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Selle Royal’s Riccardo Bigolin Passed Away

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POZZOLEONE, Italy – New Year’s day was a sad day for the Bigolin family and for the Selle Royal Group. Dr. Riccardo Bigolin, head of the family and the company’s founder, passed away shortly after his 85th birthday.

Selle Royal’s Riccardo Bigolin Passed Away
Dr. Riccardo Bigolin and Barbara Bigolin at happier times. – Photo Bike Europe

Barbara Bigolin, CEO of the Selle Royal Group, and her sisters Lucia and Francesca announced the news with hopeful words, “In the heart of death there’s life. Our father has started living this new life.”

Nicola Rosin, general manager of the Selle Royal Group, added the following thoughts to spread the news, “All of us at Selle Royal remember Dr. Riccardo Bigolin with joy and admiration. Until his very last day he has been a great example of vision and determination.  And we thank him for founding a company which we feel proud to belong to. Our promise is to carry on his dream of truth and courage and to follow his teachings.”

Entrepreneur and gentleman

Besides being a real entrepreneur, Dr. Bigolin was a gentleman.  The latter eventually brought about the founding of Selle Royal.

Dr. Riccardo Bigolin started his career as a chemist after a degree in 1953. He was working without a regular contract and for a poor salary at a pharmacy in Bassano. In 1955 he had finally been offered a regular job at another pharmacy, when fate changed his future. He was introduced to a man that for several years had been trying to get that very same job. Moved by compassion, as the man said, “You will ruin me. I’ve been waiting for this job for a long time and now you take it away from me. I have to maintain my wife and my son,”  Dr. Bigolin gave up the job opportunity. He then decided to work with his uncle at Feltrificio Bassanese, a small factory producing felt for shoes and bicycle saddles, feeling there would be an opportunity for development, especially in the bicycle market. But immediately in the first winter of 1955, a strong decrease in the demand for saddles in Italy lead him to look for new clients in countries where the bicycle market was not so sensitive to the changing seasons.

Dr. Bigolin managed to get his first export order from a Dutch company called Knibe. He travelled to Holland and came back with an order for 300 saddles, making him feel as the richest man in town. His first big export order came at the end of the 50’s. It was from Puch from whom he received an order of 15,000 saddles. Bigolin felt so confused that he asked the customer whether that order was right or whether there was a mistake, since he was used to receiving orders for 100 to 300 pieces. In 1959 Dr. Bigolin reached a production level of 100,000 saddles per year.

Selle Royal founding

In the sixties and seventies competition got tougher as other producers followed Dr. Bigolin in his foreign expansion. This and customers’ needs lead Bigolin to look for more efficient production facilities and processes. In 1965 he moved the company to San Pietro and gave it a new name, Selle Royal. Investments began to yield their benefits. The company introduced the first application of an innovate technology, based on integral polyurethane foaming. Selle Royal took the lead over its competitors by offering higher quality and by producing bigger quantities.

During the eighties Dr. Bigolin patented the Royal Vacuum System, a technique of manufacturing under vacuum for bonding saddle covers and padding automatically. It offered Selle Royal possibilities to produce a large variety of anatomic profiles and shapes which were previously impossible to obtain through traditional procedures. In the nineties comfort became the primary goal of saddle design, since the market for recreational bikes started growing steadily.

At that time Dr. Bigolin’s daughters and one of his sons in law, Massimo Losio, took the lead of the company. Massimo Losio found new ways for improving saddle comfort on bikes as he met a handicapped person in a wheelchair that used a gel cushion. This brought about the idea to employ gel in saddle paddings as well as a joint venture between Selle Royal and gel supplier Bayer. This joint venture grants Selle Royal the exclusive world-wide right to use Royalgel.

Next to the expansion of its business through gel saddles, Selle Royal also created its performance brand Fizik.

Further growth

In the new millennium the group of companies linked to the Bigolin family kept growing. Technogel was founded to focus on gel applications in the shoe, design, office furniture

and medical businesses. In 2002 Selle Royal bought Brooks England Ltd, the famous manufacturer of handcrafted leather saddles. In 2008 Crank Brothers also joined the group. In 2010 Selle Royal became a global player with the acquisition of Justek, one of the leading Chinese saddle manufacturers. In 2011 the Japanese bicycle clothing brand PEdALED also became part of the group. There will be future opportunities to grow as the group continues to expand in the bicycle world under the names of Selle Royal, Fizik, Brooks, Crank Brothers and PEdALED.

Dr Riccardo Bigolin’s funeral ceremony will be celebrated tomorrow, Saturday 4th January 2014.

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