Editor’s note: Stephen Haynes, our art director, got a set of beautiful photos in his email one morning from someone named Paolo Chiossi in Italy. We noticed not only the fine craftsmanship of the frames and the interesting vintage parts gracing them, but also that the brand name was Chiossi, same as the sender. Was this a forgotten builder, or a new venture? How did these beautiful bikes come to be? We had to know, so we typed up a set of questions and had them translated into Italian, then had Mr. Chiossi’s answers translated back to English. Translated by Annamaria Rinaldi, this story first appeared in Bicycle Times issue #14, published in December 2011.
Bicycle Times: These bikes are branded the same as your last name—is it your family’s brand? How old are they?
Paolo Chiossi: My dad, Enzo, who is now 80, started to make bicycles when he was 10. It was in 1942. Italy was going to war and was dealing with one of the most difficult moments. The difficulties were so many that my grandmother (Enzo’s mother) didn’t even have the freedom to get sad in seeing little Enzo leaving … one mouth less to feed. So, my dad went to live and work with Ennio Gilli, who was his first and real master, not only for the job, but also for all of life. He used to live in the Sacca neighborhood, a Modena suburb, and he had the shop in “Ponte Basso.” They used to solder the bicycles’ frames on a brazier and to use cut strings from old brass fenders as soldering material, an incredible thing to believe today. At that time the bicycle was so important that people used to create blind areas in the walls to hide them, to stop Fascists and Germans from taking them. They used to get through the difficulties with talent and fantasy because nobody had the material to work with. In those years the city of Modena was recognized for its creative capacity and mechanical design. Those are the years in which Enzo Ferrari and Maserati created their myths. In those years my dad used to make and repair bicycles, and when he could, he used to compete.
This passion for bicycles and cycling, but in general for the mechanical aspect, was transferred to me. I started to compete too, but because I didn’t have great results, I started to build wheels for my teammates and for the bicycles that my dad made. It was at the end of the ‘70s. I used to spend all my free time in my dad’s workshop. I remember everything of that time, the smell of the tubular glue, the graphics of the components’ boxes, the clients’ preferences. My mom used to call me to do my homework and I didn’t want to go upstairs because I wanted to work on the frames. I remember the regular visits to Masi, Vigorelli, Lino Messori and Ugo De Rosa.
Years later I finished school and I got some interesting offers that I couldn’t refuse because my parents had financial difficulties. First I started to work as designer at an industrial tire factory. I learned a lot, I was introduced to other technologies and to the business world. Then at the end of the ‘80s I worked as designer at Ferrari Engineering. I was working on a famous motorcycle engine that Ferrari was designing for an important Italian company. Then I worked at Peugeot Automobili as technical inspector.
Then in 1995 I got tired of traveling around Italy, so I told my dad that I wanted to get back to the bicycle world. I opened a shop in Modena. I visited the EICMA [International Motorcycle Exhibition] and I met Dario Pegoretti. I started immediately to work with him, although he was still not well known. I found him an extraordinary person, and I used to tell my clients that they couldn’t buy a Pegoretti without knowing Dario. So, every sale was an excuse to visit him and learn always something more. He still had the workshop in Illasi.
I respect and appreciate him a lot, because he taught and gave me a lot without realizing it and asking himself if I was worthy. I can only say that if I didn’t have Enzo, and if I were able to choose among all the people that I have met, I would have chosen Dario as a father, like a real father.
In those years, thanks to Italo Mazzacurati (who used to compete with my dad), I met and worked with the unforgettable Lino Gastaldello and his son Andrea, undoubted creators of the commercial success of the brand Wilier Triestina.
After a few projects and the registration of a patent (introduced in the marketplace by others), I combined the creative and productive parts of the business and in 2006 I started a workshop that I still have, in which I began to realize my ideas.
At the end of 2007, I dusted off the brand “Chiossi” that my dad used to use 70 years before, and like him, I started from the classical bicycles with brake rods. In 2009, I bought the equipment and the masks for the soldering that used to belong to Lino Messori and that he built himself. In 2010, the first custom was born: the #01.
Are there any modern parts on these bikes? It looks like everything is vintage.
In the classic designs, I normally use only modern components, but each time, in agreement with the clients and their preferences, I replace or integrate them with vintage and rare pieces.
On the other hand, I make the “custom” model without taking into consideration the clients’ indications. They represent on each occasion my aesthetic idea of a bicycle, and when I design or make them I exclusively please my tastes. Often the inspiration comes from a single vintage component that I find in my hands: a saddle, hoods or a shifter, like for the #02, and then I make the bicycle around them. For example, the #04 will be made around a handlebar, and the #05 around the team colors of a race car that I used to love as a kid. For the “custom,” the percentage of vintage components is variable.
The line that I have called so far #custom, in the future will get the name #collection.
Do you ride these bikes at all? Or often?
Today, I work by myself and can spend a lot of time with my three children. In this period of my life I don’t do anything else other than work and be with my kids, with a lot of satisfaction. It is indeed what I sincerely want, even if this means, among other things, to not go out regularly on a bicycle. And when it is not for the lack of time, it is because of my back pain.
However, besides those with the white vintage tires, I try all of them out for a few minutes and for a hundred meters, but only to test them.
Today is like that, tomorrow—who knows?
My name is Paolo Chiossi. I’m not a big maker, but I love to make bicycles. My story is inside them, and it is made of simple passion for the mechanics, for the design and for the aesthetics. Nothing more.
Thanks for giving me, through your questions, the possibility to go back with the mind to the years of my formation and to live again those deep moments.
[Ed. note: You can see more of these truly classic bikes at www.chiossicycles.com, with a blog in a mix of Italian and English.]Tweet Print