SC Passoni Interview


SC: Hi, Matteo! Thanks so much for joining us today to talk all things Passoni. It would be great to start with a little about yourself and your role.

MV: My name is Matteo Visentini, and currently I’m the Product Manager of Passoni. I started working here five years ago, before that I was a graduate architect, working in an architecture firm in Milan. After a year there I switched careers and changed my life completely to work in the cycling industry, following my real passion. Of course, I was born and raised around bicycles because my Dad was a former rider. He actually never let me race, even if I really wanted to, so I spent my time studying the bikes, learning as much as I could about them. After moving to Milan, I met many people in the industry: frame builders, brand managers, bike mechanics — I realise now, all of my friends are also in the cycling industry!

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SC: Could you tell us a little about the origin of Passoni, and why it was founded?

MV: Passoni was founded in 1989 by Luciano Passoni. They was the first company in Europe to produce titanium bicycles. Or I should say, they were the first real company, as there were a few artisans who were making titanium frames. He actually met one of these artisans in the Ghisallo Church, the shrine dedicated to cyclists above Lake Como. He saw the crazy titanium bike the builder was riding at the time, and asked for him to make one for him. The builder refused, and instead said that he would teach him how to make one. This is who Luciano learnt from, and they founded Passoni in 1989. The first frame was introduced in 1990.

Even though titanium frames had been coming onto the market in the United States for the last few years, it was still difficult to find materials and tubes, making the job extremely difficult. Luciano chose titanium at the time not because he was really in love with titanium, but because at the time, it was the best material to use to make bicycles. It’s an important part of our story; Passoni wasn’t founded to create titanium bicycles, but to make the best bicycles. That’s why, in 2001, we were one of the first companies in Italy to create a carbon frame, because then carbon was the best. Later, we found out that titanium and carbon could work well when woven together — the pinnacle of this lineup was the 20th Anniversary model, the XXTi. We’re working hard on our next anniversary bike, following this philosophy.

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SC: Passoni is well known for its use of titanium. How do you see that material now, do you still think that it’s the best?

MV: For me, the perfect material doesn’t exist. There are perfect materials for each rider, and you have to choose the material for you. Titanium is a very nice material as it’s quite light, lighter than steel, it doesn’t rust, and it’ll last forever if the frame is made well. Yes, it’s heavier than carbon and less responsive, but I think at the moment, almost 90% of top-end bicycles are too stiff and too performance focused for the regular rider. We often have clients who come here after 2 or 3 years of a Pinarello Dogma or S-Works bikes complaining of back pain and neck pain — it’s because the bike is too stiff, to performance driven. At Passoni, we follow your geometries and the behaviour that you want for the bike, to make the best bike for you.

Titanium is very nice — even though I’m a huge steel-frame fan, I really like using titanium bicycles. It’s more responsive than steel, but of course costs almost double. It’s not the best material — but it is the best material for most people, more so than carbon for me.

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SC: Could you tell us a little about the manufacturing process behind these titanium frames?

MV: As I mentioned before, Passoni was founded to create the best bikes in the world. Even today, we have the best materials in the world, titanium from Reynolds in the UK and Deda in Italy, according to our specifications. For certain parts, like head tubes, bottom brackets, dropouts or brake calliper adapters, we really like to make these inside the factory, starting from a solid piece of titanium. For us, this is where the real soul of titanium lies; when you marry these pieces with a titanium frame, road vibration is greatly reduced, the bike is much stiffer, but not much heavier. For me, it’s the perfect match.

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Everything is made inside the factory; we don’t have any hidden frame builders somewhere in Italy or Asia, and all the processes are very strict. We follow the rules extremely closely. All of our artisans are highly trained, especially our welders. We have two welders, one with over 32 years of experience, and the second still learning, with three years of experience.

SC: It must be highly important for Passoni to keep training people, to keep the skills and tradition alive.

MV: Exactly. It’s difficult at the moment, less and less people are involved in making metal bikes. But if you look in the right places, you will still find the right people. In Passoni, we take a huge amount of time to teach the apprentices the right skills before they can work on a bike.

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SC: We loved your collaboration with Blossom Ski and Atk Bindings; are there any fields or brands you’d love to apply Passoni’s philosophy and craftsmanship to?

MV: Passoni do a lot of collaborations between brands that are like Passoni. We love to spend time with people like us; high craftsmanship, great artisans, or companies founded like ours, to create the best products on the market. We love to use THM components from Germany, Carbon-Ti components from Italy, 100km from here in my home town, and even when we develop new things, like our skis, we didn’t use the first company we found that creates skis; we found the best company in the Alps, still creating skis by hand. We only logos on brands like this.

SC: Could you tell us a little about the process behind building a custom frame for a customer?

MV: We work in two different ways. The first is working directly with our customers. They can come here, have fitting, choose components, see the production. Sometimes we let the customer choose the serial number of the bike, so if a customer has a lucky number they can put that into the bike. All of the steps can happen within the factory.

Of course, not all of our customers can come to Italy to have this experience. That’s why we work with dealers, trying to find the best shops in the world that can provide the same experience that a customer will have here. We never deal with super big shops, only with smaller, more boutique shops, with owners that are really involved with the brand, and understand who we are and what we are trying to do. It’s also very important that the dealers, like Signature, can provide a very high level of fitting. They need to know everything about geometry, and be able to provide us with a perfect bike fitting report.

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SC: At Signature, we’re used to making unique bikes, and fulfilling our customer’s specific requests. Is there a client request you've received at Passoni that stands out for you?

MV: Ah yes, there is a lot of them! The first part is decide the bike model, based on which kind of riding they want to use the bicycle for. All of our models were made for specific uses; the Titanio Classica for endurance riding, and the Titanio Disco for performance. But of course, through playing with geometry, with size and components, you could create a super stiff Titanio Classica, or a super comfortable Titanio Disco.

The personalisation of our bikes is almost infinite — you can personalise everything. Some clients though are more picky, as they want a bike that no one else has. There was a really lovely project that was based on the John Player Special Formula 1 livery, an XDI that was made for a client that was a huge fan of 80s Formula 1, with a beautiful black and gold paint scheme.

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SC: Looking into the future of Passoni, are there any things you’re especially excited about?

MV: When we’re looking forward, we always try our best to respect the word of Luciano, to make the best titanium and carbon bikes in the world. Every year, we try our best to improve a little bit with every model, and every 3 or 4 years release a totally new model. At the moment, we are developing a new frame, half carbon and half titanium. It’ll be super aero, super light. We’re really excited about that.

SC: We look forward to it! Thank you very much for your time Matteo, we really appreciate it.

Follow Passoni’s social channels to stay up to date with their new releases, and check out some of our best Passoni Bike of the Week builds, like Phil’s Titanic Disco or Larry’s Passoni XXTi.

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Fit for the Worlds — Ric Wolf at Signature