Tag Archives: lugs

Lugged Stems

Whenever I take my Pegoretti out for a spin two thoughts always go through my head: a.) how incredibly lucky I am to possess such a bicycle and b.) the notion that I am pedalling down the street on a work of Italian fine art; a kinetic sculpture in Columbus Spirit tubing, a lovely lightweight steel drawn in Milan, joined with ornate lugwork, then brazed with silver in Dario Pegoretti’s workshop in Caldonazzo.

It really is a beautiful bicycle, and beautifully finished too, but of all the exquisite detailing on it, the thing that delights me most when I am spinning along the lanes is this lugged stem. I love fancy lugwork to start with and the stem is where I can see it and admire it even as I ride, a constant pleasing visual reminder of the exquisiteness of the bicycle as a whole.

But there’s something else too that it special. It completes the bike in a way that is all too rare these days. Ever since the threadless stem became the industry standard about ten or fifteen years ago, the stem has been the one feature that (to my mind anyway) consistently lets down overall look and tone of a hand-built bicycle – especially one with such classic styling as the Luigino.

Unlike the old-fashioned quill stem, which had a certain slender elegance, these new-fangled threadless ones just seem so artless and clumsy they way they grip the steerer tube like a fist and are clamped on with four sturdy bolts. Yes, I understand that threadless are meant to be lighter and stiffer than the old quill variety and that they make swapping out handlebars a doddle, but seldom is anything done to lighten this heavy, clenched fist tone at the front of the bike.

You can get away with it with on a modern racing frame, especially a compact frame, which tends to have more muscular and aggressive lines, but on a fine-boned Italian road bike that was designed to evoke an age, it just looks out of place, an anachronism. Pegoretti didn’t overlook this detail on the Luigino, which after all he designed as a tribute to the great Italian frame-builders of the 50s and 60s. The lugged threadless stem render the bicycle complete. It is an all-too-rare fusion of art and function, combining the qualities of a modern stem with the artistry and elegance of a bygone age. I wish there was more of this kind of thing.

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The Fine Art of Framebuilding

It seems to me I read somewhere that Picasso once described the bicycle as humanity’s highest and purest form of sculpture. I can’t remember now where it was I read that quote, or the context, and when I’ve tried looking it up I’ve not been able to find any reference to it or indeed any evidence that the man ever really did say such a thing, although he himself certainly made at least one famous sculpture out of bicycle parts and therefore presumably had been down to his local bike shop once or twice full of artistic intent.

If Picasso didn’t actually utter those words, he should have. On the chance that he didn’t, and left the field open, I’ll grab the line myself: the bicycle is humanity’s highest and purest form of sculpture. Says me.

It’s true, too. Anyone who has ever attended a hand-made bicycle show, and seen the beautifully crafted machines on display, and felt the restless stirrings and childhood longings they impart, knows exactly what I mean. Art is meant to transport us, and what form of sculpture can you think of that accomplishes this better than a bicycle? Literally, emotionally, metaphorically, we are moved, and with an almost effortless grace.

But what you see on display at these shows are merely the end results of an unseen creative process that is itself surprisingly beautiful and involving. I was privileged to be able to watch Mark Reilly, the master frame-builder at Enigma build the frame of my classic touring bicycle Рeight lengths of Columbus Spirit tubing, cut and mitred by hand, joined with pretty lugwork and brazed with silver.

I’ve always loved the ideal of a hand-made steel frame, and, like many another aficionado, felt I possessed a deeper understanding and connoisseurship of these things than I really did. It wasn’t until I had this opportunity to watch a master frame-maker hand-craft a frame before my eyes that I came to have any real inkling of the degree of artistry and artisanship all this involves, let alone an idea of the visual beauty of the frame-building process itself.

Mark kindly allowed me to photograph him while he built my bicycle. Here is a selection of those images:

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