Your correspondent has always assumed that cyclists like to be able to trace their own, personal bicycle to a particular craftsperson in a specific workshop – who, were one to ride past, would say, “ah, yes – I know that frame”. But perhaps this vision of a craft-industrial Arcadia is just a bit dated?
One who would know is Sena Daccordi, daughter and granddaughter of craftsmen Luigi and Giuseppe, and scion of their framebuilding business that dates to 1937. And, she sees it somewhat differently.
The bespoke bicycle industry – Daccordi makes around 2,000 frames a year, almost exclusively to order, in its workshop at San Miniato Basso, near Pisa – needs customers who want to be unique, she says. But the reality today is that too many customers want to be part of a “tribe”; they want to buy a big brand name and be comfortable.
When people are buying a brand, sales are hard for Daccordi, she adds, because it is not selling a brand – it is selling a product. And, the company has always invested more in the product than in marketing.
So, she says, a company like hers needs “confident” customers: “They order from us to have the pleasure of something special, even if it’s just their name on the frame.”
Reaching those customers and building the company is a “step by step job”, a phrase she uses more than once during our conversation at Bespoked. Daccordi has a few distributors and, fortunately, the internet makes possible direct contact with actual and prospective customers.
Customers, she says, like to come to the factory when they are on holiday in Tuscany – they like to “see and touch”, to connect with the brand and meet her father Luigi, who still builds frames and was on the stand in Bristol.
So however much the bicycle industry may be dominated by big brands, for a company like Daccordi there’s still the call of that timeless desire – of some cyclists – to trace their bike to a craftsperson in a workshop. As Sena Daccordi puts it, “It’s more than a bike. It’s a story of people.”