The market of custom frame builders is incredible. There are so many builders out there, all doing their thing to express their vision of how two wheels should carry a rider across the road. Some are built as pure art, some are built for pure performance, some are built with seemingly no real intent at all. Steel, titanium, carbon fiber, aluminum, hell, even bamboo. There are no limitations as to how or with what materials people are crafting bicycles out of and it's utterly amazing that we live in an age where so many builders can thrive. While there is no doubt in the skill, craftsmanship, and artistry among today's sea of builders (seriously, there is some undeniable talent out there), there is something they all seem to lack the same. Pedigree. True, race winning pedigree. Well, all but one.
Enter Dario Pegoretti.
I don't think you could name a single builder, still actively picking up a torch, that has had more bikes win as many races, at the grandest level than Dario himself. Marco Pantani, Miguel Indurain, Mario Cippolini, and even Tom Boonen, have all allegedly won stages, jerseys, and general classifications aboard Dario-built bikes. Nobody else building today can say that. That pedigree alone is enough qualify him as one the greatest frame builders alive, but let's not forget that Dario is also a prolific painter, and he chooses his bicycles as his favorite place to showcase that. The pairing of these two traits essentially pushes him up to a status simply know as unfuckwithable.
On this last trip to Italy we had the pleasure of dropping by Dario's shop and spending the afternoon shooting the shit and talking the past, present, and future of the handmade bicycle business.
Just outside of Caldonazzo, Dario's space has a real feeling of magic. Maybe it's just the way the lingering smell of cigarettes blends with the crisp fog rolling off the mountains, but you definitely get this overwhelming sense that something special happens here.
Tubes, tubes, and more tubes. Dario offers six different models, all unique, and in an endless array of both stock and custom sizes. Do the math. It becomes quite easy to see why there are so many shelves full of Columbus boxes.
While not as bad as some, Dario has a reputation for having long lead times. We'll be the first to tell you that there are no guarantees as to when you will actually see your order make it into your hands. Rest assured that it is by no means due to a relaxed work ethic. The man works tirelessly, and as you can see here, is kept busy with his ever growing queue. When you are as storied as Dario, the orders keep coming in, and it is quite amazing the capacity his little team is capable of turning out.
Chad and Dario, talking shop.
There's something endlessly fascinating about tools, machinery, and workspaces. It's always interesting to see how different people operate. Like a true artist, Dario keeps his shop in very controlled state of chaos.
From start to finish, all things happen under one roof. Partitioned off in the eastern corner of the workshop is the paint booth. Somebody, Thelonius, Manovella, Why Not, Ciavete... It's hard to believe just how many different Pegoretti paint schemes there are. Incredibly varied yet equally iconic, and all of them happen right here.
Audiophiles rejoice, Dario is very particular in how the jazz sounds as it pumps through his office.
With so much hype and marketing going into the bike fit business, it's important to remember that no software, machine, or protocol can replace decades of knowledge and experience. Dario has fit the most successful racers in history and can tell more about you in five minutes with a tape measure than any laser beaming computer can in three hours.
We were glad we got the chance to stop by as it would be the last time we'd ever get to spend time in this incredible workshop. Don't worry, it's not because he's shutting down. Quite the opposite, in fact. As you read this, he's settling into his new digs just a couple of hours away in Verona.