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“I never thought I’d still be here making bikes,” says Tiziano Zullo as he sips coffee at a table inside his bike shop on the outskirts of Verona, Italy. “But it’s my passion—making bikes, studying bikes, you name it. So much has changed over the years, but not my interest.”
Words/images: James Startt
Zullo has been making world-class frames ever since he first got into the business in 1973, when he was only 21 and still racing on a national level. But the bike itself intrigued him as much as his own physical performance.
Today, a visit to his shop is nothing short of a journey through time and the evolution of the modern bike. Here, old pro frames can be found in the hallway, while carbon frames are perched in a corner. And from steel to aluminum to carbon, Zullo has built them all. In the eyes of many, Zullo’s golden years were in the late-1980s into the ’90’s when he supplied the TVM professional team with his handcrafted frames, producing bikes for international stars such as Phil Anderson and Dmitri Konyshev.
That, of course, was an era when bikes were still made to measure, rather than the three-sizes-fits-all mentality found on much of today’s carbon-fiber market. “I’ve built carbon, but today I have returned to steel,” he says. “I wanted to focus on the more personal aspect of frame building. And anyway, if so many people are returning to steel, there is a reason. It is just so much more stable.”
Although pro teams no longer ride Zullo’s frames, the demand for his custom-steel frames is burgeoning. “I do between 80 and 100 frames per year still,” says Zullo as he finishes his coffee. “That’s two or three per week. Any more that would be too much. Everything I do now is custom fit. I like that personal touch.”
Clearly it’s time for Zullo to get back to the task at hand. “Come again soon,” he adds. “Next time we’ll have a barbecue!”
From issue 54. Buy it here.