“I can go back as far as grade school,” says Michael Mancuso regarding his love of racing bikes. “The teachers told me I should be getting straight A’s, and I was always getting C’s because I was constantly out riding my bicycle”.
“When my parents were working, I’d stay home on Saturday mornings. I would be on their plush shag carpeting with coffee and grease, putting a new Campagnolo group on in front of the TV. They’d have killed me if they’d known”.
Lucky enough to have since owned bikes by pioneering American builders like Albert Eisentrau and Ben Serotta, Michael’s passion has nevertheless always been for rare imports.
“I used to love to buy stuff. I would buy from Germany, Italy, and Spain. Wherever I could to try and customise my bicycles. I’ve always built up my bikes. Even when I was younger, if they came with Shimano stuff, I’d take it off and put Campy on, or sometimes Suntour’s Superbe Pro, because that was pretty good too”.
At the time, it was an unusual thing to do. Long before the internet made exploring and sourcing parts from overseas simple, Michael’s collection in Ohio’s suburban northeast was one of a vanishingly small number in the States.
“Since then, I’ve probably had at least 75 custom bikes from almost every famous builder,” he explains.
Now whittled down to just 12 machines, Passoni features prominently in his forever collection, with even the more recently added models still generating an enormous emotional attachment.
“I’m most attached to the Passoni bikes,” Michael explains. “They ride so well, and they’re just beautiful. They’re pieces of art, but I don’t have to worry about them vibrating while I’m going downhill or not going where I point them. I think that the workmanship is just phenomenal”.
When not employed as a dermatologist treating cancerous melanomas or conducting aesthetic procedures, Michael still uses any free time to explore on two wheels.
“Ohio is divided for cycling. If you go to western Ohio by cities like Toledo, it’s extremely flat. If you’re in Cincinnati, southern Ohio, it’s very hilly. Here in northeast Ohio, it’s pretty lumpy. We have a lot of rollers that are 12 to 13%”.
Further afield, the ride up to Oregon’s Crater Lake is a particular favourite.
“You hit almost 8,000 feet (2,400 metres),” says Michael.
“It’s stunning up there. But as I started for the top, it was about 90°F (32°C). Once I’d descended to the hotel, it was around 30°F (-1°C). When I checked in and tried to give them my credit card, I couldn’t find it because my fingers were so numb”.
More recently, Michael has added a gravel-capable Passoni Cicloprato to his collection.
“There are some bumpy roads and gravel trails in Ohio,” says Mancuso. “I’ve also been telling everybody that I’m going to go to Bryce and Zion Canyon by myself because that’s on my bucket list”.