One of my little regrets this year was not taking up Legend UK’s invite to join them in Bergamo for the first ever ‘Legend Day’. Although I didn’t make it, a few Brits did, including Karl Denton of OCC Legend fame. Karl’s kindly agreed to let me publish his write up of the weekend along with some of his many photos:
OK, let’s be honest about a few things. Firstly, I may be the proud owner of a Legend but there is no way I could afford to buy one of these beauties. I didn’t acquire it through any hard work or talent of my own either. No, it came to me like most things in my life; through the hard work and talent of others.
Secondly, I’m really not into bike “tech” stuff that much. Now don’t get me wrong, I love riding bikes and I love and appreciate beautiful bikes. But if you want to talk to me about “carbon layup”, “torsional stiffness”, etc., the shutters will start to come down and excuses will be made as to why I have to cut short this riveting conversation and get the hell out of here.
Thirdly, taking the first two points into consideration, I’m one hell of a lucky guy to be stepping off a plane in Bergamo, Northern Italy, the home of Legend bikes to attend their first “Legend” day.
It’s a weekend for current, future and prospective Legend owners and dealers to get together and meet the Legend family, see the factory, do some riding, and eat and drink in many fine local eateries. Yes, I’m one hell of a lucky guy. I also feel somewhat of an interloper, like I should not really be here. But as Graeme and I (who really should be here as he is soon to be a Legend owner), my fellow traveling companion from the North East of England are greeted at the airport by the lovely Ali, who works for Legend and Legend UK and made my trip possible (thank you once again) and by the beaming Mr Legend himself, Marco Bertoletti, all my thoughts of “I should not really be here” are dismissed by the warm welcome Graeme and I receive from both Ali and Marco.
After the translated introductions and warm handshakes, our boxed bikes are loaded into the Legend van and we make the short trip to our hotel. I was expecting some Premier Inn- type basic hotel, and I would have been more than happy with such an establishment, but, oh no, we were greeted by a beautiful converted farm and manor house affair. The old sprawling buildings were adorned with bright vibrant colours and decor. Yes, I’m one lucky guy. We also learn later on during our visit that before the recent hotel conversion, Marco used to play as a child amongst the ruined buildings – oh, the romance of it all.
The bikes are quickly unpacked and put together in the grounds of the hotel, and, whilst doing so, we get a taste for just how passionate the locals are about bikes and cycling. Hotel workers and visiting local dignitaries were quick to surround us, amused by the fact that we were from the UK but had Italian bikes dripping with Italian components. Then it was off to one of the local eateries for polenta and vino. I slept soundly that night.
Ah, breakfast – after lunch and dinner it’s my favourite meal of the day. And the hotel did not disappoint with its offerings. Whilst we filled our boots, Graeme and I talked about the day’s itinerary. Graeme comes from an engineering background and I could tell he was positively salivating at the prospect of looking around the Legend factory with the various lathes, bits of carbon and titanium tubing contained within. Also, the fact that his own titanium “Queen” frame was in the process of being built during our visit was making him even more excited – if that could be possible!
I’m not from an engineering background, and, as I have mentioned before, I’m not too interested in lathes or bits of tubes. I was looking forward to seeing and perhaps riding some shiny new bikes with Marco and hopefully fitting in some time for local coffee and cake. So, after another short car ride, we were soon pulling up outside an inconspicuous looking industrial unit situated on an equally inconspicuous looking industrial estate. The only clues to what goes on inside were the Legend van parked in the yard and the Legend logo that adorned the front door.
We entered the building after first meeting “Argo”, the lovely Legend guard dog (he is named after the material that is used to weld the “Ti” frames together. It costs 800 euros a bottle and does 1-1/2 frames). His main job over the weekend was not stopping people breaking in, but stopping me leaving with various bits of lovely Legend products stuffed up my jumper. This he proved more than capable of, no matter how much stroking and pampering I gave him. Once Argo had been well and truly stroked, we entered the building to be introduced to the Legend workers and family who were waiting for us inside. They were just as friendly as Argo, but not quite as strokeable.
I don’t know how long I was in that “inconspicuous looking industrial unit” for – the hours seemed to pass like minutes – but one thing I do know now is that lathes and bits of carbon tubing can be really interesting, though only when you talk to the people who work with them to produce works of cycling art. I began to realise just how many “man hours” and how much passion goes into producing these frames. It takes a lot of time and skill, for example, to hand-finish joints on carbon tubes before they can be wrapped in carbon layers (no lugs or moulds here, allowing fully-custom frames), before finally entering the “autoclave”!
