Tools with an Italian soul

Bike tools and pumps really shouldn’t inflame passions, but that’s exactly what SILCA continues to do. SILCA tools are manufactured well beyond the requirements of their purpose, with incredible precision and attention to detail.

LearcoGuerra

Learco Guerra, winner of the 1934 Giro d'Italia

Factory 1970 Pioltello
The SILCA factory in Pioltello, 1970
Coppi
Fausto Coppi and his Impero Frame pump

This artisan approach to toolmaking forms the very DNA of SILCA, a company born in Italy and now based in the US that celebrates its centenary in 2017. The Rapha Cycling Club + SILCA HX-ONE special edition kit draws on that century of heritage with uncompromising attention to detail to deliver the most hard wearing and beautiful tools for maintaining your bike.

Manufactured from the finest hardened S-2 Tool Steel, each hex key is chromed and spray coated with a high-grip polymer so it will never slip your grasp. Keys then fit precisely into their individual slots in an American walnut box. Made with the same standards of craftsmanship as the company’s first hand pumps in 1917.

History: A tale of two Silcas

The 100 year history of SILCA plays out like a tragic Italian opera. The rise, demise and subsequent rebirth of a venerated scion of bike tools is both heart wrenching and inspiring.

Felice Sacchi
Felice Sacchi

SILCA was established in Italy in 1917 by Italian aircraft engineer Felice Sacchi, who was frustrated with the pneumatic pumps of the day. He created a cheaper version that could deliver higher pressures. With a single product he revolutionised an industry and set a new standard that spread far beyond pumps. Soon SILCA dominated the market with its ornately decorated Impero handpumps, and Pista track pumps with exquisite baroque feet and the first-ever integrated pressure gauge. The company soon expanded into equally high quality bicycle tools and equipment.

By the 1980s the founder’s grandson Claudio Sacchi had taken over the running of the company and SILCA’s reputation for quality was well established at the highest levels of the sport. The company was involved with most of the leading teams of the time and SILCA had become a household name.

This is not the SILCA we know today, however, because tragedy was just around the corner. Cheap imports and the 2008 economic crash sent the company reeling. The once titan of bicycle pumps and tools tried and failed to compete, taking a further hit by the introduction of the euro and a loss of reputation as its products failed through the use of cheap plastic. SILCA shrivelled to a shell of its former self and went into government receivership, reduced to operating out of a small garage in Cesenatico, its brand name the only real item of value.

And that is what Josh Poertner bought. The mechanical engineer and cyclist had been a SILCA devotee for years, getting to know Claudio when he was racing in Europe. The friendship continued when he moved to the Zipp service course team. His decision to buy SILCA wasn’t an immediate one and Claudio had been trying to sell his company for a year before Josh suddenly realised he could make it great again. He eventually signed the papers and took ownership a week before Claudio died from cancer.

SILCA is a brand imbued with Italian passion, style, and precision but is now wholly American owned. Josh literally bought the brand name only, no tooling or stock or even an apron. He started again from scratch with the knowledge of what the company had been before and what it could be again.

Today SILCA is again regarded as the epitome of quality, using many of the engineering techniques that set the company apart from the competition in the early days, such as leather gaskets and precision manufacturing techniques. As with the original SILCA, the pumps came first, snapped up by a burgeoning market in artisan and handmade bicycle fanatics. Collaborations with Vanilla Bicycles, Richard Sachs, Firefly, Mosaic, Breadwinner, Seven and many other custom framebuilders have followed and the development has been informed by close work with professional race mechanics.

The company has steadily expanded its product range and has a lineup that now includes hex keys, a unique torque wrench and soft goods such as workshop aprons and saddlepacks, all manufactured with the same ruthless attention to detail, elegance and practicality as those first pumps produced by Felice Sacchi 100 years ago.

SILCA is one Italian tragedy with a happy ending.