Bossi Strada SS road bike review: aero meets titanium
All the features of an integrated aero road racer, but not carbon.
All the features of an integrated aero road racer, but not carbon.
All-rounder road race bikes of the modern era are continually moving to truncated airfoil shapes and integrated cabling, and the result is a market full of bikes that can be tough to tell apart. And if a Bossi Strada SS flashed past, you’d probably think it was yet another carbon fibre road race bike, albeit with a fancy metallic paint.
However, if you managed a closer look, or if you were able to ting the frame with a flick of your finger, you’d quickly realise that Bossi’s Strada SS is metal. Titanium, in fact. It’s a performance road bike that is unquestionably unique to the young Australian brand and perhaps defies what most expect from a titanium frame – especially once you hear that Bossi owns its own moulds for this frame, a phrase that’s often only heard in relation to carbon fibre.
I’ve now had the Sydney-designed Bossi Strada SS on test for a few months and figured it was finally time to share how it rides.
Based in Sydney, Australia, James Bossi is an industrial designer who worked in a number of industries before finding his way back to bicycles. The Bossi Bicycles brand name has been on a journey to where it is today, from low-cost mass-market bikes, to carbon wheels (which remain available), and now to titanium dropbar bikes.
Bossi is just a small name in an ocean of brands having titanium frames produced in Asia. And while the geometry and finer design cues are always of Bossi’s own choosing, it can often be difficult to see what separates them from other titanium brands that have outsourced their manufacturing. However, the angular tube shapes and almost jointless lines of the Strada SS serve as a clear example that Bossi doesn’t want to be in the cookie-cutter business.
Titanium is often the material of choice for creating lifetime bikes, with custom geometry, traditional shapes and round tubes. They’re bikes you hope will be ridden for decades to come regardless of where the latest trends go.
By contrast, the Strada SS is unapologetically aiming to be a modern race bike. Its frame shaping, integration, and geometry all closely resemble bikes like the Cannondale SuperSix Evo or Specialized Tarmac SL7. The Strada SS offers an aggressive fit, quick-handling, a long list of trendy aero-inspired features, and a few proprietary parts, too. However, Bossi’s goal is to offer all that with the durability and ride quality that titanium is known for.
The smooth truncated airfoil shapes that are seen at the head tube, top tube, down tube, and seat tube are created by combining double-butted and hydroformed (shaped under significant pressure) tubes with cast lugs.
The mitred ends or welds you might be expecting are still visible at the bottom bracket, but all the other smoothly jointed junctions are the result of Bossi’s approximate AU$100,000 investment into its own die-cast moulds to create the unique lugs of this frame.
According to Bossi, these die-cast lugs allow for complex 3D shapes that sleeve into the respective tubes and offset the weld lines away from the highest stress points. And if that sounds a bit like a Specialized “D’Aluisio welded” Allez Sprint aluminium frame, you’d be somewhat right. The general design goals are quite comparable, even if the path to achieve it is actually quite different.
So why did Bossi invest in casting, which, like carbon moulds, are locked into set geometry decisions? Why not follow the likes of Bastion Cycles or Sturdy Cycles and use additive manufacturing processes, aka metal 3D printing, to achieve similar shapes?
According to Bossi, the main reason is that the die-cast process is able to retain 100% of theoretical strength through a heat treatment process that removes porosity and restructures the material to its natural state.
Furthermore, the surface finish of the cast titanium lugs is nearly identical to the extruded tubes and smaller machined parts that make up the rest of the frame. The result is a rather wild use of titanium that offers a uniform aesthetic without additional weight over more traditional construction methods.
And while Bossi hasn’t suggested production cost as a reason, that surely counts, too. Printing titanium lugs is hugely expensive on machine time and raw materials (titanium powder is pricey!), while re-producing cast lugs are surely significantly more cost-effective once the production quantities are high enough.
A 54 cm frame tips the scales at a respectable but not super-light 1.56 kg, while the included carbon fork sits at 420 grams. As initially tested with some supremely light Zipp 353 NSW wheels fitted, the bike weighed 7.64 kg (16.84 lbs) without pedals.