Ah, the “autoclave”… The science behind this machine was explained to me in the most “laymen” of terms, several times by several people. This time the shutters stayed up, but I still would not be able to explain to you what it does. All I know is that it looks like a “stargate” or some type of satellite, and that the “non-lugged”, “non-monocoque” frames enter the “stargate” and come out as stiff as a lugged or monocoque frame. Right, that’s as technical as I’m going to get…
Graeme on the other hand was like a child in a sweet shop and was getting very technical, and at some stages, just a bit “OCD”. His half-finished frame was getting a good inspection and he seemed more than happy with the answers to his many technical questions that Marco and his more-than-able assistants Giovanni and Daniele supplied him with. This, as far as I could gather, was the same for all the other guests. All their enthusiastic questions were being met by equally enthusiastic detailed answers from the Legend staff – they even took time to answer my rudimentary questions. Thankfully, everybody was more than happy to pose for the many photos I took – and I did take quite a few, not only of the Legend family, but of the lathes, the autoclave, new frames, bits of frames, bits of “stuff”, the toilets (yes, really), the Saeco coffee machine that looked like either “Huey” or Dewey”, the robots from the cult ‘70s sci-fi film Silent Running, and much, much more.
All the time, Marco looked on like a proud father, with his Legend family around him. After some finger food and an espresso courtesy of “Huey” or “Dewey”, we were all given big white shopping bags full, of great looking “Legend kit” to change into. Then, after some quick photos, we hit the roads.
A line of Legends and one Colnago interloper (but Graeme can be forgiven for that!) heading for the nearby lanes and hills, we enjoyed a nice easy spin enjoying the scenery and conversation along the way, before the inevitable carve up on the way back. This was punctuated by a brief stop off at a local church to enable Graeme to recreate a photo of Marco which hangs in the Legend office, of him riding past the front entrance to this beautiful building. In order to do this, Graeme and Marco had to swop bikes, a situation Graeme was more than happy to stick with for the short ride back to Legend HQ as Marco’s bike is the top-of-the-range titanium Queen, just like the one that was in the process of being built for Graeme. They are also very similar in height, so size was not an issue. And so, for the rest of the ride we were treated to the sight of a beaming Graeme aboard Marco’s Legend and a not-so beaming Marco aboard Graeme’s Colnago. This, upon our arrival back at Legend, prompted a discussion about frame lugs, sloping top tubes and straight forks. I was listening in with great interest from the comfort of the finger food and wine.
It had been a great day, and both Graeme and I were chatting like excited school boys about the day’s “adventures” back at the hotel as we got ready to head out and join Marco and the rest for an evening meal.
We were treated to a spread of local produce and traditional dishes (not one slice of pizza or piece of pasta passed our lips all weekend) in the Legend family’s favourite restaurant. Even though my Italian is limited to cycling phrases and component names, and Ali was doing a great job as translator, I was more than happy to just sit back, listen and watch everyone in full flow. Italian is such a beautiful language, so expressive, it’s almost like singing. This is also enhanced by the use of their hands to further animate what they are saying. I found myself doing the same thing over the weekend and have carried on this practice upon my return to the UK.
At the end of a lovely evening we all parted company. On the way back to our beautiful hotel, myself, Ali and Graeme once again chatted like excited school children reliving a trip to the seaside. And once again, I slept soundly that night.
Today we didn’t have to leave the comfort of our hotel as Legend were coming to us (I still managed to get an “interval session” in before breakfast though!). The downstairs conference area and wine cellar had been given over to Legend to display its “wares”. We entered the space to be greeted by Legends of all shapes and sizes. 10.5s Queens, 9.5s with disc brakes, a fully customized “roadster”; the list goes on – my camera was going to be kept very busy. Before we could get to drool over the shiny machines, I took the opportunity to present Marco and Ali with some presents in thanks to them all for being such great, welcoming hosts.
We were now free to stroll around the exhibits. I say exhibits because, the more time I spent in that room looking at these beautifully crafted bikes, the more I came to appreciate them as not only bicycles but as works of art. I was not attending a presentation of handcrafted bikes, I was attending an art exhibition, and the more I observed the head artist as he did his rounds and held court, the more I came to realise how much he and his creations resemble each other. They share the same characteristics, the same poise and grace (I think some of this comes from Marco and his partner Antoella’s passion for ballroom dancing), always understated, never “flashy”, or loud. Marco and his bikes do not need to announce their presence or arrival, but when they do arrive or enter a room, their charisma soon fills it.
There is more to Legend than just Marco, however. I have likened him to a great artist, but he is also a father – the father of the Legend family, because, like many of the great names in the Italian cycling industry, Legend is still very much a family-run affair. In both his roles of great artist and head of the family, he has a loyal band of fellow artists and family members to help him produce his works of art.
Unfortunately the weekend was coming to a close and, after Ali had made a speech thanking all present for attending and outlining the idea behind the first of many “Legend days”, we were soon on our way back to the airport, but thankfully not before stopping off at the local favourite restaurant again for “Sunday lunch”, Legend style.
Graeme and I boarded the plane, full of not only great food, but also great memories and a whole host of new friends. We were also safe in the knowledge that, in the years to come, unlike most of the people who claim to have been at the first Sex Pistols gigs, we can legitimately claim that we were there at the very first Legend day.