‘I will always be able to say, “I need help with this.” I tell my dad he will never really be able to retire’
It can’t always be easy working so closely with family. As heir apparent Gianluca tells Cyclist, ‘You have an argument here and you have an argument at home. But when you spend so much time with each other, it’s hard to stay mad for long. Not like when yo
However, there is an easier route. Barco has been selling its own frames for a number of years now, just a few at first, but the orders have grown to around 45 a year. Quite apart from doing this for recognition, this move is an attempt to safeguard the company’s future, as well as that of the family.
‘My dad, my uncle, my mum, they just love the art of construction in steel,’ says Gianluca. ‘Even when demand for steel bike frames dropped off for a period they continued to work in steel, making things like advertising boards, fabricating anything people needed. But we love bicycles the most, not because they are beautiful but because they are beautiful and they are working things. We have moved to start selling Barco-branded frames because if we don’t have contract customers we are in trouble, but if we have strong Barco sales, it isn’t as much of a problem.’
Gianluca’s parents are not far off retirement age, so what’s the company’s plan for the future?
‘I guess that it is me!’ says Gianluca. ‘My parents always told me to go and do what I wanted, and when they were with Scapin I was less attracted to building myself. But now it is Cicli Barco it is different. I am learning the trade. Sometimes we argue, but I always remember they are doing this for me – they could just say, “F*** Cicli Barco, we’re just doing contract work for money until we retire.” But they don’t, because we are all doing this for each other. This means there is pressure on me, but I will always be able to say, “I need help with this,” and they will help. I tell my dad he will never really be able to retire. I will always need something!’
Gianluca translates this last bit into Italian for his father, who rolls his eyes before bursting into a barrel laugh.
As the Barco frame building legacy enters its 72nd year, one gets the impression the family business will be around for a long time to come, and given the quality and dedication to the product, the Barco brand itself can only grow.
‘I think my family would probably make frames even if there were no orders.’ James Spender is features editor at Cyclist, and the most renowned frame builder in his own family