Just like your mid ride caffeine fix, Gravel bikes can be delivered in a multitude of ways. This Cipollini AllRoad is definitely a double shot espresso race variant.
Technically, i'm talking about the frameset. Cipollini offer this in a multitude of sizes in either naked carbon or this rather fetching matt military green. The Italian made frame is constructed using a tube-to-tube method in T1000 carbon fibre. The frame has a handful of aero features thrown into a very impressively finished frame with neat tube junctions. Sensible, internally routed cables are good to see...no odd bends necessary. The obligatory flat mount disc brakes and 12mm thru axles are all present, unfortunately also a press fit bottom bracket.
Geometry is a racy 72.5 degree head angle, mated to longish top tubes with reasonable head tube lengths. The 417mm chainstays, short wheelbase and low bottom bracket enables rapid acceleration and stability at high speed.
The proprietary seatpost is one of the better i have used with an easily adjustable and secure head. I'd prefer a standard 27.2mm post for comfort and customisation options.
As much as i love the green paint finish, it is a little thin (weight saving measure) so i'd be tempted with the raw carbon option if you do plan to get a bit rowdy with it.
UK distributor Paligap have put together this test mule with a Sram Force 1 groupset, Vittoria wheels, Goodyear tyres and Deda finishing kit...I'd rather not mention the saddle!
It's a sensible and reasonably priced build but the frameset cost and intended use probably justifies a higher spec build if you were to invest the considerable £3800 for the frameset. It was all very functional but i did find the 42 - 42/11 gearing slightly limiting and you could probably drop a chunk of weight and gain functionality with a higher tier groupset. A wide ranging double or Sram AXS Mullet setup would be a perfect companion.
But, this is a test frameset and without the chosen build components I'd be left straddling the frame, running around the woods making motorbike noises...something i haven't done since childhood.
Which leads me to my next point. This bike made me behave like a child. Skids, endos, accelerating into and out of corners, hopping, jumping and poorly executed wheelies. It's a super quick, direct and sharp handling speed machine. Also stiff and uncompromising. The bottom bracket area screams POWER!! and the tubes are oversized, sound amplifying beasts. The stiffness, combined with the not overly generous tyre clearance does make for a harsh ride at times.
I settled on 35psi in the 40mm Goodyear Connector tyres which provided enough grip and cushioning on light trails and fire roads, but also didn't compromise speed on road sections. It's not the kind of bike that tolerates stopping to adjust air pressure at every terrain change, its warp speed, all the time.
Let me confess that i didn't think i would like this bike. I moved away from this type of machine a couple of years ago, now preferring the 'steel is real' and 'the supple life' mantra.
I initially dismissed it as the tyres were too narrow, the wheels were too tall and it had zero mounting points for anything other than your bottle cages...and only two of those!
I was clearly missing the point. The clue is in the name. A 40mm tyre is all this bike is ever going to need and perhaps perfect for the imperfect British roads and forest trails. It's tailor made for events like the Dirty Kanza or Dirty Reiver... but equally happy as simply your ROAD bike.
If you can afford the frameset, you can probably afford a second set of wheels to allow you simple and quick pre ride changes in use for the bike. I'd be tempted to have a wheelset with some road rubber in the 30mm range and another, more aggressive tread patterned 40mm tyre shod pair of wheels for off road duties.
If speed is your thing, this could be the only bike that you'll need.*
It's a great option for the gravel curious roadie.
This view was confirmed during the loan period upon seeing ex-Olympian and XC legend Oli Beckinsale tiptoe down a rutted descent on a local 'gravel' ride...he wouldn't care that this bike is a little harsh in places and doesn't have the tyre volume to forgive bad line choices... he'd be grinning from ear to ear on all the other sections whilst ripping everybody's legs off!
It's really not designed for the bike packing, UK-centric MTB lite end of the gravel spectrum, but I do think it could do with a pair of bosses on the top tube and underside of the down tube to allow for tool kegs and bolt on top tube bags for those long gravel rides/events.
*Stop kidding yourself... everybody knows that it's just not possible