As for the aerodynamic qualities of this frame, well, your guess is as good as mine. The Strada SS hasn’t spent any design time in a wind tunnel or on a velodrome, and how the Strada SS stacks up against its carbon competition is not currently known. That said, it seems safe to say that the tube shapes will be faster than round ones and that an integrated and aero-shaped cockpit will be faster than a more traditional approach.
Perhaps the most obvious feature of the aero package is the integrated cockpit that wholly conceals the brake hoses and electronic wires (if present). Here, Bossi uses a straight 1.5″ head tube which opens up the Strada SS to a number of concealed cabling systems that use round-shaped steerer tubes.
Bossi’s first choice is FSA’s ACR system, the same as what the likes of Merida, Bianchi, and De Rosa employ on their respective road race bikes. And my test sample put the ACR system to use with a matching Vision Metron 5D one-piece handlebar and stem (390 g).
And while the Strada SS will always be locked into running brake hoses (and electronic wires) through the top headset bearing, it is at least ready to accept alternative integrated systems such as FSA’s SMR, Deda’s Elementi DCR, Pro Vibe Evo, or similar. A number of these systems may require a different fork but at least they allow the bike to be used with a variety of either one- or two-piece cockpits. And thinking long term, not being locked into any one single system or service part is surely a good thing.
Other modern flourishes include the tapered and dropped seatstays, an integrated wedge-type seat clamp that holds Bossi’s own carbon D-shaped seatpost (190 g), and a machined T47 threaded bottom bracket shell (86 mm width, internal style) that is shaped to keep the internal cabling running through it. Meanwhile, tyre clearance is quoted at 30 mm, but I ran some measured 32s in there without issue.
Overall the finish quality looks and feels high, and it’s not just the linished (aka smoothed) welds that do it. Bossi’s frames exceed ISO standards, with fatigue and strength batch testing done by the manufacturer. Upon receiving the frames, Bossi then double-checks the finish and alignment of each frame, and then takes the extra steps of facing, reaming, and/or tapping the head tube, bottom bracket and flat mount disc mounts of each and every frame. These steps may seem like a simple thing but I can assure you they’re not the norm for production-quantity bikes. As a tangible result, the disc brakes on my sample are a breeze to align.
No doubt this is a high-end bike and it’s priced as such. A raw finish frameset as tested costs AU$5,750 (approx US$4,200 at today’s exchange rate), and that includes the fork, carbon D-shaped seatpost, headset and small frame parts. The Vision Metron 5D bar adds AU$400 to the package. Custom paint and complete bike options are also available as budget allows.
My test bike with SRAM Red AXS (and Bossi’s own carbon wheels, not tested) sits at the very top end, just shy of AU$16,000. And while that’s certainly a lot of money, it’s worth noting that it is still less than a comparably equipped S-Works or top-tier Trek. Bossi’s bikes are built to order, and so other spec builds are available.
The cast lug design means custom frame sizing is not an option, and rather Bossi offers six factory sizes ranging from 50 to 60 cm. The geometry of a 54 cm offers some common numbers, including a 73º head angle, a 73.75º seat angle, 415 mm chainstays, and a bottom bracket drop of 72 mm.
The 45 mm fork rake remains consistent across the whole size range, with the head tube angles tweaked slightly to adjust the trail figure. A 54 cm has a fairly short 58 mm trail figure (with a 28 mm-width tyre), while larger sizes get progressively quicker numbers again.
The fit is noticeably racey, with stack and reach figures sitting amongst the current crop of popular road race bikes. For example, the Strada SS’s fit is closely comparable to a Trek Emonda, it’s marginally more aggressive than bikes like the Cannondale SuperSix Evo or Cervelo R5, but not quite as extreme as a Specialized Tarmac. Either way, this is a bike designed to have a decently long reach and plenty of drop from the saddle to bars. James Bossi clearly designed this bike the way he wanted, but I can’t help but think this bike would find wider appeal with slightly taller stack figures.
