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  • 27.08.15

    Desire: Passoni Titanio

    "Luciano Passoni, so named, had little choice but to do something with his heart and soul." In Lecco, at the atelier of one of the last suppliers of metal frames to the peloton

    Words
    Timothy John
    Photographs
    Timothy John

Passionate. Luciano Passoni, so named, had little choice but to do something with his heart and soul. He chose to make titanium bicycles. His surname, sandblasted onto the precious metal from which his frames are made, arguably tells the entire story, but the details of his beautiful bicycles are too interesting to pass over.

Bugno and Chiappucci. Cipollini and Fondriest. Fabio Roscioli. All raced or trained on Passonis, it's understood, through rarely, if ever, with Luciano’s name upon them, such is the hidden history of one of cycling’s most exclusive marques.

Passoni was among the very last suppliers of metal frames to the peloton, though his creations wore the branding of rival manufacturers. Now, his customers are knowledgeable amateurs and retired professionals, with Juan Antonio Flecha among them.

In an age of often unedifiying mass production techniques, where heritage is a commodity and the reality of manufacture is far removed from the images in the brochure, Passoni is a beacon of authenticity. 

A vision on the Ghisallo

Old man Passoni was climbing the Ghisallo, the story goes, when he was passed by a rider on a silver bicycle. He followed the man, engaged him in conversation and learned that he was an engineer with a sports car manufacturer.

The silver frame, he was told, was titanium, used to reduce the weight of the cars. To see if it was possible, the engineer had used it to make a bicycle. Passoni asked for a frame; no, two frames - one would not be enough. A supplier of electrical cables for large-scale building projects, with an office in Milan, Luciano was not used to taking no for answer.

Passoni was gripped. He set Luca, his son, to learn the frame builders’ craft with established marques on his graduation from high school. He purchased the essential tools of the titanium builder’s trade: the welding torches and the chamber in which the tubes are united in an atmosphere first purged of oxygen and then saturated with an Argon mix. Art and craft are mixed too. The artisan who works with titanium is no ordinary welder.

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