Review: Barco Steel Frame - A Symphony of Craftsmanship and Performance
Chainsmith has heard the term “my bike sings” a few times over the years. It never fails to bring a great deal of satisfaction, because it means we’ve synchronised the rider with their machine. But if bicycles were actual symphonies, of all the steel frames Cicli Barco would be the masterpiece. Crafted with precision and Italian passion, these handmade frames are a testament to the artistry that thrives in the world of cycling. This review unveils the journey of a rider seeking not just a bike, but an extension of their own cycling soul.
Let’s settle back in to 2022, when we first met our rider Radovan, visting us for a bike fit...
Radovan: Owner of a custom Cicli Barco
Alison McGregor (Ali) : Thanks for giving us your time Rad. We appreciate hearing how the bike rides after your time in the saddle. Let’s start at the beginning. Why were you originally looking for a new bike? What were you experiencing in your previous bike?
Radovan Klusacek (Rad) : I loved my old bike and was initially considering upgrading it. The main reason? I wanted to get more speed and comfort out of it on long Endurance rides. However, after we looked at the bike David patiently explained to me the limitations of the frame and geometry. Trying to get the bike "dialled in" for my body and purpose would be expensive and the results compromised. That led to my decision to get a new bike.
Ali : I believe we guided you to the Best Bike Form. Did this part of the process help give ideas or cement your intentions?
Rad : The bike form is brilliant. It did two things for me. Firstly, it opened my mind to all of the options from a factory bike to fully customised bike build. Secondly, it cemented my decision to work with Chainsmith. It was clear that whatever bike I decide I want, Chainsmith can deliver.
“It was clear that whatever bike I decide I want, Chainsmith can deliver.” Rad
On a personal note, I also share their passion and love for Italian cycling. The legacy of riders like Fausto Coppi, Marco Pantani, or Vincenzo Nibali fuelled my love for the sport over the years, so I chose to build a pure Italian bike. A bike that will be my own, an expression of what cycling means to me. I grew up racing steel frame bikes so I wanted to come back to that. A handmade Cicli Barco frame with top end components was the direction I chose to take.
Details matter: Where Alpitude Component cages complete the finishing touch
Ali : This passion directly translates into our shared love for Italian cycling, but especially the generations of Italian master builders. We strongly believe in the benefits of custom tailoring, and bike fitting comes hand in hand with that. Did the bike fitting with David whilst using the IdMatch smart bike help realise a different approach to buying a bike? Was it useful?
Rad : By the time David and I did the bike fitting with the smart bike I knew I wanted a custom built frame, so using the system to find a geometry which perfectly fits my physique and riding style was the natural next step. The fitting process really helps you think about your pedalling technique and position on the bike. The system allows you to quickly try a range of settings until it dials in on the one where the machine feels like a natural extension of your body. And that's your geometry.
The smart bike, part of the experience in the Idmatch bike fit Lab, Chainsmith
Ali : We can chat about the benefits in ride feel in a moment. But the next stage involved the appearance of the frame. Aesthetics is always the most difficult to choose - there’s so much available! Was the process of choosing frame colours and graphic informative?
“It is incredible to see the level of design customisation that Chainsmith offers you through their relationships with the frame builders and even the major component brands, such as Campagnolo or Deda Elementi.” Rad
Rad : This was undoubtedly the most challenging part of the journey for me. The reason was that whatever crazy idea I came up with, David's answer always was, yes, we can do that. I changed my mind so many time I can't count. David was incredibly patient and helpful in guiding me through the process and helping me to crystalise my ideas.
It is incredible to see the level of design customisation that Chainsmith offers you through their relationships with the frame builders and even the major component brands such as Campagnolo or Deda Elementi. The colour scheme and design choices can extend to the components as well. Now that's special and I wanted to take advantage of that.
Dave and Ali build partnerships to provide the customer results, including Italian component manufacturers, Deda Elementi and Campagnolo
Ali : And when you finally came to the store for the reveal, how did you feel when you saw your bike the first time?
Rad : As you would expect, building a custom machine is a long journey, so when I saw the bike for the first time, I was quite excited. I was regularly updated with photos as the frame was built, but seeing your bike put together for the first time was very special. Seeing all the custom details and the way it was meticulously built and put together was amazing.
Ali : Where have you ridden and what feelings, experiences, sensations have you enjoyed?
