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DeAnima Unblended #1 review

21 Nov 2016
Verdict:

DeAnima may be a new brand, but its decades of bike-building heritage shine through

Price: 
Approx £2,874 (€3,350) frame only, £6,219 as built

When it comes to handbuilt custom frames, Italy is a true superpower.

The country has always had a wealth of artisans, creating masterpieces in steel and titanium, and while the carbon curves of the DeAnima Unblended #1 may not make us nostalgic for the glory days of Italian bikes, it does represent Italian framebuilding getting back to its roots.

‘We’re a company about passion and we’re doing this because we like making bikes,’ says co-founder Matt Cazzaniga. DeAnima produces its frames entirely in-house, and Cazzaniga is one of three creators of the brand, along with Antonio Attanasio and Gianni Pegoretti.

The latter is the brother of Dario Pegoretti, who is famed for his custom steel frames. They worked together for some time but eventually went their separate ways, and Gianni branched into carbon production with San Patrignano, a charity that trains recovered drug addicts in framebuilding.

It was there that Pegoretti met his star pupil, Attanasio, and together with former Pegoretti sales agent Cazzaniga they formed DeAnima.

First bike

The Unblended #1 is DeAnima’s first bike, although it has undergone a few tweaks since it debuted in 2013. The frame is a tube-to-tube construction similar to almost every custom carbon frame on the market, but DeAnima goes to greater lengths than most in building its own tubes, not just wrapping them together.

‘We make all the tubes ourselves except for the seat tube, which is a very standard tube and so not one we see much advantage in making in-house. All the remaining tubes, dropouts and even the brake bridge are formed and moulded by us,’ Cazzaniga says.

While many custom framebuilders would see this as an opportunity to boast of bespoke lay-ups and tuned ride quality, Cazzaniga squashes such thoughts: ‘I find it very hard to believe a bikebuilder looks at a rider and a request and simply says, “OK, I’ll take three layers of carbon out here and change the weave there.” It’s a complicated process, and so for us geometry is the key element to customise.’

With the mixture of traditional Italian artisanship and modern carbon tech, I couldn’t wait to take the Unblended #1 on the road.

An Italian education

The Unblended struck me from the outset as a thing of beauty. It’s the type of frame that generates attention at the cafe and hundreds of hits on Instagram. The blue paint scheme has a twinkling sheen that changes depending on how the light hits it.

While looking racy, it manages to sit on the more traditional side of aesthetics when it comes to a carbon build.

Along with its fetching looks, I was also taken aback by the Unblended’s price. For a fully custom Italian carbon frameset, the pricetag of nearly £3,000 (at the current exchange rate) is about a grand cheaper than one might expect.

‘Each order we get, we make it at that particular moment,’ Cazzaniga says. ‘So whether we do a custom frame, made-to-measure or a standard frame, the actual time to build is exactly the same.

‘It doesn’t make any sense to us to charge more for custom – we prefer that if someone buys something they actually get what they want.’ Custom paint is also offered at no extra cost (as long as requests stick to DeAnima’s current 30 colour options), making for excellent value overall.

With tube-to-tube construction, where tubes are wrapped together with sheets of carbon and then bonded with epoxy resin under heat treatment, ride quality can often be something of a gamble.

Balancing act

If the layup isn’t quite right, either the frame can be a little flexible or overly harsh. To my relief, from the outset the Unblended felt like a pure-bred racer. With a nicely stretched out front end and a firm rear, the bike leapt forward and compelled me to get out of the saddle and throw it from side to side.

I put that down to the rigidity of the frame, as well as a racy geometry. The feeling of speed was a pleasant surprise. It may not compare to the new generation of super-aero racers, but for a conventional frame it’s extremely quick.

The Unblended rides in a quintessentially Italian way. It has stiffness and a resonance with the road that feeds back a healthy rumble from the road surface, offering an innate sensation of speed while never compromising comfort.

It’s at its best in your typical Alpine setting, where the surfaces are smooth and the roads are winding. That’s partly because it descends with a stunning level of accuracy and tactility, but also because it doesn’t cope well with pot-holed and scarred British roads.

While the Unblended seemed to float over normal road surfaces, it was fiercely unsettled by big bumps. It would hit with an impact that reverberated through the frame with a resounding thud.

Too deep?

Part of this could be down to the wheelset. While the Campagnolo Bora 50 One is an excellent wheelset in many ways, the deep section carbon adds to the stiffness of the overall system in a way that the Unblended could do without.

I suspect that with a shallower box-section wheel (perhaps even of the custom-built variety) the impact reaction of the bike would settle down to a more tolerable level. Similarly, the Dedacciai Superleggero finishing kit is a favourite among custom builders for its light weight, but it too sits on the stiffer side of the spectrum, and conducts a lot of road buzz to the saddle and hands.

Aside from the slight stiffness overload, the build does a very good job of complementing the frame. Chorus EPS couldn’t be a better match, being traditional yet new, and racy while visually striking.

Campagnolo’s electronic groupset isn’t as ubiquitous as Shimano’s Di2, but I for one prefer the ergonomics and action of EPS. With fast and snappy shifts, it matched the bike’s turn of speed. Similarly, while the stiffness of the wheels and finishing kit contributed to some harshness, they also pay dividends when it comes to the transfer of power.

The DeAnima Unblended #1 is certainly a bike I’ll remain fond of long after it’s made its way back to Italy. It rode every bit as well as it looked – stylish, rare and racy all at once.

While £3k is a lot of money for a frame, in the case of the Unblended I wasn’t left wondering why I would pay more for a custom bike, but instead why I would pay anything similar for a mass-market product.

Spec

DeAnima Unblended #1
Frame 56cm
Groupset Campagnolo Chorus EPS
Brakes Campagnolo Chorus EPS
Chainset Campagnolo Chorus EPS
Cassette Campagnolo Chorus EPS
Bars Deda Superleggero RS
Stem Deda Superleggero RS
Seatpost Deda Superleggero RS
Wheels Campagnolo Bora 50 One clincher
Saddle Selle Italia Flite Flow
Weight 7.1kg
Contact deanima.it

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