Bice Bicycles – Sexy Steel From Someone Real

I met Bice Bicycles’ founder (and only employee) Dario Colombo a few years back, on a bike-packing trip from Venice to Turin. He showed up with a big smile and an old Pedersen, a peculiar Scandinavian rig with a cantilevered frame and a hammock-style saddle, complete with a set of modern pannier bags. It made a good first impression.

As we rode along the banks of the Po river, he talked enthusiastically about his business building steel frames, getting away from the homogeneity of the modern bike market by making products that would last and that could be tailored to each rider’s ability and needs. This also made a positive impression. When we got home, I promised, we’d talk some more. So this chat is long overdue.

Tell us a little about yourself.

Like a dating profile? My name’s Dario, I’m a nice guy, handsome, hard-working, a generous lover [laughing] … Before becoming a frame-builder, I worked as an electronic engineer for Siemens, and as an environmental engineer, working on the development of cycling in the city of Milan. I also worked at a biomechanics lab specialising in sports, and as a teacher on sustainability and smart cities, when I opened four cycling workshops around Milan to help young people repair their own bikes, have some fun, and maybe discover a future career.

Aside from the work, I suppose people would call me a Xennial, I’m still young, but old enough to remember rewinding my cassette tapes with a pen. I’ll happily drink beer but I prefer wine, in my part of Italy we say “La birra fa pisciar, il vino fa cantar,” – Beer makes you piss and wine makes you sing. I prefer mountain climbing to sunbathing and beaches, and I love music and cycling, obviously. If you made me choose between a concert and a bike, I’d tell you that I was riding to the gig. I actually did it last year when Dub FX played in Sestri Levante, on the Ligurian coast, I think it was more than 2,000 metres of climbing over about 220 kilometres.

When did you get into bikes?

Let’s say that before 2007, I wasn’t a cyclist. I went for a ride every so often, but nothing special. That June I went on a cycling trip to Provence with eight people and it changed my way of seeing the bicycle. From then on I started to bike-pack and to use it constantly for commuting and fun. I never had any grand delusions – if you saw my Strava you’d know what I mean – and I’ve always just seen the bike as something to have fun with and as a means of transport. I’m a committed singlespeeder, but at the same time, I don’t dislike innovations like e-bikes, especially not when you’re talking about something like a cargobike.

Why did you start making frames?

It was a gradual thing. Aside from my professional experiences, it began as an experiment, I just wanted to be a part of the bike world. My previous jobs were all positive experiences, but none of them really felt right for me. And I’ve always enjoyed creating things from scratch – but never to assemble them – and I liked bikes. It seemed like an obvious fit.

I started out modifying an old Leri frame, turning it from road to pursuit, changing the geometry and the rear end. The funny thing was that, even if it was a game to me then, before beginning that frame, I built a rig that I continued to use for three years. That first one was finished on Christmas eve, 2011, it was snowing and as is the tradition around my home town, there was a guy dressed as Santa doing the rounds, handing out presents. Meanwhile, I was flying around on my homemade track bike, it was such a weird beginning that I felt like it could only be a good omen!

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What was the hardest thing about starting out?

Learning everything from scratch, self-taught, and above all, learning from my (many) mistakes, without letting them discourage me. In Italy, old frame-builders don’t have the money or the time to invest in young people, to pass on their skills and knowledge – even though a lot of them want to. So I wasn’t able to learn as a proper apprentice, and I could only get the knowledge by asking questions, listening, and watching. I came home several times after a day spent by with a frame-builder, only to completely change the whole workshop and machinery – as well as my mental modus operandi.

Another big difficulty is knowing the value of a firm “NO”. Involving the customer in the building process is an great experience for both parties, but it needs well-defined limitations if I’m to enjoy my work and they’re to get the best possible end product. But it’s a work in progress – I’m always learning!

Have you changed a lot?

So much. Every encounter with a frame-builder corresponded to a lesson in technique and in life. How to point a chassis, what type of welding alloys to use, how to TIG weld, how to set up the workshop to optimise my space, how to approach customers.

Not to mention the type of frames: at the beginning I didn’t even have a real price list, but now I’ve got a series of models that I’ve developed based on my experiences. I started with 29er frames and then moved on to touring, CX and most recently to the gravel and bike-packing scenes. Roughly, that corresponds to my personal cycling life.

