This one is special. To begin with, it’s simply a beautiful bicycle: all chrome, hand-built KOF frame by Emiliano Freschi, ca. 1988. It has nearly every builder’s trick you can imagine, including Columbus SL tubing with internally routed brake cables, fastback seat stays, internally routed shifters with modified Freschi-pantographed Campagnolo levers, engraved lugs, a heavily shaped downtube and adjustable Suntour vertical dropouts (yes, I know it is strange to find on an Italian bike, but nevertheless true.) The chain stays are an incredibly short 39.5cm, with a seat tube measurement of 58cm coupled with a 58.5cm top tube, both measured c-c.
The frame is full polished chrome with black accents. A couple of spots on the seat stays are showing a little wear, but nothing objectionable. Some of the black paint has worn or flaked off also, but once I have formulated a matching matte black paint I plan to gently retouch those areas. The previous owner had suggested taking it all down to the chrome, which is also an option of course, but I would like to try the touchup first.
The components are full Campagnolo Chorus-Record, including the rare Cobalto brakeset, complete with cobalt “jewels.” I don’t know that the Cobalto is any better or worse than the standard brakeset, but it’s very cool to look at!
My wheels are 36-hole low-flange C-Record hubs laced onto Campagnolo Victory rims with a 7-speed freewheel. There’s a little wear showing on the components, but they are in excellent riding condition and mechanically very sound. The shifts are reassuringly stable and accurate.
The bars and stem are Cinelli (Giro d’Italia/XA) and the seat is a titanium-rail Regal; this combination is terrific.
The overall fit couldn’t be better had the frame originally been custom-built for me. The stem length is glove-perfect, and I enjoy the fit of the Regal saddle immensely. I’ve yet to ever have seen any other Freschi bikes, other than a couple on the internet. From there, I’ve only ever found one other Super Cromo, so I’m very unclear how many were ever built.
Trying to find out anything definitive about Emiliano Freschi has also been a challenge. One internet story is that he was the chief builder for Pogliaghi. In fact, it’s just about the only story you’ll find on the internet about him and … well … it’s published on the internet, so it must be true, right? As it turns out, the story may just be romantic hogwash.
Freschi probably made a lot of custom sports/touring bikes and I’ve communicated with a couple of individuals who had tandems built. One Classic Rendezvous member disputes the Pogliaghi story entirely and says those were built by Renato Negri (who also built some of the crazy Moser time trial bikes.) Another CR member related to me that he’d been in communication with Richard Sachs about Freschi, saying that Sachs had “actually visited Freschi’s shop in the 1980s, and it had all the latest frame-building gizmos for that time, and that Freschi was constantly thinking up new hardware, as is easily seen on his frames.”
Classic Rendezvous members have reached out and provided me with other tantalizingly fleeting glimpses – mere details, however, and it’s mostly B-roll footage to help shore up some of the backstory, but little else: “I’ve been intrigued by Freschi since seeing them at a couple of the Milan cycle shows in the 1980’s.vIt seems to be the little stylistic details that appeal to me, like the triangular reinforcers everywhere they can be, and the pulleys for the front derailleur, and the seat cluster style.vI didn’t know about the Pog connection ustil I read about it on this list (Classic Rendezvous) and I can’t really add much background. Last year or so I bought a Freschi frameset on ebay and plan to build it up as it would have been in the mid 80’s. It has all the clever details……I love it. IIRC, Euro-Asia Imports imported Freschi for a while or at least bought a collection of Milan show bikes.” A Bike Forums member from the C&V list told me, “I bought my (Freschi) bike off the original owner who was retired to Florida. He told me that he bought the bike in NY after it had been used as a show bike. He supposedly had a magazine article on the bike but was unable to find it. This particular one has all sorts of titanium parts on it and weighs just under 19Lbs – my lightest steel bike.” Fellow Alaskan, Mike Kelly wrote to me that, “I can’t say anything about his history with Pogliaghi but I have been to his shop in Milano twice. As an owner you can see the innovations that he added to his frames that were unique. He was a very nice guy and super friendly and helpful. I have owned a number of Freschi’s and am sorry I sold them. You have probably run across my wife’s story about getting her Masi, which mentions Emiliano and has a photo of him…He was grey haired when we last visited which was 20+ years ago so I have assumed he had retired long ago. I have not been able to find any references to him in research on the net. I think he was an under rated builder. The quality I have seen certainly could support the ‘head builder’ at Pog claim but like you I have not seen anything that supports that.” And finally, Greg Honn with Milano Sport wrote to me, definitively about the Pog frames, “Freschi din’t make the frames. It was Renato Negri…I know Negri quite well!”
Perhaps I’ll have to visit Milan to get the full story, or perhaps I’ll never know. In the mean time, this bike is my favorite rider.