Josh from our Collections Team had the trip of a life time last week when Campag opened the factory doors to customers for the first time in generations. Here's his account of a fascinating day.
The trip started with an early 4 o’clock start at Stansted airport where along with a bunch of Bike shop owners, frame builders and team owners we were met by Alex and Jason from Chicken Cycles. After a quick breakfast and coffee we boarded our plane to Venice Treviso once there it was a short coach ride to the Campagnolo factory in Vicenza. Visiting the factory was a great privilege with only a handful of people being allowed in since Campag 80th anniversary in 2013.
Approaching the factory it was apparent we were in the right place with the massive ‘Campagnolo’ logo across the front of the main building. Entering the compound you wouldn’t realise what lay inside the big industrial buildings, if it wasn’t for the logos stamped all around. We entered the main reception and where given our passes to be allowed into the factory. After this we travelled over to the main offices and into the meeting room aptly named the ‘Record room’. After a quick presentation about the company, the history and the future for Campagnolo it was time for lunch. It’s amazing how the Italians manage to make tomato pasta cooked in a canteen into some of the best pasta I’ve ever had!!!
After lunch it was time for the much anticipated factory tour, this was the heart of Campagnolo, where nearly all the products are made, tested and quality controlled. There was no photos allowed in this section but I managed to grab a quick one to give you an idea of what was going on. The factory was a hive of activity as it was in full swing trying to get the 2015 group sets finished. There where machines working flat out machining blocks of metal into chain rings, cassettes, moulds for carbon wheels and chains. The machine that made the chains was a personal highlight. A continuous chain is made and put through a variety of tests to make sure there are no stiff links until finally it is cleaned though a number of rollers which are wrapped in ordinary blue paper towel. As each chain is cut it is checked by a worker to check tolerances. This is something you see all around the factory, quality testing is always happening, people checking and re-checking to make sure everything is perfect.
We then moved on the testing area, this is where all components are tested to the limits, machines changing gears all day, running through mud baths and heat chambers to make sure components can cope with a range of different conditions. The next room was a massive warehouse filled floor to ceiling with boxes of every Campag product you could think of, an amazing room.
After the tour was finished we headed back over to the ‘Record room’ to ask any questions we had and to wait for the man himself Mr Campagnolo. The passion this man has for the company is amazing; he could talk all day to you about the history and the brand. He bleeds Campagnolo and knows the company like the back of his hand. Every decision has to go through and be accepted by him before it is sent out. This passion is passed onto every member of the work force at Campagnolo, all working hard and checking and re checking products to make sure they are perfect before they are sent out to the customer. Every worker tried to answer your question even if they couldn’t speak English and wanted to help show you how much they loved the company. With a lot of the workers working there for 10+ years they have experience and know the products they are making.
There is a lot of talk about the history and passion in Campagnolo but visiting the factory you really do get a feel for this. Another thing that struck me was the amount of products that where still made in Europe all apart from two sets of wheels and brake callipers made in either Vicenza or Romania. The brand has stuck by its history and continues to stay in Europe where other companies have moved to the Far East in the pursuit of cheaper labour.
After the factor tour it was time to leave and head to the hotel, after a quick nap it was down to dinner which was a mix of paella, pickled brussel sprouts and shiitake mushrooms (Don’t ask!!). We then headed to the bar for a few drinks before turning in ready for the early pick up back to the airport the next day.
I would like to thank everyone at Campagnolo for their hospitality as well as Jason, Alex and everyone at Chicken cycles for arranging the trip. I would also like to thank Matt for the opportunity for me to head out to Italy and give me a great insight into a very passionate and amazing company.