.
Moto photo: Jessica Johnk
Not many origin stories start with shoelaces, but without them, Wyatt probably wouldn't be climbing aboard a 1000cc, 200 mph Suzuki GSX-R1000 almost every weekend. "I guess I was about nine years old," Wyatt begins, "and some family friends of ours had invited me, my dad and my younger brother out to see their new quad bike in action. Anyway, the kid ended up rolling the quad, and his shoelace got caught on the handlebar, trapping him underneath it. He was ok and all, but long story short, we went home with a nearly-new quad that day. I guess my dad figured we'd have better luck!"
After some formative years spent going in circles around the family's backyard on quads and dirt bikes that fed his growing need for speed, Wyatt began entering local SuperMoto mixed-surface races, before transitioning to pure road racing in 2010. "I think my first ever race was back in 2006," says Wyatt. "I was pretty young at the time. Someone had mentioned racing, and we were all like, how do we do that? Our family didn't have a lot of spare cash, to put it mildly, and we didn't have a history with motorsport, so we had to figure it all out ourselves and see if we could make something work." And figure it out they did. With nine AMA Pro/MotoAmerica podium finishes under his belt to date, Wyatt's palmarès includes a strong third in the 2016 Daytona 200 and overall wins in the 2017 and 2020 AFM Championships, results that came through a lot of hard work, and some well-timed bicycle advice along the way. "You don't start getting on the podium without being in shape," he notes. "And I knew next to nothing about training. But I did know that I should probably get a road bike because that's what other racers were using to keep fit away from the track."
Moto photo: Brian J Nelson
Enter Above Category and some helpful pointers from our very own Chad. "I got friendly with him a few years back after we started chatting at a motorbike event," recalls Wyatt. "I'm from California and race motorbikes. Chad has a Ducati parked in the studio - we were always going to be friends! And if you know Chad, you'll know he's just the greatest guy, always offering to help with stuff, and he says he wants to help me navigate the world of road bikes and get properly kitted out. So anyway, I was down at the shop one day, and he wheels out this bike he thinks I should ride - bear in mind all I've been seeing is my teammates and competitors on these carbon machines that look like snooty little poodles. And I'm like, 'Chad, this isn't what everyone else is riding. I don't even know what this is!'" he laughs. "But he was pretty insistent that this machine - a beautiful steel bike he said was made by hand in Italy by some real masters - was the thing I should be on, so I listened, got a bike fit and headed out for a first ride."
That bike was a Pegoretti Duende. "Oh man, what a machine!" Wyatt almost sings. "You know that bit in the film Gran Torino where Clint is polishing his car - that beautiful dark green metallic '72 Gran Torino Sport - and when he's done, he goes and sits on his porch, lights one up and looks over at the driveway? 'Ain't she sweet!'. Well, that's how I feel about my Pegoretti." Caught up in Wyatt's story, I feel compelled to take a peek into the hall to check up on my Pegoretti, a Marcelo painted with a Mediterranean blue Ciavete finish. Yep, sweet is the word.
Search online, and you'll find blogs, forum threads, poetry and photo essays dedicated to the feeling of riding a Pegoretti for the first time. It's an affecting experience that Wyatt can relate to. "I was sold the second I got on it," he says. "The thing that I picked up from the get-go was how everything just works, you know? The brakes, the smooth Campy shifting, the way it leapt forward when I pushed down hard on the pedals, and how it turned into corners with limitless confidence and felt comfortable from the first mile. And I know all of that sounds simple when you read it back. But that stuff matters. Since I started riding seriously, I've been on a lot of group rides with some really fast riders, and sure, those carbon, all-integrated machines weigh next to nothing and look pretty futuristic, but you know what? They just feel kind of cold compared to my Pegoretti. And after having tried one, for me at least, they're not too comfy, which probably means I'm faster on my Duende than anything else, because like taking a motorbike right to the edge, speed comes through comfort."
As Wyatt talks, it occurs to me that, unlike Clint's Gran Torino, frozen in time and rightfully superseded by today's more efficient, better handling, safer cars, steel road bikes, with their performance, comfort, decades-long durability, and 100% recyclability are thoroughly modern inventions. And other industries have caught on to the magic of metal, too. When SpaceX's Starship rocket takes off to Mars, it will be stainless steel, not carbon fibre, that protects its outer hull along the way. Not bad for a material going on 4000 years old.
Back here on Earth, Wyatt tells me about the cycling bug that hit after getting kitted out at Above Category. "We had this AC group on Strava, and for a few weeks, I was doing more miles than some of the pros!" he says. "At that point, my team had to have a little word with me about keeping fresh for the races and what was actually paying the bills. They had a hard time getting me to cut the miles. Still do!"
To see more of Wyatt's Duende, head to the gallery here.