The untimely death of legendary frame builder Dario Pegoretti in 2018 did not go unnoticed in Malaysia. The lumbering 62 year old set foot in Kuala Lumpur just 7 months prior, when Pegoretti fans from the region flocked to The Bike Artisans. In between the business talk and fittings, I’d caught a glimpse of the man as he worked and joked easily with the shop’s owner Jeff Liew, his team and clients.
Dario was the typical flamboyant Italian whose booming voice would greet you warmly as his arms stretched wide for a hug, often breaking into song unexpectedly while posing for photos. I was told that he’d hilariously arrived lenggang-kangkung to shop for clothes here, sportingly sampled the local cuisine (even durian) and other Asian delicacies.
Listening again to our interview I am infinitely humbled to have met such a legend. After all, Dario pioneered lugless TIG welding, those tiny scale-like welds on the joints of a frame that tell you the skill of the builder. He also introduced oversized steel tubing and many other novel features to the pro-peloton, anonymously building frames for former champions back when steel was still king.
I was profoundly sad to know of Dario’s passing, which was undoubtedly a blow for the folks who brought him to our shores. “Everytime we went to Europe for (cycling or business) we would make it a point to drop by Verona (Italy),” reminisces Jeff, having forged a connection with Dario, whose team then spoke little to no English. “He had that fun persona, was a very quirky and larger than life character. His smile was infectious, his temper was very famous. He was a very emotional character as an artist; they are creative and very passionate about their art.
We really miss him.“But the Verona bottega feels Dario’s absence most keenly, being such a closely knit family unit. “I knew him since 1997,” muses Cristina Wurdig, who manages the business side of things at the renamed Officina Dario Pegoretti. “He was a dear old friend, an older brother and a mentor. In every difficult time of my life he was the first I would call and always had the right thing to say.”
Cristina handles marketing and communications, while Dario’s right hand man for twenty years Pietro Pietricola oversees production, guiding the younger team members. Gianmaria Citron, Andrea Meggiorini and Leonardo Dalla Mura make up the equally important hands of the workshop. “There are no specific roles,” Cristina adds. “They need to learn every job here, each will make them grow.”
Production-wise, things have changed. “Rock star Dario could decide to deliver the frame when he wanted,” reveals Pietro. “He could NOT make a frame for someone because he did not like to produce certain models and send them a color they hated. We can’t afford any of this.”
Two new frames have been unveiled since 2018: Round (stainless steel) and New Love #3 (aluminium). New projects will also be revealed soon, but Pietro is adamant that the signature Ciavete concept will not change. “This is still the expression of (our) mood, the music, the art we see, the people that visit us or just the desire to express a feeling on the day. It is always improvised, just as before.”
Pietro “Pero” Pietricola is, and has been the master of the shop. Pietro is the only person in the company who can build an entire frame by himself and he can do it to the absolute highest standard. With Dario’s passing, Pietro is now co-CEO of the company that he has helped to build.
Photo by Cycling Tips
In a nutshell, the bottega’s mission is now a balancing act, honouring Dario’s legacy while looking to the future. “Everyone had to come out of the shadow of the big ‘oak tree Dario’,” Cristina declares. “They have used their passion, their creativity, their skill and given all their heart to continue the dream. Dario was one of a kind. We are lucky to have met him in our lives, learned from him and enjoyed his company for so many years. Nobody will replace Dario.”