One thing hasn’t changed: my desire to adapt and improve. Experimenting with new techniques and new tubing, for example, is an everyday thing for me, but it has nothing to do with market demand or programmed obsolescence. It just reflects my desire to keep moving and getting better.

Who buys a Bice?

The average customer is somewhere between 30 and 45, they generally have a lot of cycling experience, and are fed up with the modern “disposable” world. They don’t mind waiting four months for a truly custom frame. What’s the difference between that and one off the shelf? Well, you know who made it. You know it’s real.

Cycling has changed so much in recent years. Where do you see it going from here?

The modern bike industry is a child of our times: there is such a huge supply of products and a lot of the history, emotions, and memories, are being annihilated by increasingly heavy marketing campaigns. A year or two on from the presentation of a new model and it’s already “old.” Just one financial mistake, a speculative move made on the other side of the world, and a historic brand disappears. But I think a lot of people want to distance themselves from all that. I certainly do.

bicebicycles.com


Giorgio Andretta continues to bring Italy to the States

Giorgio Andretta. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

In 1970 Giorgio Andretta left Italy and, of all places, found himself headed for Canada.

You see back in the 70’s Giorgio Andretta’s high school team was being organize and run by some former Europeans now living in Canada. And in Canada at the time, access to clothing, bicycles and frames was extremely limited.

Giorgio realized that the limited access offered an opportunity. So he went back to northeastern Italy, the place he calls the cradle and the home of the artisanship of the Italian bicycle industry, and started to import cycling gear to Canada under the name Gita.

Compared to today’s offerings, cycling apparel was a much simpler affair then: Wool jerseys, wool shorts, plus jackets with essentially nylon fronts.

“There was nothing technical about it. It was all two pieces and that was it,” said Giorgio, with a laugh.

In search of something better, the clothing import business turned to making their own custom apparel, drawn from years of racing and know-how.

Things progressed to the point where 1979 Giorgio decided he needed name his growing line, so he named it after his firstborn, Giordana. He also added the Sagittarius logo after her zodiac sign.

The Sagittarius logo. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

Fast forward to 2017, while many apparel companies outsource manufacturing across the globe, Giorgio and Giordana, who is now the Sales Manager of Giordana, invested in their own factory to keep their manufacturing in Italy. They opened the factory in Montecchio, Italy after realizing they just couldn’t get the technical expertise and attention to detail they wanted, after a substantial search in Italy, Eastern Europe, as well as the Far East.

“All this other product that you can find around the world, they look like, they feel like, but they don’t perform like,” said Giorgio.

With his own factory, however, Giorgio is now empowered more than ever to follow his vision for his garments, using speciality fabrics and techniques. From the one-piece 1-on-1 paneling system on their NX-G bib short, to the ability to offer the same ProTour-level FR-C Pro line from their custom program for your local club (Giordana sponsors Orica-Scott and Astana), you’ll know you’re wearing something of quality.

Intricate print details on the Pegoretti “Ferro” FormaRed-Carbon (FR-C) Pro Bib Shorts. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

With that in mind, we sat down with the man himself for a chat.

Where do you see cycling apparel down the road in a few years time? Where do you envision it going?

I think it’s got no ends. As innovation, evolution, new material, and everything that is available to us, it just needs somebody to think about what to do and how to do it. Just go to the manufacturer and tell them exactly what they want.

This what I’m able to do in Italy right now. To go to these small manufacturers to create what we want and what we need for each garment. It’s getting better and better.

In the past, we were never, never able to do that. Because you went to a fabric manufacturer and tell them “I want this. That it does this, this, this, and that.” They’ll say, “You crazy? I got a thousand different materials here, you pick from one of the ones I got.”

We can now make something specific. Before it went from one panel to many panels, different material and everything. Now we can go to one panel with one material and get to be able to achieve more than what we achieved with all the material before.

Perforated dual stretch bib straps found on the NX-G bib short. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

Did you have a background in textile before starting Giordana?

No. I learned it all from getting along and working with different people. I’ve been on and off for 46 years.

That’s a long time in the industry.

It is but if you do something that you like, it’s never hard and it’s always rewarding. I love what I do.

The first thing you would do on your first day as a captain of a pirate ship?

I would never be a pirate. That would be taking ownership of a property that wasn’t yours.

Up hill or down hill?

(Laughs). That’s a good question. When I was young, I loved to climb a lot. I loved the hard gritty races. But now I like downhill.

Favorite place to ride?

