Anyone who caught our special ‘Italian Section’ in the June issue of RBA is probably wondering why the Tommasini Tecno wasn’t included. After all, wouldn’t an old-school bike that’s handmade in Grosseto, Italy, be the perfect candidate for such a feature? Sure it would, and it was certainly both ours and Tommasini’s intention to make it happen, but there’s that one standout feature of the Techno that tripped us up-it’s handmade. While it can be said that virtually every bicycle made is handmade to some degree, the Tommasini brand stands out in this respect due to the prominent and detailed lug work that joins the tubes. As such, the Tommasini took a bit longer to deliver than the majority of bikes that don’t require as much handwork to complete.
The Tommasini’s roots lie in a family tradition begun with Irio Tommasini who, while still racing as an amateur in 1948, began working on bicycles. He started his career by building bikes at a premier bicycle factory in Milan, where he had the opportunity to gain valuable experience in making quality bikes. By 1957, the techniques he had learned enabled him to start his own business in his hometown of Grosseto, Italy.
While the Tommasini factory cranks out an impressive array of Italian-made carbon frames as well, it was the old-school Tecno that really caught our eye. Tommasini currently produces between 2000 and 2500 handmade frames per year. The Tecno is built with either Dedacciai’s SAT 14.5 Nivacrom steel tubing or Columbus Nemo steel tubing (our test bike was built with the former); it has the signature Tommasini hand-cut micro fusion lugs and rear dropouts.
In a day when many bike companies are shrinking their frame size offerings for easier sales, we were happy to see that Tommasini takes the opposite approach by offering 16 different frame sizes. Additionally, custom sizing, geometry and paint are also available.
Sister to the Tecno is the Sintesi model, which uses the smaller diameter tubing common with the older classic steel frames, while the Tecno features slightly oversized tubing. Tommasini says lighter riders should opt for the Sintesi and larger riders the Tecno, simply due to the tubing size and strength. Tommasini claims a 3.527-pound weight for a 55cm Tecno.
Our Tecno test bike was outfitted with a Campagnolo Centaur gruppo which included their Ventu wheels that use the fabulous-looking high-flange hubs and G3 spoke patterns. The Ventu rims are in Campy’s mid-level line of wheels and feature the same Dynamic Balancing found on the higher-end Campy and (made by Campy) Fulcrum wheels. We did notice a surface glitch on the brake wall which became apparent under hard braking.
The Campy Skeleton brakes are beautifully crafted and stop well. Although carbon Centaur cranks are available this year, our test bike was equipped with the less sexy forged alloy arms which still use the really cool Campagnolo Ultra-Torque design.
Curiously, everyone who rode the Techno had a similar but unfamiliar experience when riding with the sun at their backs. Not only did the bright reflection of the chromed forks and chainstays catch the riders’ attention, but so too did the rotating shadow of the front Campy hub. Although having no bearing on the bike’s performance, they do speak to the overall experience and added value not found on most other bikes. For sheer wonderment, sunlit chrome beats its carbon fiber counterpart hands down!
Just to get a fully rounded opinion of the bike, we insisted that our local carbon crit king give the Tecno a try. Hesitant as can be, he finally relented and rode the bike in his weekly training ride. ‘The overall handling of this bike was impressive, especially considering how many differences there are between this bike and my regular rides. After charging hard around a crit course for an hour I got into a comfortable rhythm?in fact, so comfortable I almost forgot the bike was six pounds heavier than what I’m used to riding. The smooth and stable ride of the old-school steel frame allowed me to take my pulls and motor through the high-speed flat corners just like I was on one of the modern carbon compact-framed bikes that were swarming and surrounding me. I also assumed that the bike would be miserable going up hill, but climbing was actually more enjoyable than I expected. I felt no flex at all in the bottom bracket even when I was out of the saddle and climbing the steepest sections in the 25-tooth cog.’
For the less crit-oriented among us, the Tecno offered a stable ride, a bit slow to turn at higher speeds, but truly wonderful for all-day comfort. That last quality is due as much to the handling as the ride quality of steel which only anyone who has ridden a steel bike can truly appreciate. You’ll still hear the ‘steel is real’ cry from certain corners. Steel is real, but just as with carbon; there are good-riding steel frames and poor-riding steel frames. Tommasini hasn’t lasted as a celebrated brand for no reason all these years. They know steel, and the Tecno is truly an enjoyable bike to ride.
Admitted softies for most things Italian that we are, we still had to ask ourselves, ‘Is there more to the Tommasini than just a quaint reflection of back-in-the-day frame technology?’ We’d have to say yes. The ride quality is there, we like the frame sizing options, and yes, in a day of numerous carbon frames that lack any identity, we come back to the bike’s appearance. Would we enjoy the bike if it had the same ride without the looks? Maybe. But aesthetics should still count for something-for stirring the emotion and passion that the sport is built on. In that arena the Tommasini delivers like few others.
Price: $4500 (Frame & fork $2544)
Weight: 20.7 pounds