Ring: PCL Imports on 0845 458 5222
200 dry miles, the first 100 of which were in the mountains inshore of the Cote d'Azur in Southern France. A couple of the mountain climbs were fairly heavy going with the 53/39 chainset and 12/21 straight through block combination. But unless you live in Scotland or Wales any worry about lower gears is unwarranted as this bike absolutely flies along.
Under the ultra-sexy matt black finish of the semi-compact frame lies a combination of the two exotic materials du jour, Scandium and carbon fibre. The Scandium alloy (in this case SC61.10A KET (Kinetic Energy Treatment)) has been custom drawn into tubes of varying thickness and used throughout the frame. Everywhere except the seat stays which are a one-piece carbon affair. The small pivots at the dropouts suggest a degree of compliance in the stays, although bigger riders would probably notice this more than our 11 stone tester. The important criterion, however, is met: the bike takes off when you put the hammer down.
Nestling under a concealed Campagnolo headset are a pair of the now customary carbon bladed forks with bonded-in alloy dropouts. The carbon, like the carbon of the seat stays, is a 90deg cross-weave and as perfectly presented as any we've seen. Superfly guys have the choice of upgrading to a carbon steerer which saves them a few grams (but costs more money). Importer Richard Bird, a big chap by his own admission, told us that the carbon steerer isn't really recommended for the large-in-real-life.
Shimano's Dura-Ace groupset is one of finest pieces of bicycle engineering ever to grace the planet. STI levers give the most refined gear shifts in the world: a gentle stroke of the finger is all it takes to hop across the block. The powerful brakes give so much feedback from the tiny tyre contact patch that it's diffcult to imagine losing control under braking. The only departures from Dura-Ace are the Campagnolo headset (Shimano don't currently make a concealed one), Mavic Ksyrium Flite wheels and a carbon Selcof seat post.
The Selcof post, like all carbon posts provides somewhat of a dilemma for bike manufacturers. They're light and offer a little bit of flex, both desirable characteristics, but users can easily trash them in an alloy frame. The two most popular deaths are cosmetic, caused by scatching; and crushing, caused by over-tightening. The only thing you can do about scratching is to make sure that you never sink the post in lower than your usual ride height as the alloy of the frame likes nothing more than to take a chunk out on the way down and another on the way back up - and yes, we did scratch an otherwise beautiful post. The crushing-from-overtightening issue is doubly complicated because carbon doesn't have particularly good friction against the alloy of the seat tube. So people invariably end up clamping carbon posts even tighter than alloy ones. Bottecchia are addressing this on their 2003 road bikes by increasing the internal diameter of the seat tube considerably from the current 27.2mm. This will give a much greater clamping area and increase the strength of the post at the same time.
Bottecchia like narrow bars. The test bike came fitted with 40cm (centre to centre) ITM Mantis bars. At first they seemed horribly narrow but after a couple of days of exclusive riding we began to warm to them, although if we had the use of this bike over a longer period we'd definitely fork out for a set of 44cm wide bars. When asked about this the importers were confident that anyone buying these super-exclusive bikes would leave the shop with a set of bars they were happy with.
Finally the Selle Italia SLR seat is light at a claimed 165g. But it's the enemy of any man in the mood for loving within a week of close contact. Have no doubt, however, that when you spend this sort of money on a bike the shop will definitely cut you a deal on a nicer saddle. Anyone seen the Savlon?
Clearly this isn't the only phenomenally gorgeous road bike in the world. But it does feel like it is when you're on it. The combination of exotic frame, fantastic looks (yes, they do count, if you feel good about how you look then you'll feel good about how you ride) and unbelievably smooth Dura-Ace makes for a very uplififting experience on the road. Everywhere, absolutely everywhere, we took this bike people wanted to know what it was, pick it up, ride it... We spent a lot of time stood about while people popped around the block on it.
At the end of the day this bike inspired us to make up excuses to ride it. Once out on the road the semi-compact frame felt like a refined sports car. A combination of Italian attitude and German attention to detail. If only everything in life was so simple...
Should I buy one?
If you have the resources to only own the finest things in life then a high-end Bottecchia should be a must. Particularly if exclusivity is high on your shopping list. Importers PCL have a long history of selling premium bikes and know the importance of keeping numbers of exclusive products down. They're seriously limiting the number of Bottecchia bikes in UK and only expect to sell 500 bikes from the complete road range.
And if you like the look of these but like your tyres on the fat side then it's worth keeping an eye out for the five mtbs from around £350 - £1280 which will be available pretty soon.