Of the all Italians we’ve dealt with over the years, Fulvio Acquati remains one of our favorites. Loud in personality and steeped in cycling knowledge, Fulvio is the sort who wears his passion for life on his shoulder for all to see. Following stints at Cinelli, Campagnolo and Bianchi, few people have proven as well-rounded in knowledge about the Italian cycling industry. Fulvio currently finds himself as the managing director for Deda Elementi. When Mr. Acquati isn’t cheering on his favorite bike racer (Riccardo Ricco— “he is good, young and brave!”), he likes to enjoy a dinner of Parmigiano Reggiano with some olives and a glass of cabernet with friends.
RBA: Why does Italy matter to cyclists?
Fulvio: Because of the Italians. For some reason, over the past ten decades, Italians have had a special passion for the sport of cycling. Maybe that’s because cycling is a sport where a champion’s characteristics are the same as those of the Italian people: individuality, sense of show, open to impossible challenges, love for personal individual drama. There is the feeling that cycling is a sort of privileged contact with God; cycling is a human activity that actually can connect you with a higher authority. So, of course, everything around cycling and bicycles is blessed stuff. Also, you know, if it is a true love, you must go ever deeper in your knowledge and understanding of the object of your love.
So, tifosi (fans) know tons of details about their champions and their champions’ bikes. And, since there is a strong need for competition within men, so it is within bicycles. Competition stimulates more creative power from the manufacturers, and champions and fans test and judge the new products immediately, in an endless game of comparison. This is the reason why Italy is such a difficult market and so competitive. And ultimately so beloved. Because the average consumer is very educated and the level of “diffused” culture is very high.
RBA: Is there really anything to distinguish “made in Italy” and “designed in Italy?”
Fulvio: A physical product is the final step of a complex recipe. The sport’s culture, the designer’s vision, discussion with riders; these are the essential ingredients for a bicycle product. The final act, the cut of the tool on the virgin metal billet, is only one step. If people in charge of design and quality control pay the same keen attention as is usual in Italy, where there is an affective relationship between the company’s people and the material products, then you cannot see the difference between a metal part cut in Lombardia or in ShenZen. But the concept, what I can see in a billet of metal before machining, is very different.
RBA: We have met quite a few Italian makers who say they would never go to Taiwan (although maybe Slovenia!)—are they fooling themselves in terms of the market supporting them with the price of Italian made parts?
Fulvio: In every house the master makes the law. In my house, I try to listen to the demanding riders all over the world, my customers, to hear what they really want. They want exquisite design, something that Italians are really good at; they want true technology, something that, if you understand it, you can find in some places in the world; they want a great brand equity feeling, and Italy is a good place to build it up. I cannot speak for other guys/companies. Probably, in a field like frame building, a more close connection between product-maker-rider can change the perspective of this vision. The bicycle industry is great place for human creativity, because the market demand is extremely complicated and not standardized; also, the size of investment is affordable.
So, the human capacities to understand, to foresee, and to take risks are greatly appreciated. That is why the bicycle industry is driven by companies made by men, instead of being ruled by companies made by numbers.
RBA: Fulvio, you are like Mr. Italy—what’s up with the BMW motorcycle?
Fulvio: This is very difficult… I’d say because to me BMW represents a story of men and machines. BMW is more “loyal” to the brand equity: it is a reliable and performance motorbike. I like the roads, because I love to see the world above the handlebars. Also, I have a friend from the school, and he is a BMW mechanic (and unauthorized dealer). He is a good friend, I like to talk with him, and a motorcycle is a great subject to talk about. Talk with good people is essential for a human’s life.