Can anyone order a bike for delivery further away than Rome?
When someone comes to us for a bike they’ve usually got their own ideas and a dream in their mind and massive expectations. It’s my job to meet and exceed those expectations, on every level. This ain’t the high street after all.
Recently a customer called and asked me (very nicely) if I could pull a delivery forward. Normal I guess, but this was before paint had started. Way before build. He wanted the bike in time for a special trip with his friends and family, riding in the Mountains near Rome.
A tall order at this point, but if this really is a dream factory, I had to make it work. I told myself I could do it and told the customer I’d try. No promises at this point.
I am one of the few brands working here and in Northern Italy lucky enough to have complete confidence in everyone I work with, especially my fabricator. We’ve become friends. We trust each other, and the work we’ve done together is beyond compare. I knew this special frame would be perfect because he promised it would be.
Despite this, I never ship them and always do the final QC myself (not least because the coffee is good) I then move them myself. In this case we just didn’t have time so I took the risk. Not comfortable and not a nice thing to watch via a tracking number on my internet browser. The new frame arrived intact, and dart straight. The risk paid off and I’d only lost a day whilst the frame got held at a depot in Northern France.
Frame in hand, we then had to move mountains on the paint process. What should have taken three weeks, we condensed to just a few days and with a bit of running around it got done, with a lot of help from Sam and Luke at WM Paintworks in Surrey. The frame was now done and looking awesome, but with a finish so soft the packaging wrap we used to move it in from the paint booth to my workshop would leave impermanent impressions on the paint.
It was tense. One mistake or scratch and we’d be out of the race. Our bikes are fun - they look lairy sometimes - and we try not to take riding bikes seriously, but our impossible standards are serious and the most important thing about what we do.
With the frame in hand, perfect, I took a deep breath and called the customer. I told him I could meet his deadline but I’d have to drive it to him. He agreed. It was a 2500 mile round trip to his place near Rome.
Nothing ever goes exactly to plan with a build. Even when we make it look like it does. Behind the curtain there’s often a myriad of things holding stuff up or causing stress. This one was going to be no different and to add some complexity to a tight job this one was going to be wearing a V3 Campagnolo Super Record EPS system.
I am a Campy specialist and this is my sort of work, but outside of Vicenza no one knows more about EPS than Graeme Freestone-King. For some extra insurance, I’d called Graeme and he’d agreed to give the installed EPS system a once over and had a small window if I could go to him.
9pm two days before the deadline, 18 hours minimum from my finally destination, I finally left for my brother’s house who lives near Graeme’s place. Three hours from Dover in the wrong direction.
The plan was to finish the build there and then, checked and faultless and leave mid-late morning. I was way behind at this point so I needed the final bits to go well.
To say that wasn’t how it went is an understatement. In the rush to leave I’d left some tooling behind, and made the job way harder than it needed to be.
Eventually, issues solved, I left an endlessly patient Graeme at about half past midnight. (Thank you Graeme, Simon and the guys at Chicken Cycle Kit for helping out last minute).
I was now horrendously delayed and tired. With the thought of a nerve-wracking lunch date in my mind and a rad bike all but ready, I drove straight to Dover, and booked on the next available crossing. 3.45am.
I clunk-clacked the car up the ramps onto the train and set my alarm for 35 minutes and fell straight to sleep. At Reims my body finally had had enough and it just wasn’t safe to continue so I pulled into an Aire for a nap by the roadside. I set my alarm to wake me in one more hour. Thankfully it did and I continued to Montgenevre on the Italian border. Not far from the Frejus tunnel and the perfect staging post as Ben would be there.
When a bike like this goes to a customer, it’s gone. I had to get some shots in the bag on the way, but we had little to no time.
There’s a disused tunnel on a mountain road that we ride through all the time, in Claviere. I found the location just after I moved there and I’ve always wanted to shoot a bike in there. I called Ben from the car and arranged to meet him there. I’d fit the bar tape and tidy the cables whilst he set up some lighting and we’d get some shots of the bike before we lost what was left of the evening light.
We got the shots. Somehow. I took four hours sleep at Ben’s place and I got back in my car. Leaving in the middle of the night knowing I’d only seen Ben and Dee’s kids for half an hour was painful - I used to see them everyday - and I’m missing them growing up now I’m not out here as much as I’d like to be.
But on the road, over the Col Du Montgenevre and across the border, I got back to focusing on the job. The Italians are a nation of racing drivers. They don’t mind a bit more speed, so I took advantage and made up good time on the empty toll roads. There’s a network of extraordinary subterranean traffic tunnels in Genoa. One of them was closed with a diversion that me nor the sat nav could figure out, this cost me another hour as I took a massive detour and lost more time.
Finally I arrived at my destination in a perfect mountain village near Rome. 15 minutes late for my new deadline. I met my customer and his lovely family. I had a brief but wonderful lunch, did a final set up and test, handed over the bike, said goodbye and drove back.
It wasn’t until I was nearly at Calais the following day (having spent the night in the car in a road side services just north of Genoa) that I received an email from my customer. The email said he’d ridden the bike, put 180k on it and loved it. Further, Strava confirmed he’d hit 92.8kmph on his first trip out, such was his confidence in the new bike.
Job done. An impossible feeling to describe.
The pressure is largely self inflicted in this job and is NOT always a dream - the pain and tiredness that comes with trying to do everything not just well, but right, is often very real. The reward however is bloody wonderful. The high I feel in moments like that makes it all completely compelling and totally worthwhile.
Now, let’s get back to your dream… who wants to order a new bike for delivery further away than Rome?