Not Chaotic, But Like Jazz
“We are all building on what Dario left us.”
On August 23rd, 2018 Italian framebuilder, artist, music aficionado, cancer survivor, and living legend Dario Pegoretti unexpectedly passed away. At only 62 years old he had made an indelible mark on the cycling industry. After building uncredited high-end custom frames for names such as Induran, Cipollini and Pantani he started his own company, Pegoretti Cicli. Both a traditionalist and iconoclast Dario never wavered from his love of steel while also constantly playing with innovations in technique, frame design, and painting. In all of these, he was a renowned master.
While Dario’s outsized personality and skill captured the world’s imagination there was a small, tight group of highly skilled people that worked with him to make it all come together. Pietro Pietricola, Cristina Würdig, GIanmaria Citron, and Andrea Meggiorini are all parts of the Pegoretti success story. But not only did they work with and for Dario, they were also all influenced by him. He was a friend, mentor, and collaborator. And then one day he was simply…gone.
When someone who is larger than passes, what is left behind? They leave people, the skills they’ve taught, insights they’ve given and art they’ve created. Memories. Love. Loss. Friendship.
While many would point to Dario’s bicycle frames as his enduring legacy the reality is that it’s the people he left behind that are his true legacy. I was fortunate enough to have been allowed to spend a day in Pegoretti Cicli. It’s a massive space in which a handful of people create beautiful works of functional art. Dario’s influence is everywhere. From the music that’s playing all day to the art on the walls to the mementos and most importantly the people who work there. I asked Cristina, Pietro, Gianmaria and Andrea about Dario…when they met him, what it was like to work with him, the mark he left and what the future holds for them and Pegoretti Cicli itself.
Cristina Würdig: Friend & General Manager
I met Dario in ‘97 or ‘98 at Milano. He was there at the show with 3 beautiful bikes that were so different. My boss at Brooks took me to the stand and said to Dario, “It’s hard. Nobody came. Don’t let it go, be brave!”
Later I got to know him making special saddles for his bikes. When Dario became sick his chemotherapy treatments were in Verona. I was living in Verona, and he’d call me during his drives. He was a bit scared of his 3 month checks. We became friends. He started to spend Christmas with us, he was like family.
Dario was like the Father I never had. He was balanced, able to give advice and was the first person to call me after I got off a flight.
The day he passed we spoke for an hour. Dario was in a great mood! When they called to tell me he was gone I didn’t think it was real.
The 23rd (of August) was a nightmare. The funeral was 3-4 days after. We went to have lunch that day. Pietro and I were both washing our hands. Pietro looks up and asks if I had a new job. He then asks me to come by and help out for a few weeks. Weeks became months. The lawyers and Dario’s son told Pietro he needed a business partner. Pietro said, “I know who I want. It is Cristina!” And here I am.
The first phone call I had made when I was fired from Brooks after 20 years was to Dario. It was a strange joke of life because he had made me promise to leave the bike business!
“There is something marketing cannot teach. Patience.” He told me that, too, when I left Brooks.
We lived a moment in this workshop that nobody will live again. We came here the day after the funeral and we opened the door. People came here, crying. But we knew the work had to go on. The soul of Dario is here.
For those of us who knew the man he left something with us. What he gave me was that getting to know him made me a better person. Much more balanced, mature, reflective. I am lucky. He left me a better person inside. People come here talking about the framebuilder. I lost a friend, a mentor. He could enrich you. Dario would sit in that chair for two hours, listening to you talk about your problems, not saying a word, looking at you with his deep eyes. Then he’d say one sentence and you were done.
Gianmaria Citron: Mentee, Fabricator, Framebuilder
The first time I heard of him was eight years ago. I started getting into bike collecting, was into design and started to get passionate about it. Then one day someone told me about Dario. Then six years ago he did a workshop in Verona. It was a moment in my life when I wanted to change something. I applied to the workshop, was accepted.
Dario showed us that you just needed a file, a torch, a hammer and something to measure tubes. In the end we were talking. He thought I did a good job, and said I could be a framebuilder. I left and went to make bikes for two years with some friends.
I called Dario every two days for suggestions. After two years we (business partners) split. Just then Dario was moving to Verona and needed two guys. I asked and he said “Yes” so I started to work here. That was four years ago.