There’s a lot of them. The Dolomites are great – I think they are the greatest mountain you can find. They have got some awesome climbs, passes and descents. You can really test your product and get a feel for what a bike can do.

Describe your idea of a perfect holiday:

If I could live in Italy and work in the United States, that would be the perfect life.

What are you most proud about?

I think it’s the achievement that we made. We were able to sponsor athletes from the United States for the Olympics in ’84 where they all won; World championship with Greg LeMond.

Red wine or white wine?

Red. All red. My favorite red wine is Amarone. The next is Tofanelli Charbono.

Favorite music?

I like a little bit of everything.

Favorite bike?

2000 Pinarello Prince LS.

Any hobbies in your free time?

I stay at home with the family when I can. I’m very lucky that both my daughter and son are in the company.

Are you a morning person or a night person?

Both. I sleep very little. My sleeping hours are anywhere from four to five hours a night.

What’s your secret for doing this for so long and being so successful?

You have to know how to take and how to give. It’s just like a marriage.

www.giordanacycling.com


The 9 Coolest Products From PressCamp Road

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Feedback Sports' Ominum Trainer all packed and ready go to. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

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Beeline had one of their mobile bike shop on hand to help setting up the bikes, such as installing pedals for me because I forgot to bring a 8mm hex wrench, I blame that on my mini-tool. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

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FSA's SLK crankset with their new super compact chainring aiming for the adventure/gravel crowd. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

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DMT's slick RS1 featuring a single BOA dial to tighten/loosen the skeleton skin top. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

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Kenda's Flintridge Pro gravel tire, now available in 35c and 40c Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

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SCICON AeroComfort Road 3.0 TSA bike travel bag, the choice of ProTour teams when they have to ship their bikes to races. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

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What really makes SCICON AeroComfort Road 3.0 bag so unique is its wheeled caddy which secures your bike in the bag without the need of removing the handlebar and seatpost. All you need is to take the wheels off, mount the bike on the caddy and put the bag over it. Yay for being able to keep your dialed bike fit intact. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

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Variety of pedal stack for your Speedplay Syzr pedals. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

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... As well as customizable axle lengths. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

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This must be the first time where I had a presention done in the dark. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

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The Joder riding shirt from Colorado's Panache Cyclewear Photo:Stephen Lam/ element.ly

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Panache's Joder riding shirt features a full zipper, but perhaps the biggest standout are its two lower front pockets for small items such as gels, bars, phone, etc. Photo:Stephen Lam/ element.ly

For the first time ever, the annual spring PressCamp was all about road and by that I mean any bikes that come with a drop handlebar.

Here are the 9 coolest products I saw from the two days of back-to-back meetings.

Ridley Helium SLX

Prized for its comfort and the lack of grams, the Helium has long been a proven staple in Ridley’s line up and has had its share of refinement over the years. The newest iteration, the Helium SLX, is its lightest yet and continues to live up to this featherweight chemical element. With a new blend of Ridley’s 60T carbon and a new lay up schedule, Ridley was about to bring the frame down to 750g for a medium size while increasing its stiffness about 15% more than the previous model.

As for tire clearances, Ridley recommends a max 25mm for tires and 28mm for rim widths. In other words, most of the new wide aero wheels on the market will play nicely with the Helium SLX. Cable routings are now fully internal for both mechanical and electronic shifting groups for a cleaner appearance.

The sub-300 gram fork now features a full monocoque straight blade design and that’s counting its stainless steel inserts at the dropout for better alignment and protection. I briefly test rode the $5,800 version with full Shimano Dura-Ace 9100 mechanicals and the initial review was quite positive. The bike begs to be climbed, moves so eagerly with every pedal stroke and steers precisely around twisty descents. The geometry gravitates towards the aggressive racing stance as it was made for the ProTours, but I found the Helium to be comfortable, not squishy. Stay tuned for a long-term review soon.

Raleigh Stuntman ($2,499)

Inspired by the character Colt Seavers (by actor Lee Majors) in the 1981 television series The Fall Guythe Stuntman is tailor-made for those who spend their days in the office planning their next bike camping epic. The gorgeously-painted frame is made out of double-butted Reynolds 631 steel for comfort and durability, but with modernized specs such as a 142×12 rear axle, a tapered headtube, and plenty of tire clearance (more on that later). In fact, the frame feels so solid we reckon it’ll be pretty difficult to break in half unless you decide to enter Redbull Rampage with one.

