I’ll get to the new Battaglin frames – like this one below – in a mo’, bear with me. Also I should state, I did not receive any payment for this article, I just love – and you can read why below – these bikes.
How did I get into cycling?
You can lay the blame squarely at the foot (and the summit) of La Plagne, the 3,250m high mountain that lies 140km east of Grenoble. Sharing that blame are Stephen Roche, Pedro Delgado, Phil Liggett, Giovanni Battaglin and Channel 4.
La Plagne featured the finish of Stage 20 of the 1987 Tour de France, one of the most dramatic finishes ever to a Grand Tour stage. The two main protagonists serving up the epic theatre that day were Roche and Delgado, commentary was provided by a frantic Phil Liggett, Battaglin’s brand of the same name provided the gorgeous Italian frame that Roche was riding, and I saw it all play out on Channel 4, watching with my Mum in our living room in the North of England.
I’d never seen professional cycling before, never had a road bike and never had any interest in cycling. I turned Channel 4 on by chance and was instantly mesmerised. England’s newest broadcaster only offered 30 minutes of highlights of each stage, but we learned that Roche had attacked earlier on the mammoth stage but had been caught at the start of the climb to La Plagne. Quickly 90 seconds in arrears, it appeared that the Irishman had lost the Tour, with Pedro Delgado (Spain) driving on ahead.
Overcast skies meant that the helicopters could not fly and poor reception on the ground left us with patchy coverage of what was playing out on the mountain. We were left with a few blurry image of the final kilometers, nothing more. Fignon won the stage, then the slight figure of Delgado in Yellow appeared on his way to 4th and the GC win. The race was over, but then…
Well, watch this.
Roche went on to win the time trail the next day and overturned his deficit to Delgado to win the Tour. Exhausted, they put him in an ambulance and administered oxygen.
When asked later if he was feeling OK he replied: “Oui, mais pas de femme toute de suite,” (“Yes, but I am not ready for a woman straight away.”)
Not sure if his wife was about when he said that…
Earlier in the year he’d won the Giro, and then won the World Championships in Austria, becoming only the second man to win the Triple Crown, along with Eddy Merckx.
To top it all off he was riding this beauty:
The Battaglin brand was founded by Giovanni Battaglin in 1981, the same year the Italian won the Giro and the Vuelta a Espana.
I fell in love with this bike just about as much as I did with the Tour and pro cycling in general. I’d never seen anything so beautiful. At that time in the North of England, most people didn’t have a lot of (or any) expendable income, so as a result bikes were pretty much the cheapest we could get that would carry us 100 miles on the weekend without breaking.
I remember an Italian restaurant owner coming out on our Sunday club run one day on a magnificently ornate Colnago with full Campy spec and wheels. I almost crashed several times just drooling over it instead of watching the road. My 15 year old self assumed he must be a millionaire..!
I decided there and then I would have a bike as beautiful. 100% Italian. I saved and scrimped every penny from pocket money and my part time night job at a factory, and when I was 17 I went down to MK Cycles in Bolton to see what they had. To my amazement, there on the wall was a Roche Battaglin frame. In my size. I ordered Campy Chorus and a blue Selle San Marco saddle, white bar tape, shiny pedals with white straps and matching bar tape, and two weeks later I had the bike of my Italian dreams!
(Apart from the old Mavic wheels – I’d run out of money by then).
I loved that bike. Then when I quit cycling (let’s call it a ‘hiatus’, one that lasted 18 years), I sold it to my friend’s brother. What I was thinking, I have no idea…
Battaglin though kept at it, and are now still producing a range of steel framesets, some of which are special limited editions that can be fully customised in terms of geometry and colour, and running at about an average of 2.600 Euro per set, which seems to be a pretty darn good deal.
First up here is the Marosticana, launched last year.
The frames feature the classic Columbus SLX tubes that were (well, still are for many people) the pinnacle for steel bikes. SLX tubing went out of production in the 90s but Battaglin had a quick word in the ear of Columbus and they agreed to start making them again.
Battaglin also decided to re-visit the bike I fell in love with in 1987.
They called it ‘1987’ which is cool as chips and produced just 187 of them worldwide. Full custom, full SLX tubing again.
This year they offered up a bike that celebrates the 40th anniversary of Battaglin’s Giro and Vuelta wins as well as the founding of the company.
Disappointingly called the Power + Evo, where it doesn’t disappoint is looks.
Featuring SLX yet again, the steel frame is a world first in that it offers fully integrated cable routing.
However, the frameset does cost about 4000 Euro. But, on the flip side, it comes with a gold plate and there are three diamonds stuck in it, so, that’s a bonus! Not sure if they take diamonds in return for Coke and a Twix on a long ride at the 7-11s here in Taiwan tho…
Again, it comes in a range of colors, and from reading the website the process to be sure that the custom build is perfect is exhaustive. Giovanni himself is said to oversee the build and of the 70 they will produce, 35 are available to existing Battaglin customers and 35 to other folks.
Like all the Battaglin frames the bikes have a Cromovelato finish that is a multi-layering process that leaves you with the beautiful translucent finish.
Too expensive me is this most recent offering, but a ‘1987’ just might find its way onto my Christmas wish list…