Passoni Top Evolution Review

Jules gets the opportunity to ride a £20k superbike

Posted by Julian Wall

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"It's like bike companies used to do in the olden days - before they convinced a cyclist that the best solution for their new bicycle would be to order it online and hope that the characterless product that arrived on their doorstep would fit properly and that the ‘ride’ felt like they said it would"

Julian Wall

The Purist's Ultimate Choice

I had a bit of a treat at the weekend, Passoni loaned me one of their demo bikes, a classic road bicycle that felt so refined and refreshingly simple, a combination of craftsmanship and technology that gifted me an exhilarating but all too brief three hours on my local roads.
99% of the bikes we sell at Cyclefit are custom builds; which make for a unique and rider specific bicycle, we begin with the frame custom designed or selected to fit perfectly for the type of riding our customer likes to do, we add a groupset and components and wheels to create a unique and wonderful bicycle.

Future Progress?

It's like bike companies used to do in the olden days before they convinced a cyclist that the best solution for their new bicycle would be to order it online and hope that the characterless product that arrived on their doorstep would fit properly and that the ‘ride’ felt like they said it would.
“What do you mean?” the marketing people say “of course the bike is meant to be really stiff and unforgiving, and un-adjustable and creaky and yes, you do need to carry a torque wrench with you to adjust your seatpost, bars etc but be careful because those 3mm seatclamp hex bolts bolt will round off (we thought it was a good idea to make them as small as possible to adjust the parts that need moving the most, like the seatpost, and also stick a wedge in it that could drop down your seat tube) when you unpack your bike in Mallorca.
And that’s one of the reasons I really enjoyed riding Passoni’s Top Evolution titanium frame so much.
Other than having a 5mm seat binder bolt it is made of a very special metal called titanium, it is strong, does not corrode, and is very, very comfortable to ride. The tubing is selected by Passoni based on the rider’s weight and how they would like the bike to handle and ‘feel’. This gives the bike the ‘feel’; it’s very difficult to create the ‘feel’ but it’s that sensation of ‘feeling’ the road and not ‘feeling’ it; it's having a connection between the road surface but not being battered by it. The forks, wheels, tyres and handlebars - to a lesser extent - have a role to play but it’s the frame that makes the difference.

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Forty of hours of polishing

"it’s that sensation of ‘feeling’ the road and not ‘feeling’ it; it's having a connection between the road surface but not being battered by it"

Weight Is For Grocers

A bike will continually evolve over time, get the ‘feel’ of the frame right and all those other components can be selected and changed at any point in its lifetime. They will change how the bike ‘feels’, deep section wheels will stiffen the ride for instance. We have customers on ten year old titanium Serotta’s fitting SRAM wireless groupsets and those bikes just keep on trucking because the owners love the ‘feel’.

Yes, titanium is heavier than carbon and you are heavier than Simon Yates so don’t go on about frame weight, as Ernesto said “weight is for grocers” it’s all about the ride.

The Passoni frames are made in Italy just outside Milan, that gives me and Phil a good ‘feeling’, I think its called provenance. Beautifully and lovingly built and painted by crafts men and women who take pride in their work and graft through all seasons in heat and cold, every frame polished and finished by hand for many, many hours.

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Custom painted Cinelli handlebar and stem a natural host for the Omata.

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Custom covered Selle Italia SLR saddle

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The Ride

I clip-clopped along Donkey Street, weaving through the corners into a head wind, Romney Marsh rarely lets you ride in a Westerly direction very quickly but the return leg is always quicker with a tail wind. Nice and quick through the corners though like a racing bike it was, a bit further in to the Marsh there is a really rough section of lane and I flew across it hardly feeling anything and still able to pedal without getting bucked out the saddle, heading for the appropriately named St. Mary in The Marsh, no deviation from my course I just pedalled straight ahead.

Gokiso £10k Wheels. Ahem.

But then I remembered - though I shouldn’t have forgotten - I had a pair of Gokiso wheels on the bike, all €10,000.00 worth with their virtually frictionless hubs and inbuilt suspension. You, see, its all about the combination, frame first, then the wheels then the components and groupset. They Gokiso wheels are so fast, on climbs you do not slow down between pedal strokes, you have to hang on to the bars and try and keep up with the bike as it accelerates away. The Gokiso's were fitted with Vittoria's Corsa CX 28mm tyres, there are lovely, really soft and pliable with their cotton casing, yes, lovely, they 'feel' nice and add to an already amazing package.

