[CR]Sante Pogliaghi

Example: Production Builders:Peugeot:PX-10LE
From: "C. Andrews" <chasds@mindspring.com>
To: <classicrendezvous@bikelist.org>
Date: Sat, 26 Jun 2004 17:54:25 -0700
Subject: [CR]Sante Pogliaghi

I thought this would be interesting to everyone. I know it was interesting to me--there's information here I did not know, assuming it's accurate, and I think it is, for the most part.

This comes by way of list-member Norman Hellman, who likes Pogliaghis almost as much as I do <g>... This is the text of a brochure printed when Basso was making Pogliaghis, probably early 90s?

Norman, if you can clarify that, I'd appreciate it.

Here you go:


Sante Pogliaghi is a monumental figure in the Italian industry of the racing bicycle. He was born 23 September, 1913, in Milan. His mother was one of those typical Italian mothers who are famous for sacrificing themselves to the family. His father loved to play the piano, read the newspapers, and discuss politics, worked for a time as a bicycle messenger, and he stood firmly in the Italian socialist tradition.

He did not in the least encourage Sante to race bicycles. On the contrary, he tried to prevent it because he thought it would damage Sante's health, or at the very least, keep him from learning how to work. So, Sante did it on the sly, hid his bike at a friend's house, and told his father on Sundays that he was going dancing. However, the very first time that Sante won a race, he returned home with the diploma, trophy, and five silver lira. His father ripped up the diploma, hit him over the head with the trophy, but let him keep the money.

For many years Sante went to school at night, taking first business courses and then training as a mechanical draftsman and designer. He finished his year-and-a-half of military service in 1935, and started working the European 6-day circuit as a mechanic. He married when he was 28. In 1941 he already wore the thick glasses which later became one of his trademarks. During the war, however, they probably saved him for posterity because they disqualified him for active military service. He ended up seeing action anyway, from 1943 to 1945, in the mountains with the socialist partisans who fought against the Germans and the Italian fascists.

With time and after many years, Sante Pogliaghi became Italy's most respected frame builder who was the model for, and, literally in some cases, the teacher of the great names of today. His greatest skill was in evaluating the needs of the racer, he worked many a night through to turn these needs into reality, and more than 35 professionals won world championship titles using his frames [were these all track titles?].

This is in itself something of a world record. When asked about the reasons for his success he emphasizes his passion for the bicycle and for his work.

The encouragement came from his uncle Brambilla who was a colorful character who raced bicycles as an "independent," a category similar to that of today's elite amateurs.

They raced together with the professionals, and Brambilla once won the Giro of Lombardy. He had his own shop where he repaired bicycles along with anything else conceivably mechanical, and he made frames. At the Milan track he also had his "box" where he offered his services to the track racers. Sante grew up in this environment, swept the floor, ran errands, was always underfoot, and so it was only natural that his uncle put him to work as an apprentice in 1926 when he was 13. At first Sante worked without pay, as he was still too young according to the law. Two years later, when he reached the legal age, he was already brazing frames. However, his main activity, his "school" as Sante puts it, was filing. The lugs and bits they had to work with in those days were a lot cruder than the investment cast pieces of today which make beautiful frames almost commonplace. His uncle augmented Sante's experience by sending him out to learn from Legnano and Bianchi, the two most famous frame builders of that time.

At the end of the war, Sante returned to work with his uncle. In 1947 he bought the business and started building frames for other, more famous builders, all the while serving the track racers as a mechanic. He had his first World Champion in 1951 when De Rossi won the 4000 meter pursuit for amateurs, and his first professional World Champion in 1963 when Gaiardoni won the sprint and Faggin the 5000 meter pursuit.

After that, the titles kept on coming. In 1965, Sante Pogliaghi stopped making frames for other manufactuerers, and worked only for himself. Young frame makers from Italy and from all over the world came to him to do apprenticeships. He was "colorblind" regarding both material and people and considered only their quality. He never made many frames, no more than 200 a year [could this possibly be right? Based on the serial numbers this seems low to me. I've always thought the frame numbers were in chronological sequence, but maybe not. Maybe they are and this number is low. I wonder what the deal is there.] and he always did the essential brazing himself. [Interesting!]

Sante Pogliaghi went into semi-retirement in 1983 and sold his business to another manufacturer [Rossin??]... Then in 1989, Sante joined Alcide Basso to raise the name Pogliaghi to its former heights. With the old master's collaboration the Basso company intends to produce Pogliaghi frames one by one, in the classical style while using the most modern manufacturing techniques. Today, in the minds of cycling fans all over the world, the Italian racing frame enjoys an almost mythical advantage over copmetitive products. The magic of the Italian name is the result of the cooperation between a generation of cyclists who dominated the racing of their day and the artisans who provided the vehicle. They delved deep into their cultural heritage and poured all the love of the Italian soul for beauty and function into their work. The most revered person among all these frame builders was and still is, among connoisseurs, Sante Pogliaghi.

[don'tcha just love copy-writers? I'm wondering who it was who ceded the name to Basso, after buying it from Pogliaghi. Maybe Pogliaghi bought his name back. Interesting wheeling-and-dealing there.

This also suggests that Pogliaghis made through 1982 or so are the real deal, after that, who knows? As for the Basso Pogliaghis (a nice example sold recently on ebay), who knows? They certainly aren't the same bikes Sante was making in the 1970s. Whether that matters, and matters *how* exactly, is another discussion I suppose.]

Charles Andrews SoCal

"The Universe is like a safe to which there is a combination. But the combination is locked up in the safe."

-- Peter De Vries