In the backyard of a building in Turin, Zino is the last framebuilder in town.
His workshop delivers beautifully finished steel bikes, made con amore.
How long have you been building bikes? Is it a full-time job?
Maybe seven years… The first four years I was designing t-shirts and trying to build bikes. Now I am building frames during the week and working at the pizzeria on weekends.
What kind of bikes do you make?
I make all sorts of bikes: cargobikes, track bikes, mini-cargos, gravel, MTB… I just don’t make road bikes, I’m not that much of a roadie.
Do you offer pre-defined bikes?
I make lots of different bikes, I don’t have a model. A project is to do one or two modelli, do a line. Gravel bike, MTB, and I want to get back to building track bikes.
Track bike was my first love and it’s good for city riding. It’s also a good entry point into cycling.
You also build your own forks. Is it important for you to do everything homemade?
I do everything by hand. My bikes aren’t this light because… Una bella donna è anche bella con cualche kilo in più. A fine woman is also beautiful with a few kilos extra. No need to go chasing for grams.
There is no need to have an ultralight product, only a racing bike needs that.
I want to make bikes for the ordinary folk, well made, at a right price.
Still it is important to keep in mind who you make bikes for, not just follow a trend. Here in Italy, we don’t have the same roads as in the U.S., nor the same tracks. One has to understand that.
What got you into building bikes?
I used to ride track bikes. I once saw a video online and went “oh, that guy made a bike in his garden!”
So I tried to make a bike in my oficina. A metalsmith friend of mine helped me with my first frame.
Well it’s not too perfectly aligned, you gotta start somewhere!
So I made myself a jig, called many people for help, Mattia (Legor Cicli) explained to me how to do it. I went to Brescia to watch him work.
It is difficult because there isn’t many people to learn from in Turin. So had to experiment all day!
It’s very nice of a famous framebuilder like Legor to take time to explain to an absolute beginner!
Definitely! It never was a problem for him to explain, as he loves teaching. He shows you how it’s done and then it’s on you to work, work, work when back home. There is no secret.
The old framebuilders had this fault: they didn’t want to show you anything. Legor and this new generation are a community, where everything gets shared. It is the beauty of it.
Five, six years ago, no one was making bikes anymore. Legor came and marked a turning point. He deserves a lot. All of us, we followed him and copied him somehow, because he was the first who succeeded and made a living with frame building. His story is very inspiring, he’s been molto bravo.
Are there other framebuilders that inspire you?
I really admire Richard Sachs and many italian builders: Pegoretti, Picchio, De Rosa… In Turin only, there were 5-6 framebuilders: Villata, Beltramo… Too many to name them all.
I have a lot of respect for them because at that time, there was no internet, machines were really expensive. Now work is much easier and cheaper with modern tools, turning machines…
At that time it costed tantissimo, it was much more difficult.
So these guys were geniuses, they were inventors. We now copy what’s being done somehow.
They were novators, explorators of this world.
We need to look up at the past. Build the present, but always keep the past in mind. This great italian knowledge must not die.
Italy -same as France- is the core of cycling, everything was born here.
Is it difficult to make a living as a framebuilder in Turin?
Very difficult, because it’s quite a big expense buying material, paying the rent…
Many people think that when selling a bike, one earns 1000€.
But it’s not 1000€, it’s more 100-150€. Because the paintjob has a cost, the tubes have a cost, the cylinder has a cost, the sticks… It is an enormous cost, and people don’t realize that at first.
Besides fire hazard, campfires are likely to damage wildlife on the long term.
A few ideas to lessen your impact :
-Whenever possible, use an existing fire ring.
-Off-the-ground fire : isolate your fire from the ground, putting a firebowl over a few stones.
-Only burn dry wood that you gathered on the floor, and not too thick, so that it will burn to ash.
-In order to heat up your dinner, why not just use a stove ?
-Eventually, the obvious solution : do not make a fire !
In these times of technical clothes, rare are the events when one needs a fire to survive.
Of course, a nice campfire feels good, it warms up the body and comforts the mind.
It also has the advantage of leaving a peculiar smell on your sleeping bag !
What are your future projects?
Now with the pizza, I had this idea of having a small shop, pizza-bar / bike workshop… Like a bike-café, but more a bike-pizza!
Where I work, we make our sourdough, with the same ingredients as in the old days. It is very similar to bikes. It’s not a fast-food dough, it is something traditional. Just water and flour. And everyday, you have to feed that dough. It is incredibile, so good, maybe the best in Turin! Still for the moment it is a hobby to me.
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You are hard to find on the net, why that?
I don’t show too many pictures, too many things, I don’t want to have people think I know it all. I want to get to my objective piano-piano.
Still I know I should put more efforts into marketing… But hey, many people know me and appreciate my work.
When I go riding, people tell me “Zino, I really like your work!”
It’s beautiful when someone tells you that.
It is very rewarding to see my customers proud of their bikes.
Marco for example, he is on his bike all day long! It’s the best feedback I could hope for.
Find Zino on Instagram