The Tifosi Cavazzo Ekar is a highly versatile bike that has the capacity to perform at a wide range of applications. The 1x13 groupset offers a similar range and number of single tooth jumps to a 2x setup and, of course, still providing all the benefits that come with going 1x. The frame itself is highly versatile, able to handle up to 2.1 inch 650b tyres or 45mm in 700c. There’s also a wide variety of mounting points, accommodating both modern bikepacking bags as well as traditional panniers and mudguards. However, if you’re planning on spending a fair amount of time on more technical trails than just wide open gravel, you would be better off on a bike with a more progressive geometry than is present on this open mould design.
Excellent Ekar 1x13 groupset
Lots of mounting points, modern and traditional
Good tyre clearance
Wheels have a relatively narrow internal width
Handlebar reach is quite long
By Stefan Abram
Tifosi’s Cavazzo gravel bike platform is very much a jack of all trades. Put on some fat tyres and, together with its reasonably slack head angle and simple 1x drivetrain, it’s a blast around the local trails and bridleways.
Going in quite the other direction, the Cavazzo is also well suited for long-distance bikepacking jaunts, with those 13 gears and wide variety of mounting options. This isn’t a bike that railroads you into one small, particular niche - many doors have been left wide open.
Let’s address the elephant in the room first: this is an open mould frame, which goes a long to explaining how it’s possible to have Campagnolo’s 1x13 Ekar groupset specced on a bike which costs under £3K. Having not had to make those investments in research and development, Tifosi can price much cheaper than other brands which do design their own frames.
The geometry, as you might expect from an open mould frame, isn’t particularly radical. The head angle is on the slacker side of things at 71.5 degrees. That’s not exactly avant-garde, but still helps to steady the handling when heavily laden or out on the trails.
At 435mm, the chainstays are quite standard for gravel bikes. This does make them a little long for riding hard on singletrack trails, but to be fair, with the potential for setting this bike up with a rack and panniers, the length isn’t so much of a negative.
Tyre clearance stands at 700x45c or up to 54mm (2.1”) when using 650b wheels – providing a good amount of scope for a highly cushioned ride. The stock tyres are a curious choice, being the 700x40c version of Schwalbe’s G-One Ultrabite tyres. These are a bit narrow for gnarlier off-road riding, but the tread is much more aggressive than what you’d need or want for faster and tamer trails.
With tyre choice being so specific to the terrain and conditions, a brand will never be able to spec a tyre that suits everyone – most likely there will be a tyre better suited to your local riding than the ones which come specced. But even so, there are still tread patterns and widths which are a closer match to what most people will be riding than the Ultrabites in this particular width.
Mounts cover the frame, with the downtube and toptube bosses you’d expect of a gravel bike – but there are also mounts for mudguards as well as front and rear racks for pannier bags. Although the frame is carbon, it’s still rated to take a 25kg load on the rear and 15kg at the front, so if you’re thinking of dabbling in longer cycle touring adventures – or just want more luxury on shorter outings – there’s potential for that here.
The highlight of the spec has got to be the Ekar groupset, so that’s where we’ll start.
In terms of the gearing, the 9–42t cassette is paired to a 40t chainring, which does give quite a steep setup for a gravel bike. That largest gear is even a little bigger than a 53x12 combination – to put that in context, the traditional largest gear World Tour riders use is 53x11. It is fair to say that this is pretty in excess of what’s needed on a gravel bike.
Really, a 36t chainring would deliver a much more useable range. Still with a top gear equivalent to 52x13, but also offering a bottom gear one whole step lower than a 1:1 ratio – which is needed for steep off-road climbs, particularly if bikepacking bags are thrown into the mix. However, the smallest chainring that will actually fit onto the Ekar cranks is a 38t, but that would still be an improvement over the 40t specced.
The jumps between the gears of this cassette are quite nicely spaced, with a total of five single tooth jumps between the smaller sprockets providing quite even changes in cadence when pushing hard on the flat. There are much larger gaps between the easiest gears, but these don’t tend to be so noticeable when climbing.
With regard to the brakes, the calipers are hydraulically actuated and matched to a 160mm rotor on the front and a 140mm rotor on the rear. This is quite a typical paring for a road bike, but on a gravel bike this is a little on the small side – generally you’d expect to see at least 160mm front and rear, there’s even a growing number of gravel bikes which can handle 180mm on the front.
The wheels are the Miche Graff DX which, although alloy, do feel reasonably lightweight. The internal rim width, however, is quite narrow for gravel by today’s standards, measuring only 19mm across – there’s even a growing number of road wheelsets that have a wider internal width than that.
Coming now to the finishing kit, this is an all alloy affair with regards to the seatpost, stem and handlebar. The bars themselves are reasonably wide at 44cm at the hoods and flaring out a little further to the drops. The saddle is a Selle Italia Model X, with a short nose and large central cutout.