We think the components choice is pretty well fitting for what the bike is intended for as well: A no-nonsense full SRAM Rival 1X11 drivetrain with a 40T front ring for propulsion along with matching hydraulic discs to slow things down when called for. And when the road (or groad) gets a bit more gnarly, you could use the mechanical dropper post with 65-80mm of travel from a bar mounted remote on Raleigh’s own branded drop-bar with 16 degree flare in its drops. Interestingly enough, the Stuntman went with a full aluminum fork for better strength which also keeps the price low. Did I mention there are mounts for racks and fenders? So yes, all this bike missing is the stuntman himself.

The wheel build is an interesting proposition too: 50C (!) Clement X’PLOR MSO Tubeless rubbers mounted to sealed Novatec hubs laced to 28mm wide Weinmann U28TL tubeless rims with 32 14/15g butted stainless spokes, brass nipples. It’s nowhere as exotic as say, a pair of Zipp 454 NSWs, but again, you don’t go off-road on your 4-Runner with HRE P201s with Pirelli P Zeros, do you?

FSA WE hybrid-wireless drivetrain ($TBA)

Over the years, new companies with new drivetrain ideas have popped up, getting some flare about how disruptive their products will be, and eventually flame out in one way or another… Let’s face it, the barrier to enter the drivetrain business is not only risky, requiring a lot more than money and engineering, but it’s also been dominated by the big three (Shimano, SRAM, Campagnolo). That said, if there’s a company that could challenge the big three, FSA might just be it. You see, FSA has been cumulating their manufacturing know how for about 25 years making headsets, handlebars, cranksets, stems, wheels… essentially everything except a drivetrain group. Yet after years of development rumors and the occasional spy pics, they felt they finally have something to offer: The WE hybrid-electronic groupset.

But what the heck is a hybrid-wireless system anyway? Like is it wired AND wireless at the same time? The short answer, as confusing as it might be, is yes. The shifters are wireless utilizing  ANT+ to securely communicate with the derailleurs while the derailleurs are wired to be powered from the battery within the seatpost. This is a solution where FSA engineers felt was more reliable and longer-lasting (claimed 4,000 to 6,000km per charge). We’ll take their word for the time being before our long-term test but the samples they had at PressCamp looked very close to the production model with very clean lines and completely functional for rides. The shifters felt comfortable in my hands and the FSA will be offering carbon lever blades in two different lengths (6mm difference) for better ergonomics. What’s more, a companion app will be available for users to further customize their system for things such as shift speed and button function.

Now, the shifting operation is of course, different than what’s already out there. The WE utilizes a rocker switch with different textures to differentiate up and down shift.

It works as advertised, being able to do both single and multiple shifts when called for. The switch will take a bit of time to get used to since the buttons are relatively close to each other, but that could be matter of getting used to a system like the first time you use a Mac. We’ll see whether the WE will be as popular as Di2, eTAP, or EPS, but the competition just heated up a bit more.

ABUS YADD-I Urban Helmet ($79.99-89.99)

Originally beginning as an aero-helmet concept, the YADD-I is part of ABUS’ introduction to the US helmet market. Yes, ABUS is probably better known for their badass locks in the states but the German company has been producing helmets since 1992. At first glance the YADD-I might look like a modernized skater helmet, but beneath the shell are air channels (ABUS named it Forced Air Cooling Technology) to suck cold air in to keep your head cool. There’s even a detachable soft visor that works just like your favorite cycling cap. Instead of using a teethed or geared retention system, ABUS uses a simple but brilliant Soft Tune System where it simply uses an elastic band to automatically adjust to the user’s head. Nine colors will be available starting this April, and that’s not counting the special edition with the flag of the City Chicago on top. Nothing against Chicago but I’d be very happy if ABUS released one with the California Bear on top.

Kenda Valkyrie ($69.95)

Admittably, Kenda is better known for their line of mountain bike tires, but the Taiwanese tire maker’s newest top road offering, the Valkyrie, aims to change that as a result of three years of development at their new R&D center in Cleveland, Ohio (Fun fact: Kenda is an official sponsor of the Cleveland Cavaliers). With the Valkryie, Kenda claims a low rolling resistance and an increased wet/dry with the use of their third generation R3C rubber compound while the new KA armor takes care of puncture protection in lieu of the more common but heavier kevlar belt. At a claimed 178g for 23c, 182g for 25c, 235g for 28c and 265g for 30c, the Valkyrie sure reads like a high-performance racing tire. The 700x23c and 25c are available now, with the 28c and 30c available around later this spring. If you’re a tubular guy, the Valkyrie has you covered too, offering 22c and 24c wrapped on a 300tpi casing, (which will cost a bit more than the clincher version). The tubeless version is also in development.

