RIP Roland Della Santa
Roland was a character. He was also a storyteller. Anybody who talked to him or visited his shop, was regaled with stories about the Navy or other bicycle industry types that he'd interacted over his many years in the industry, from racing to building and sponsoring young talented riders. He wasn't one to hold his tongue or even be particularly politically correct in his opinions either.
Roland had specific ideas about the way a good racing bike should look and ride. His frames and process were dialed and in an age of increasing micro niches of types of bikes in the industry, his frames were generally simple, elegant, and very clean looking in terms of features. Beautiful lugged road frames with a ride quality that rivaled the best in the world.
As a cyclist who moved to Reno you couldn't help but notice the many Della Santa bikes being ridden. Whether it was subtle color or a more bold paint job, they were all stunners. I dreamed of owning one. And when I inherited a small amount of money when my grandmother Lola passed away, I could think of no better way to honor her memory, than to buy something that was beautiful and that I would use and enjoy for decades. I promptly ordered a custom frame from Roland and I still think of my grandmother when I ride it.
Roland won the best road bike framebuilder a few years back at the North American Handmade Bicycle Show. It was much deserved. Yet as much as he was revered it was the generosity of the man that I'll remember. He patiently walked me through lug options when I went back to his shop years later and was in the process of ordering a second frame from him.
And when another local framebuilder passed away suddenly with an unfinished bike order in the stand, he and others stepped in to make sure that bike got built. Those are the little things that demonstrate the character of a man who loves what he does and cares about the craft of building bike frames.
I'll miss Roland. I'll miss his company at the annual Reno Rambler Bicycle Club dinners. I'll miss the fact I can no longer dream of placing an order for another Della Santa. But mostly I'll miss the occasional sighting, even in his later years, of him on one of his own bikes, riding the roads around Reno. Chapeaux, Roland!
Over the years I've written quite a few posts about my experiences with Roland and his bikes. Here's a link to check them out.
A few year's back Roland was interviewed for the Outspoken Cyclist Podcast. Worth a listen.
If you look closely you'll see some footage of Roland racing at the Nevada City Criterium here.
An early frame with rare decals
Took the opportunity to head over to see my sister in the east bay after visiting NAHBS in Sacramento. Great to enjoy the warmer temps and springlike weather. Also happy I took my own Della Santa for a spin up Wildcat Canyon. Some spotty trails but it was cool to see the wildlife. A Coyote was ever watchful as I rode along.
Incidentally, for the Della Santa fans out there, beyond the nice showing at NAHBS, the DS crew has unveiled the updated website. Worth it to peruse here!
For over 12 Years I wrote the Reno Rambler Blog covering everything from Bicycle Advocacy, Reno Politics, Popular Culture, and my experiences as a long-time cyclist.