And on the topic of fit, it’s worth noting that FSA’s ACR system truly isn’t the best thing if you’re unsure of your exact fit or if you think you’ll need to raise your bars in years to come. The system requires the steerer tube to be cut rather precisely to length, and you’ll typically only have about 5 mm in stem height to play with before you need to undo brake hoses and cut the steerer again. Or in the case you want to raise your stem, well, you’ll need a new fork for that.
Similarly, adjusting stem length with the ACR system also requires undoing those brake hoses. It’s certainly a clean setup once dialled in, but the system requires a fair bit of commitment to your current (or expected) fit.
Having spent the past couple of months riding this thing I can say the ride is a surprising one. Looking down onto the narrow top and down tubes I thought I’d be in for a ride that is smooth but with a little twang through the front end when pushed hard. And I expected that hard seated efforts would see the bars sway in a different plane to the seatpost.
However, from the first time I jumped out of the saddle, I knew those assumptions were wrong. This bike responds as you’d expect a modern race bike to. Push and pull the drops in opposing directions and the two wheels stay in the same plane as each other. The stiffness isn’t quite to the level of a new Trek Emonda or BMC Teammachine, but certainly, this is no wet noodle that you could blame for losing a sprint over.
With the bike’s directness, the ride quality is telling of the road surface without feeling harsh. It’s not quite the magic carpet ride that many would associate with titanium; instead, the frame strikes a balance between dulling the finer inconsistencies of the road and then telling you when the surface has changed. It’s realistically a characteristic you want in a good-handling race bike, but perhaps not all that different to what a number of modern carbon race bikes achieve, too.
It’s common for modern race bikes fitted with flexible seatposts to be more comfortable in the saddle than at the bars, and while the Strada SS displays some of this characteristic, it’s not negatively unbalanced. The stiff oversized 1.5” tapered carbon fork is seemingly offset by the subtle flex in the Vision’s wing shape bar. And while the D-shaped seatpost keeps you a little more isolated from the ripples in the road, the front and rear wheels manage to feel wonderfully in sync over poorer surfaces with no sign of unwanted skipping or pushing that can occur from a front end that is too stiff.
As you’d expect given the proven geometry numbers, the handling and fit are closely comparable to a number of popular quick-steering carbon steeds. The bike tips into corners with only minimal input and it improves with speed. And matched with the ride quality the bike feels planted through rough corners and eager to be pushed hard.
I have mixed feelings about the Vision Metron 5D handlebar and stem. As mentioned, there’s a subtle amount of welcomed flex through the bar. The shaping of the tops offers a nice perch to rest your hands when cruising, and the boomerang-like shape means your effective reach is reduced when rolling with your hands nearer to the stem than when they are out near the hoods. And that boomerang shape also provides plenty of twist clearance when in the drops. All good things.
However, the shape also means you’re more likely to hit your knees on the backside of the handlebar when tackling stupidly steep climbs. And of course, the one-piece bar means you’re locked into a number of fit-related decisions.
There’s little denying that this bike is enjoyable to ride. It’s a talking piece that has the handling of a true race bike and a ride quality that rivals smoother-rolling speed machines. And it’s in a material that can ward off a knock and tell you if it’s hurt.
The big question for me remains whether it makes sense to use titanium in such an edgy and performance-focused way. In reality, the aero tube shapes, proprietary D-shaped seatpost, and hidden cable integration are surely not going to be modern forever and they equally won’t be timeless at that point. And that leaves the Strada SS in a unique market position. It’s a bike that’s undeniably on-trend today and aimed at those who want the latest features and an undeniably racey-fit, but are willing to accept trade-offs in weight and absolute stiffness (not that the latter makes a huge difference to speed).
I truly love that this bike exists and there is certainly some creative thinking going on here that will surely spur similar creations. But alas, I’m equally confused over whether I’d honestly buy one. I keep looping back to the concept that if I were to buy a wholly integrated race bike, then a lighter-weight carbon bike has the edge. Titanium remains the material I’d pick when seeking a bike that emphasises open component compatibility and easy serviceability (which is a base Bossi also has covered).
But then I think that as long as you don’t mind the extra weight, then why not have a bike that pushes the usual expectations of titanium? And while the design isn’t likely to be timeless, it’ll at least be better at taking occasional scrapes and bruises over time than a feathery carbon steed would.