I LOVE Italian bikes and it seems criminal to me that I don’t currently own one. There are plenty of attractive choices to choose from — lugged carbon Colnagos have always been high on my list — but if I could only choose one bike to be my Italian twin flame, then it would have to be a Pegoretti.
Dario Pegoretti was a framebuilding legend, a man as eccentric as he was masterful. Unfortunately, we lost him too soon in 2018, and now, the only way to get a bike built and painted by Dario himself is to buy used (and we’ve come across a few here at TPC). But amazingly, after Dario’s passing, his Pegoretti “Bottega” has continued building his frames.
Dario’s spirit lives on through these handbuilt beauties. Whenever I see a newer Pegoretti, like a Marcelo or Duende, or in this case, a Love #3, I’m reminded just how much I love Pegoretti bikes. When one finally comes through with the right paint, the right build, and in my size, I’ll snap it up. For now, though, I’ll just snap some pics of this lovely Love #3 that I found and explain why Dario Pegoretti is my favorite Italian builder.
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The Birth of a Framebuilding Legend
"Big Mig" at the Tour on a Pegoretti-built Pinarello.
Dario Pegoretti started framebuilding in 1975 as an apprentice under his father-in-law Luigi Milani in Verona. When his father-in-law passed away in the 90s, Dario continued building frames as a contractor for various other Italian brands. He famously built Miguel Indurain’s Tour de France-winning bikes while working as a contractor for Pinarello.
It wasn’t just Indurain who won big on a rebadged Pegoretti frame. During his time as a contract framebuilder, Dario produced frames for legendary road racers like Roche, Battaglin, Chiappucci, Tafi, Ghirotto, Fondriest, Cipollini, and many more. He was so prolific, there were even rumors that he built the alloy Specialized frame that Tom Boonen rode in the 2007 Tour de France (though it’s unlikely).
Dario in his workshop. Photo: Pegoretti.
This is a key part of Dario’s legend and mystique. He’s potentially designed and built more professional race-winning bikes than any other single framebuilder. But there’s so much secrecy surrounding the specifics of what brands and riders Dario built for, that we will likely never know the true scale of what he did. He wouldn’t talk about it, and certain contracts prevented him from doing so.
While working as a contract builder, Gita, an American distributor of Italian bikes, convinced him to create frames bearing his name. The first Pegoretti arrived in 1990.
Fatti con le Mani (Made by Hand)
Every Pegoretti head badge features an impressionist “P” formed out of negative space next to an etching of Dario’s handprint. Many badges also feature the words “Fatti con le mani,” which means “made by hand.”
Of course, every Pegoretti is built by hand in Italy. While Dario’s frames were light and stiff, featuring excellent tubing and supernaturally precise welds, it was the paint that really made his work stand out. Over the years, Dario developed a signature style that blended influences from art, music, and his life into unique, bohemian-looking paint jobs.
An entire corner of Dario’s workshop was a dedicated paint studio where he hand-painted his frames. Each paint scheme had an idiosyncratic name.
Clockwise: Thelonious, Texas Flood, Catch the Spider, and Jaco. Photos: Pegoretti
Paint schemes like Thelonious pay homage to jazz great Thelonious Monk with piano keys and musical bars that wander across the frame. Jaco features the sheet music for a bass solo played by Jaco Pastorius. Texas Flood is inspired by Stevie Ray Vaughan and a cowboy belt Dario brought home from a trip to Austin, Texas. Catch the Spider, refers to Dario’s battle with cancer (which he called a spider within his body), and features bright radioactive colors representative of the chemotherapy he underwent.
Ciavete frames. Photos: Pegoretti
My personal favorite is Ciavete. In the dialect of the northernmost province of Italy, it basically means, "Do whatever the hell you want." With Ciavete frames, Dario went wild, turning each frame into a work of abstract modern art.
The Love #3 featured here has one of the more popular Pegoretti paint schemes that I’ve seen. It’s called “Saporito,” which is Italian for “tasty” or “savory,” or perhaps more figuratively, “satisfying.” It’s also the name of a brand of “super heavy” Italian pizza sauce that is thick, rich, and delicious. How is the tight line work, which is painstakingly masked and hand painted onto this frame, an embodiment of “saporito?” I don’t really know. But it’s art, man. Just feel it.