But I like it here (at Pegoretti). I want to be here as long as possible. There is a new challenge every day! I am never bored. When you go home tired and happy I think it’s the right place.
We are thinking about it (changes to Pegoretti Cicli). The path is good, it’s solid. The painting has changed a bit without Dario. About the frames we understand the way we have to think about them. In the future we may want to change the things we do. If you look at what Dario did for the last 40 years you’ll see he tried everything! So to do something new or different is not that easy.
The world doesn’t need to have everything. You can just do one thing and be the best at it. Do we really need disc brake frames? We don’t know yet. Do we have enough experience in them yet? How does the steel react to the forces? We want to be sure.
Even if you know the job, and how it has to be done, ask yourself why it has to be like this, and look for a new way, your way. Dario was one of the first to ask me why do I do it like this? This is the most important thing he taught me.
Pietro Pietricola: Friend, Fabricator, Framebuilder, Painter, Partner
I met Dario in January ‘96, in a bar. The story is incredible! I got off the train in Trentino, went into the station bar and asked the bar man if he knew the local company that worked in metal. I was looking for a job. Dario was drinking coffee, overheard, knew where it was and offered me a ride. But he asked, “What are you doing here?!?!” Dario couldn’t believe I’d want to move there!
I worked for the metal company for three years, but it was close to Dario’s workshop. He and I became friends because every day I’d have lunch with him during my break from 1-3. After a bit Dario asked me to weld frames part time at night. I’d weld 2-3 frames a day. Eventually he asked me to come, to work for him for more than I was making at the metal company, but he only ended up paying me $5 (Euro) per frame!! Dario was, how do you say it in America? Yes! He was a cheap ass!! *laughs*
Everyone has their own way to be crazy. This is and always has been a fun place to work. We always have fun here. The team is great, but I miss that part with Dario gone. It is unbalanced now.
But from Dario I also learned to be rigorous and serious at work. He was a fun guy but he knew how to grow the company! It’s hard for me to do something different than what I’ve done for the last 20 years. We don’t have Dario any more, something must change. Now, for example, we have a clean office!! *laughs*
It is natural that now, without Dario, it is our decision where the company goes. It’s not that we have to do something different just because. But whatever we do will be different without Dario. We are building the future here, now. I don’t know what it holds, but we are building it now.
The thing, for sure, is to show the company is the product that we do, made by a team of passionate people. We don’t have Dario any more, so the product must talk instead.
Andrea Meggiorini: Painter
I met Dario here, in Verona, looking for a job. Dario’s son was showing me the workshop. I first talked to Pietro and then Dario. I was racing in the U-23 category then. I was tired of racing and needed something else to do. The day after I stopped racing I started working as a bicycle mechanic in my town. After 1.5 years there I went to a bike shop in Verona. I worked there for a year. Through my former race director I found that Dario needed a painter. Dario liked to take guys with no experience and teach them.
Dario had alot of qualities but he couldn’t teach you anything. He was bad at explaining! He would just do it and expect you to know from watching. Pietro taught me. From 0 to 1 was Dario. From 1 to 10 it was Pietro. Pietro is the only one who could do every step of building a frame from start to finish.
But Dario showed me alot of times how to create something that is unique, that is created in the moment. A sense, not chaotic, but like jazz.
I want to use that style that Dario taught me and go forward without copying what he did. We are all building on what Dario left us.
About the images
These interviews and images were done in February of 2020. All the story images were shot with black and white film, either medium format or 35mm. The medium format photographs were captured with a Pentax 645 and a 105mm f/4.5 camera lens made by hand using four $1 bills, some lightproof foam, and two achromat lens elements. The close portraits and fine detail photos were taken with a 35mm Yashica Dental Eye III camera. Made specifically for dentists it can only shoot at a distance of 4” – 6’ and has a built-in ring flash on its 100mm fixed f/4 lens. This makes it a superb camera for portraits and fine details such as Pietro’s jaw dropping welds.
Which begs the question: Why film? Why use such equipment?
When shooting a story about the legacy of Dario Pegoretti, a man of tradition who also never settled, never stopped thinking, never stopped experimenting, who always asked, “Why do you do it this way? How else can it be done?” …traditional film with untraditional equipment was the only choice that made sense. It was an honor to visit your house, Maestro. Rest easy, for it is in the best of hands. – Erik Mathy