Dario and Paul struck cycling gold when they found 32 unridden or re-conditioned Columbus SLX frames while exploring bike shops in Treviso, Italy. What do you do when faced with such a bounty? Well, Dario and Paul started My Wild Love to re-paint these "nude godesses" and find new owners for them. It's quite a story.
Paul was good enough to answer some questions for me about the amazing project.
WHO IS MY WILD LOVE?
My Wild Love is two people: Dario and Paul (me). Dario is Italian, by way of South Africa. I'm Dutch, by way of Australia. Really, we're just two simple boys from the South trying to make good in Europe. We're both cyclists from way back. I bring a mechanical background, having volunteered a lot in cycle co-ops in Australia and the Netherlands. Dario brings a feel for Italian flair, with outspoken design coursing through his steely, art-director veins. We both love road cycling and touring, preferably on vintage steel. We've always done our own thing as far as cycling concerned and we're more about grooving on the ride than joining the club. Unless it's our club, then we're 100% signed up, and at least 80% present on at least 60% of all rides.
HOW DID YOU FIND THE FRAMES?
Dario was living in Treviso at the time. I would often fly down to see him there and we'd cruise around visiting frame builders and bike shops. Half the time we'd find empty buildings where bikes were once built, other times we'd find awesome old bike people that loved to chew the fat. Treviso used to be a real steel-bike capital, with loads of hand built bikes coming out of the region. The most well known today is Pinarello. But there used to be heaps more. The cycling culture is still rich, though. Your average whip on the streets of Treviso is old-school steel with chrome accents and a single speed. They're ridden by everyone from kids to grandmas.
Back in the Summer of 2015, we paid a visit to a local bike shop named San Marco. They used to have their own team in the 80s and were at the time considered to be one of the local big boys. Well, times change and things are now a little slower at San Marco. We headed out the back and couldn't believe what we saw hanging from the roof - 32 sexy-as-hell steel road frames, unpainted and chromed; nude goddesses calling to us from the rafters. They looked too good to be true. The shop owner was proud to tell us that they were old SLX frames that were either new or reconditioned. They also had SLX tubing lying around, but that's another story.
We slept on it for a few nights, but couldn't get them out of our heads. So we went back and loaded up the back of Dario's Seat Punto with every last one of them.
WHAT CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT THE BUILDER AND MATERIALS?
The exact details are hard to come by. They were built by San Marco in the mid 80s for their team. The exact builder we haven't been able to trace, but each frame is stamped 'AR’.
The tubing is also a little bit of a mystery. San Marco swears that each frame is Columbus SLX. But not every one has the trademark swirl in the seat tube, which we always thought was the defining feature of SLX. We've asked a couple of frame builders that now work with us - and who were building with SLX in the 80s - and they were of the opinion that SLX didn't have the twisted butting through its entire life cycle. This was news to us. And certainly isn't on the Internet. So, all we can say for sure is that some frames are definitely SLX and others are SL or SLX.
Another unique trait of these frames is internal reinforcements in the seat tube. They have little internal bridges that give lateral stiffness, with two in each frame. It's a hidden detail that you only feel in the ride. Most of the lugs and BBs are Cinelli and the drops are generally Campagnolo. All of them are chromed front and back, some are chromed all the way through.
With steel, rust is always a potential issue, but thankfully these frames were stored really well and kept up away from moisture. The main tubes are clean and rust free, with only a little surface oxidation. Some of the stays and forks have a few trapped particles, but nothing to write home about. Each frame has been checked (and realigned) by a local builder and given the double thumbs up for quality and workmanship.
Interestingly, in the process of building new frames, we’ve tracked down the painter San Marco originally used and the pantographer. Our current painter has the steel masks originally used by San Marco. He inherited them with his spray shop. And our pantographer is the guy that originally pantographed the San Marco frames. Both are the last in the their field in Treviso. And both do amazing work.
HOW DID YOU DECIDE WHAT TO DO WITH THE FRAMES?
Once we'd discovered the frames, we knew we had to finish them. We could take the traditional route and paint them up as San Marco of Treviso frames. But, that seemed too easy and lacked creativity. We wanted to make something that was shocking and extravagant, but still timeless and jaw-droppingly beautiful. We wanted to make people feel something strong when they looked at the frames, be that love or hate. We figured if we couldn’t get some real hate, we would’t get any real love.
The Grado frames pictured here are one of the first three colorways we’ve released. Combining metallic black with shiny green and pop yellow, they’re part classic, part in-your-face attitude. The yellow accents are applied with brush and masks to create extra texture and give a bit of a punk, rough-and-tumble feel. Then it’s all wrapped up in clear coat for a glossy, long-lasting finish. Our other frames are entirely sprayed, so these are the only ones that use this technique.
HOW ARE YOU DECIDING TO PAINT THEM? IS IT HARD TO DECIDE HOW TO PAINT SUCH VALUABLE FRAMES?
Because the frames are in such a limited quantity, we decided to paint them in small batches of five. To our minds, this pays tribute to their limited edition status. Deciding how to paint them has been a lot of fun. We’ve honoured the time-old tradition of unseemly amounts of chrome on the front and rear forks. But then we’ve filled the bodies of the frames with bold stripes and loud colours. They’re the kind of designs that we want to ride ourselves.
HOW CAN PEOPLE GET THEIR HOT HANDS ON THE FRAMES?
Swing by www.mywild.love and check out the listing of frames. If you see something in your size, shoot us a mail to reserve it. We’ll ship anywhere, even Australia.
WHAT IS IN THE FUTURE OF MY WILD LOVE?
We can’t imagine stopping anytime soon, so we’ve started building new frames. In the coming few months, you'll be able to order new, lugged frames off the peg, built with classic Columbus tubing. We’re also busy with our first custom orders in modern, oversized Columbus tubing. We’re finishing up a tig-welded adventure frame with couplers for a client in the UK. And are now building a fillet-brazed CX frame for a racer in Amsterdam. Both use ENVE forks and are built to take loads of rubber. True to our first frames, they’ll stand out from the crowd with unapologetic graphics and a rock-and-roll feel.
For all our new work, we’re staying true to our Trevisian roots, and are working exclusively with local artisans. We’re working with three builders, all of which have have more than 30 years of experience each. And are from the generation of builders that started in the 80s. Their work is truly amazing. And they’re super-nice, humble guys to work with. Our paint is also sprayed locally by a very talented husband and wife duo. They’ve been at it for almost as long as our builders, and when they’re not spraying, they’re racing crits or winning prizes at bike shows. Likewise our pantographer has also been working in his field for thirty or more years. And to our sheer delight, is still etching with original pantograph machines from the 50s. I think he’s etched logos into lugs for just about every Italian bike brand that has ever existed.
We’re incredibly lucky to have tracked them all down and to have them working with us. They’re the last of Treviso’s bicycle artisans and they’re an endangered species. We hope that through My Wild Love, we can help to keep their art alive in Treviso, long into the future.
Check out the full gallery of pictures
What do you think of the My Wild Love Project? Would you snap up one of these frames? Let us know in the comments below.