Basso Diamante Review
The folks at Basso Bikes have been making racing bikes for more than 35 years in their Italian factory near Vicenza. Their catalogue was once devoted to steel though in recent years steel has been replaced by carbon. The Diamante is their premium frameset.
There is another Basso family famous for cycling in Italy, but this one is not related to Ivan Basso. This Basso family comprises a trio of boys born between 1945 and 1954. Marino Basso is the oldest and his talent for bike racing took him into the professional ranks in the late 1960s and into a World Road Cycling Championship in 1972. He also enjoyed multiple sprint wins in all three grand tours.
Marino’s brothers shared the same passion for cycling but neither had the same talent or devotion to racing. The youngest Basso boy, Alcide, was attracted to bike shops in his youth and was soon serving as a mechanic for his brother’s professional teams. In 1974, Alcide converted his garage into a workshop so that he could start building his own frames. He opened a bike shop in 1976 and in 1977 he formally established Basso Bikes with the help of his brothers.
Basso Bikes is located in the north of Italy in the small commune of Dueville, just outside of Vicenza. The company has a long history of working with steel tubing and Alcide collaborated with engineers and tubing manufacturers to refine his racing framesets. During the 90s, the company moved to titanium then aluminium and eventually carbon.
Alcide Basso’s dedication to understanding and experimenting with his chosen building materials continues. “For the bicycles that bear my name,” says Alcide, “I use only the best materials, mainly derived from the aerospace industry, which are developed and engineered specifically for bicycle use. With these materials we have created the new Diamante, the Astra and the Laguna, all capable of outstanding performances.”
Before the ride
The Diamante is constructed from one of Toray’s premium high modulus carbon fibers, Torayca T700. 1K weave is used throughout the frameset, and for those with an understanding of lay-up structure, the company list the details for each tube of the frame on their website.
The main tubes (except the seat tube) are made from five layers of carbon weave while the head tube gets an extra layer and lateral ridges to make it the most rigid part of the bike. In contrast, the seat tube is constructed from four layers of Torayca to provide the frameset with a measure of compliance.
The immensity of the bottom bracket and headtube junctions clearly announces the race intentions of this bike. The Diamante features a tapered (1.125-1.5 inch) headtube and a BB86 bottom bracket. The BB86 shell accepts Shimano’s Press-fit bearings for all of its road cranksets while other manufacturers such as Campagnolo and FSA make adapters to suit their cranksets.
The seat tube accepts a 31.8mm post and a 34.9mm band is required for the front derailleur. The Diamante frame weighs 880-930g and the forks 360g, making for a total of 1240-1290g, depending on the size of the frame.
There are seven sizes to choose from and the geometry is pretty conservative when compared to an aggressive race frame. Most noticeable is the extra length in the head tube, a little tall for experienced racers perhaps, otherwise well suited to regular riders. I had little trouble setting up a size 56 for my needs though the saddle setback was a little short, even after swapping to a post with extra setback.
As mentioned above, the frame accepts a common 31.6mm post and a 1.125″ stem, so riders shouldn’t have much trouble fine-tuning the fit of the Diamante to suit unless they’re looking for a low handlebar position.
The Diamante is available in four colour schemes: matt black with green highlights, matt black with white highlights, matt black with red highlights, and gloss white with red highlights. The finish is simple, understated, or perhaps a little dull, depending on taste, but it is expertly executed. Long sections of the main tubes and fork legs are left naked on the black frames so that admirers can take in the 1K weave of the carbon. As is the custom for many Italian brands, Basso refuses to limit the use of its logo, and proudly acknowledges il Tricolore.
The Diamante frameset retails for $5999, while complete bikes start at $6599 (Shimano Ultegra build). The local distributor, Bike Force Australia, offers a selection of standard builds through its premium road bike retailers as well as customised packages to address the needs of a discerning buyer. For this review, Bike Force Subiaco put together a custom build kit that featured Campagnolo’s Super Record groupset, Mavic R-Sys SLR wheels, and 3T bars, stem and saddle from the stock they had on hand in their store.
