- Bottecchia FX5.7
- £775 (limited offer)
- PCL 0845 458 5222
Bottecchia may not be a familiar name, but the Italian company turns out a range of good-looking road and mountain bikes. They’re brought into the UK by PCL. The FX5.7 is the second-to-top in the hardtail range – it originally cost £975 but we’re told that Bottecchia tend to release new bikes quite early in the year and since PCL didn’t get these in until recently they’ve dropped the price for the 2003 model to £775.
Does owning a Bottecchia give you anything over more familiar makes than just something a bit different? Let’s find out…
We’ll get the comedy decals out of the way first – there’s one on the top tube of the FX5.7 that reads “Eagle Highlands – Technological Creature”. We have no idea what that means. What we do know is that stickers do not a bike make, it’s what’s under them that counts…
It only takes the briefest of glances at the Bottecchia to realise that what we have here is an XC race bike. It’s not all that surprising that it should be so – Bottecchia are an Italian company with a road bike heritage, so a shaven-legged MTB is an entirely natural thing.
The frame is 7005 aluminium, and features all sorts of cunning tube shaping and manipulation. It’s also seriously beefy, although not in an ostentatious look-at-my-gussets kind of way. It’s more that each tube is, quietly and without fuss, rather sizable yet thin-walled, so the whole thing doesn’t end up weighing a ton.
Starting at the front, the headtube is distinctively flared and oversized, containing a recessed Cane Creek headset. There aren’t many manufacturers using these on MTBs, but we haven’t heard any particularly nasty things about them except that it can be slightly trickier to get hold of suitable headsets.
Moving aft, the top tube’s not particularly unusual but the downtube is fairly remarkable. Eschewing boring old round tubes, the FX5.7 packs a vaguely triangular main spar that flattens and broadens out towards the bottom bracket. Joining top and down tubes is, of course, the seat tube, topped with a neat minimalist seat clamp to hold the large-diameter 31.6mm seatpost.
At the back end the bigness continues. Both seat and chainstays are of substantial girth. The seatstays do that swoopy thing, bringing the brake bosses inwards but maintaining respectable mud room around the tyre. There’s a forged yoke down by the bottom bracket to which the chainstays are welded, allowing Bottecchia to use fat stays while still having plenty of tyre and chainring clearance.
All the usual details are in place. Two sets of bottle bosses, a rear disc mount and accompanying guides and all the cables routed along the top tube. It’s all finished in a reassuringly non-garish orange and black colour scheme. Despite the frame tubings’ generally large dimensions, the bike as a whole looks quite slimline thanks to the spec. Which brings us neatly to…
Most manufacturers tend to mix and match components, maybe having some Deore here, a smattering of LX there, perhaps Avid brakes or some own-brand cranks. More often than not, this is done to save money while simultaneously adding a bit of uniqueness. These shenanigans aren’t for Bottecchia, though. They like to keep things simple, and a complete and unadulterated Shimano Deore LX group finds its way onto the FX5.7.
LX is almost Shimano’s “lost” group. Some manufacturers skip it altogether, jumping straight from Deore-equipped bikes to XT ones. If it appeared at all it used to often only be as a rear derailleur or pair of shifters on an otherwise Deore bike. So it’s easy to forget just what good stuff it is. The cranks are particularly fine, being pretty much like XT ones only grey and cheaper. The shifters are somewhat less plasticky than Deore ones, the mechs are reliable, the hubs are of Shimano’s usual legendary quality and the brakes didn’t even squeal…
Less delightful is the fork. RockShox’s SID is the benchmark XC race fork, but at this money you won’t get one of those, so you get a Pilot which looks a bit like a SID but with chromed steel stanchions and less sophisticated internals. We’ve ridden bikes with Pilot XCs before and been reasonably happy with them, but the Bottecchia (along with plenty of other bikes in its price range) comes with a Pilot C which we never got more than 50mm of travel out of, and that was pretty stiff and springy. It also lacks the XC’s air assist and adjustable damping, so there’s not a great deal you can do about it. At the original price of £975 we’d be fairly unhappy with this fork, but for two hundred quid less it’s no worse than much of the competition so we’ll let it off.
The rest of the spec is, as you’d expect, XC race-biased. The rims are Mavic’s classic lightweight 517, shod with Ritchey ExcaVader tyres in a svelte 1.9in size. Also from Ritchey are the low stem, flat bars and seatpost, while Selle Italia provide the extremely minimalist but surprisingly comfortable SLR saddle. We’d be more than happy to have a less pimpy saddle in exchange for a slightly better fork, but that just suggests that our priorities aren’t quite the same as Bottecchia’s.
Make no mistake, this bike is designed for going fast. Everything else is secondary, including comfort. We’re looking at a stout and unyielding frame kitted out with narrow tyres, a not-terribly-plush fork, oversized seatpost and minimal saddle. With that setup there’s not much coming up from the ground that you’re not going to feel in intimate detail.
You can argue until the cows have not only come home but made a hot chocolate and switched on Big Brother about the comfort of aluminium frames, but one things for sure – seatpost size makes a hell of a difference. Most mountain bikes have a fair amount of seatpost sticking out of the top and in a conventional 27ish mm size that gives you a useful degree of flex to take the edge off the ground. With a big-diameter seatpost that all but disappears.
So if you’re looking for comfort, this isn’t your bike. If you’re looking for speed, though, there’s a good chance that it is. The flipside of all that stiffness and thin tyres and racy head-down riding position is fast acceleration, efficient cruising and inspiring climbing on smoother surfaces.
Like any bike of this ilk, it can be a bit of a handful downhill. The tyres are grippy enough, but there’s not a great deal to them and they’re not very forgiving of mistakes. Again, this is classic XC race territory. It’s actually quite refreshing to ride a bike that makes you work a bit. Sure, a higher front end and bigger tyres and a plusher fork would make life easier on the downs, but XC races are won on the climbs. We’re certainly not going to criticise a bike for being single-minded – just be aware that it is…
This is definitely one of those not-for-everyone bikes. If you like to ride bumpy, technical stuff or pootle along looking at the view the Bottecchia isn’t for you. If, however, you want to go as fast as possible for a couple of hours on generally not-too-lumpy terrain (whether racing or not) or want something to flatter your climbing legs, take a look at this.