Hampsten Cycles Gran Paradiso

Andy Hampsten is one of the greatest American cyclists ever to grace the roads of Europe. His incredible climbing ability brought him America’s only victory in the Giro d’Italia and its first victory on the famed climb of Alp de Huez. Unlike the tenacious street-fighter style of LeMond or the brute strength of Armstrong, Andy Hampsten was smooth and graceful. In full flight, Hampsten danced on the pedals and made vicious mountain climbs look effortless. Today Andy splits his time between his bicycle touring company in Italy and helping his brother Steve run Hampsten Cycles out of Seattle.

When we first picked up the Gran Paradiso it was obvious that this was not simply a mass-produced bike with the name Hampsten painted on. Andy and his brother Steve carefully design and test the bikes and then have some of the best builders in the country construct the framesets. Parlee builds the carbon bikes, Kent Erickson and Moots the titanium frames, and Co-Motion handles the aluminum bikes. Looking at our aluminum-framed Gran Paradiso it was clear that Andy and Steve had done their homework.

The Hampsten Gran Paradiso is constructed from Columbus 7005 tubing by Co-Motion and painted to match the 7-Eleven team bike that Andy used to win the ’88 Giro. The paint was flawless and every test rider and onlooker was blown away by the retro 7-Eleven paint scheme. The welds on the Gran Paradiso are clean and uniform, and the frame is perfectly aligned. The oversize chainstays keep the Gran Paradiso stiff, while the S-curve seatstays smooth out the ride. One of the unique features of the Gran Paradiso is found in the steerer tube. The steerer tube on the Gran Paradiso is tall for a 56-centimeter frame at 17.5-centimeters, allowing the rider a higher handlebar position without having to resort to stacking numerous spacers between the stem and frame The higher handlebar position shows the true intention of the frame-climbing. Another unique feature on the Gran Paradiso frame is the addition of a pump peg mounted behind the headtube. The frame is topped with the Hampsten Cinghaile (wild boar) logo painted on the head tube.

Hampsten Cycles only builds framesets, so you can customize your bike to meet your needs. Our Gran Paradiso came with a full Campy Record Carbon group, DT Swiss wheels, Chris King headset, Thomson stem, Ritchey handlebars, Kent Erickson seatpost, Fizik Aliante saddle and 25c Michelin Pro tires.

As expected, the Campagnolo Record group worked flawlessly, never missing a shift. Campagnolo has done a good job creating a group that is visually pleasing as well as functional and light. The DT Swiss wheels are smooth with good acceleration, but you need to get used to the loud freehub body. The Erickson seatpost uses a brilliant single-bolt setup that allows easy fore and aft as well as angle adjustment. Add in near-perfect welds and machined aluminum and you have a functional work of art. The only part spec that didn’t seem to match the climbing nature of the bike was the wide 25c Michelin Pro Tires.

The Gran Paradiso has 73.25-degree head and a slightly more relaxed 73-degree seat tube angle, connected by a 56.5-centimeter top tube. Chainstay length and bottom bracket height were both fairly standard at 41.5-centimeters for the chainstays and 27.2-centimeters for the bottom bracket. Our Gran Paradiso test bike came in at 16.5 pounds.

It could be the mystical experience of riding a bike with the name Hampsten on it, or the awesome retro 7-Eleven paint job, but after a few hours on the bike it became clear that the Gran Paradiso was made for climbing. The wide, 44-centimeter handlebars, extended steer tube and non-aero clincher wheels make the Paradiso perfect for long rides in the mountains. It was stiff without a hint of flex even during the hardest out-of-the-saddle efforts. Usually such a stiff bike translates to a harsh ride, which was not the case with the Gran Paradiso. The ride was smooth and forgiving. The Columbus 7005 tubing and S-curve seatstays help with the overall feel, but some credit also goes to the intelligent spec of non-aero wheels, carbon fork and titanium seatpost. The combination of stiff and smooth make the Gran Paradiso not only a great climber but a capable descender as well. The 73.25 headtube angle and wide 25c tires (we knew there had to be a reason) allowed us to carve down mountain roads with ease. RBA testers did notice that with the higher handlebar position cornering needed to be done with more countersteer and with a greater exiting angle. This is a cornering technique that is easy to adjust to when riding on mountain roads, but eliminates the Gran Paradiso as a choice for tight cornering criterium racing.

The Gran Paradiso fits the Hampsten name perfectly. Every test rider agreed that the Gran Paradiso would be high on their list for a mountainous century or fast club ride. In an industry dominated by a few companies and filled with off- the-shelf carbon bikes, the Hamspten Gran Paradiso is a unique, well-built, creative and welcome alternative. The ride, build quality, and price should be enough to force consideration from customers and put larger companies on notice.

Pirce: $1800 (frameset) $4300 (tested)
Weight: 16.5 pounds
Info: www.hampsten.com