A huge variety of cycles, covering every riding discipline you care to mention, in every hideous paint scheme going, and made from every frame material in common usage, has lived by my front door over the years.
Some have taken up more room than others, some drop clumps of mud and grime on the floor, but all have been accepted with good grace and no fuss. But it couldn’t last. Arriving home with yet another bike and dumping in it the hall was enough to bring a remark from the mistress of put-downs.
“That’s a really nice bike.”
“That bike is really handsome. Lovely paint job. It looks like a classic racer.”
This was not expected. Not in the least. Having double-checked for any traces of sarcasm, I ascertained it was a genuine comment on the aesthetic appeal of the Tifosi CK7C Audax.
And she was absolutely right. Its cool grey paint job, white panels and unobtrusive transfers give the Tifosi a retro appearance without resorting to clichéd copying.
Unpacking the bike in the office brought comments from passing workmates regarding the huge head tube, but what do they know? It is a big frame for a big rider: it needs a big head tube. It is true the gently sloping top tube does give the appearance of a lot of unnecessary bulk at the front end of the XL size tested, but the pay-off is a comfortable bar position without dozens of spacers — a plus point in my opinion. And Mrs C agrees, so the office experts can get stuffed.
Putting the Tifosi CK7C Audax together, a couple of things struck me as unusual. It comes with a triple chainset, which seems somewhat unnecessary in the age of the compact. The Tifosi is marketed as an Audax-cum-touring-cum-training machine, so mudguard and rack brazings are a given, as are ample clearance and relaxed geometry. So why fit 23mm tyres when 25mm rubber will add to the comfort of the ride straightaway? The Vredestein Ricorsos were given a chance, but soon made way for Continental Gator Skins with noticeable improvement.
The 7005 aluminium frame and carbon forks not only look the business, they give a ride to match. Matched with Mavic Aksium hoops — solid performers at a very good price — the Tifosi CK7C Audax handled very well indeed. Not in a ‘seat of the pants, twitchy as hell’ sort of way: that would be silly. But in a solid, dependable, comforting sort of way — in Radio 2 terms, more Terry Wogan than Russell Brand. It gently coaxes you along with a hint of a smile, rather than hollering and blowing its own trumpet while making whoopee with your granddaughter.
It weighs in at 10.5kg — perfectly reasonable for a winter trainer — and moves equally well climbing, descending or hammering along on the flat. Meanwhile, the Shimano Sora transmission performed very well for such a budget gruppo.
The one gripe to report was not noticed until using the drops. The separate button for changing up is totally unreachable to anyone not possessing bizarrely long thumbs or the digits of E.T. Changing down requires a fairly good shove as well, so smaller hands just won’t hack it with these levers. Move up one position in the groupset hierarchy and you get Tiagra levers with the recognised paddle-and-lever set-up familiar to Shimano users — a far better solution for not a lot more money.
The remainder of the kit is all decent quality gear with nothing standing out as needing upgrading. It even comes fitted with mudguards, as a proper touring/winter bike should. A dry backside and feet are essential components of an enjoyable winter ride.
Tifosi CK7C specification
Distributor RJ Chicken, www.chickencycles.co.uk
Frame CK Columbus double butted 7005 alloy
Fork Tifosi carbon 11/8in
Size range XS-XL
Weight 23.1lb (10.5kg)
Groupset Shimano Sora
Gear ratios 50/39/30 with 12-25
Wheels Mavic Aksium Race
Tyres Vredestein Ricorso
Bars Cinelli Vai
Stem Cinelli Vai
Seatpost Selcof Mod 50
Saddle Selle Italia XR
Size tested XL
Will the Tifosi CK7C work for Audax and touring duties? It is certainly capable, although the serious mile-eater might want a higher-end groupset than the Sora fitted here. But as a winter trainer, this machine is very nearly there. Tyre choice is pretty personal, so the only real bugbear is the levers. The frameset and wheels — the heart of any bike build — are quality gear and the rest is adequate. Meanwhile, the price is very good and the current economic climate may see us lowering our sights when seeking out that new mount. With the Tifosi CK7C Audax, you get a decent bike for around £700. What’s more, it looks mighty fine. There are only so many times you can walk past a handsome bike in the hallway before taking it out for a spin.