Transport technology might be moving ahead at lightning speed, but as a green and enjoyable way of getting from A to B, the old-fashioned bicycle is hard to beat. The two-wheel appeal is certainly not lost on architect Massimo Chiapponi, who launched bijou Parma bike shop Italia Veloce in 2009 with fellow “retro-velo” enthusiasts Christian Grande, a multidisciplinary designer, and advertising executive Max Rabaglia.
“When I was a child, I used to pass by this building almost daily,” recalls Chiapponi, an erstwhile racing cyclist who builds his own award-winning bikes as a hobby. “For decades the shop was an auto electrician’s garage, but, because it was so small, the cars being worked on always had one half sticking out into the street. I loved seeing the activity there, things being repaired and renovated – so when the place became available, it seemed the perfect chance to continue its engineering history.”
Putting his profession into practice, Chiapponi designed a small ground-floor showroom where the own-brand, handmade bikes are displayed alongside a selection of vintage-style kit within a club‑like seating area. The original cast‑iron spiral staircase nestled in one corner, meanwhile, leads to the stylishly untidy workshop of in-house mechanic Davide Cavalli, whose skills as welder, leatherworker, fabricator and designer are behind the creations that are shipped as far afield as Japan, the US and New Zealand.
The Italia Veloce line-up comprises six sleek models. The minimalist Magnifica (€2,900) is at the core of the firm’s back-to-basics approach, with a concealed, back-pedal braking system and unique handlebar design in the form of the shop’s arrow logo, while the Audace (€2,900) is an homage to the classic men’s touring bicycle, with hand-stitched leather handlebar grips, a neatly integrated lighting system and top-quality Campagnolo components. For commuters, the Ruggente street cruiser (€2,800) is designed for the sharp handling that urban gridlock demands.
Many of the frames are assembled by Cavalli from aluminium tubes that can be finished in more than 200 colours, as well as a popular “stabilised rust” look. “Each bike takes between a week and a month to complete, and we deliver every one with a ‘libretto’ stating its frame number, build number and build date,” explains Chiapponi. “One of the things that makes our bikes popular is that they are constructed from a series of unique components, some of which can be bought separately,” he adds, pointing out the aforementioned arrow-shaped handlebars (€220) and the racing toe-clips (€180) that Cavalli forges from iron. Also available are the unusual in-house wooden mudguards (€220) and pedals (€150 each) that feature on some of the bikes, and classic British Brooks saddles, slightly modified by Cavalli.
Accessories too have a retro vibe, from the capacious and practical leather saddlebags to Italia Veloce’s own line of woollen jerseys (€90) and riding gloves (€50). This is a shop where one positively wants to be taken for a ride.