Whatever critics might think, there’s no question that nothing looks like a Pegoretti. They’re incredibly unique, and this caught the eye of collectors like the late Robin Williams, who loved Pegoretti bikes so much that he ordered 3 for himself and gave several others away as special gifts to close friends. That’s amazing because, in the early days, there was no guarantee when the frame would be done and some waited 6 years or more to get a Pegoretti frame delivered.
Despite the long lead times, demand for Pegorettis grew until eventually, Dario built his “Bottega,” or shop, to satisfy growing demand. He staffed it with a team of artisans capable of interpreting his vision and it is this bottega that carries on building Pergoretti frames today. The craftsmanship Dario was known for remains, and of course, so does the amazing paint. It’s as if his ghost never stopped building.
The Pegoretti Love #3
Like the paint schemes, Pegoretti frames have idiosyncratic names too. Love #3 refers to the idea that people discover and fall in love 3 times in their life — the first is a love that feels right; the second is a love that hurts; the third is a love that lasts. On the Pegoretti website, the breadcrumb navigation links will say “love me three times” when you click in to view the frame.
While Pegoretti is best known for its handbuilt steel frames, the Love #3 is its one aluminum offering. It was first launched in 2006, and it uses custom Columbus aluminum tubing drawn to Dario’s specifications. The Love #3 was designed to be a workhorse racer, and the walls of the oversized tubes are relatively thick, with a bigger emphasis on stiffness and longevity instead of shaving grams (though the ~1,200-gram frames are still light enough to produce 15-pound builds).
In Dario’s words, the Love #3 is a bike that "50% of the people want, and 70% of them don't need." Just look at the massive oversized seatstays and chainstays. They’re made to resist flex and transfer every watt to the ground. So is the resulting ride harsh? Compared to my carbon Specialized Aethos, sure. But I’d describe it more as razor-sharp than punishing, much like my Allez Sprint. It’s just made to go fast. It serves a clear purpose.
At the front is the Pegoretti FALZ carbon fork, which Dario designed as a replacement for his favorite Reynolds Ouzo fork, which is no longer produced. He had looked into other options, such as ENVE, but all the quality candidates were unavailable in rakes that suited his designs. Like the rear end, the FALZ fork has exceptional lateral stiffness. It also looks reminiscent of a traditional flat-crowned fork. The wide, bulldog-like stance allows for longer fork legs. Combined with the flat crown, this improves compliance and provides clearance for wider 28mm tires.
While you have the option to order a Pegoretti with a common BSA/English threaded bottom bracket, I think to truly embrace the Italian spirit, you need to choose the rarer Italian threaded bottom bracket. Likewise, a bike like this deserves an all-Italian build.
The previous owner did things right with a Campagnolo Record 10-speed gruppo (I have to say “gruppo” instead of “groupset” too, molto Italiano!) and Deda cockpit. But then they put on Cadex wheels (the in-house component brand of Giant). If you ask me, this Love #3 deserves Campy wheels, or at the very least, Fulcrums (budget Campagnolos).
You may also notice that this bike comes with rim brakes. Pegoretti is one of the few still making new rim-brake frames, which is sure to please the #rimbrakesaintdead crowd. In fact, the Love #3 ONLY comes as a rim brake frame with traditional dropouts. It’s a time capsule, remaining essentially unchanged since its release in 2006. The only major update over the years has been a move to a stiffer, larger diameter 43mm headtube.
That is very much Pegoretti’s style — don’t mess with the classics. If you want a disc brake bike, you’ll have to look at newer models like the Responsorium (this is my dream Pegoretti model by the way) or the Round.
Pegorettis aren’t for everyone, but if lightning strikes you, you’ll know. It’s like encountering that one painting in a museum that somehow brings tears to your eyes. To me, Dario was an artist who just happened to be an incredibly skilled framebuilder. Bike frames were his canvas of choice. To me, there has never been a bike builder quite like him.
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