Racer’s dreams: Tech Editor Michelle’s road race bike

Michelle goes for an Italian frame with Shimano Ultegra mechanical groupset

When I was asked to imagine and build up my ‘dream bike’, there was no doubt in my mind that I’d be creating a race bike.

I’m sure there are riders out there who will shake their head in disbelief – maybe I will one day, too – but bike riding has pretty much always been about racing for me. Sure, I commute, I’ve been touring, I can relax and look around me as I ascend a distant col, I ride with friends – but the underlying motivation is a number on my back.

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Racing has defined my cycling so far, and therefore, my dream bike would always be a race bike.

Basso Diamante Disc frame

My other long term ride is a Werking custom machine, hand built in the Italian Dolomites. I have a penchant for Italian frames, and I know I’m not alone there.

The Basso appeals to me for several reasons – some of which are based on black and white tech facts, and some of which are more passion infused.

Beginning with the former, the Basso Diamante is a race bike through and through. The cliché ‘it corners like it’s on rails’ phrase is banned from Cycling Weekly’s tech pages, but in this case the overused phrase applies. A steep 71.8 head angle, and nippy 400m chainstay length combine with an aggressive geo to make a bike that just feels spot on to me.

I’m a female amateur breakaway sort of rider weighing 56kg – so I won’t pretend I’m throwing out huge finite numbers when it comes to max power that result in epic flex – but the stiffness in the bottom bracket that gives way to just 0.2mm of movement is a notable.

At the headtube it’s 0.4mm and the ‘headstrong’ logo on the downtube makes me smile, too – I don’t pretend to be physiologically gifted, I’m pretty sure any success I have in races comes from a pure hatred of giving up.

Perhaps my gender, height and weight though is why I didn’t opt for the aero SV model. I often find these wind cheating bikes tip the stiffness to rigidity balance in the wrong direction for me, killing the ride quality. I’m not alone in that, whilst most brands tailor layup in line with bike size, certain aero bikes get better scores from taller, weightier testers than smaller, lighter testers.

The font end is designed so that the spacers sit in an integrated cockpit, keeping them looking really swish even if you don’t slam it.

I really wanted to pair the build with a set of Cinelli Mike Ram handlebars – the ones with the skull grafitti.

I swapped my all-consuming love for punk with cycling in my early 20s. I’m a pretty docile character really, but we all have to vent somewhere – and the aggression I once took out in mosh pits I now take out on the bike. The skully design staring back at me would have been cool.

Unfortunately the Basso frame is best paired with the integrated Integra handlebar, so in order not to throw away the watts saved in a perfect mating, I opted for that (and wrapped the bar in Mike Giant bar tape for at least a little bit of throwback). The bottle cages match, too, of course.

I’d also have liked to fit a threaded Chris King bottom bracket – I’ve had colleagues who have kept the same BB going for 15 years thanks to the quality, met with an expertly faced frame and regular maintenance. The frame is press fit, so that was a second minor compromise.

The passion side of the argument? You can pick up a Basso at my local bike shop, Maison du Velo. Outside of lockdown, I spend a good chunk of my working day tapping away in the shop’s cafe and the mechanics there have got me out of plenty of sticky situations.

Local bike shops prop up the cycling community. I believe in supporting them, so for that reason any dream bike I’d ever build would be available to buy from a local shop.

Shimano Ultegra Mechanical

I can hear a million Campagnolo fans screeching, and Di2/eTap fans crying.

Firstly, I haven’t specced Campag because – whilst I love the shifter shape – the upshift button is too hard for my small hands to reach (I’m told this has been improved in EPS but have yet to confirm). And the mechanical logic? Remember this is my dream race bike.

I spend a lot of time testing £10k bikes with Di2 and eTap fitted. I agree, it’s amazing. However, enough can go wrong on race morning, and the one thing I can’t fix in five minutes at a race HQ car park is a failure to charge my gears the night before. Furthermore, a Shimano Ultegra Di2 rear mech costs £249.99. SRAM Red eTap? £455. Mechanical Ultegra? £89.99. You see my point, I hope.