Giordana Custom Program

If you’ve been on a local race team for a while, I am sure you know something about ordering, actually, let’s not get ahead of ourselves here, picking the right apparel maker for your next team kit. Fit parties, back and forth, and I won’t even go into the actual design of the jersey. There’s a reason that very position on my team is appropriately named the kit bitch.

But Giordana is here to streamline that process and is opening up their line of speciality apparel for customization. Your team can now order custom water-shedding G-Shield jerseys/bibs for wet days and the lightweight Sahara jerseys/bibs for hot summer days, while having access to their customized Giordana elite FR-C line of clothing if you are so inclined. The order minimum is 10 and the program includes Giordana’s own in house designer to help with the design, from a finished template to ideas still on napkins, Giordana will be able to help and all garments will be made in the same factory in Italy as the rest of the Giordana’s offerings with an average 6-8 week turnaround from start to finish.

HIA Velo/Allied Cycle Works ALFA ($2,700 frame/fork)

Perhaps the most exciting news from PressCamp and for a good reason. Think about this for a second: For $2,700, you get a sub-800 gram frame (56cm) in six sizes plus two head tube heights per size to choose from, plus lifetime warranty and factory repair service. Sounds good right? The frame is made entirely in the U.S. (Little Rock, Arkansas, to be exact) starting from the pre-preg itself. Speaking of their composites, the ALFA includes the exclusive use of Innegra fiber within its layout to have better impact resistance and helps keep the frame together shall the frame fail for safety, and just so it won’t snap into a million pieces when you stupidly crash at your next criterium in category forever 4.

For a complete bike, HIA is planning to offer a complete build starting at $4,000 with full Ultegra mechanical. 4k is a decent amount of money for a bike but a very competitive price if you’re already looking at custom U.S. made bikes.

No small details were overlooked, as evident by the metal badge here in the downtube that doubled as an access port if you choose to run a mechanical groupset by simply swapping it.

Also, if you think the paint job on the ALFA is bitchin’, that’s because it is in fact gorgeous. The in-house paint department, formerly known as SoCal’s Cyclart, definitely knows a thing or two when it comes to paint. HIA is hoping to introduce new paint finishes every week because 1: They can, and 2: Showing up to a group ride on a bike with the same bike same paint job as someone else is just not fresh.

Infinity Bike Seat ($170-$295)

I was skeptical when I first saw the seats from Infinity. If there’s a museum of awkward looking saddles, the Infinity is probably going to be there. Afterall, where is my bottom supposed to go? So I gave the Infinity a shot during the presentation and surprise surprise, nothing catastrophic happened contrary to conventional wisdom. The saddle is finicky to test and to review upon, much less in a short demonstration. But the Infinity saddle felt different than other split saddles that I’ve tried. Perhaps it’s the next big thing after the latest clipped nose saddle rage?

But seriously, though, don’t judge a seat by its (lack of) cover.

Cipollini MCM custom ($3,872 frameset)

Almost a 180 degree difference from the Alfa aforementioned above, the Cipollini MCM is the Italian racer-turned-maker’s first made-to-order fame. For $3,872, you’ll get a slippery-looking carbon aero bike with custom geometry and custom finishes on a frame loaded with all the latest standards such as a tapered headtube, a BB86 bottom bracket, and mechanical/electronic shifting compatibilities. What’s more, the MCM will accommodate sizes from 44cm all the way to 63cm with tire clearance for 28C tires across the board.

While we’re on the MCM, it’s also worth mentioning the MCM2 that I feel is even more compelling. The MCM2 is currently still in the development phase and wasn’t shown at PressCamp, but it is in essence a MCM with an integrated electric motor. The current prototype is said to be around 10kg/22lbs but we should have more info on the bike soon. Hate eBikes all you want but I think the MCM2 is one of the hottest eBikes I’ve seen this year and it actually looks like a normal bike.

Don’t even think about bringing the MCM2 to your local races, though, that’s just wrong.