Rad : When I started discussing with David what bike I want, my description was "super comfortable, but responsive and fast". I was quite aware how vague an idea that is given the endless choices that had to be made, all contributing to what the bike will feel like in the end. Building a custom bike takes a lot of trust. It certainly was not misplaced with Chainsmith.
When I got on the bike for the first time, it was clear that the way the frame, the wheels and the components worked together felt exactly how I wanted. The bit I am still trying to get my head around is how much the bike delivers on these qualities. The way it feels under you and works with you is just a pure joy.
For personal reasons, I was clear on the group set. It had to be Italian, it had to be Campagnolo Super Record. Beyond that, I am grateful to David and Chainsmith for the guidance when selecting the right components. As an example, David suggested Deda Elementi Trentacinque cockpit. Super modern, super light but with a retro flare. This was a perfect choice not only from performance and ergonomics, but also design perspective. The ability of the Chainsmith team to remain consistently aware of what the overall goal is and make suggestions that drive that vision (while I was getting distracted :)) was amazing. And then there was the recommendation of wheels...the combination of the steel frame with stiff and crazy fast Campy wheels is combination made in heaven. That truly brought the bike to life.
Ali : Does the frame respond when you need, climbing, cornering, descending...?
“The level of predictability and confidence the bike delivers is something else.” Rad
Rad : This once is hard to put into words. As I said, the bike feels exactly as I wanted. But probably the most exciting, and a little bit unexpected, is how well the bike descends and corners. The level of predictability and confidence the bike delivers is something else. This will sound funny, but when you're flying into a corner on a descend it's like the bike is saying "it's ok, lean in, I've got this". Feather the rear brake, find the apex, let go and rail it! You're saving tonnes of watts on the exit with all the speed you're carrying through.
Ali : Rad, with your experience in the saddle, how is a custom bike different?
Rad : By definition, in every way. Every choice is yours to make. The challenge is to be very clear about what riding a bike means to you and what it is that you want. Building a custom bike is a rare occasion and you want to make most of it. Luckily, if you're like me and, initially, completely oblivious of 90% of choices available to you, the Chainsmith team will guide you every step of the way. I am very grateful for that.
Ali : On that note, has the team been informative, positive, helpful. If so, who would you recommend visit them for assistance?
Rad : As in any competitive sport, there can be a lot of ego around cycling. And that's ok. But cycling is far more than just a competitive sport. In one way or another, cycling helped me to get through some very tough times. For people like me it is a passion, a way of life and you see that at Chainsmith. At their workshop you can see two bikes on the service stands, one ten times the price of the other, both getting the same level of attention. I respect that.
Ali : Lastly, and most important!... Where are you dreaming of taking your bike?
Rad : Growing up in Europe and having a pure Italian machine, the bike has to come back home, at some point. Stelvio, Mortirolo we're coming soon!
Conclusion: A Symphony of Craftsmanship
In the quest for speed and comfort, Rad’s journey led to Chainsmith. The limitations of Rad’s original frame were laid bare, while the opportunity to create a new vision of his cycling future began. The idea of a custom Barco, built for Rad and Rad alone, opened up a world of possibilities. From factory builds to custom dreams it was clear, Chainsmith was to become the maestro in bringing this vision to life.
A custom bike, it turns out, is a revelation. It's a mirror reflecting the rider's soul, a manifestation of deep cycling aspirations. Chainsmith as a Team, are proud to bring our expertise and patience, and turn this journey into a masterpiece.
And now, the dreams. The Stelvio, the Mortirolo - the roads of Europe beckon, a pilgrimage back to the roots of Italian cycling. This Barco Steel Frame, a performance driven machine with links to art, will find its true home amidst the storied peaks and valleys.
In the end, it's not just a bike. It's a symphony, a masterpiece, a labor of love. And for Rad, we can only hope this is a journey that will resonate with every pedal stroke, every twist of the handlebar, every descent into the unknown. The Barco Steel Frame is more than a bike; it's a legacy in the making.
Wonder if a custom bike is for you? Don’t wait any longer, fill out the Best Bike Form to find out.
Cicli Barco XCR Stainless Steel Custom Frameset
Campagnolo Super Record groupset (custom paint)
Campagnolo Bora WTO 45 Wheelset
Pirelli PZero Road Tyres
Deda Elementi Trentacinque Handlebar and stem (custom paint)
Deda Elementi Superleggero Seatpost (custom paint)
Selle Italia SLR Carbon Special Team Ed. Saddle
Alpitude Components Superleggera Carbon Cages