Nelson Frazier: Dario's gigantic family
Nelson Frazier, of Pegoretti's US distributor Gita Sporting Goods, recalls his decades with Dario.
Everyone who knew Dario always felt he was family. He was definitely one of the largest personalities I ever had the privilege of knowing. I first met him shortly after I started working at Gita, probably in the very late ‘80s or very early ‘90s. After his stint building frames for Pinarello (Indurain era) he found himself not having a lot of work as steel frames were not in demand as they had been previously.
Gita offered to sell his frames if he would produce them and we convinced him to give frame building under his own name a try. He received lots of good press early on – I specifically recall an article touting him as 'The most famous frame builder you’ve never heard of.'
Once I began working with him more, especially at shows like Interbike and NAHBS, I realized what a treasure he was.
He started out (around 1975) as a production frame builder with his father-in-law, Gino Milani. This relationship lasted about 15 years during which time Dario built many thousands of frames. His knowledge of frame geometry and how it affects the ride was quite impressive. I had several fascinating conversations with him about some of the nuances of his frames and why he did things the way he did. Everything he did was extremely well thought out.
The Falz fork crown. Photo: Gita
During the course of his career, he was involved with tubing design with several companies, including Excel, Dedacciai and Columbus. His knowledge of tubing and how it affects the bike led to his development of the Falz fork and the D11 headset which are now being used by numerous other frame builders.
Of course, his artwork became a major trait of his. Dario was proud of his influences, whether in the world of music or art. Many of his frames and/or paint schemes were named for favorite musicians or songs, including Caetano Veloso, Charles Lloyd, Dino Saluzzi, Frank Zappa, Jaco Pastorius and Steve Earle. I learned of several musicians and styles that I would probably never have experienced had I not met Dario. His “Ciavete” paint scheme, which evolved around the time he was diagnosed with cancer, became his best known paint scheme. While this paint scheme evolved quite a bit over the years, every one of them was a masterpiece and frequently showed influences from artists Dario admired, such as Emilio Vedova, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Damien Hirst or designers like Ray and Charles Eames.
Ciavete from 2007. Photo: Gita
Every time I was around Dario he was jovial and full of life. He always seemed to be having a great time! The only time I ever saw him speechless, was after the Portland NAHBS show when we went to dinner with Robin Williams and Robin did a monologue about Dario that had everyone at the table (and probably the whole restaurant) in stitches!
One of the few people who could out-talk Pegoretti. Photo: Gita
This was right as he was coming out of his cancer treatments (which also led to some paint schemes like Catch-the-Spider and ABVD). He had been diagnosed shortly after the San Jose NAHBS where he had not been feeling well. He reacted well to his treatment and, even though he ended up with quite a backlog of orders, he continued building frames throughout his illness. The San Jose show was the first time we exhibited a Ciavete frame. That one was very dark – reminiscent of Emilio Vedova’s work with Basquiat influences. At that point he hadn’t even named the paint scheme. The term “Ciavete” came a few months later as his response to his cancer – Ciavete basically means “Fxxx off!”