Marinoni: Fire in the Frame is playing at the Cinematheque from April 24 to May 3. I cannot wait to watch this charming little movie! Before you go on reading my post, you have been warned that I have a tiny obsession with this man and his bikes. Just saying...
It all started in 2009 and I was looking for a new road bike. Nothing appealed to me. Ok that was a fat lie. A lot appeal to me. Then I saw this sexy number. The bike spoke to me somehow: the curves, the detail with which it was built, echoing the sentiment of road cyclists. I figured it was built in Italy; with a little research, I found out all Marinonis come from the Montreal suburb of Lachenaie. I fell in love with the story of Marinoni bikes.
Giuseppe Marinoni is 75 years old and has been going out cycling for nearly as long. He grew up in the Bergamo region of northern Italy, learning to pedal in the foothills of the Alps - "climbing real mountains," as he calls them. Marinoni was a teenager and cycling was an escape.
The 1960s rolled in and Marinoni took a brief apprenticeship in Milan with Mario Rossin, who at the time was chief frame-builder of the famed Colnago bikes.
"After a month, Mario told me to go. He told me: 'You can figure the rest out yourself; just use your hands.' ''
He held up his fingers, aged and stained with a lifetime of outdoors and bike grease.
"It's all in these hands."
In July 1965, Marinoni emigrated to Quebec and by 1974 had set up shop in Terrebonne with Québécois frame-builder Marc Bouchard, who remains his business partner to this day. Their strategy was simple enough: take the finest Italian tubing (Columbus), components (Campagnolo) and experience (Marinoni), and hand-build Italian-style bikes for the North American market.
"It was before anyone else over here was doing custom bikes. We never did a single bit of advertising, but still everyone came to us. Word of mouth spreads quickly when you've got something nobody else has."
And word of mouth did spread. That was before Montreal's velodrome had been turned into a zoo and when Canadian cyclists featured prominently on the global racing scene. World champion Gord Singleton, Commonwealth gold medalist Jocelyn Lovell, and, later in the '80s, the great Tour de France stage winner Steve Bauer - Marinoni made bikes for them all.
And Giuseppe Marinoni built and painted my bike, the Polka Dot Princess.
To this day, I am unsure of how it all happened but it happened. I got polka dots painted on my bike. When you purchase a Marinoni bike, you can choose certain colours to customize your bike with, but polka dots are not on the menu. Jokingly I asked the bike owner if I can request polka dots and all he said was "I'll see what I can do for you Mel". I was most certainly not expecting this. When it arrived, apparently Giuseppe phoned the bike shop to make sure that Miss Marinoni has arrived safely.
Yes she has arrived safely and we have been on so many great rides and great stories ever since. This is one bike I will never be able to retire.
Giuseppe Marinoni, it would be an honour to meet you one day... and go for a bike ride together!