I was startled and saddened last week to read of the sudden death of Dario Pegoretti, a man known to aficionados of fine bicycle frames as one of the world’s great artisan builders, and by all accounts a charming man, a lover of music and one of life’s true bon vivants. He was only 62. A heart attack.
Pegoretti’s frames were – and are – legendary. He built for many of the top Tour de France riders of the 1990s – Miguel Indurain, Marco Pantani, Mario Cipollini among others – his frames being rebadged under the names of their sponsors. Eventually he began building under his own name and swiftly gained a following. His frames won major prizes at the North American Handbuilt Bicycle Show in 2007 and 2008 and he was one of six top artisanal frame-builders whose creations were displayed as works of art in New York’s Museum of Art and Design.
I am fortunate enough to own a Pegoretti – one of his made-to-order Luiginos, a retro-classic road bike he designed and built as his tribute to the great Italian builders of the 1960s, most particularly his own father-in-law Luigino Milani of Verona. I’ve one of the original ones, bought eleven ears ago, with the double box crown. I particularly like this feature, with its very Italian Buonasera Signorina– “good evening, ladies” – engraved on its face. It was the sort of quixotic touch Pegoretti liked to add to his frames, along with his famously funky paint jobs, and which gave them their unique character in addition to their beauty and sublime responsiveness.
And they are a joy to ride. When I am aboard my Pegoretti I find myself actually seeking out hills for the sheer giddy joy of flying up them. I wrote to Pegoretti telling him how much I loved that frame and the pleasure riding it gave me, and I received a lovely note in reply. As much as his frames were seen as art, he liked for them to be ridden and enjoyed. And so I shall make a point of taking my Luigino out and go hunt up some hills in memory of a wonderful frame maker and a very nice man.