Gearing wise, I’ve gone for 52-36, with 11-28 rear cassette and as per all the bikes where I’ve had the chance to choose, 165mm cranks – this allows me to open up my hip angle a bit.

The brake rotors are Shimano’s XTR, in 160mm – I opted for XTR over Ultegra because they come in about 20g lighter at 108g.

Hunt UD 54 carbon spoke wheelset

Sussex based Hunt is one of an emerging crop of smaller wheel brands, but it really stands out from the rest in terms of R&D. The brand has a full testing facility, their head of design is former aerospace engineer Luisa Grappone and they’ve recently added a CFD engineer to their team.

I opted for a 54 rim – anything around a 50 I reckon is the sweetspot between aero gains, weigh and handling. With UK roads more likely to dip and dive than give way to mountains I’m not too worried about a few extra grams and these come in at 1456g which is pretty competitive.

>>> What’s the best rim depth for you? 

What’s really special is the use of Hunt’s carbon spoke technology. The brand’s TaperLock carbon spoke tech means that they’re fully serviceable as well as being stiffer and obviously lighter than aluminium. And for a racer, that matters.

Specialized Turbo Cotton tyres, 26c

These tyres have been on the top of my list since the very first time I rode a set. They are, quite simply, not normal.

Made from what the brand calls its ‘Gripton’ compound, they’ve got a TPI of 320 – which is huge, and explains why they feel so supremely supple. My day-to-day tyre choice is a good old reliable Continental GP 5000. This rubber from Specialized, despite having a BlackBelt puncture protection system, isn’t as reliable – but I’ve found nothing in years of testing that feels as good as a fresh set of these.

>>> Specialized Turbo Cotton tyres reviewed 

I’ve opted for a middle ground of 26mm. I’ve been riding a lot of 28mm tyres of late, and I’m certainly growing warmer to the cornering confidence that a wider tyre offers – but for now, to race, I’ll be sticking with a narrower option.

Specialized Romin Evo saddle

Saddle comfort has long been a tiresome conversation for me. You name it, I’ve tried it.

The Romin Evo has generally been marketed as a men’s saddle, which is why it took me so long to discover it worked so well for me. However, with Specialized’s ‘beyond gender’ approach, it was presented to me as a potential option following the discontinuation of the Oura, and I’ve found it extremely comfortable.

Like the outgoing Oura, the Romin Evo is a perch for racers who like to double down on the nose of the saddle during efforts, but keep plenty of width at the back for those more relaxed endurance training rides. An ample cut out is a must have for me, as is a width of at least 168mm which this provides.

Favero Assioma pedals

Power meter pedals: they’re the dream, especially for someone who changes between bikes on nearly every ride. If only they would work!

I’ve tested the Garmin Vectors in-depth and I’m currently in the process of weighing up the PowerTap P2s and latest iteration of the Assioma.

Each power meter pedal comes with pros and cons, I could write you a tome on each. I’ve yet to complete a full, long term test on the Assiomas and the P2s – however, from early testing, I would opt for the former as my go-to.

The build (and the bank balance damage)

  • Frame & Fork: Basso Diamante Disc, 48cm
  • Shifters: Shimano Ultegra R8020
  • Chainset: Shimano Ultegra R8020, 52/36, 165mm crank
  • Rear derailleur: Shimano Ultegra R8020
  • Cassette: Shimano Ultegra R8020
  • Brakes: Shimano Ultegra R8020
  • Rotors: Shimano XTR, 160mm
  • Wheels: Hunt 54 UD Carbon spoke disc wheelset
  • Handlebar: Specialized Turbo Cotton, 26mm
  • Handlebar and stem: Basso Integra, 40cm out-to-out, 100mm stem
  • Handlebar tape: Cinelli Mike Giant
  • Bar ends: Cinelli Mike Giant
  • Bottle cages: Cinelli Bike Giant
  • Seatpost: Basso Diamante Carbon
  • Saddle: Specialized Romin Evo Pro
  • Pedals: Favero Assioma power meter
  • Rider height: 166cm
  • Weight: 7.3kg
  • Estimated RRP: £7,425 (you could knock the price down with cheaper bottle cages!)