Changing the rules

After 30 years in the business, Dario Pegoretti is not afraid of being a rule-breaker. NB: Dario sadly passed away after this article was published. He will be sorely missed.

Text: Silje Strømmen
Photos: Mari Oshaug

Dario Pegoretti is considered one of the great contemporary steel frame builders and a pioneer of lug less TIG welded frames. “The attraction with Pegoretti, the thing that set him aside from the countless other bike brands out there, was that Dario did it his way”, Lakeside Bikes write about the man in question in their profile of the frame builder. After 30 years in the business the 60-year-old is refreshingly down to earth.

“A lot of people say that you are the best at what you do”. “That is not my problem. I don’t say that. I think that when you start to say that you are the best, you are at the end of your career”, he simply says.

He doesn’t collect articles about himself, and reads only a few. His personality is eccentric, his hair long and grey. He sits relaxed in a chair in his studio in Verona, smoking cigarettes and talks about how creativity is reflected in his work:

“I think there are many different kinds of creativity in my work. The first one is technological creativity, something that is very difficult to recognize in a frame. There are some builders that I think are really great because they change the rules, improve the quality and change the ways frames are built. That is creativity. The second one is changing the way a frame looks. The cycling world is a really conservative world. I still receive some critique about my paint jobs because a lot of people still think a bike should look like it did in the 70s. My opinion is that you can use the surface to do what you like”.

As one can understand by this answer, Pegoretti is a rule-breaker. That is also the first thing that comes to mind when being asked what the first thing that comes to his mind when he hears the word “creativity”:

“Change the rules. That is something very difficult to do, especially when you have been in the same job for many years. To forget the past and create something new, that is very difficult! It is necessary to have an open mind”.

After moving to Verona to follow his heart, he started working for his father-in-law who was a frame builder to earn money for “the weekends”. They worked together from 1975 and up to the 90s, when his father in law sadly passed. Together they had built 6000 frames a year, with 99 % made to order. After his father in laws passing he continued doing so. After six years his main costumer decided to go in a different direction, and Pegoretti was left with the choice of continuing to build frames for others as a contractor, or he could start building under his own name. He chose the latter, which quickly turned out to be the right decision as a he soon was contacted by an American friend (American distributor Gita) who knew of his situation and who offered to sell his frames in the US.

“And that was the beginning. Very simple, nothing special”, he says with a shrug.

To most, a bike is just a bike. It has a fork, a crank and two wheels and it will look the same regardless of model or brand. If you start looking though, you will see the differences. And when you ride it, that’s when you will experience the real magic. “I think the connection between the rider and the bike is really important. When you touch a bike there is a connection: you can feel good or you can feel bad”, he says.

For a bike to be good there also needs to be a connection between the frame builder and the material he works with, Pegoretti believes. For him, steel is the preferred material.

“The first reason why I prefer working with steel is because I started building with it, and it is something like my first love. The second, and main reason is because steal is a very sincere material. If you care for the steel it is a material that will give you great satisfaction and that wont create any problem”.

Over the years Pegoretti has also become increasingly known for his graphics and paint jobs.

“For some reasons I both hate and love the focus on my graphics and paint jobs. I don’t love to think that a costumer would buy a frame from me for a paint job. I prefer to think that a costumer buys a frame for what I put into it: the project, the idea, and the vision. But that is the market, you know. I need to accept it”.

The discussion of whether a bike can be art often comes up when looking into Pegoretti’s work. Even if it is or is not, Pegoretti states that he is “not the right person to answer”. He is however, exhibited in The Museum of Arts and Design in New York. “It was a great opportunity and it was probably the first time a bike was in a museum. It is good to promote our craft. A bike can be such a beautiful thing and a very simple machine. But it is very difficult to built. I don’t know if it is art, but if you want my honest opinion I would say no”.

After 30 years in the business Pegoretti still spent four to five hours in the workshop building frames every day. The rest of his time is spent in the office, drinking coffee, smoking and reading e-mails. What he is doing next he has no idea of.

“In the last year a lot of things have changed. I received some requests for other experiences. This year I designed some jerseys and I will have a exhibition in Vienna in December that is not really bike related, but more focused on my graphics” he says looking pleased adding:

“I’m really happy”.