Bikes of the bunch: Alby’s Passoni

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In this edition of Bikes of the Bunch we feature a bike that doesn’t sacrifice function over style. You might think of Passoni as being a bike that’s too precious to ride, but let me assure you, this one will be given a flogging.

You might remember six months back when I went for a ride with the owner of Passoni, Matteo Cassina. I asked Matteo if I could photograph his bike and he reluctantly agreed. It was a dirty mess that had just travelled around the world, but we improvised with a baby wipe wash down. You can see his “Titanio Puro” here. If you’re interested, have a read about the history of Passoni.

During that ride Matteo and I discussed a collaboration with Passoni for one of our Rapha Continental bikes (back when I was working for Rapha). He agreed and after a few months of spec’ing it out and getting it made, it’s finally come to fruition.

The lucky recipient of this beautiful steed is my mate Allan Iacuone (we call him Alby for short). You may remember Alby from such feature films as Van Diemen’s Land, The Snowy’s and the Satchel Dispatch Ride.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. SRAM Force on a bike of this calibre? Well, the whole point of this build was to create something beautiful, but could also be ridden without fear of a scratch here and there. Perhaps Campy Athena would have been a better fitting choice, but SRAM generously donated this groupset to the bike and if there’s one thing that’s certain, Force is a workhorse that suits the criteria.

At about 7.4kg, the bike is by no means light by today’s standards. However, when I asked Alby how it rides, he said: “Amazing. It just wants to go forward. The overall balance of the bike is unlike anything I’ve ever ridden.” That might sound a cliché bike review, but I know Al has ridden dozens of different bikes in his days of being a professional cyclist and he’s usually quite blasé about these things. It’s the first time I’ve heard him describe a bike like this.

To give it a bit of a nudge, we took the bike out to Melbourne’s infamous “1 in 20” (6.8km, average 4%) to do a time. Still air, 15C, it was a good day for a time. It’s usually hard to convince Alby to have a proper crack, but “new bike syndrome” got the best of him. From the beginning I sat on his wheel and I thought for certain that he was started to hard. I stuck with him until the false flat but when we got to the 2km to go mark and it began to rise, I went straight into the red and exploded. Alby rode away from me like I was standing still. His time: 14:10. He claims he was hungover, but I don’t buy it. Back in the day he would have easily shaved a minute off that, but 14:10 is a very respectable time for a guy who doesn’t race anymore. Urban legend has it that Nathan O’Neill set a time of 12:35, but I haven’t seen any proof. For proof on a 13min time, see this video of Trent Lowe smashing it back when he was training for mountain bike world championships (which he won).

Does a 14:10 time up the 1 in 20 say anything about the bike? No, but it says that you don’t need a 5kg bike with race wheels to be able to do it.

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