Advertisement

Sign up for our newsletter

Advertisement

Tifosi SS26 review

24 Oct 2016
Verdict:

The Tifosi SS26 is a serious race-orientated bike designed in the UK but with a touch of Italian flair.

Price: 
£3,500

One of the most arresting pictures from last year’s Giro d’Italia wasn’t the work of a professional photographer, but was created by a spectator – quite literally. As the bunch sprint entered its final throes on Stage 6, Nippo-Vini Fantini rider Daniele Colli was brought to the ground when he clipped the long lens of a fan’s camera.

The picture of the resulting broken arm is one of the most horrifying cycling photos of recent times, and not to be Googled lightly. Happily Colli made a full recovery, but who was the perpetrator?

Newspaper reports identified him only as ‘Mark’, with little known about him other than he is a lifelong tifosi – the Italian word for the country’s sports fans. It’s also an excellent name for a bicycle company. Just don’t get them mixed up.

Tifosi SS26 cockpit

Who are ya?

‘Tifosi was established in 2000,’ says Chicken CycleKit’s Alex Rowling. ‘It’s always been our brand, but is not to be confused with Tifosi the eyewear brand.’ By ‘our brand’, Rowling means Tifosi was created by Chicken CycleKit, the nationwide bicycle importer and distributor that ensures your local bike shop stocks Campagnolo groupsets, Deda finishing kit and Selle Italia saddles, among other components.

What this means is Chicken, run by the wonderfully named Cedric Barry Ottawa Chicken, has access to huge warehouses full of top-level components, which allows it to spec Tifosi bikes with high-end kit at lower prices.

Which is why the Tifosi SS26 comes with a tasty list of Campagnolo Chorus groupset, Miche SWR carbon clinchers and Deda finishing kit, all topped off with Vittoria’s latest graphene tyres and Selle Italia SLR saddle.

Run the retail prices for individual items and you’ll come out at a cost of more than £4,000 before the bike has even been built, which suggests that the pricetag of £3,500 for the SS26 represents a considerable saving. But is it a considerable ride?

Tifosi SS26 down tube

The SS26 is a new foray for Tifosi, a brand hitherto most typically active in the sub-£1,000 part of the market. As such the 950g (claimed, size 56cm) carbon frame is for the first time closed-mould – in other words, it’s Tifosi-designed and exclusive to the company. It’s also being raced by amateur team Spirit Bikes, who by all accounts have had a decent season peppered with elite-level victories aboard the SS26.

As you might expect, the SS26 therefore leans towards the racier side in terms of geometry, but it’s not prohibitively aggressive. This size, with a 56cm effective top tube, has a 170mm head tube and 992mm wheelbase, and it’s these two measurements that I think set the tone.

My first ride was a long slog from the clutches of London down to the open coast of Portsmouth, and for that I chose to run the front end even taller, with an extra 15mm of spacers. That might not sound like much, but together with a mid-sized wheelbase (for the record I’d call 985mm short and snappy, and 1,000mm+ long and cruisy) it was enough to lend the SS26 an upright, gentrified feel that would still exhibit the necessary speed and handling agility when required. 

The path I trod wasn’t exactly a smooth one, but that just allowed one of the SS26’s prime characteristics to shine through – it’s a really comfortable bike over poor terrain and distance. Desperately skinny seatstays, which narrow almost like a wishbone towards the seat tube, combine with slightly flattened chainstays to make an excellent fist of rear-end damping.

The SS26 also has a Deda carbon seatpost, which while not in keeping with the rest of the Deda Zero100 alloy finishing kit is a welcome addition. In my experience carbon posts offer that touch more plushness over alloy. 

Despite the slight mismatch, the finishing kit looks the part, and helps complete a bike that transcends its safe matt black paint with enough flashes of colour to look classy.

I’d have preferred if Tifosi hadn’t labelled pretty much every tube with the word ‘Tifosi’ – there are eight in total, with the down tube awarded three, and the seat clamp is also a decidedly unrefined affair, but otherwise the frame has an elegant silhouette with subtle curves and angles to make it intriguing up close. 

Shimmy-shimmy

Long days out on the SS26 were a pleasure, and it drew its fair share of traffic light glances. However, when I pounded up through the gears the SS26 became a harder beast to quantify.

The handling was efficient and purposeful, the bike stable through the majority of turns. Yet at the top end of the power spectrum, and through particularly tight corners, I felt it was lacking.

Tifosi SS26 cassette

The chainstays, down tube and head tube conjured up a solid enough platform for bigger seated efforts, but I found the SS26 wavered when getting up out of the saddle and really attacking a sprint or climb.

Slamming the stem helped, leading me to think that the fork steerer tube perhaps isn’t the stiffest, but it didn’t cure the problem entirely. For all its stiffness during ‘normal’ riding – admirably blended with comfort – the SS26 still left me wanting during big efforts.

It’s hard to pinpoint but I think the SS26 suffers from pared-down-top-tube syndrome, and a shimmy of the bars seemed to prove this. This isn’t something I’d ever recommend, but when travelling seated at speed I often wobble the bars from side to see how much the front of a bike oscillates before I can feel the rear move too.

For 95% of the time the above is not an issue and the SS26 is a thoroughly lovely bike to ride, particularly over long distances

All bikes, no matter how stiff, will move a lot more than you’d think, but the SS26 flexed more than I’m happy to accept.  I’d like to point out this is not indicative of a weak frame, as the SS26 never felt anything less than solid.

But when you consider the movement of a sprinter –wrenching the bars and throwing a bike side to side – you get to understand how crucial stiffness in the saggital plane is, and how it’s not enough to have just one fat down tube holding things together.

You need the top tube to help out too, yet it seems this is an area manufacturers sometimes hold back on, and I can only imagine they see it as an easy way to cut frame weight.

Tifosi SS26 riding

Given all that, what I’m about to say might come as a surprise: I’d genuinely like to own the SS26, the reason being that for 95% of the time the above is not an issue and the SS26 is a thoroughly lovely bike to ride, particularly over long distances. It’s smooth, comfortable and light, and feels like a natural extension of the rider.

There’s room for improvement, but as it stands you could spend a lot more and end up with a lot less. If Tifosi can continue in this vein with its next releases, I might, like the name suggests, become a bit of a fan.

Spec

Tifosi SS26
Frame 56cm
Groupset Campagnolo Chorus
Brakes Campagnolo Chorus
Chainset Campagnolo Chorus
Cassette Campagnolo Chorus
Bars Deda Zero100 alloy
Stem Deda Zero100 alloy
Seatpost Deda Superzero carbon
Wheels Miche SWR Full Carbon RC
Saddle Selle Italia SLR Flow
Weight 7.24kg
Contact chickencyclekit.co.uk

Read more about: