DuVine Gets New Carbon Road Bikes in Italyby Bike tour guru
DuVine Adventures is going Italian in 2012 with a brand new fleet of road bikes on all our Italian bike tours. We are excited that Formigli, a small Florentine bike-manufacturer, has provided us with custom designed road bikes for all of our cycling tours in Italy. These full-carbon beauties weigh a svelte 17.5 lbs (great for climbing the hills of Tuscany and Piedmont) and feature a sweet DuVine paint job. In designing these bikes we've listened to a lot of client feedback to create the most comfortable ride for our guests on our Italian bicycle tours. Here are the results:
Back in 2010, the New York Times ran an article titled "Is Italy too Italian?" detailing the difficulties Italy faces as a country of small traditional manufacturers in an increasingly streamlined global economy. Basically, Italians like making things and they like doing it well. In a world where manufacturing work has largely become the sphere of low-paid workers in developing nations, Italian manufacturers find themselves on a shrinking iceberg. This phenomenon is not unique to Italy (Americans have been hearing about our 'Rust Belt' for decades), but in Italy this shift feels like a direct assault on an essential element of the Italian character.
After five years in Italy I [Tom Coppock, DuVine Italian Tour Manager] have yet to meet an Italian in marketing or finance or any of the other 'new professions' that have characterized post-manufacturing America. Through DuVine I have met countless small winemakers, cobblers, cheese-makers and factory-owners, none of whom I could picture in a boardroom. These are not people who are in business for the money-making game. For these Italians, success negotiating mergers could never compare with the satisfaction derived from producing a great wine or designing the best new espresso machine.
This appreciation for quality products runs deep in Italian society and may be the most unifying sentiment in this otherwise fractious peninsula. Look no farther than the Italian dinner table, where your host will proudly regale you with the provenance of each ingredient: salame from the butcher two villages away, wine from our uncle in the countryside and figs from a neighbor's garden. As an American raised on super-market brand foods, it has been eye-opening to enter into a world in which consumers ask where, how and by whom a product was made before asking about the price. The produce sections of Italian supermarkets prominently display where each fruit and vegetable was grown, and I once watched an Italian woman throw back a perfectly fine-looking bag of oranges upon finding out that they were of Spanish and not Italian origin.
On DuVine bike tours in Italy we make a great point of introducing our guests to this most-Italian obsession with quality. Our favorite Tuscan winemaker, Vittorio Innocenti, produces a Vin Santo so sublime that his town, Montefollonico, is now referred to as the Borgo del Vin Santo (Vin Santo-Ville). But despite all the accolades, he has never tried to capitalize on his renown and continues to sell his Vin Santo at cost. When asked why he doesn't try to profit from his top wine, he shrugs and says that he enjoys carrying on the tradition of Vin Santo production and the quality of the product is its own reward.
I have to admit that I'm a sucker for guys like Vittorio and the philosophy of life that they represent. When we are creating new tours in Italy, I always try to sprinkle as many characters like him as possible into the itinerary, from winemakers, to restaurant owners and local artisans. They are the custodians of culture in Italy, carrying on the traditions of generosity and craftsmanship that have always shone through the sunny peninsula's baser instincts.
So when it came time to buy a new fleet of road bikes for Italy I couldn't help but notice a black-horse quote from a small artisanal frame-maker in Florence. Fabrizio Giacomelli, our ex-pro Giro rider and current DuVine guide, kicked our butts on a Formigli all summer. I know, "It's not about the bike," but the fact that a cyclist of his caliber rides a Formigli is a pretty strong endorsement for the brand. Curious, I gave Formigli a call and Renzo Formigli himself picked up the phone. Renzo comes from a long line of pro cyclists and fell in love with the art of handmade frame building as a kid. He has been crafting custom frames under his own name since 1990. As with any prized product in Italy, bicycles are not a simple commodity. Like Gucci shoes, Italian bicycles are not merely a mode of transportation, but an art form. The artists in the cycling world are the frame builders like Renzo, a student of one of the all-time greats, Cino Cinelli. Not only did Renzo offer us a great deal on his newest carbon frames, but he represents everything that I love about Italy. He was generous with his time, patiently working with us as we customized the paint job and each component while seemingly unconcerned about the profitability of our order. I'm sure the end result will delight DuVine guests for years to come.
Not only that, but as an extra bonus, Renzo has invited us to visit his 'factory' (more like an absent-minded professor's bicycle imaginarium) in Florence. Pretty convenient that our Tuscany tour ends there. DuVine guests will be able to see how steel frames are built, and if you want a custom-built Formigli to show off to your friends back home, Renzo can take all the necessary measurements.... It's like a tailor-made Italian suit, but much more fun.
At the end of the day it's easy to talk about how much you love the little guy, but DuVine is putting its money where its mouth is with our decision to go with Formigli. Are we too Italian? I sure hope so.