Archive Post from May 23rd, 2020
Giovanni soldiered on as a professional cyclist without any further fireworks until his retirement from racing in 1984. However, before that, in 1981, capitalizing upon his spectacular season, Battaglin anticipated his post racing career. Following in the footsteps of Cino Cinelli, Giovanni “Nani” Pinarello and, many other racers, he started his own bike building business, Officina Battaglin. Just as suits from great Italian tailors like Brioni and Isaia, bicycles from Officina Battaglin would be bespoke.
Officina means Workshop in Italian. My stream of consciousness mental images of an Italian “workshop” is unabashedly romantic: a single room dimly lit by the natural light filtered through dusty, peaked, lead glass skylights which are perhaps, cracked and mended with tar in a place or two; wooden workbenches butt against stone walls that are functionally adorned with storage cubbies and organized tools of a trade; all cloaked in a quiet sense of purposefulness…Well, until the actual work begins. Then the soundtrack can get loud with hammers and metallic clanks or the resonance of a rasp drawn against a rough surface soon to be smooth. All sounds breathing with life in proportion to an artisan or few doing the handiwork. Much like in an orchestra, the violinist limited by her fingerspeed and bowstroke or a tubaists by her breath. There is an organic, human scale to the goings-on in a workshop. As opposed to the constant drone of a busy but lifeless factory. It is in the workshop setting that something personal, something soulful, can be made.
All of the bikes Battaglin raced were custom built to his specifications, Pinarellos and Colnagos. He had plenty of exposure to the purpose, the process and the art of bike construction. With his bikes Battaglin *“sought to put as much of the master framebuilder’s skill as he could into machines. He had one CNC milling machine built for him that makes three cuts at once, of exacting tolerances, to a down tube held in place by pneumatic vises. (Working by hand, a framebuilder would have relied on experience and a sharp eye to make the cuts, and would have needed to remove the tube several times from the jig.)” Art and precision would distinguish a Battaglin.
*With gratitude to Bill Strickland for his May 16, 2017 article in Bicycling
His bikes were a hit in Europe. Racers especially appreciated what Giovanni was able to craft to help them win. One racer in particular would add a new chapter to the legend of Battaglin, not as the racer but as the bike builder.
Stephen Roche: An Irish “all-rounder” who in 1987 had a good year. Roche won The Giro d’Italia, The Tour de France and The World Championship in 1987. I think his biggest problem that year was not his iffy knee but, how to wear three crowns. Maybe he asked for advice from Eddy Merckx, the only other racer to have done so. Hmmm, this story sounds a little familiar. Care to hazard a guess as to who made Roche’s bikes? Yeah.
Our particular bike was donated to Trips For Kids Re-Cyclery several years ago. It was in poor shape. A benevolent Prince in exile, existing in humble anonymity. The current owner, I’ll call him Mark because that’s his name, was at the Re-Cyclery kicking tires. He has a thing for older beauties of the three triangle sort. Mark was on a search for an appropriate mount to squire to The Eroica. The search ended when he spotted it.
The Bike. The Battaglin’s raiments were threadbare. Everything that was hung, bolted, taped or clamped to the frame, cradled grit, sagged or was just plain worn out. But to Mark’s eye, the elegant angular lines belied its noble origin. Even though Mark knew nothing about the make, he took it home. A little research later, Mark finds out what he has and treats it to a full, what in the automotive world is called, rotisserie restoration. Stripped naked, powder-coated, completely re-equiped with period correct top of the line new old stock parts. When done, one could envision riding it to a stage win in 1987. One Eroica later, Mark has moved across the country and needs to find a suitable home for his Battaglin. It is on consignment with 25% of the price going to Trips for Kids.
This bike was made a year or two after Roche’s Triple Crown. When new it was decaled “World Champion ‘87” with the rainbow stripes. Its tubes are Columbus SLX. According to Columbus, SLX is a “Superbutted tube set specially designed for professional cyclists, featuring five spirals for greater rigidity in the joint area or the bottom bracket.” The main tubes meet at a Cinelli manufactured bottom bracket that also looks beefy and more than up to the task of handling pro-level out of the saddle attacks. The bottom bracket is also drilled for internal derailleur cable routing, rather than looping them around the outside, a nice touch that is repeated on the top tube for brake cables.
Of course, nice touches abound on this frame. Thick chromework on the forks, dropouts and driveside chainstay is as protective as it is gorgeous. I ran out of fingers and was unwilling to remove my double knotted Stan Smiths to finish counting the enamel filled pantographs that remind you who made this bike. Let’s just say it keeps up with a Masi (which incidentally is the only other bicycle maker to have built a Triple Crown winning bike). So there’s that. Period correct “as-new” full Dura Ace gruppo; Mavic hubs (a personal favorite I myself use on my Merckx Corsa Extra). The icing on this beauty is white bar tape and WHITE Selle TURBO saddle. I’m sorry I raised my voice, I got a little excited.
“But, how does it ride Jonnie!?” you ask.
To quote Wayne and Garth: “We’re Not Worthy!”
Efficient, lively, stable and yeah, sexy, are words that come to mind. I am pretty bad at hands-free riding. This bike had me practicing my head back, point to the heavens, as I cross the finish line at pace fantasy. But this time it didn’t end in embarrassment (other than this public confession).
Great Instruments are more than the sum of their parts. What makes one violin or piano a masterpiece fit for virtuosi? They are all just wood and string. This bike was built when every bike in the pro pelotons were made of the same materials using the same parts and the same basic processes. Plenty of people made good, very good, even excellent bikes. Officina Battaglin made a great instrument. Battaglin made The Bike.