One of the most experienced custom bike makers in working with titanium, the Passoni name is synonymously associated with a passion and uncompromised attention to detail for high-end bicycles. I had the honour to speak to Matteo Cassina at Bikes n Bites, the Chairman and co-owner of Passoni as he shared his love affair for bicycles, riding his bicycle wherever he goes and meeting customers and friends all around the world to share this infectious passion he has for cycling and what his company does.
Q: Is this your first visit to Singapore?
Matteo: My first visit to Singapore was about 20years ago and I was professional boat rower then. I remembered how hot the weather was then!
Q: How did your love for cycling come about, and how did you become the co-owner of Passoni?
Matteo: I owned my first Cinelli when I was 13 and often rode in the Alps. When I was older I also got a Colnago. When I was 22, I was doing altitude training with the Italian National Cycling Team and I saw this older man riding up the hills: he turned out to be my uncle who was riding on a Passoni bike! I told my father I wanted one but he said I could only get one in future when I could afford it.
It was my dream to make bicycles since young but I didn’t have the opportunity to get do it until I got the chance to meet Silvia Passoni, the wife of Luca Passoni, the then owner of Passoni (Luca passed away a few years back, sadly) and ideas for a partnership with Passoni began. So in September 2011 I made an investment with the company and a few months after that, I left my previous job as an international hedge fund manager and decided to focus on running Passoni full-time. This move gave me the opportunity to travel overseas extensively and visit Passoni dealers in many countries outside of Europe: Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, New Zealand, Canada…
Passoni is a company which is really centred on the product, that is, the bike. It’s interesting that a significant share of our clients are outside Italy- there was no intentional marketing plan and the Passoni brand travelled around the world via word of mouth from customers.
Q: Tell us more about Passoni and their experience with titanium and custom-frame building.
Matteo: Luciano Passoni (Luca’s father) was a very successful businessman with a huge passion for bicycles. In 1989, Luciano went to buy a bike from Trecia (arguably the first manufacturer in the world to build high-end road race titanium frames in the 1980s). He fell in love with the bike and decided to buy Trecia and transform it to Passoni. Although Luciano never actually worked full-time for the company, his son, Luca, had more than 20years experience of making frames and perfecting the art of working with titanium as a frame material.
At Passoni, it’s about passion and details. For example, although an aluminium bottom bracket shell may cost a fraction of titanium ones, we still insist on using the latter. These are small details but it sets us apart from other companies and prolongs the longevity of a Passoni bicycle. In addition, we only do custom frame-building and there’s no place for mass produced products/bicycles.
Q: I’m sure many of our readers will be curious about the differences between custom and mass-produced bikes. Why should cyclists go for custom bikes by Passoni?
Matteo: Well, if you are a cyclist who puts in 15,000km a year on the bike, obviously the level of enthusiasm is very high and there’s a kind of snowball effect: on group rides, very enthusiastic riders who start asking, “What is that you are riding? A Passoni?”
Customers are the best ambassadors. So at Passoni we get 2 main types of customers:
a) Wealthy but very passionate
b) Not so rich but very passionate
Many of our customers are passionate and mature cyclists. I cite an example: a watch versus a bike. With a watch you just wear it on or put it on display, that’s about it. But with a bike, it’s totally different- you get to experience different emotions as you go up a climb, sprint and so on!
Everyone who ‘graduates’ to a Passoni never goes back.
Luxury needs to be defined, it has to be special. Yet at the same time, it must be very subtle and not ‘showy’.
The challenge for us now is the China market. We do not want a case whereby rich Chinese just buy our bikes without real passion for cycling and just buying it to show off or display at home. Our bikes are not like Chanel bags or watches…
Q: I understand that you always bring your bike along when you travel. That is great! Tell us more about your experiences and adventures riding around the world.
Matteo: Yes, I always travel by bicycle. You know the world is so small and there’s a ‘2 degrees of separation’ between the people you know. On a bike it’s always easy to reach out to other fellow cyclists.
I remember when I was in Beijing, it was a Friday and I wanted to go for a bike ride. So I found out about this local cycling group on the Internet and I told them I will be joining them for a ride. I joined them and before I knew it I was invited as a guest to the Tour of Beijing (a UCI road stage race) as it was happening at the same time when I was there.
The cycling community is very friendly and it’s just different to see the world on a bike. It’s interesting to have meetings on bicycles as you somehow bond with the other riders in an amazing way. Even within the bicycle industry, competitors are very friendly and cordial, unlike the finance industry which I previously worked in.
Thank you Mr Matteo Cassina for taking time to speak to us and we would also like to thank Bikes n Bites for arranging this interview!