Tag Archives: Pegoretti

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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Scales Before Our Eyes

 

Strolling accordion players and trained poodle acts are but two of the many things in this world that are beyond my peasant comprehension, and to that list I would add those weekend warriors who shell out anything up to a hundred and twenty quid (each!) to put carbon-fibre drink bottle cages on their bicycles.

Now, I’ve nothing personally against carbon fibre, be it on frames or bottle cages or what have you. It’s not a look that I particularly care for, but I can understand its visual appeal to others, along with the hint of aeronautical aggression that is inevitably built into the design of such racy things – hey, no point in having a cutting-edge, lightning-fast road bike if it doesn’t at least look the part.

What surpasses my understanding though, though, is that these über-sleek accoutrements rarely seem to be marketed, or indeed purchased, on their aesthetic qualities but because of their ostensibly performance-enhancing lightness – a feathery 18 grams in the case of the Campagnolo Record monocoque carbon fibre bottle cage that I see being offered for £118.99 a pop by one of the big internet retailers, down from the recommended retail price of £132.99, but with a ‘free’ matching Campagnolo water bottle thrown in as a sweetener. Other, presumably lesser, carbon-fibre bottle cages tend to run in the forty- to seventy-quid bracket and seem to weigh in at anything from a Campagnolo Record-matching 18 grams to a relatively hefty 29 grams, or just over an ounce.

By comparison, and to put this weight thing into perspective, the pair of stainless steel vintage-style bottle cages by Velo Orange with which I have burdened my classic tourer weigh 54 grams each; the single Italian-made Elite Inox Cuissi cage on the frame of my Pegoretti (pictured above) tips the scales at 48 grams. Neither seems heavy, or at least I’ve not noticed their excess weight dragging me down on hills. And both represent what I would consider fairly expensive bottle cages – twelve quid for the VO ones, and nineteen for the Elite, both being nicely made luxuries purchased to set off a certain look and style on a particular bicycle.

Buying them was an indulgence, done for decorative effect, but even for the sake of art I think I would balk at dropping forty quid on a bottle cage, let alone a hundred-plus – and never in a million years would it occur to me that shaving an ounce of bottle-cage-fat off my Pegoretti, or just over two ounces off my tourer, would offer an improvement in performance worth that kind of money, or indeed any kind of money at all. Certainly not with the engine that is powering either bike at present. I am fifty-three, and although I think it is fair to say that I am in reasonably good shape, still holding onto a thirty-two-inch waist, I nevertheless do not look at myself in the mirror and measure the improvements I could make in terms of grams.

I daresay the same can be said for the overwhelming number of other cyclists, right across the cycling spectrum, but particularly in the fifty-to-death age bracket that I now occupy and which my gut sense – so to speak – tells me is probably the main demographic buying £120 carbon Monocoque bottle cages. Who else would have the disposable income and the fountain-of-youth desire to spend it on such an illusory gain?

And how could it ever be more than illusory?  Think about it: what is the point of shaving a few grams off your water bottle cage when you are carrying a few spare kilos – often more than a few – on your waist? And aren’t we all to a greater or lesser extent? How many people, even among the pros, can truthfully say they have honed themselves to such lean physical perfection that replacing their existing water bottle cage with a feathery light carbon Monocoque is only possible place in the entire bicycle-plus-rider package where they can trim fat? It’s like a jockey plucking his eyebrows to make weight.

Of course the really cheeky thing about all this is that if I am a teensy bit sloppy and fill my water bottle only ninety-five per cent full, and the fellow next to me – the one with the carbon Monocoque bottle cage – fills his to the top, our respective cages and bottles will weigh the same. Assuming a 500ml water bottle each, and a £100 disparity in the price of our water bottle cages, that extra 25ml sip of water he’ll enjoy over the course of his ride comes very pricey indeed, by my reckoning a bit more than twice as much as a similar quantity of Dom Perignon ’66.

Perhaps water tastes better out of the bonus free bottle that Campagnolo tosses in with their £120 cage. One would hope so.  That, too, is another one of those many things that I will just never know.

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