As part our Grazie series we're taking a closer look at the most exciting artists, designers, chefs and creatives inspired by Italian style. Palu Performance Bicycles was founded by Alberto Battaglia in the heart of Italy’s cycling country, Bassano del Grappa, where he grew up competing alongside current professional riders. Now based in London, Palu sells second-hand, vintage and custom-build racing bicycles to cycling fans all over the world. We caught up with Alberto to talk about Italian cycling culture and his favourite places for riding in Italy.
Hi Alberto. Can you tell us about yourself and what you do?
I'm an Italian guy who grew up competing in road cycling races around the Veneto region of north east Italy. I’m also a third generation barber, currently working and living in London with a passion for cycling and travelling.
When did you first get into cycling and what inspired you to start Palu Bicycles?
I was about 10 years old and an old steel racing bike from one of my relatives ended up in my parents’ garage. I started to use it for my commute to school and asked my then classmate Gianluca Brambilla (now pro rider with Quick-Step Floors) to join me with his bike as I knew he was into cycling. After a while his dad asked me if I wanted to be a part of his local racing team as a rider alongside his son, daughter and other juniors.
My first racing season was a steep learning curve, but in the last race of the season I finished 3rd behind Gianluca, who took second spot in the podium. In the years that followed I managed to perform better, competing in regional competitions against riders who are now professional and still remain good friends. So much so that my collection of trophies took up all the space in my parent's living room!
What do you enjoy about bikes and cycling culture?
Riding generates positivity in the mind, through its feeling of freedom and inclusive community. I love meeting people who share a love of the bicycle and classic designs!
The UK has seen a boom in cycling in recent years, are you seeing more people becoming interested in the history and heritage of the sport?
Cycling brings new friends, healthy lifestyle and regular challenges. Some other sports are harder to practise consistently, needing a certain amount of people in the same place at the same time. Cycling is attracting a lot of people who start doing it as a means to get from A to B, who then fall in love with the history and heritage of the sport.
Italian bike design and culture is admired around the world. What do you think makes Italian design and craftsmanship so special?
The racing scene has always had successful Italian riders at international level from the very early days of the sport up until the present day. Consequently a lot of Italian companies started to produce bike parts and the competition between them kept the technology and the design at a consistently high level. Still today, Italy is it the forefront of cycling design with Italian brands still synonymous with great design and innovation. It’s true to say that Italians love spoiling themselves with quality and style.
What are your favourite classic Italian bikes?
Pinarello has seen fame in recent years through use by Team Sky, but I’d say Colnago is my favourite of the classic bikes. The Colnago C40 was made famous by Mapei in the 90s, introducing carbon fibre bike design to the world when Franco Ballerini rode one to victory in the 1995 edition of Paris-Roubaix. The Mapei team edition of the C40 is still highly sort after today.
Tell us about some of your favourite places in Italy.
There are a lot, but one of my favourites is Altopiano di Asiago (Vicenza), which I’ve visited many times for family holidays. This year Giro d’Italia will host an amazing stage finish there on the 27th May.
Who are your favourite Italian framebuilders and heroes of cycling?
Classic frame builders are more than just artesians, they are artists. Every single artist has a different signature style and I enjoy witnessing their different interpretations. I like the fact that Dario Pegoretti stays true to his own methods and techniques. This is someone I consider a real professional.
What do you think sets the Italian approach to life apart from the rest of the world?
For me it’s a mix between the simplicity of the food, the family oriented culture, the amazing countryside and its deep history. I take regular trips back to Italy for business and family time!