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Pegoretti Marcelo review

Pegoretti Marcelo review
24 Apr 2015
Verdict:

Dario Pegoretti made his name building frames for pro legends, but the Marcelo couldn't be more forward looking.

On a spring evening in 2008, the late, great actor Robin Williams visited the North American Handmade Bicycle Show in Portland, Oregon, where he made the acquaintance of Italian framebuilder Dario Pegoretti. The two went to dinner, spoke about bikes, and Williams ordered himself a Pegoretti Marcelo frame that became one of his most prized.

Pegoretti had been creating frames for the stars long before that meeting, only it was the stars of the cycling world that he was more used to working with. In the days of a steel and aluminium peloton, Pegoretti was the apprentice to world famous framebuilder Luigino Milani, who was a favoured contract builder for many of the pro teams. After his apprenticeship Pegoretti continued to build for the pros, with Indurain, Pantani and Cipollini all having ridden his frames. But if this conjures an image in your mind of a dusty old master, bound by traditions and filled with nostalgia for the golden age of cycling,
it’s very much at odds with the man himself.

Pegoretti Marcelo headtube

‘It was really just a job, just a question of money,’ Pegoretti says. ‘That is my past and I prefer to look at the future.’ That futuristic side of Pegoretti’s design is best shown in his famed, often psychedelic custom paint jobs. As much as his skill with a welding torch appeals to customers, it’s Pegoretti’s artistic, bohemian character that distinguishes him from his peers.

With the MxxxxxO frame, Pegoretti’s ability to meld the traditional steel past of the bicycle with the aesthetics and high performance of modern frames couldn’t be more evident. (When we asked Pegoretti why he called the frame the MxxxxxO, he replied with typical insouciance, ‘I don’t know.’)

Columbus steel

In Pegoretti’s view, steel is not the material of the past, but rather a fully capable material neglected in recent years. A glance at the MxxxxxO supports this. It weighs a touch over 1.6kg, which is more than respectable for a steel build. Lightness is well down Pegoretti’s list of priorities, though, and with the MxxxxxO he has spared no effort in making an exceptional ride.

Pegoretti Marcelo columbus

Pegoretti prides himself on having a close association with tubing manufacturer Columbus. ‘I think Antonio Colombo, the owner, is a very patient man,’ he says. ‘The second reason I like the company is that they are open to new projects, developments and new ideas, which is very important for me – more important than the material.’ In the case of the MxxxxxO, Pegoretti has used heat-treated Columbus Spirit tubing, which is Columbus’s lightest tubeset and sits in a similar position to Reynolds 853 tubing. Pegoretti’s work with this frame, though, seems to defy the conventional limitations of steel.

Steel is a difficult material to tune to the needs of a competitive cyclist. To make it comfortable you need to use narrow tubes that sacrifice stiffness. If you build stiffer, wider tubes as the likes of Condor have with the Super Acciaio, you will get a racy but somewhat unforgiving frame. Yet with Pegoretti’s chunky steel tubes and iconic wide dropouts there’s a striking balance between comfort and performance.

Frame

The MxxxxxO feels fast, which can be a rare quality for a steel frame. Feeling fast isn’t necessarily related to a bike actually moving quicker, either. The sensation of speed is generated by tactile feedback from the road that makes you fully aware of the tarmac sweeping below, combined with a responsiveness that means any small change in wattage is rewarded with an immediate surge in acceleration. The bike is racy, aggressive and it simply made me want to ride as hard as I could for as long as I could.

That speed doesn’t translate to harshness, though. The MxxxxxO was fully capable of dealing with all road terrains I encountered. While riding in the Cotswolds I accidentally strayed onto tracks that were never intended for road tyres, but I confidently rode through the jagged cracks and rough terrain with the only disturbance coming when mud began to clog my brake callipers.

Pegoretti Marcelo dropout

The MxxxxxO strikes that rare balance of letting the rider feel the contours of the tarmac, creating a mental map of the surface below, but never causing discomfort. It’s possible to achieve the same effect with carbon fibre by using intelligent lay-ups that combine ultra-stiff fibres with more compliant ones, however I have no idea how Pegoretti has managed to strike such a balance with a steel frame. Perhaps it comes down to a perfect mixture of skinny seatstays and top tube with a chunkier down tube, bottom bracket and chainstays. But regardless of how it’s been done, the MxxxxxO manages to deliver outstanding power transfer without sacrificing comfort.

Along with that vibrant feeling of speed comes confident handling. The tall head tube meant that I wasn’t able to adopt my usual preferred, low-slung position when taking corners tightly, but it was clear that the bike was accurate in its handling, and when it came to tackling steep and fast descents it generated a great deal of confidence.

Pegoretti Marcelo frame

The MxxxxxO came to us as a frameset, so in keeping with its high-end Italian status we built it up with Campagnolo’s brand new Super Record groupset (reviewed here: Campagnolo Super Record review) together with Campagnolo’s new Bora Ultra 50 tubular wheels. Interestingly, while the shifting had initially been solid and chunky, with time the shifts became progressively lighter as the system bedded in. This translated into fewer missed shifts, and it became easier to push the thumb lever down through the cassette during quick gear changes, while still retaining the decisive shift feel that is Campagnolo’s signature. The rigidity of the chainset of the Super Record also complemented the Pegoretti, along with its strikingly modern looks.

The wheelset, while at odds with the classic elements of the frame, was a great fit. Similarly to the Super Record, the Bora wheels had some mild teething problems to begin with, but once we’d suitably adjusted the bearing preload, they delivered a striking response from the road while feeling incredibly fast under acceleration and at speed, offsetting some of the aerodynamic losses of the round-tubed frame.

Pegoretti Marcelo ride

Despite the fantastic cornering ability and ride feel of the tubular wheels, I was nervous of punctures on long rides so I swapped out the Boras for a set of Ritchey Apex carbon clinchers on several rides. While there was a slight weight penalty, the wheels’ performance was impressively close to that of the Bora, if perhaps dampening a tiny bit of the magic of the original build.

It seems to me that the Pegoretti MxxxxxO really is a bike to be celebrated. Without having to rely on the most up-to-date technology, Pegoretti has created a frame that feels comfortingly traditional yet performs in an entirely modern way. With the rich character that lies behind the brand, and the famed paint jobs that are available, owning a custom Pegoretti is a dream that I will happily entertain until the distant day when my bank balance can accommodate buying one.

Geometry

Geometry chart
56cm Claimed
Top Tube (TT) 565mm
Seat Tube (ST) 560mm
Fork Length (FL) 372mm
Head Tube (HT) 163mm
Head Angle (HA) 73.0
Seat Angle (SA) 73.0
Wheelbase (WB) 993mm
BB drop (BB) 70mm

Spec

Pegoretti Marcelo As tested
Frame Pegoretti Marcelo
Groupset Campagnolo Super Record
Bars Fizik Cyrano R1
Stem Cinelli Vai
Seatpost Fizik Cyrano R3
Wheels Campagnolo Bora Ultra 50
Saddle Fizik Arione
Contact www.dario-pegoretti.com
Price: 
£7,000

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