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Passoni Cicloprato review

16 Jul 2021
Verdict:

So nearly but not quite, the Cicloprato is a gorgeous bike to look at and rides sweetly enough – it just lacks a killer edge off-road

Cyclist Rating: 
Price: 
€11,800 (approx £10,200)
For 
Beautifully made • Fast on road • Stiff
Against 
Expensive • Slow handling off-road

Photography: James Carnegie

The city of Florence is a destination that everyone should see at some point in their lives. But it does have its downsides. It’s expensive, the food is touristy and the queue to see Michelangelo’s David takes ages.

So if you do visit and all the culture becomes a bit overwhelming, try jumping on a train for the 20-minute ride to nearby Prato.

It has just the right mix of local bustle, cobbled streets and footstep-echoing walks home after one too many spritzes.

Fiorenzo Magni – he of the broken-collarbone-chewing-on-an-inner-tube-strapped-to-his-handlebars fame – hails from Prato. Which leads us in a meandering way to the Passoni Cicloprato.

‘Prato’ comes from the Latin for ‘meadow’, and as such a translation of Passoni’s new gravel bike is ‘meadow bike’.

I think this is fitting, but less due to visions of Russell Crowe riding it through a field of wheat and more because Passoni puts the ‘art’ in ‘artisan framebuilding’.

This is a truly gorgeous bike to look at, stunningly made. But on balance it probably does better suit a beautiful Tuscan hillside than a bumpy UK forest, and here’s why.

The Cicloprato uses grade 9 titanium for its main tubes and harder grade 5 for its head tube, bottom bracket and dropouts. An all-grade-5 bike might be slightly lighter for the same strength and stiffness, but it’s marginal, plus grade 5 tubes in wall thicknesses suitable for bikes are hard to come by. Thus this combination is about as good as a titanium bike gets.

But wait, other top-end titanium bike makers build like this yet their frames don’t cost £6K, so what’s the kicker? According to Passoni it’s the incredibly fastidious fabrication, and according to my eyes that fabrication is Michelangelo-level exquisite. Yet it could be even more so.

Suits you

For years Passoni has traded on its polished welds, which make tubes blend seamlessly into one another as if a frame is one piece. I love the look and it gives Passoni bikes a near-unique edge (near-unique as this also features on Legend bikes, made by Marco Bertoletti, who – not coincidentally – used to work for Passoni).

Passoni’s current custodian, Matteo Cassini, says the weld smoothing process is expensively laborious, adding an extra 40 hours’ work to each frame, yet people accuse Passoni of ‘polishing our welds because we can’t do them neatly’.

Well the Cicloprato proves that Passoni can weld with the best of them, though I never doubted this, and given that its road frames with polished welds are similar money, I’d have preferred polished welds here. If Passoni is going to save itself the cost and bother of polishing welds, that should be reflected in the price. But, hey, if it delivers a good ride who cares, right?

Made for Italy

On paper the Cicloprato does everything it should. Geometry blends road-racy with gravel-stable – short rear end, slightly slacker front. Tyre clearance is a roomy 40mm, it has discs and lots of mounting points.

The spec sheet doesn’t disappoint either. Campagnolo’s Ekar gravel groupset is 1x with a rangy 13-speed cassette, its shifting is precise and, to my mind, its braking is the best on the market. The modulation – how power is applied to slow the wheel – is brilliantly progressive, and crucially the braking is generally quiet.

Elsewhere, Campagnolo’s classic Shamal wheels have been reinvented for ‘endurance’ riding. That means 21mm internal width, tubeless ready and weighing a claimed 1,585g. Again I find nothing not to like, but yet somehow it doesn’t quite all add up.

At more than 10 grand I can’t help judging the Cicloprato against bikes such as the titanium Moots Routt RSL, and against this bike it starts to show shortcomings. It just doesn’t feel quite as at home on the trails.

It is good, and appreciably stiff for road riding, but overall it doesn’t quite have the same balance or speed in handling needed for technical riding. I found myself wrestling my usual trails to pin the Cicloprato to chosen lines, and being bounced around more than I’d like.

It’s hard to pinpoint, but I think this is a bike that just doesn’t feel robust or nippy enough to take on the rougher riding that UK gravel can offer. If I was I rolling around chalky Italian roads in the height of summer the Cicloprato would be fantastic. But with the top tier of gravel bikes becoming ever more capable, this bike is found wanting given its hefty pricetag.

Pick of the kit

Ashmei Signature Jersey and Long Sleeve Merino Base layer, £128/£78, ashmei.com

I want thicker clothes for gravel riding than road, both for warmth and that feeling of protection, and in both those areas the Signature nails it. The extra heft of the merino-blend is cosseting; its roominess works aesthetically for gravel (shallow me) plus leaves lots of room for spares in pockets.

Critically, though, it’s warm yet breathable, perfect for when the temperature plummets as soon as the sun disappears. A colour-matched vest base layer (£58) and armwarmers (£42) are available too.

Alternatively…


One for the road

OK, it’s not a gravel bike, but the Titanio Disco (€8,300 frameset) is about as brilliantly Passoni as you can get – all polished welds, dialled road-race geometry and above all, simply stunning looks.

One more for the road

OK, neither is this, but it might just be unique enough to pique your interest. The Fidia RTR (€5,500 frameset) is built around a carbon frame with titanium filaments woven in to produce a comfortable yet stiff ride.

Spec

Frame Passoni Cicloprato
Groupset Campagnolo Ekar
Brakes Campagnolo Ekar
Chainset Campagnolo Ekar
Cassette Campagnolo Ekar
Bars Cinelli Neo Morphe Carbon
Stem Cinelli
Seatpost Passoni carbon
Saddle Selle Italia SLR Kit Carbonio
Wheels Campagnolo Shamal Carbon Disc, Vittoria Terreno Wet 38mm tyres
Weight 9.21kg (56cm)
Contact passoni.it

All reviews are fully independent and no payments have been made by companies featured in reviews