Bike Test: Basso Diamante SV with Campagnolo EPS

Neighbors in Performance

Basso and Campagnolo Bring Innovation, Design and, Best of All, Heritage

When it comes to all things Italian cycling, the discussion will most likely begin with a single company—Campagnolo. Founded by Tullio Campagnolo back in 1933, the Italian component maker today remains a national icon under the guise of Tullio’s son Valentino.

It was some 44 years later that Alcide Basso founded Cicli Basso, and started designing and welding custom frames. Alcide was never the racer in the family—that task was left to his brother (and 1972 world champion) Marino. Alcide’s passion for the sport and frame-building knowledge are evident in every frame as the family-operated company continues to grow. 

Coincidentally, these two brands are located just a few miles away from each other in the city of Vicenza, which is located along the A4 corridor that connects Milan to Venice, and it was in the spirit of neighborliness that a Campy-equipped Basso Diamante arrived at our doorstep ready to test.  

THE FRAME

The Diamante is not new to the RBA stable, and just as before, the aero-inspired road bike is aggressive and race-oriented. The frame is paired with a bladed fork and adheres to the Italian traditionalist parts spec with rim brakes. The Italian-made frame has a claimed weight of 820 grams raw and still uses Basso’s unique 3B triple-point seat clamp and rubber gusset to secure the seatpost and add compliance to an otherwise stiff platform. 

The geometry, while aggressive, does offer an option for more relaxed rider positions, thanks to the Basso comfort kit. This kit moves the top headset bearing from the frame to the 2cm-tall spacer that is specifically designed to maintain the qualities of the frame and fork but with a taller stack height. Our 53cm test bike has a top tube length of 54.5cm and a head tube of 12.7cm. 

The Campagnolo EPS drivetrain is a work of art, but more than that, it’s a race-proven contender. Carbon fiber takes center stage on much of the components to keep the weight down and performance at its peak.

The carbon frame is hand-laminated and positioned for optimal weight-to-strength ratio. There are no alloy reinforcements, and all the cables are internally routed to maintain a clean and aero aesthetic. 

THE PARTS

Speaking of Campagnolo, this test bike came to us equipped with the newest 12-speed electronic offering from the legendary Italian component maker. While the Super Record EPS gruppo is rare on test bikes, it is perfectly fitting for a frame of this caliber. Although not on par with the pro peloton, but suiting our needs just fine, is the 52/36 semi-compact crank matched to an 11-29 cassette. 

Our test bike was delivered with the Comfort kit and three carbon fiber headset spacers. The system is made to seamlessly integrate with the alloy Basso stem, allowing for a higher stack without the appearance of excess spacers.

There is a set of Campy Bora WTO 45 carbon wheels mounted with a pair of 28mm Michelin Power Race tires to keeping things rolling. The carbon bars and proprietary seatpost are in-house brands, as is the Basso-labeled alloy stem. Following the lead of handmade Italian parts, the saddle was a beautifully crafted Astute Skyline with carbon rails.

THE RIDE

As with the Diamante bikes of the past, our test bike provided a nimble and responsive ride. Thanks to its stiff construction and 99cm wheelbase with a 72.3-degree head angle, even the slightest rider input got instant response. 

For us, it always takes a few rides to adapt to the hyper-responsive handling. This time it also took a few rides to come to realize that the rim brakes just don’t respond the same under heavy load or during extended descending. The brake levers are firm and mold well to the hand, but don’t have the same bite you can get with Campy’s best-in-class disc brakes.

“Even under load, both the front and rear derailleurs snap into gear without hesitation.” 

What was different for us was the new Super Record EPS, which takes the ergonomics and feel of their mechanical shifting to an electronic platform. The hoods and shift levers feel as if they were molded to your hand no matter which hand position you choose. The rubber used for the hoods is supple and tacky and offers a secure grip. 

The shift mechanisms nearly mimic the mechanical, with each having their own lever. As you make a shift, there is a distinct and secure feel letting you know that you indeed actuated a gear. Holding a shifter down does offer a rapid fire of gear shifts but at a speed that is still manageable and controllable. There is also an extra button near the thumb shifter that when paired to a compatible cycling computer acts as a remote to flip between display pages and mark a lap.

Front shifts were fast and precise no matter what our riding cadence was. In the rear, the shifts are similar to the mechanical group with a distinct and secure feel but a bit more audible feedback. Even under load, both the front and rear derailleurs snap into gear without hesitation. The spring tension on the rear derailleur is light, so on bumpy roads the chain does bounce around a bit.

The weirdest part of the system is charging, because the Campy charger has to thread into the small junction box located under the stem. It has only one way to fit in the round opening, and it all seems a bit over-engineered. Adding to the awkwardness was the very short power lead on the charger, which left it dangling alongside the frame—not an ideal situation.

THE VERDICT

Overall, the Basso offers a thrilling ride, but it demands concentration and confidence, especially at speed. No matter how much we wish we were pro riders, we aren’t, and the semi-compact gearing was perfect for the rolling terrain we call home. The pro-level geometry and stiffness are not for the faint of heart and could leave the less experienced rider overwhelmed. 

The Campagnolo 12-speed EPS drivetrain is a thing of art and function. If the build is too much for you, Basso offers the frame and fork that includes the stem, headset, carbon headset spacers, seatpost and the comfort kit for $5195. Made in Italy for over 40 years with pride, the Basso Diamante is set apart from the Asian-made masses.

PUNCH LINES

• A thoroughbred race machine

• Campy EPS charging is vexing

• An Italian investment

STATS

Price: $12,400

Weight: 16.06 pounds

Sizes: 45, 48, 51 53 (tested), 56, 58, 61cm

www.bassobikes.com

THE GEAR

Helmet: Mavic Cosmic             

Jersey: Campagnolo      

Bib: Campagnolo 

Shoes: Mavic Cosmic   

Socks: Union Sport     

Glasses: Giant Stratos Lite          

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