LIFE IN THE BUBBLE

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Chapelli Bicycles

Tuesday, 6 March 2012
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Pablo Chappelli and his friend Tom Davies started Chappelli’s Cycles two years ago, and in that time they’ve sold several thousand bikes. Testament to both their passion for the product and Sydney’s recently burgeoning fascination with all things pushbike, business is booming.

Pabs, as he is known, is from a family of bike enthusiasts. He’s a diminutive man with beautifully smiley eyes and a warm unflappability. One of his earliest memories is of cycling around his hometown of Seven Oaks with his dad Roberto. Roberto was a semi-professional cyclist in the Sixties, and an engineer who built bikes for friends. Now he runs the London branch of the Chappelli Empire in Tower Hill with his other son, James. 

Pabs’ eyes light up when he talks about his business.  He says his inspiration comes from the Italian racing classics of the 1940’s.

 “Vintage bikes have another dimension,” he says, “a story
to tell, a soul.”

He loves anything mechanical and has personally restored a 1982 Lotus and a 100-year-old timber boat.  At home he has ten vintage bikes hung on his walls.

Chappelli Cycles sell most of their bikes online. They keep the prices low by bypassing the usual overheads and ship the bikes direct from the factory to the customer, basically cutting out as many of the middlemen as possible. Pabs has built up a special relationship with his manufacturers too, probably because of his unencumbered enthusiasm for the product and his excellent mechanical credentials. 

These beautiful crafted bikes come with fixed, single or internal hub gears, and the cheapest are about $495.  They generally come in two contrast colours and are a universe away from the mass manufactured, sporty, generic formula bikes.

The boys also offer a bespoke service with components and frames sourced from vintage bikes in Italy, costing as much as $1900.  These are serious works of art. Pabs’ favourite is a commission in the colours of the Italian flag, made for a particularly zealous Italian patriot.

The future looks bright for Pabs: now that everyone has pretty much realised that burning oil is destroying the planet, those who aren’t in denial are buying bikes. Even Sydney’s Lord Mayor, Clover Moore, has invested a little coin in new bike lanes and bike hubs, like the one proposed for Taylor Square that will give corporate cyclists a place to shower before embarking on a hard day’s finance in the city.

Pabs gives the impression of someone happy with his lot in life. He’s renovated a church on the Hawkesbury River and escapes there on the weekends. He keeps chickens and a fully irrigated veggie patch that yields fine crops of asparagus and cucumbers.

He will not be found in padded lycra shorts with a branded water bottle strapped to his leg, on a mass produced bike. 

But he may well be found pootling round Bondi on a 1920's bike, lovingly restored by his own fair hand with all original features.

Author: Claire Thorne

Bikes: Chapelli Cycles

 

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