for the love of il pirata

the pantani brothers

in the 1999 giro d'italia, at the foot of the final climb of stage 15, marco pantani, wearing the pink jersey, either unships his chain, or suffers a rear wheel puncture. either way, having been distanced by his competitors, he heads off just ahead of the mercatone uno team car intent on regaining his place in the peloton. it is, for want of a better description, a tour de force, for not only does he reach a racing peloton, but overtakes them all with a pedalling style that has often been described as 'dancing', usually out of the saddle. history will record that stage 15 of the 1999 giro d'italia was won by marco pantani, 21 seconds ahead of laurent jalabert, who reputedly said that had he not moved out the way, marco would likely have run him over.

the pantani brothers

the video of this particular demonstration of the bald-headed italian's prowess is one of those which greets visitors to the pantani brothers website, an enterprise based in glasgow's south side, dealing primarily in vintage steel road bikes and original retro-clothing. matthew and mark haffie, not brothers, but who are also known as the pantani brothers, have succeeded in transforming an obsession into a sustainable business, in the process, finding a visible and tangible means of revering their hero, 'il pirata'. that said, though there are a number of scots in glasgow with italian ancestry, they're probably not related to the troubled italian cyclist.

so i asked matthew haffie why they/the business are called the pantani brothers?

the pantani brothers

"The Pantani Brothers name arose by chance. Our friend, who owns a picture framing gallery, coined the name, as we were never out of the place getting our Marco Pantani memorabilia framed. It stuck immediately. Unsurprisingly, Pantani Brothers is our homage to the late Marco Pantani: a troubled, yet inspirational figure."

just as there would be widespread surprise in bowmore main street, were i to be seen wearing a glasgow rangers jersey featuring my name across the shoulders, it would be particularly odd to come across chaps who refer to themselves and the daily grind by reference to an iconic italian cyclist who are not, themselves velocipedinal obsessives. would it, therefore, be reasonable to assume that the pantani brothers are long-time cyclists (bear in mind, marco pantani's best years were last century). and are they both racers?

the pantani brothers

"We have been into cycling for most of our lives, although the passion became a real obsession about 4/5 years ago. Since then it has become a full-time business! Funny you ask, we have never raced... although you will see the Pantani Brothers at races in the next year or two. This is something we have been working towards!"

as a self-confessed luddite, the sight of a web page populated with examples of steel downtubes featuring the names gitane, bianchi, falcon, olmo, merckx and peugeot are food for the soul. i'm not denying that 21st century technology doesn't have its attractions, but i'd be likely to argue very forcibly that carbon can scarcely hold a candle to the aesthetic possessed by a lugged steel frame, replete with polished alloy, and preferably italian, componentry.

the pantani brothers

however, as mentioned above, the pantani brothers is not only a personal moniker, but a business. and as many will know, it's not always a good idea to mix business with pleasure. so, despite racks of vintage clothing and steel bicycles, are the pantanis averse to modernity, such as carbon and aero, or just in love with vintage lugged steel, and all that goes along with that?

"Can we sit on the fence?

"Disc brakes are a no no... but aero and early 2000s carbon is a definite yes! We are very much into the early TVT carbon and bikes which have the aero design such as our Peugeot ZX1. Likewise the Pantani era Bianchis are a favourite. Can't beat the Celeste. If anyone has a Wilier Alpe D'Huez, we are in the market!

"Our showponies are a pair of limited edition Pantani corsairs which were released as a fundraiser for the Pantani foundation. However, steel is our real foundation. Steel bikes ignited the passion for the business. We have a very early 1940s Swiss Tebag which is an incredible ride. It's the same model used by the like of Koblet, Kubler and Bartali back then. We love to get the old Raleigh documentary or Hell of the North on and just sit back and admire the grind."

the pantani brothers

conjoined with that enthusiasm for yesteryear must be the need to turn a profit at the end of the day. so doing would surely depend on finding a great deal more scots with the same interests, enough to part with money, reputedly not a scotsman's strongest suit. the late-lamented prendas ciclismo have amply demonstrated there is a sturdy market for retro clothing, so having the real thing on a rack of coathangers ought to present more than just a commercial opportunity. but have they found there to be a large, untapped market in scotland for vintage road bikes?

"Vintage road bikes are popular in Glasgow, although I would hesitate to say at a high level. In our opinion people prefer the low end every day rides such as your Raleigh, Peugeot or BSA. It's rare to find someone with a real upmarket vintage bike out on the road. We are hoping to change this, or at least give people the option to find something higher brow.

"Bikes are becoming more popular which is fantastic, as there are far too many vehicles dominating the city. Bikes are definitely the way forward either way, so we hope to inspire as many people as possible."

as one with also more than a passing interest in vintage drums, i'm more than well aware that an engraved slingerland radio king counterhoop is really no indicator of the quality of the drum's internal condition. split reinforcement rings, snare strainers with missing parts and dubious bearing edges have all been enough to put me off parting with cash. because appellation of the word vintage to drums or bicycles is not necessarily a mark of quality. is there an endless supply of velocipedinal vintage, or have matthew and mark had to look hard and long to find items of suitable quality?

the pantani brothers

"It's a long hard look. We are very selective of what we buy. At the moment, we have a really impressive range of steel which has hardly seen any use. We were honoured to be given the chance to buy a large collection of bikes from someone who had inherited a collection.

"The guy was a real cycling fanatic. He toured the country to get to all the races from the 60s right through to the 00s. The guy was an artist. He has preserved a whole era of cycling history and kept it alive for us today. You won't get many chances to buy better conditioned bicycles than from his collection. We will be continuing to release some of these bikes early in 2022, with many available now."

the pantani brothers

simon mottram, soon to stand down as chief executive of rapha, once asked me what was my five-year plan for the future of thewashingmachinepost, at which point i had to admit that i had no plan whatsoever, never mind one that might last as long as five years. however, that must constitute an even more difficult ask for the pantani brothers, given their basis in vintage, a commodity, if it might be phrased as such, of which no more is being made. with that in mind, what are their cunning plans for the future?

"Meet more people and learn more!

"We've already built a whole new network of connections from ex-pros to collectors. It's great to hear everyone's stories and continue to learn about things others are passionate about. 'Get more Marco' is a lifelong goal. There's a couple of pieces missing from our collection, so we are on the hunt for those.

"Overall though, stay profitable! We love that we are able to work with our passion on a daily basis, but it's difficult to continually compete with bigger companies! If anything, we want to encourage people to shop local and support small businesses, as it would make significant changes in the world. We really appreciate all the support we get and can't thank people like yourself enough for mentioning us!"

the pantani brothers

wednesday 1 december 2021

twmp ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................