I was quite impressed with the feel of the Cavazzo. Whether or not the frame damped vibrations less adroitly than other frames designed in-house, I couldn’t really tell – the tyres of gravel bikes are so much larger and more cushioned than road bikes that that level of refinement isn’t really noticeable.
As expected, with the long 435mm chainstays, the rear end did get a little more hung up on roots and it wasn’t quite as snappy as gravel bikes with chainstays nearer to 425mm. But if that kind of riding isn’t so much your bag, preferring longer distance jaunts on mellower trails, then this wouldn’t really be so noticeable and wouldn’t present an issue.
The Miche Graff DX wheels were pretty respectable, feeling reasonably lightweight and being quick to accelerate. Part of that is likely down to the narrow 19mm internal rim width not requiring so much material for its construction.
On the flipside, this does mean that there’s a little less sidewall support when running wider tyres at low pressures (around 24psi). When it comes to cheaper wheelsets where some kind of compromise has to be made, I find that a lighter and narrower rim delivers a better ride feel than a wider – but significantly heavier – design.
Although that said, you don’t have to go that far up price brackets to get to the point where you can get pretty great performance in both respects. DT Swiss GR1800 wheels can be found on a number of gravel bikes at this price point – and these do combine a wide internal width with a respectable weight, while at a still reasonable price.
Of course, the main selling point of this bike is Campagnolo’s Ekar groupset, which was excellent. On road sections, there were hardly any times I felt as if I was stuck between two gears, one too hard and the other too easy – unlike most gravel bikes, where this is rather more common. Added into that, there’s also the shifting simplicity of 1x, which really does make a difference to lowering cognitive load as you just sweep through the cassette completely sequentially.
The narrower Q-factor of the Ekar crankset was also quite a bonus. Shimano road cranks have a spacing of 146mm, while GRX is 151mm – it’s not a big change going between them, but it is noticeable. With the Ekar cranks having a spacing of 145.5mm, the Q-factor was indistinguishable, which was actually quite a nice experience.
Being one of the only bikes able to offer Campagnolo’s Ekar groupset for under £3,000, the Tifosi’s Cavazzo naturally going to rate quite highly in this department. However, there is much more to a bike than just its groupset.
The frame design offers great versatility, able to handle 2.1-inch 650b tyres and with a wide variety of mounting option, there’s a broad range of applications this bike can be put to.
However, if you want a gravel bike that is better suited to dabbling in some singletrack, you would be better off going for a bike which has a had a bit more investment in the frame design – such as the BMC URS ONE at £2,850.00 – as it’s the geometry which really makes the difference here.
And similar to the frame, the wheels are another area that is economised on to provide the Ekar groupset. These aren’t bad, still being reasonably light, but would benefit from an upgrade to a set of wheels with a wider internal rim width if you’re planning on running 700x45c tyres.
In contrast, the Canyon Grizl CF SL 8 1BY costs £2,949 and features Canyon’s own frame design and has DT Swiss’ G1800 Spline wheelset with a wide 24mm internal rim width. The groupset is the 1x11 GRX 800 series, which doesn’t provide the range or single tooth jumps of Ekar, but is equivalent to Shimano’s second tier road groupset, Ultegra.
Generally, we’d advise getting the highest quality frame you can afford and upgrading the components over time. If you were to upgrade a frame down the line, you could well end up with some compatibility issues which require new components to be bought anyway – adding an extra cost.
But the Ekar groupset is a notable differentiator when compared to what Shimano and SRAM have to offer, which depending on your requirements, could be a significant draw. The frame itself might not be pushing the boundaries of design, but it’s not bad by any means.
- Frame: UD Toray T500 and T700 Carbon
- Fork: Carbon UD 1
- Shifters: Campagnolo EKAR 1x13
- Crankset: Campagnolo EKAR 40t
- Derailleur: Campagnolo EKAR
- Cassette: Campagnolo EKAR 13x 9/42T
- Brakeset: Campagnolo EKAR Flat Mount Disc
- Wheels: Miche Graff SP DX AXY wheels 700c i19
- Tyres and clearance: Schwalbe G-One Ultra Bite 700x42c (Max 700x45c or 650b x 2.1”)
- Head angle: 71.5 degrees
- Chainstay length: 435mm
- BB drop: 67mm
- BB: BSA Threaded
- Weight: 9.50kg
Starting off riding mountain bikes on the South Downs way, he soon made the switch the road cycling. Now, he’s come full circle and is back out on the trails, although the flat bars have been swapped for the curly ones of a gravel bike.
Always looking for the next challenge, he’s Everested in under 12 hours and ridden the South Downs Double in sub 20. Although dabbling in racing off-road, on-road and virtually, to date his only significant achievement has been winning the National Single-Speed Cross-Country Mountain Bike Championships in 2019.
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