It’s an afternoon in late May and finally I manage to take two hours for myself to know the new Giovanni Nencini’s activity, Gastone Nencini’s son. Bikes Retrò is a bike shop and laboratory dedicated to vintage bicycles, located in Calenzano, close to Florence. Nothing is by chance: we both meet to take up the old passions of our families. And today we remember the bond
of friendship and esteem that there was between these two great cyclists, Nencini and Bartali.
Also thanks to my grandfather Gino’s advice, Gastone Nencini became a champion, managing to win a Giro d’Italia and a Tour de France. Nencini, the “Lion of Mugello” began to ride in 1953, when my grandfather was at the end of his career. A sincere friendship was born between them, both men of the countryside and with a strong character. Immediately Gino became a technical and moral support for the young and promising Gastone, who continued his cycling career until 1965.
Now it’s time for Giovanni to retake on hand a suspended heritage: the passion for the bike cultivated when he was young in his father’s work-shop. Giovanni tells me, while I am entering in his bright shop “I worked as a mechanic of bicycles together with my father but after his premature death, when he was 49 years old, I left this job and I became part of a big florentine company, the Richard Ginori. It was some time I felt the necessity to recuperate fully my passion for the bicycle”
Bikes Retrò welcomes clients with a splendid collection of vintage bikes of the years ’20 and ’30.
Twelve iron bikes, essential and elegant, are allined along the wooden wall that dampen many years of history. “My real passion are the bikes of the ‘20s. These bikes that are exposed in the shop, among which Peugeot, Automoto and Alcyon… have been accurately restored and now they are waiting for a new owner!”
On the opposite side of the room we jump on a couple of decades and maybe more, arriving to the Cinelli, Bianchi, Masi, Colnago, Bottecchia, Legnano of the 60’s and 70’s. A corner is dedicated to the florentine builders: Pinzani, Cozzi and Montelatici. My eyes don’t know where to look around, many are the bikes and very cared for. All of a sudden a precise question comes to my mind:
-“And … don’t you have any Bartali bicycles?”
-“Yes I have a Bartali road bicycle of the 50s in restoration!”
Knowing that Cicli Bartali bikes are not many (the brand has always remained in a small circuit) our conversation is about the activities of Bikes Retrò.
I’m in charge of recuperating the unused bicycles and restoring them. I search for components through catalogues, old newspapers and going to fairs specialized in this sector. Once found all the pieces the conservative restoring phase begins, the most faithful possible to the original style of the bicycle
With time the bikes pass from hand to hand. There are those who change the pedals, those who change the handlebar… and the style is lost. It’s necessary to be wise and to do a lot of research in
the market of vintage bike collectors, still flourishing in the whole world.
There are also clients who are less demanding, even if they are experts, who want to acquaint with the historic-cycle. The passion for vintage, mature in Italy, is moving always more abroad. Many are the enthusiastic supporters in Germany and in England. Japan is not less. They are mad about Pinzanis and Cinellis there, and they love to collect the mechanical components like shifters, sprockets and rims.
“Among my clients there are also some women who are interested in vintage bicycles. Women are much more demanding than men, in particular they are very focus to the color matches.”
ride with vintage bicycles is to share tyreness and experiences, to sit down to eat sharing memories of the just finished race. Pedalling becomes joy and pure amusement without the anxiety of the result. Sometimes it’s a challenge, but only with yourself
Now we are here, Nencini and Bartali, with a stubborn DNA,
ready to start again. I see a sparkling in Giovanni’s eyes when we come back to talk about Gastone: a father who has never incited his sons to become professionist ciclysts, like my grandfather Gino. But a great life-long passion, is difficult to keep at a distance. “When I work on a bicycle, I remember the advices that my father gave me while I was putting together one piece or another.”
I drink my coffee, when I glance at the vintage shirts, that are on sale both in the shop and in the online shop of Bikes-Retrò. It’s already time to go, and shaking hands, a positive energy is emaneted in the air. There is not a better thing of when we are busy in a work that is our passion, and that sometimes makes our eyes shine with emotion.
Don’t miss the photo gallery!
Translated from the Italian by Eleonora Spada o.c.d.s.