Campagnolo’s Latest Groupset Is a Mechanical Wonder

Campagnolo Revolution 11+ groupset
Photo: Jim Merithew/Element.ly

Most people like to take it easy on new equipment. Break it in. Get a feel for it. It’s a wise move, because cables stretch. Derailleurs need adjusting. Pads need to bed in. For a new groupset, that can mean a long honeymoon before getting into the rough stuff. It’d be impossible to give an honest opinion of it after just one day – unless you go big. Really big. Like Milan-Sanremo big.

It seemed like an obvious choice. Because what better test could there be for shiny new kit than a granfondo tracking one of the sport’s most iconic—and gruelling—events? Just shy of 300km with a bunch of strangers in rotten conditions and at red-line speed. Real-world testing conditions don’t get a lot more authentic than that.

So, the Friday before the race a Pinarello Dogma was shod with some box-fresh Campagnolo Record and a pair of their Shamal Ultra wheels, and then on Saturday morning it was put on a train for Milan. No time for testing. Just a quick shake in the parking lot to make sure it was all bolted on, and a cursory glance at the quick releases. They said it would be bombproof, and I took them at their word. But more on that later.

First things first: The details. Revolution 11+ is the latest edition of the storied Italian brand’s mechanical 11-speed Super Record, Record and Chorus groupsets. The skeleton brakes stay the same—no need to mess with perfection—but everywhere else they’ve rung in the changes.

The front derailleur gets a big update, with a longer lever arm that requires less movement of the shift lever to switch from little to big chain ring. No trim adjustment is needed in the big ring, but a shorter downshift with an additional extra click for the biggest sprockets all-but-eliminates chain drops. Campagnolo’s shifting has always been excellent in this regard, but every little bit helps.

Campagnolo Revolution 11+ groupset
Photo: Jim Merithew/Element.ly

At the back, you might not notice much difference but using their new “Embrace Technology”, the rear derailleur keeps the chain connected to the cassette for longer, giving better transfer of power and making shifting even better than the previous generation’s already crisp transitions. They also claim that it increases the longevity of both chain and cassette—welcome news for the bank balance.

Up front on the levers, externally there’s not a huge difference other than a slight facelift and a shift to a harder, more textured rubber on the hoods that provides excellent grip even when wet. Inside, however, it’s all new. The internals have been redesigned to work with the new derailleurs, so it isn’t possible to combine the new group with previous models.

The first thing that (envious) onlookers will notice is definitely the crank. Campagnolo have retired their much-loved five-arm spider design in favor of a new four-arm construction, which is supposed to be more aerodynamic. For the average rider, however, of much more interest is the fact that you can now change chainring setups without changing the whole crank, thanks to the new standardized bolt pattern. Switching from standard (53-39), subcompact (52-36), and compact (50-34) chainrings is now a simple job for even the least mechanically minded, providing a welcome amount of versatility—especially when paired with the new 11-29 rear cassette.

Luddites everywhere will be heartened to know that all of these changes have come to the mechanical group first, and though they’ll almost certainly migrate to the electronic EPS range sooner or later, it’s nice to know that Campagnolo are still committed to improving the analogue experience for those of us who have no interest in jumping on the battery-powered band wagon.

So how does it perform? The short answer is brilliantly. On its first outing—that nine-hour slog in wet and cold conditions from Milan to the seaside—it was a marvel, offering razor-sharp shifting under pressure and the reliable, balanced braking performance for which the Italians have long been famous. It could be a personal thing, but for this hack’s money, Campagnolo’s brake modulation is still second to none, and the hood design makes both shifting and stopping an effortless affair whatever position you’re in. Ultra-Shift also remains the only mechanical system that allows multiple downshifts—an undeniable advantage over Shimano and SRAM.

Campagnolo Revolution 11+ groupset
Photo: Jim Merithew/Element.ly

Over the course of the following months, the group continued to impress on everything from Roman cobbles and Tuscan gravel to high mountain passes in the Dolomites and the Alps. There have been a couple of casual check-ups to make sure everything is spot on, but in truth there was no need. Even on a bike that regularly gets chucked in the back of cars, hung up on trains and dragged about in a bag, this is a “set it and forget it” group. Keep it clean and you’re extremely unlikely to run into problems.

Cons? We’d be clutching at straws. Campagnolo might not be able to match its rivals in terms of sales figures, but when it comes to performance and sexiness, the Italians still do it best. At around $2,200 for Record, frugal observers could point to the price, but a good group is a long-term asset—if it’s taken care of it could outlive us all. And in a world where people pay $300 for a pair of bib shorts, splashing out on the ultimate cycling bling for your bike looks like a sensible investment, especially when it performs as well as this.

