We put this Italian custom build to the test
Chesini is named after its founder Gelmino Chesini, who started creating bikes in his workshop near Verona, Italy, in 1925.
Over 90 years on and much history, including a change of premises from Nesente to Via San Paolo and a flirtation with servicing Singer sewing machines, Chesini is flourishing at what it does best: making bikes, especially the steel-framed variety such as the GP Custom.
Though Chesini has branched out into aluminium and carbon, its strength, and heart, remains in steel. This is in contrast to the likes of Bianchi, Colnago and Pinarello, who are all committed to carbon frames.
If it is old-fashioned cycling heritage you are after, then look no further than Chesini; its steel frames have secured many notable victories, including Flavio Vicentini’s in the 1963 World Championships.
When you see the GP in the flesh the first thing that strikes you is the stunning iridescent blue paintjob, which catches the light like a kingfisher’s feathers — the pictures here don’t do it justice.
If the blue isn’t for you, other options are available.
About 80 per cent of the frames Chesini sells are custom and that is the case with our test frame.
The geometry has been specifically designed for a client wanting a steel frame with a more modern racing geometry. It features a low head tube, high bottom bracket and laid-back seat tube angle.
The head tube angle has been slightly increased to offer more precise steering. This is all intended to make the bike more agile for quick turns and racing.
The geometry creates a silhouette that may not be to everyone’s taste, but there is no denying the functionality.
Get your saddle height right
There is also a modern twist to the design. Much like a replica of a classic sports car, the GP makes use of new materials and up-to-date construction.
The Chesini GP uses top-spec Columbus Spirit HSS tubing that has been beautifully TIG-welded together to create an almost seamless look.
The HHS tubing possesses a high stiffness-to-weight ratio, but also has improved aerodynamics over standard round tubes, thanks to a Kammtail style cross-section on the down tube.
The frameset combined with the carbon fork weighs around 1.7kg, which for steel is commendable.
The spec is customisable, but we certainly had no complaints with this example. Call me a traditionalist, but Campagnolo groupsets suit steel bikes much better than Shimano ones. The Record chainset is a particular case in point, combining modern carbon performance with classic looks.
The wheels shown are the svelte Campagnolo Hyperon Ultras, which were an absolute pleasure. Their low rim weight and fast acceleration is a good match for the added weight of the steel frame. Being low profile, they suit the classic look too.
Deda finishing kit is all matching and the tapered headset is a silky smooth Chris King, fitted into the 1 1/8in 1 1/2in head tube.
The bike also has a carbon fork. The complete build we have on test would cost around £5,800.
It is important to point out that this bike was not specifically customised for me and I have factored that in when judging how it felt. I would personally opt for a more upright seat tube angle; however, I can report that it offered a lovely, smooth ride.
The front end was nippy and the light, stiff Hyperon Ultra wheels offered good acceleration on climbs. The Campag Record bottom bracket spins beautifully too.
Steel isn’t as stiff as carbon and there was a noticeable difference from the super-rigid Focus Izalco Max that I had just switched from to this, particularly when giving it the beans out of the saddle. But the performance stands up and I would confidently race on this machine without feeling that I was at a disadvantage, though I probably wouldn’t choose it for a hill-climb.
A price of £1,850 for a steel frame may sound steep but the Chesini price includes the option for custom geometry — a big selling point for some buyers. If you factor in that steel frames last longer and are more durable than carbon, the price is not altogether uncompetitive.
Chesini has designed a modern steel bike with a quality build. Although carbon is lighter and stiffer, it will ultimately deteriorate, making a steel frame a longer-term investment. There are many options available in the market for those looking for a custom steel-framed bike, but not many offer the outstanding construction and Italian heritage of the Chesini GP