Former pro skateboarder turned frame builder Mattia Paganotti comes across as a man who has the work-life balance conundrum sussed.
When we call on a frozen London Monday morning, he is out on a 90km gravel ride, testing his own Legor model in rarely seen snow in the hills outside Barcelona.
“Full gas!” he says of his ride, but I suspect he knows no other way. He’s a “full gas” kind of guy, with a ready laugh and endless enthusiasm for riding bikes – and building them.
The following day, he is back in his workshop in the city, brazing torch in hand, working Columbus steel tubes into rideable works of art, but always with time to talk.
Starting out in the fixed wheel scene at home in Brescia in 2008 – a logical progression for a skater – Paganotti soon became engrossed in the world of frame building, particularly the rapidly disappearing artisans working with steel in Italy at a time when carbon looked like spelling the end of the road for traditional methods and materials.
Now, it seems there is room in the market for everything from American behemoths with multi-million dollar budgets to one-man operations like Legor, which is surely a healthy situation for everyone.
Paganotti refers to “three masters” when talking of inspiration behind his handiwork.
Firstly, Pietro Serena, an old-school master craftsman and fellow Brescian. “I never knew him, because he died five years before I started, but I learnt a lot from the machines and the tools I bought from his widow, and replaced some tubes on Serena frames.”
Paganotti then spent 18 months working with Tiziano Zullo, supplier to the TVM team of the ‘80s and ‘90s, and his eponymous company that still makes fine steel frames today. Signor Zullo officiated at Paganotti’s wedding, which says something of his influence in the life of this new kid on the block.
“Zullo is like a father figure. Super quiet, a lot of humility, very zen – more like Japanese,” he thinks.
Thirdly, the one and only Dario Pegoretti, a renowned maverick in the bike building profession, first featured in the pages of Rouleur way back in issue 5 a decade ago.
“Dario, he’s a like a fucking crazy horse! I love him. I first met him when I went to NAHBS in 2011. I call him when I need advice. He is a master too. He helped me a lot in the last ten years.”
Paganotti upped sticks from his native Brescia and moved Legor to Barcelona four years back. Why?
“Why not?! I’m an ex-skater. I came here first in 2003. It is the best spot in the world for skating. The weather is good, it is easier to work, less tax, less problems with bureaucracy. It is difficult in Italy. The rules are stupid. For a big industry and for an artisan, it is exactly the same. Why?
“I am happy here. I have mountains, the food is good, I do not need a car. There is everything for a happy life. I take the same time for a ride every day – two hours.”
Readers of issue 18.1 of Rouleur will know that Mitchelton-Scott rider (and all-round man of the wilds) Svein Tuft is the proud owner of a Legor gravel bike for his frequent excursions into the mountains.
This handsome road-going Porecca, meanwhile, we found at Christian Meier’s Service Course in Girona. Paganotti is busy supplying five machines for Meier which will soon be available to rent. What better way to try before you buy?
Waiting time for delivery of a Legor is around six months currently. Paganotti could probably get that down to four months if he didn’t insist on riding his bike every day, but we wouldn’t want that.
Like we said earlier, he’s got this thing sussed. Crack on, Mattia.
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