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Sarto Lampo review

5 Jan 2016
Verdict:

The Sarto Lampo is a relatively lean, decisively mean, descending machine.

There’s a distinct parallel between bicycles and suits: they’re expensive; they’re described by an impenetrable vernacular; your dad told you you’d grow into your first one (you never did); and above all else, the best ones are bespoke.

Take the Dormeuil Vanquish II suit, for example. It’s made from vicuna, pashmina and qiviuk fibres, the last of which are spun from the secondary undercoat of the muskox, and is entirely made to measure. Or the Sarto Lampo bicycle, made from Japanese M46J carbon fibre, with Isoflow seatstays and kamm tail profile tubes. Like the Vanquish II, the Lampo is also entirely bespoke. In fact ‘Sarto’ is Italian for ‘tailor’.

Sarto Lampo brake bridge

Then of course, there’s the price. The Lampo comes in at a cool £3,400 just for the frameset. It might seem like a lot, but compared to the £62,000 pricetag dangling from the cuff of the Vanquish II, it’s actually rather reasonable. Plus, as I found out, it’s actually a whole lot of bike for the money.

Antonio Sarto has been making frames since 1950, but it was only in 2010 that his surname started appearing on down tubes. Until then, Sarto was a terzista – that is, a contracted framebuilder for hire.

Now managed by Antonio’s son, Enrico, Sarto still makes frames for a host of brands including WyndyMilla and Condor. And Antonio still turns up for work every day at the age of 83. The Nerve 600SL I tested previously was a rebadged Sarto Asola. But Sarto’s own-brand portfolio is increasing all the time, and now includes everything from gravel bikes to mountain bikes, with the Lampo hoisting the flag for aero-road.

The whole nine yards

Sarto Lampo fork

Sarto says the Lampo has been designed around extensive CFD modelling (computer-based aerodynamics) and put together using its trademark tube-to-tube construction. Precise aero data is scant, but the thing certainly looks wind-cheating. Kamm tail tube shapes – like a teardrop with the trailing edge cut off – abound, and the rear end has a low-slung triangle reminiscent of the Wilier Cento Uno Air, with a beautifully sculpted seat tube/seatstay junction. The seat bolt is recessed, although I’d have preferred to see a silicone cover on it from an aesthetic point of view, and up front the fork crown’s lines segue beautifully into the head tube, as though both have been chiselled out of the same block of carbon.

The neatest touch, though, is the paint. The Lampo is finished in an immaculate gloss of colour with contrasting flourishes picking out areas such as the inside top of the fork crown, which is only really visible when the bars are at full lock. It’s details such as these that speak to Sarto’s minute attention to detail. No corner-cutting here.

There are 10 stock paint schemes to choose from, although custom paint is available on request (starting from £150 extra) and is something that Sarto seems to do rather well. Go online to check out the chrome-effect, McLaren F1-inspired Lampo that took ‘Best Campagnolo-Equipped Bike’ at last year’s North American Handmade Bicycle Show. To call it stunning doesn’t begin to do it justice.

Fast, shiny

Sarto Lampo drop out

Aesthetics aside, is the Lampo really as quick as it looks? Very much so. While I spent many an enjoyable ride out and about in the Kentish lanes, it was a trip to Austria to ride a granfondo that really showed off the Sarto’s stripes.

With 5,500m of climbing it was going to be a big day out, so I swapped the heavier Spin wheels for some more agile Campagnolo Shamal Milles, dropping the weight to 7.21kg – respectable enough for a climbing bike. Losing the deep sections did nothing to dampen the Lampo’s spirits. Several sections of lengthy 2% gradient drag looked set to sap energy midway through the ride, but the Lampo helped dispatch the kilometres in rapid succession.

The road surfaces were good, which was lucky as there’s not a lot of vertical give to the rear end of the bike, but in part that’s a symptom of having something that is very stiff laterally with a stocky seatpost, and of having such short, chunky seatstays for the aero benefit.

Sarto Lampo seat clamp

Again it reminded me of the Wilier Cento Uno Air, which unlike other aero bikes I’ve tested, such as the Giant Propel, is extremely stiff indeed. I wouldn’t put the Lampo in the Wilier’s bracket quite, but it’s not far off. 

A little extra bulk

Flats and drags are no problem, but what about out-and-out climbing? I got around the 240km course, but it wasn’t pretty, and while I’m happy to shoulder much of the blame, the Lampo’s hands aren’t entirely clean. The frame weighs a claimed 980g unpainted in a small size, so I’d stake money on my painted medium-sized frame being over 1,100g. Five years ago that would have been considered svelte, but having been spoilt by a number of sub-800g offerings, I found that the extra bulk was noticeable whenever the road tipped up to 15%, which it did frequently.

While the Lampo is stiff, and not overly heavy, the weight felt like it was centred around the middle of the bike and thus it seemed that I had to wrestle it uphill more than I would have done on a lighter bike whose centre of gravity was lower down.

Sarto Lampo riding

Physicists may dispute that the positioning of a bike’s weight has anything to do with how well it climbs, but that’s how it felt to me, and as such I would look to a lighter framed bike for a pure climbing rig. All this is slightly irrelevant, however, as the ups pale into insignificance when you get the Lampo on the downs.

I’d hazard to say the Lampo is the finest descender I’ve yet tested – and so would my Garmin, which recorded a new record speed of 104.8kmh on one runway-like strip on my Austrian granfondo. Could any bike have matched this? I’d imagine technically, yes. Point, hunker, hold and hope. But would I have felt comfortable doing this on just any old bike? Definitely not. It was only because the Lampo felt so calm and steady that I was happy to let the speed increase without any fear of losing control of the bike.

I was also riding in a loose pack with unknown riders, which again I would not have been comfortable doing unless I trusted the Lampo’s planted stance and handling abilities. I could potentially have gone even faster had I not run out of road. The Lampo just felt that quick and that solid, and can you really say the same about a suit?

Spec

Sarto Lampo £6,000 as tested
Frame Sarto Lampo
Groupset Shimano Dura Ace 9000
Bars Deda 35 alloy
Stem Deda 35 alloy
Seatpost Sarto Lampo
Wheels Spin K2 Koppenberg
Saddle Forza Cirrus Pro
Contact impactct.co.uk
Price: 
£3,400 (frameset)

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