Campagnolo Revolution 11+ groupset
Photo: Jim Merithew/Element.ly

I Can’t Lie, the Biking in Italy Is Bellissimo

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Driving through the Dolomites is far less challenging then pedaling them, but not nearly as rewarding.

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Tire pressures are checked in the early morning hours.

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The steeds.

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The Maratona corral is a packed full of nervous energy.

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Bikes and views abound at the Maratona.

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The winding roads of the Dolomites are attacked by 9,000 riders every year at the Maratona.

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Pizza and beer are a just reward for a day spent in the saddle.

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It is almost impossible to capture Italy with a camera, no matter how hard you try.

I’m on my bike for the third day in the Dolomites. I’m doing a short ride up over and back on the Passo Campolongo. And by short I mean the minute I leave the hotel parking lot I start going up and don’t stop until I reach the top, 5.8 kilometers later.

Most consider the Campolongo to be a “less-than” Dolomite climb, but today it is just the right amount of difficult, without being discouraging. It is the perfect bit of switchback goodness to inspirational vista, so as to make you fully aware of what the Dolomites have to offer without completely scaring you shitless.

The other little bit of news I have rolling around in the back of my head is I’ll be riding the Maratona tomorrow.

The Maratona is to the Dolomites what the Apple Cider Century is to Southwestern Michigan. It is a ride for which, if you are anywhere near Northern Italy in July, or you have the wherewithall to get there, you have to attend.

It is thousands of riders, 9000 actually, spending the day shoulder-to-shoulder, wheel-to-wheel and pedalstroke-to-pedalstroke riding some of the most amazing roads in all the world.

And this is just the start of my extended stay in Italy.

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Bike dealers from around the world lined up to have their photograph taken with Fausto Pinarello during a rare tour behind-the-scenes at the Pinarello factory. Everyone was in town for the famous La Pina Fondo. Photo: Jim Merithew/ELement.ly.

I’ll try to tell you about spending almost a month riding in Italy without sounding like a douchebag, but I also have to tell it like it is. There’s no downplaying it, riding in Italy is amazing. I mean, just from a bike history standpoint, being in Italy is mindboggling.

This is the coutnry that brought us Marco “el pirata” Pantani and the Pinarello, Gianni Bugno and ball bearings, Gino Bartoli and the glass mirror, Fausto Coppi and even the first casino.

Italy is a land frozen in time.

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Exploring is an essential part of the Italian experience and the further off the beaten track you are willing to go, the more the country will reward you. Photo: Jim Merithew/ELement.ly.

Ok, not exactly frozen in time. They have embraced technology and some modern habits, but from the saddle you get the impression a good portion of the country is as it was ages ago. A time when things were built to last, neighbors talked to each other and the roads were built without consideration for large American automobiles.

Italians drink their Caffe in Cafes. They like their water frizzante and their maps made of paper instead of computerized.

The roads either going up or they are going down. The cars are tiny, the roads well-maintained and absolutely no one honks.

The Italians believe breakfast is coffee and a pastry, lunch is some kind of weird crustless, dry jabon sandwich and dinner is an affair to be savored in multiple course over an extended period of time.

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There is nothing in the world quite like sipping an Aperol Spritz on the Piazza del Campo in Sienna, Italy. Photo: Jim Merithew/ELement.ly.

They drink aperol spritzes on the square. Somehow the pizza melts in your mouth.

No one walks around with coffee or food, fountains deliver fresh spring water on almost every square, and the locals do their damndest to understand my horrible Italian.

The cyclist shout “Ciao” as they pass by, plenty of them riding vintage steel steeds and every road seems to lead to another amazing town, village, or cluster of building held in time.

There appear to be no strip malls, 7-11 stores, or Chuck E. Cheeses, only mom and pop all-in-one stores of convenience.

The train will take you anywhere, with surprising convenience and low-ish cost.

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The cobbled streets of Treviso are a shoppers paradise.

I’ve settled into a plodding climbing cadence on the Passo Sella, having gone up and over the Pordoi and heading for the Gardena and I can’t help but think about the fact that I will have only scratched the surface of Italy on my visit.

I will ride in the Dolomites and Chianti and even in Turin, but Italy is expansive and the riding is breathtaking.

I don’t mean to be gluttonous, but I will need more.

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A trip to Italy would not be complete without a boat ride in Venice.