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Made in Italy - Basso Astra 2015 Review

May 18, 2015

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It is very hard to be objective when you get a bike this good to test ride.

The Basso Astra, complete with Super Record Campagnolo and ENVE classic 45’s wheelset, was a pleasure to ride, and is absolutely top shelf. And yes, I have already made enquiries as to how I can make this stunning machine my own; it was that good!

Basso bikes was founded by Alcide Basso in 1974, a passionate cyclist who loves cycling “because it is the expression of freedom”. The Basso Astra frame was built in Dueville, which is situated just outside of Italy’s Bassano – this is a major indication of the quality I am about to talk you through….

I had the bike to test whilst in one of Australia's beautiful alpine regions, located in North East Victoria. Specifically Bright and Mt. Beauty, and it was perfect for the terrain.

Casually riding out to the mountains, the bike felt almost fragile. The frame is made from 100% 3K Torayca High Modulus Carbon Fiber in T700-MR60 and Basso bikes have worked hard to perfect the direction of their single layers of fibres and shape of the main triangle profiles in order to create a light bike that doesn’t compromise on stiffness. It is so super light and thin, it felt delicate and I kept thinking that at 78kg I would snap this bike in half if the slightest bit of pressure was applied.

I could not have been more wrong.

As soon as we reached the foot hills of Mt. Buffalo the pace was on, and we began to push at a reasonably solid tempo. At this stage the bike became a different beast. All of a sudden it was firm and rigid, and I could feel every bit of power I was putting through the pedals being translated to speed on the road.

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For the purposes of the trip, I was on a traditional compact set-up, but given the weight of the bike, and rigidity of the frame, I would feel extremely comfortable running a larger ratio. As you can imagine given the terrain, there wasn’t a lot of sprinting going on, but the same responsiveness and stiffness evident in the climbing would undoubtedly be translated into sprinting. The bike would jump out of the switchbacks and I’m sure if you were winding up for a sprint it would do the exact same thing.

This was even more pronounced whenever I stood up out of the saddle, the frame seemingly becoming stiffer again and allowing me to generate lots of power with little extra effort. This could be due to the new single moulding BB shell which borrows its construction process from the top of the line Diamante. As the gradient got steeper the response became greater, and I began using my upper body to create more leverage, which again all transferred to extra speed on the road. The effort I needed to get past these steeper gradients was only very subtle given the rigidity of the frame and weight of the bike, so I was expending far less energy than I would have otherwise had to do on a lesser bike. This became clear to me about halfway up the mountain when I realised I had gone too hard too early. Normally this would result in a grind the rest of the way, but it required such little effort to maintain my pace that I was able to recover and within 1km I had my legs back and was able to push on towards the summit.

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Descending was a pleasure, the bike’s headtube is the stiffest part of the bike, giving you confidence in cornering and an assurance if you get yourself into trouble, the stability of the front end can save you. Add to that the ENVE wheel set and 25mm Schwalbe One tyres, and you will be blessed with a certitude in descending you won’t find with other bikes.

As a Shimano / SRAM user for all of my cycling days, the switch to Campagnolo was interesting.

Changing down was opposite to what I am used to, changing up was in a different location all together, and the brake release was not on the brakes but on the hoods. It was like the twilight zone for running gear. So from a functional point of view it was very different for me and took some getting used to, but from a performance point of view it was second-to-none. The shifting is immediate, and when I say immediate I mean it changes as you think of it. No lag, no delay, just perfectly responsive. A great feature was the ability to go up or down 4 gears at a time which was great for the many switchbacks we encountered and negotiating the rapid descents which lead into sharp climbs. The hoods are shaped quite differently as well, slightly curved towards the midline of the bike leaving your wrist in a very straight and comfortable position which I really enjoyed. I’m sure all it would take is some getting used to, but the functionality of the shifting I’m not sold on. I had to move my hands quite a bit to change gears and found when I was pushing with my hands on the hoods shifting became a bit of work. But again, that is coming from a long time Shimano / SRAM person, so this could all boil down to preferences.

It’s hard to pick faults in the Basso Astra, it is such a well-rounded bike that exceeds expectations on so many levels. It’s super light, super stiff and comfortable. Many bikes are built for climbing, some for crit racing, some for endurance, but this bike would be able to all of those things effortlessly. It is also a treat to look at. Standing still it looks fast, and it has somehow managed to look understated and sophisticated even with a bright yellow and black paint job.

Obviously this type of performance does not come cheap, so sadly for most people this might be out of reach. However, if you do have some cash to throw around and are looking for a high calibre Italian bred performance bike, then this is for you!

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