This week I visited the bike shop and workshop CICLI GERVASIO and had the opportunity to get to know more about Gervasio, a living legend of the bike culture in the Biellese are as well as in Italy. Gervasio is now 83 years old and is still very active, working seven days a week with bikes, if not in the shop organising competitions or taking his team to national and local races.His shop is almost like a temple of the bicycle, with countless bikes all over the place (he has around 500 bikes there). Most of them are vintage models and there are lots of completely wasted ones, which are treated as relics and make a terrific landscape. It fells like we enter the universe of bicycles as we enter into the space.Cicli Gervasio was also a place where I could find the perfect bike trailer for my project! We made a partnership and I will have the trailer until the end of the residency, so watch out for the next actions!Gervasio is a very kind gentleman and was happy to give us a little interview. Read the dialogue bellow:
GERVASIO: I was 12 years old when I started working with bicycles, in a workshop in Chiavazza and I have always worked with bicycles and motorcycles since then. Now I’m focusing more on bicycles than motorcycles My first bike was an 22’, I was young (laughs) and it belonged to my boss. I don’t really remember the model or brand, but it was grey (there weren’t many colors by that time. It was a classical steel frame bike. Then I moved to a 24’ and later on to the 28’ (700).
RAPHAEL: Many things in terms of material and technologies changed throughout the past decades, isn’t it?
GERVASIO: Oh yes, absolutely. There were only steel bicycles, not eve aluminium ones.
RAPHAEL: And when did you start to participate in competitions?
GERVASIO: I was 17 years old when I joined the sports society of Chiavazza, as an amateur cyclist. It was on 1947 or at the end of 1946.
RAPHAEL: Do you think there were more professional or amateur cyclists before or there are more now?
GERVASIO: For sure now the number of people involved in competitions is much bigger than it was before. Before there were bike rides or competitions every 15 days or monthly, now every weekend there are cycling events.
RAPHAEL: Here in Biella there is a busy agenda of events, isn’t it?
GERVAVIO: Yesterday actually there was a competition in Cerrione. There was around 120, 130 competitors, two races. From our team there were 12 in one of the races and 7 on the other.
RAPHAEL: So you also have a team? How many cyclists are in your team?
GERVASIO: Yes, its called Pedale Cossatese – cicli Gervasio. I founded it as an amateur cycling society, in 1970 [the first cycling society]. We are now in around 60 to 70 athletes, both male and female.
RAPHAEL: When did you start your own business? Could you tell us a bit of the history of Cicle Gervasio?
GERVASIO: I started a bike shop/workshop with a partner in Gaglianico, in Piazza, on 1947. Then I had to join the army for two years, as I was single child. Then, in 1949, I started another business in Biella, in Via Eugenio Bona, at the corner with Via Gromo. It was a big space, comprising around 1800 m2. There were a lot of people from France and other places to fix especially motorcycles. I ran the business there for 38 or 39 years. Then, we moved here.
RAPHAEL: What kind of costumers frequent your shop usually? Is there any particular type of costumer that you serve, amateur cyclists, professionals, families…?
GERVASIO: Mostly amateurs, families but also some professionals. The public is quite diverse; with people from all ages, both male and female, many families. A lot of local costumers (mainly from Biella) as well as international costumers, such as Marroquians, Albanesians… even Brazilians (laughs)! Especially people who use the bicycle as a way of transport. So it’s a quite multicultural and international place.
RAPHAEL: The last one. How do you see the evolution of the bicycle from a way of transport to a sportive modality as well as a form of entertainment?
GERVASIO: Well, nowadays there is a great demand for bicycles as a way of transport, as the cost of cars is quite high and the country faces a serious economical crisis.
RAPHAEL: How do you see the evolution of the technology related to bike making? Is it easier to work with old or new models of bikes?
GERVASIO: If you have money you can get a really good product, but because of the cost of bicycles with high-end pieces, the consume of bikes is much higher towards the cheapest and worse ones, which have less technology and poorer materials. I actually sell lots of terrible bicycles (laughs). For example, before I had three boys working with me here, but now the cost is too high to keep even a small team of staff. We are currently facing a difficult economical situation in Italy.
Where are you from again?
RAPHAEL: I am from Brazil, but I’ve been living in London since 2007.
GERVASIO: Ah, there was a girl who came here twice looking for bikes to sell in London; she bought five or six bikes. She is Italian and was looking for famous Italian brands, especially Campagnolo, Campagnolo, Campagnolo! She wanted everything Campagnolo (laughs)!
RAPHAEL: Yes, Italian bicycles are very famous in England and internationally, I suppose. I London I always observe lots of Italian bikes… Cinelli, Pinarelli, Bianchi, Bassin, Campagnolo, Scapin…
GERVASIO: Oh yes, they are very renowned.
RAPHAEL: One thing that I have been noticing during my stay in Biella is the strong presence of foreign bikes, especially Specialized and Cannoldale, especially mountain bikes. It was surprising for me, as I was expecting more Italian brands.
GERVASIO: Oh yes, there is a strong presence of international brands in the Italian bike scene, as these brands are becoming more and more popular. Usually people who have more money buy them and, in fact, they are light and very good. But for me the Italian bike is still the best and most beautiful one! Less Shimano and more Campagnolo!
RAPHAEL: OK, that’s brilliant. Thank you so much!
GERVASIO: You are very welcome!
Special thanks to Enrica (Gervasio’s daughter, who works at the shop) and Elizabetta Rattalino, who helped me a lot with the practicalities to get the trailer as well as with the idiom!