GIANNI MOTTA IN SAN FRANCISCO
Words By Gary J. Boulanger
Photo By Gary J. Boulanger
Over the years, my stable of bikes has always included a “friendship model,” something special pieced together with components poached from my box of infinitely unique parts that are usually obtained by horse trading with others. Typically, the frameset is made with steel tubing, as is the fork, like the early ‘80s Gianni Motta pictured above. Road bikes of this vintage (at least 25 years old) usually have clearance for fatter tires, too, ideal for the mean streets of San Francisco where this bike gets ridden the most.
A couple summers ago, I shared a booth with Sky Yaeger, who now designs bikes for a brand called Shinola, at a swap meet in Marin County. We both brought boxes of cool stuff to sell, but much of it was too unique, priceless, or fell into the “collector’s status” column. We found ourselves among a throng of bargain hunters, so much of our cool stuff never left the table.
Sky’s friend Matt Rolandson not only provided the inspiration for the Rollo brand she designed while working at Bianchi, he also gave me the Gianni Motta. The bike was designed and distributed by the 1966 Giro d’Italia winner of the same name. With an Italian-threaded headset and bottom bracket, it was unique enough for most newbies to overlook at the swap, so when we were packing up for the day we traded: a Lazer Urbanize helmet for the decal-less Motta. I was instantly smitten with the chrome fork and seatstays, and I’ve always had a soft spot for red.
In fact, I gifted a red lugged steel frame to a friend in need years ago in Dayton, Ohio. That bike was also assembled with swapped parts and memories, so I needed to fill the void.
My Motta has all the ideal Mission District essentials: Brooks Imperial leather saddle; Nitto Pearl stem and swept-back bars with faux leather grips; Shimano Dura-Ace 8-speed down tube shifters mounted on Paul Thumbies; SunTour Superbe Pro cranks and XC Pro rear derailleur; Sachs 7-speed freewheel; SunTour Cyclone brake calipers; 32-hole Sachs New Success hubs laced to Mavic Reflex SUP rims; Panaracer RiBMo 700x32c tires; and MKS RMX platform pedals.
I don’t go anywhere without my trusty Zefal HP X4 frame pump or Carradice Nelson Longflap saddle bag. In fact, the only way this mixed-component stew works is by keeping the shifting set to friction mode, something I learned working for Rivendell Bicycle Works in the mid-1990s. All parts are built to last, so I can ride worry-free.
How much does it weigh? It weighs what it needs to weigh, in my opinion. Whether I’m huffing through the Presidio with my son after spending an invigorating afternoon ogling art at the de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park, or chasing Fabio Rattazzi from the 4th & King CalTrain station to his DZR Shoes office near the bustling Financial District, I need something to disappear beneath me while I pay attention to traffic.
It tickles me to say this, but of all the bikes hanging in our workshop, this just might be the one I’d dive into a burning building to rescue.