Building up the Diamante was a straightforward affair. The derailleur cables are best installed in the frame before the forks are fitted rather than trying to blindly thread them around the steerer. The stock headset, supplied by Microtech, Basso’s in-house accessories brand, seems a dependable unit.
The Campagnolo BB86 adapter cups press into the bottom bracket by hand and readily accepted the Super Record cranks, though an extra wave washer was required take up a little extra play (the Ultra-Torque design suffers from a lack of adjustment for bearing pre-load, so extra washers and/or shims must be used to removed any play regardless of the bottom bracket format).
Building up a new frameset will always uncover its dirty secrets, be it a poor finish or an ill-considered design feature, but for the Diamante, there were no such secrets to be found.
For more information see Basso Bikes.
After the ride
The Diamante is a sensational bike to ride, offering near-perfect handling. Perhaps it’s the stout head tube, clever layering of top-shelf carbon fibre, or an Italian knack for steering, but this bike is the most stable bike that I’ve ever ridden. However, it also turns beautifully and is incredibly responsive. Up until now, I’ve only experienced one or the other in a bike, and had presumed an uneasy compromise was the best I could ever hope for.
The quality of Diamante’s handling deserves more than just one paragraph. I need a better word than “stable” for a bike that is completely unperturbed by speed. Indeed, this bike has a need for speed. Riding no-handed at 40km/hr failed to uncover any instability, and taking a hand off the bars at 70km/hr also failed to unsettle the front end.
I’ve never had any trouble finding the limit of a bike while descending but that never happened on the Diamante. No wobbles, no shimmies, never a vague moment, the Diamante stayed on-task for the whole time and I ran out of hill without challenging the ability of this bike.
The Diamante has plenty more to offer than just great steering. The bottom bracket and chain stays are as efficient as those of the Scott Foil, delivering impressive power transfer, but with none of the road buzz or potential discomfort of the Foil.
I found myself looking for excuses to jump out of the saddle to revel in the ability of this bike to accelerate. The Diamante never tires, is always willing for one more effort, and may be the most enthusiastic training buddy you could ever hope for.
Campagnolo’s Super Record groupset is a great match for the Diamante. The two products hail from the same region of Italy, and both have been designed for performance. I’m still riding a Campag groupset from the previous generation so many of the changes to the design were immediately obvious. The long levers make for lighter shifting and more immediate braking, the hoods are a little deeper with extra reach, and once run in, the chain and cogs are super smooth and close to silent.
The essence of the group remains unchanged — the shifting maintains its tactility and the shortcomings of the bottom bracket persist — but it’s all been updated with carbon fibre and black paint, and I’m sure it will prove to be as reliable and robust as previous generations.
The Mavic R-Sys SLR wheels are somewhat lacking in the aerodynamics department when compared to Zipp’s Firecrest 202 but they accelerate brilliantly when on a slope. The contrast illustrates the difference between aerodynamic drag and inertia for a wheelset, where the latter is largely dictated by the weight of the rim.
The R-Sys SLR clinchers weigh in at a claimed 1295g and come fitted with Mavic’s Yksion dual compound tyres. The braking track is treated with Exalith 2 that improves stopping in the wet and is more durable than untreated alloy, however it has a texture that makes for a whiny and mildly unpleasant braking sensation that is reduced when using the company’s Exalith 2 brake pads (which are made by Swissstop).
All told, the wheels deliver a low weight with plenty of stiffness and superb acceleration, but they are too sluggish to serve as race wheels and much too expensive (~$2400) for training.
Final thoughts and summary
This Diamante is a high performance race chassis that will be relished by racers and experienced riders. The stability of the frameset and its eagerness for speed will encourage the confidence of any rider jostling for position at the front of the bunch and it will reward aggressive riding.
The presentation doesn’t offer a lot of bling for the asking price but any rider that spends time on this bike will come to appreciate its near-perfect performance and handling rather than admiring the finish of the frame.