I first interviewed Pau Tena back in 2017 following the launch of his Clementina Bicycles brand. Fabricated in Italy before being shipped to his native Barcelona where the frames are painted and built-up, Pau sees them as Mediterranean bikes; rooted in the rocks, soil, wild flowers and native flora of this region he calls home.
After recently enjoying a 4 day bike-packing trip out of Girona with my photographer friend Ian Walton – each riding a beautiful gravel variant delivered in person by Pau – I felt it timely to revisit this interview; inserting WhatsApp and email excerpts taken from the actual build process.
I try to create something special with every bike. Reliable and practical; the perfect tool. The classic Mediterranean canon of racing geometry; everything fast, everything easy and everything under control with comfort.
We’ve all heard conversations where a change of direction or discipline is first voiced; the practicalities of work and family balanced against the excitement and opportunities of following a different path in life. Even after pursuing a particular career that has met with recognised success, it’s not unusual to dream of starting afresh with new goals. The choices these lifestyle adventurers make are perhaps dictated by individual passions but I imagine Pau Tena would entirely understand the temptation of new challenges that many consider but few act upon.
After accompanying the Spanish Paralympic Squad to the Rio Olympic Games in his role as professional biomechanic, Pau then chose to establish Clementina; a bike brand that captures the spirit of the Mediterranean with a range of race-bred steel bikes. ‘I’ve always been a painter,’ he volunteers, ‘and wanted to marry this artistic background with my 20 years of experience working as a biomechanic. Clementina encompasses a mix of my culture and tradition with the latest technology. All in a bike where speed and beauty are the objective.’
I know your winter so the colours and materials need to be indestructible in the rear with polished inox to reflect the light. The front? A poem of strength and hope with a radiant blue to symbolise our sky and our best wishes when riding your hard and rainy miles.
Speaking about his brand’s identity, it becomes clear that Pau wants the designs of his bikes to represent – symbolically, conceptually and aesthetically – a return to a creative culture. ‘When I think of the Mediterranean,’ he explains, ‘I can see the grapes on the vine, the orange groves. I can feel the sun on my back, smell the sea air and hear the road under my tyres. All of these sensations I want to combine in a performance driven bike. Blending beauty and geography with my values and beliefs in the steel tubes that I use.’
With a build process that usually starts with a conversation over coffee in Pau’s Barcelona-based workshop, increasingly these initial discussions of form and fit are made via an internet connection as word of his brand spreads internationally. ‘Unlike a bike, the body is rarely perfectly symmetrical. You need to understand the union of the two,’ Pau comments before explaining how he prefers to work intuitively and conduct a bike fit by eye; taking a series of measurements that will translate into a finished build.
I need to confess one thing. I’m a Mediterranean son; it’s my culture and my heritage in competition. I design bikes with a modern geometry and a sportive spirit. As for paint? For your build the Impressionist Joaquim Mir is a starting point because he was a master at capturing light.
With frames constructed from Columbus tubing, Pau supplies complete builds tailored to an individual’s riding needs with colour options that conjure up his Mediterranean surroundings. ‘My favourites are a deep maroon that suggests a glass of red wine and a white that references the stone of the buildings where I live in the Gràcia district of Barcelona.’
Viewing the process of collaboration between himself and each client as the start of a journey, Pau believes this offers a sense of shared loyalty that mirrors the investment, not only in terms of the financial outlay, but in the longevity of the relationship the customer will enjoy with their Clementina bike. ‘People can buy whatever they want from the established manufacturers but, with steel, there’s a sense of soul. Speed and performance but with a sweetness to the ride. And it’s the combination of the fabricator’s experience and passion for steel as a material that is then influenced by the client’s locality and the roads they themselves ride. A build doesn’t stop when they collect their bike. Each climb and descent, the miles that roll under the wheels; all these add to the story.’
Images by kind permission of Ian S Walton; documentary photographer and himself a Clementina owner.
Thanks to Parcours for the beautifully understated and lightweight wheelset that smoothed away the kilometres.