Bikes of the Bunch: Prova Razzo

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In this edition of Bikes of the Bunch, Robbie Storey tells us all about his Prova Razzo, a custom-built steel steed with all the modern touches. The genesis of the project may have been unfortunate however Robbie is delighted with the outcome.

I’ve known Mark Hester (from Prova) for quite some time, and have keenly followed his progress with framebuilding since his first 29er+ trail bike. I have admired the level of engineering and eye for detail in his builds and was particularly taken with the finish on the adventure road bike that he built for himself.

We had always talked about getting me on a steel bike however I could never justify a third road bike (or fit it in my garage — maybe I need a bigger garage). Then, in September last year, an accident destroyed one of my bikes. Suddenly, I had the space, and that’s when we started to get the wheels in motion for my steel Prova Razzo.

That accident involved a truck while I was training on Beach Road [ed. in Melbourne, Australia]. The driver didn’t see me and pulled out straight in front of me and I crashed in to the driver’s door at 35kph. As you might imagine, I didn’t fare too well — fractures in c6 and c7 vertebrae; multiple fractures in t4 and t5 vertebrae; fractured sternum, partially collapsed left lung — however my Ridley Noah was much worse … it was a complete write-off.

It was a 2009 Ridley Noah, and I loved the stiffness it had, particularly through the bars and the bottom bracket. It made for a great race bike, and while it was a bit rough, I knew every bit of power that I put out ended up at the rear wheel. While I didn’t want to replace it specifically, I wanted to maintain the ultra-responsive “racey” feel, and that was the direction I gave Mark as the design came to fruition.

This was my first custom bike so I was a little unprepared for all of the decisions I had to make. For my other bikes, it was a simple matter to decide on a model and size for the frame, then the groupset and finishing kit. Now I was discussing tyre clearance, bottom bracket drop and front centre measurements. It was a new world of consideration and discussion.

I was very happy with the fit and feel of my current bike, however I put my trust in Mark to give him the freedom to put his “spin” on the geometry, knowing full well he would be able to fulfil the design brief of a sharp responsive road race bike.

The frame is fillet brazed and uses a combination of Columbus Spirit HSS and Life with a Reynolds 853 oval top tube and a tapered head tube. The large diameter downtube and oval top tube help with the torsional stiffness while the balance of top tube angle and exposed 27.2mm seatpost provide compliance in the saddle. The dropouts are CNC machined from solid 4130 and have silver-soldered stainless steel inserts for the contact points of the hub and skewer.

The paint scheme was actually one of the tougher points to nail down. When you can chose between a couple of colour variations in a catalogue, the decision can be quite easy, however as I learnt, when it’s completely custom, the colour wheel is your oyster! I settled on the blue as the major colour quite quickly, however the rest was a struggle.

After going to the Formula 1 Grand Prix in Melbourne, I fell in love with the blue, white, gold of the Sauber F1 team. Mark and I agreed that a subtle look would suit the frame, and that’s how we ended up with the final design: an understated, yet modern, design that complements the classic frame materials and modern engineering methods.

Throughout the build, Mark kept me in the loop with pictures of every key point. Nothing builds the excitement of new bike day like seeing it incrementally approach. This gave me the unique experience of watching every detail as it was built into the bike.

Rightly or wrongly (depending on where you sit), I am a Campagnolo fanboy. I love the feel of the hoods, and the super-fast raw feel of the shifting, so naturally I was always going to base the build around a Campy gruppo. It was just a choice of latest mechanical iteration or delving into the world of electronic shifting. As I was having the frame custom built, I decided it had to be electronic because the opportunity to have the bike built around the Campagnolo Record EPS groupset was too good to pass up.

Frame: Prova Razzo
Fork: Curve Cycling
Headset: Chris King
Groupset: Campagnolo Record EPS, 52/36T crankset, 12/27 cassette, Argonaut T47 bottom bracket.
Pedals: Look Kéo Blade Carbon
Wheels: Racing, Ax Lightness P38T rims with Tune hubs, Record cassette, and Vittoria Corsa tyres; training, Campagnolo Zonda with Chorus cassette.
Bars: 3T Rotunda (42cm)
Stem: 3T ARX II (100mm)
Seatpost: 3T Stylus LTD
Saddle: Specialized Romin Evo (155mm) re-skinned by Busyman Bicycles
Tape: Busyman Bicycles
Cages: King
Weight: Racing, 7.6kg; training, 8.2kg.

The rest of the build is a collection of brands and parts I know well. I love the look and feel of the classic bend of 3T’s Rotunda bars. The combination of the deep drop coupled with the extended flat section lends itself to aggressive riding in the drops. Matching the stem and seatpost to the bars was an easy choice.

Topping the seat post is a Romin Evo (155mm) with carbon rails. I love this saddle, and have run it for years across all my bikes from my commuter to my mountain bike and road bikes. It feels like an old pair of jeans — it’s that comfy. The saddle was the only component from my Noah that survived the accident — it was scuffed fairly extensively, however the structure of the rails and shell were untouched, so I decided it was the perfect time to indulge and have Busyman Bicycles re-skin it with some details to match the paint scheme. Busyman also created the bar tape to match.

The wheels were another indulgence: I found a set of Ax Lightness P38T wheels on Bicycle Market that were brand new! While I wouldn’t call myself a weight weenie, I couldn’t go past the opportunity to pick up a set of sub-1000g wheels. They are 26mm wide and 38mm deep, so they embrace the current trend of wider tires and wheels without overpowering the steel aesthetic of the bike.

I have always used Look Keo pedals, so the latest Look Keo Blade Carbon pedals were the obvious selection. I love the large platform, and simple mechanism of the carbon leaf spring.

The Chris King headset is finished by a custom top-cap from Jamie at Fetha Components, in memory of a good friend who passed away unexpectedly. It is on every one of my bikes, so now he rides with me everywhere.

I love the look and finish of the bike, and I can honestly say there is nothing else I would change. However, with the change in rules to allow disc brakes in racing, along with Campy’s release of their disc gruppos, I would think heavily about going down the disc wheel path if I had my time again.

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