In Chiasso, the famous border town, I found the once renowned name "Fabbrica
Pneumatici P. Sieber" almost invisibly weathered and dusty on an old
factory. The place was dead all except the office where Mr. Sieber was
catching up on hopelessly messed up paperwork while his factory was on
"vacation". He was gracious and pleasant but sounded me out for awhile
before he was sure I wasn't a spy or something. Then he showed me the
whole plant and how the tires were (once) made. I discovered later that in
its heyday this whole shop had been run by Mrs. Cinelli before Cino swept
her away as his wife.
Mr. Sieber seemed to be a relic of the pre-war era and lived in this
factory of dreams that will never come back. He had piles of excellent
tires that were stored well but didn't seem to move out of inventory,
judging from dusty idle machinery that made them. He had road and track
tires, some of which he said were prized in Australia. Then he showed me
his wood rims that he assured me would never melt glue on the steepest
descents. We went to a nearby Stella factory that stocked stainless spokes
but made primarily umbrellas. Armed with the right length spokes, I
rebuilt my wheels with wood rims using Sieber's washers and one inch long
brass nipples for the deep wood section.
The whole place was full of fine bicycling equipment like high quality
road and track shoes. The track shoes were super light and shaped as
though for high heels. The shoes all had solid steel reinforced soles and
light weight uppers.
Having ridden only 57km I had much time and energy with which to
unspoke my useless Fiamme aluminum rims that I hung on a nail in a dusty
corner as I got to work building my first set of wooden wheels. I spent
the afternoon tightening and truing up my "new" elegant woods. One of the
young ladies in the office that turned out to be Mr. Sieber's daughter
repaired my blown Clement tubulars that had ripped their stitching from
piling up on the stem.
The next morning with tires glued and wheels true, I thanked Mr. Sieber
for all his help and rolled on...
(See the rest of this article and other interesting goodies