Campag Who?

The groupset is Campagnolo's new Record 12 speed mechanical, remember Campagnolo? They used to be the go-to gearing people before Shimano Di2 and SRAM came along?
Before I start this section I will refer to Campagnolo as Campag not Campy as I don’t wear sneakers and I watch adverts on the TV.
Phil’s a big fan of Campag, I was until Shimano Di2 arrived, and Campag made their first 11 speed groupsets; compared to the old 10 speed the shifting was awfully mushy and I drifted away. But I do like the Campag brake hoods they are very comfortable and the brake levers feel better in the drops than Shimano – more to grab hold of. After riding this bike though I could revert to the mechanical option, it's simple to install and adjust and looks beautiful. I rode another bike last night with Di2 gears and disc brakes (and got numb hands, but that’s another journal post) and kept looking for the Campag thumb shifter, I like that thumb shifter, its good when riding on the hoods and makes a nice clicking noise but on the downside it is hard to change up the gears when riding in the drops but I don’t have to that very often really, so not a problem.
Fitting Nokon cables even though they are pretty isn’t such a great idea though; the Campag cables are already amazing and the Nokons make the shifting too mushy and the bike a bit creaky. Barna (our mechanic) has had Campag cables on his commuter bike for five years and hasn’t had to change them, he's not even had to re-lube them after a hard winter.
The bike also had rim brakes that are something of a rarity at Cyclefit these days now that disc brakes have taken over, but despite general opinion I was able to stop and slow down in a timely fashion. There are no traffic lights on my route and hardly any cars so just a feather of the brakes here and there.
Heading back with a tail wind I detoured to a couple of climbs and attempted one of my Strava starred segments called Rumwolds Hill; I should have gone harder out the corner at the bottom but it’s a bit gravelly so I took it wide. The Passoni did climb well though, pedalling out the saddle and the rear wheel didn’t skip about and those old school short chainstays kept the back wheel under me. I ddint go quite as fast as i wanted to but it wasn't the bike holding me back.

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I couldn't resist a shortcut through the woods

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Gokiso hubs - Japanese engineering

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Nokon cables - if you must

The Passoni frames are supplied with custom painted Cinelli handlebars, stem and bottle cages (called Harry for some reason) and a Columbus fork. This bike had the Cinelli Neomorphe handlebar, it is rather unusual looking but does offer a myriad of comfortable hand positions and works well with the Campagnolo levers. Handlebar tape is Passoni’s own leather option that matches the custom leather Selle Italia SLR saddle, possibly not the best saddle design for Passoni’s demographic but I think they have recently found someone who can cover saddles of other brands to match the tape and paintwork. The seatpost is PMP titanium a light weight and well engineered post we have been fitting to Serottas and Sevens for years. The titanium post flexes a little and adds to the ride comfort.

So, in summary, I was very impressed, I would like to own one in my custom geometry and choose the paint colour (probably Passoni's Terra Bronze) and finish and fit Campag Super Record mechanical gears, that would be a nice project. I'd probably skip the Gokisos as I'm only a shopkeeper and opt for Lightweight's Meilenstein wheels and amber wall Vittoria Corsa CX tyres with Tubolito inner tubes. Yes, a nice bike project to mull over.

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Cinelli Neo Morphe - the Kama Sutra of handlebars

Technical Spec

Frame Titanium grade 9 (3Al/2,5V) with different thicknesses, drawn and strengthened. Titanium grade 5 (6Al/4V) for head tube, bottom bracket shell and dropouts, CNC machined
Forks Columbus Grammy Slim
Groupset Campagnolo Record 12 Speed rim brake mechanical
Handlebars Cinelli Neo Morphe
Stem Cinelli Dinamo
Seatpost PMP Titanium 31.6
Saddle Selle Italia SLR - custom cover
Handlebar tape Selle Italia Perforated leather
Wheelset Gokiso GD2 with 38mm carbon rim
Tyres Vittoria Corsa CX 28mm

About the author

Julian Wall, Co-founder

Co-founder, bike fitter and bike designer. Jules rides a Trek Emonda SLR 1 x 11 road bike, he likes gardening and Belgian beer.

View other posts by Julian Wall

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