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25 Years and Counting

Dave Loughran founder and owner of Planet X reports on his trip to Italy with buyers Chris Pearce and Graham Ohara.


I think it is 25 years in the bicycle business. It has been quite a journey and I have to admit I cracked completely in August. It was toys out of the cot time, head up, and for the past few weeks I had wanted nothing more than the pain of being involved with a growing business to go away

It's hard to pinpoint and explain what goes on in my head, but I was really not enjoying having anything to do with being in the bicycle business and I a complete and total lunatic in the eyes of the Planet x management. Gone are the days of a 10 man business with "get the job done" mentality where in truth we were pretty hopeless and even sending the right thing to the right person at the right address and charging the right price seemed a mountain we couldn’t climb.

Now we are much slicker, with correct management, 91 staff, team leaders, departments, meetings, organisation, structure, job descriptions, deliverables, KPI’s, ownership, responsibility and all that crap that bores the living pants off me, in truth I probably haven’t found my role in this new look planet x. What does the "founder" do when proper management comes in is a situation that must arise in all growing businesses.

Italy Trip

In 1988 I bought my first Italian made frames from legendary frame builder Roberto Billato under the Lemond brand, and in subsequent years I became distributor for the likes of Casati, Fondriest and more recently Guerciotti. The Italian cycling industry is like nothing else I have come across, passion, gusto, spirit and history, mixed up with a great country, fantastic food, great people, and a racing heritage built on the great riders of the past generations.

So I figured a long overdue Italian trip to the cycle industry homeland could be the mojo-awakening cure to my malaise and last week I dragged two of my staff to Northern Italy to meet a mixture of our suppliers, frame builders and painters. It was a trip I have done many times yet one I had never taken my staff to, so I dragged along Chris from our Purchasing Department, new guy Graham (he only started the day before) in the hope some Italian heritage and passion would grab hold of them and help me get settled.

Dinner with a Legend

Pickled onions like you have never tasted

Jamie Burrows gets ready for the Prologue

 After 3 years Chris escapes the office - happy at last

Within an hour of arriving at 9.30 pm we were sat with Giovanni Battaglin and his son Alex, joined by our man in Italy, Jamie Burrow, and it was a prologue of gastronomic excellence, great stories from a legend of Italian cycling and a traditional head breaking finale of assorted Italian liquers and digestifs.

Cherry Liqueur - dangerous, 25%!


Licorice and peach liqueur - very dangerous!


For those in the know Giovanni Battaglin needs no introduction. His palmares is of the highest caliber; Giro d'Italia winner, Tour of Spain winner, Tour stage winner, Tour de France king of the mountain winner - and it was a Battaglin bike that Steven Roche won his triple on. It was the first time I had met him and I was impressed with his lack of ego, reserved dignity, and warm welcome.

Father and son Battaglin


I am not exactly sure what Giovanni made of my final question after he rattled off his achievements but it was a true muppet moment from me and I don’t think Jamie translated it correctly "That’s all well and good Jamie but what could he have done on Cuckney 10" – our local testing ground around Sheffield.

Self inflicted head hurting seemed a good idea at the time


Anyway, a good night with one of the cycling legends and a real classy gentleman to boot, top start to our trip if not to our heads.

Factory Visit

Cake for breakfast

I loved this, 20 tonnes of frame jig no l,onger in use. If I can figure out how to move it, it's coming to Planet X!

Next day we had a few visits lined up, starting with Battaglin, then our tube to tube frame builders, and finally to our new Italian paint shop who will be handling the production and painting of Viner bikes, as well as building a silver anniversary limited edition Planet X - Richard Sachs lugged steel frame that is in development (a twinkle in my eye really but looking good now).

A real KOM woollen jersey, must have been hot


The Battaglin visit was fabulous – the heritage and history of both the rider himself and most amazingly of all, one of the all time iconic industry leading innovative bikes never to be allowed into battle.

Chris celebrates not being tied to a desk


The victories of Giovanni are remembered in a room so full of trophies and memorabilia to make a cycling fan drool with happiness, and a good hour was spent checking out the trophies, Giro winning Pinarello bike, KOM jersey, and hundreds of iconic photos from the great stages.

A trophy from a victory


Iconic images from past glory


The bike that won the Giro - Battaglin had to buy it at the end of the season!


Battaglin back in the day was responsible for producing one of the most striking and ground breaking bicycles ever made. This is claimed to be the first bicycle made of carbon and with a front wheel so visually stunning and extreme in design that the bike literally takes your breath away. I think it was made for Roberto Visentini for the prologue of the Giro and I am pretty sure it was banned on the spot. I remember seeing it in cycling weekly back in the 80s and to touch and feel it 30 odd years later was a joy. Check the photos, you will see what I mean.

Stunning and iconic - claimed to be the first ever carbon monocoque bike produced in Italy


Front on shot


Rear shot, looks fast


The only remaining question between me and Jamie was of course "wonder what that would do on Cuckney 10?"

That’s all for today - more to follow in the next days.

9 September 2013

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