Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Italian steel road bike - Pegoretti Marcelo

Colnago, Bianchi, Tommasini, De Rosa, Cinelli, Pelizzoli and Ciocc. Italian bike names that roll off the tongue and to drool at if you are a cycling addict. When I was considering getting a steel bike to complement my aluminium Cannondale, I considered these names and more - including bicycles made in the USA. Throughout my search, however, one name kept on showing up in people's conversations. If I wanted a thoroughbred race bred road bike, made by an Italian master who had himself been a pro racer, who had built frames that actual pros rode - it had to be a Pegoretti. Dario Pegoretti was one of the first builders in Italy to TIG-weld bikes and his patented blend of geometry, funky long headtube and outrageously painted frames was what appealed to me. And if you happen to surf bike forums often, you will hear his name and bikes mentioned repeatedly by fans who wax lyrical about the magical ride his bikes produce.

Which Pegoretti to choose was going to be easy. I was only considering non-stainless steel (couldn't afford stainless!) and there are only three main steel models - the Duende, Big Leg Emma (BLE in short) and the Marcelo. For the sake of simplicity, the former two models are variations of the Marcelo - the Duende has a softer rear end and the BLE has a massively oversized (and I assume stiffer) rear. Most people I talked to told me the Marcelo was the way to go.

Buying a new Pegoretti was out of the question for me. Firstly, there is a minimum 12 month waiting list and this is not guaranteed. Secondly, prices for frame only for a new frame is about USD4,000 excluding shipping and taxes. As USD4000 is about my budget for a fully built bike, I had to look for a second hand option.

Scouring websites like craigslist, thepaceline forum, and also specialized websites like the Velocipe Salon forum didn't garner any results. Turning to eBay as a last resort - I finally spotted a size 55 Pegoretti Marcelo for just over a grand. Granted, it was an old bike - more than 10 years old - however I was hoping that there was plenty of miles left in the bike which would allow me to experience what was so special about the Pegoretti ride.

After waiting anxiously for weeks for the frame to arrive all the way from the US, I finally had my Italian bike. It needed touching up of the frame for rust spots (see pic below of the frame at my trusty paint touch up shop) and a good spray of anti - rust in the inner tubing plus waiting for parts to arrive but finally (after 2+ months), I finally had a ridable end product.

The final build (an Italian bike naturally has to have Italian parts :) was:

- Campagnolo Chorus 2013 - 11 speed. I decided to try out a compact crank (50/34 rings in the front) to appease my tired knees and went with a traditional 11-25 in the rear.
- Campagnolo Shamal 2-way fit aluminium wheels. Had a difficult time deciding between this and the Neutron Ultras but decided on this instead as these are the top of the line aluminium wheels made by Campy - wheels have a huge effect on the ride of the bike and how it feels.
- 3T ARX PRO stem and Rotundo Pro bars
- Fizik Arione saddle - its tough to find a saddle that fits. After years on the Selle Italia SLR, and experiencing soreness every so often after longish rides, I decided to revert back to the Arione which I used previously on an old bike.
- WR compositi carbon seatpost - a no brainer as my Pego came with it.
- Mizuno carbon fork - came with the bike. Thinking of changing to a Falz or an ENVE 2.0 later.
- Shimano Ultegra PD-6700 carbon pedals - decided to treat myself with some more carbon.
- Continental GP4000s tires - good in dry and wet conditions, durable as well

Weight of the bike fully built was about 8.2kg or about 18 pounds which was a fair bit heavier than my Cannondale. Was a bit worried that I would really feel the weight in the climbs however in reality, I did not feel the weight that much in actual climbing efforts.

The ride this bike provides is smooth and predictable. The major "hits" one feels while riding a carbon or an aluminium frame over uneven patches of road are ironed out and this ultimately gives a more comfortable ride. Handling is very good as well and cornering is very stable though not as fast as my CAAD10. A friend of mine likens a good steel bike to being more of a GT car (like a Maserati Gran Turismo) vs a out and race car (like a Honda S2000). Looking forward to many miles of riding before an upgrade on this one.