The Tifosi Scalare has the geometry of a fast bike but Chicken Cyclekit, the UK company behind the brand are keen to point out it's not all about speed. They say it's about stability and comfort too which marks the Ultegra 1.1 out as a bit of an all-rounder, a quick sportive machine for instance.
The Scalare carves a beautiful line through the lanes while being very relaxing, a rapid bike that offers gentle manners with a geometry that lets you move at a decent pace without being too challenging. It's a nippy bike as well, the 8.28kg (18.2lb) weight means it's no slouch accelerating or climbing in the hills and the use of a PF30 bottom bracket means it certainly lays the power down when you ask it to. The entry level Miche 707 wheels may take the shine off a touch but at least you know where your first upgrade should be.
I found it to be one of those bikes that likes to be ridden with an attacking style in the hills, the Scalare feeling responsive to a bit of out of the saddle climbing. Highlighting the stiffness levels of the frame once again.
Tifosi have managed a good compromise between that stiffness and comfort with the Scalare's frame. It's right on the borderline of being harsh but just manages to soak up enough of the road buzz to take the edge off. I certainly had no issues being aboard it for three to four hours at a time apart from the solid Selle Italia X1 saddle. That can bring a grown man to tears - well, this grown man anyway, you might be different.
The figures, with its stack to reach ratio coming in at 1.4 puts the Scalare well into the long and low race bike category, in fact it's geometry is very similar to the peloton ready Bianchi Specialissima recently tested.
On the flatlands this allows you to find a rhythm and ride at pace for a good few hours without having to stretch or shift your riding position continuously. Thanks to the 145mm long head tube on our medium sized frame you can get into a decent aero tuck without requiring a huge range of flexibility helped by the rather shallow drop of the Cinelli bars.
The handling remains on the neutral side of lively as the speed increases. Straight descents and those with gently swooping bends can be taken with confidence with plenty of feedback travelling from road to rider. Again, those shallow bars allow you to get low and descend in the drops.
The one place that the Tifosi can let itself down though is when things get technical at high speed. I have a couple of routes that every bike gets tested on, one of which has a short twisty decent that I must have ridden down hundreds and hundreds of times, I know every line, pothole, drain cover and gravel mound.
It all starts off with a long gentle left hander to pick up speed before it tightens into a chicane, tight left first then steeply into a right with both bends having a lot of camber so you really need to kick your bodyweight over to get the bike to bank and pick up the second apex.
The Scalare got flustered, the feedback from the front wheel became vague and the usual tweaks of body position did little to tame it. At first I thought geometry but this thing is set up like a race bike, as previously mentioned it very similar to the Bianchi and that had no such issues.
It could highly possibly be down to understeer, maybe due to some slight flex in the fork legs as you crouch low and transfer more weight to the front end. It may only be a very small loss of grip but it's enough to unsettle things. The vagueness it produces makes it difficult to pinpoint exactly though.
When all else failed the brakes were the only option to get the Tifosi through the bend though the on-off nature of the Miche Primato brakes did not help things much. The lack of finesse in their application meant you just added more weight to the front of the bike intensifying the understeer.
Tifosi have specced a direct mount Shimano 105 calliper on the underneath of the chainstays. The issue here is that a standard dual pivot calliper is more powerful than the Miche so with the direct mount version giving, albeit minimal power increase on top of that you end up with stronger braking at the rear than you do at the front, not ideal in this situation.
Just to make sure I wasn't imagining it I went in search of every technical descent I could find and the same thing happened.
It would though be unfair to over-state this issue - we are talking right at the limit - 45mph and up in to a bend - the sort of place only very confident riders are going to go, on roads they know. So it's not something I'd consider a safety issue. The Scalare might have surprised me by being slightly with its momentar hesitation in doing what I wanted it to do, but it did do it without any histrionics. The sorts of riders who are going to take it to that point are also not going to have a problem dealing with it. In fact the reason this stands out at all is that in every other respect the Scalare's road manners are so poised that it's a surprise when that poise momentarily slips.
It's a shame really as other than this little infidelity the Scalare is an excellent bike to ride with plenty of comfort and speed on offer.
The Scalare's frameset is manufactured from carbon where the bundles of fibre are laid up in a single direction (unidirectional) for improved stiffness rather than being woven to create the chequerboard effect found on seatposts and wheels.
Employing the same tactics as we've see on a lot of bikes these days: tapered head tube, with the larger bottom bearing race diameter allowing for an oversized down tube and thus a massive bottom bracket shell. The theme continues through the chainstays, with that direct-mount brake calliper screwed directly into the frame.
The upper half of the frame is more slender, allowing some flex, and Tifosi says that it has incorporated more give at the seatstays by removing the redundant brake bridge. Personally it wasn't that noticeable, but it would only be marginal anyway.
The Scalare has full internal cable routing which certainly makes for a clean and tidy looking bike. It's been positioned well as you don't get an cable rattle against the inside of the tubes on rough roads.
As I mentioned earlier the frame is stiff but the small details above do enough to just take the edge off. The frame also uses a shim to allow the oversized seat tube to house a 27.2mm diameter seatpost, another way to promote a little more in the way of flex at the contact point.
Mixed bag of bits
The 1.1 is available in two builds, Shimano Ultegra/Miche or Campagnolo Athena/Miche. Seeing the latest version of Shimano Ultegra on a bike at this price is pretty impressive, especially when you consider how good the frame is in terms of finish and build quality. Although admittedly on closer inspection you're only getting Ultegra shifters and both mechs, with everything else bar that 105 rear brake coming from Italian brand Miche.
The Tifosi has a PF30 (Press Fit) bottom bracket, similar in design to BB30 in terms of an increased diameter for stiffness by allowing the use of a 30mm diameter crankset spindle as opposed to the more standard 24mm. The BB shell remains the same at 68mm wide though.
The Primato is a nice crankset that gives the Scalare a look of individuality, the colours matching the frame spot on. I've ridden a few Miche chainsets and they all offer decent shifting and stiffness to rival Shimano, SRAM and Campagnolo thanks mostly to the stiff and hardwearing chainrings.
The 50/34t chainrings offer gears for both climbing and descending, suiting the brief of the bike as a middle ground for racing and endurance riding. When it comes to gears, though, the one thing Tifosi would have been better off leaving to Shimano would have been the cassette. The 11-speed Miche block doesn't offer the range of Shimano's standard road option, with only a 12-25t instead of an 11-28t, and it's amazing how much you miss those higher/lower gears when going up or down hill. But that isn't the main issue: the shifting isn't the smoothest, in fact it's more of a clunky mess and really noticeable under load. A swap here to a Shimano 105 cassette or indeed an Ultegra one makes the world of difference.
Miche also supplies the wheels – Race 707s. With an rrp of £149.99 they aren't a bad offering on an off-the-peg bike costing just over £1500, and they actually ride better than their price would suggest. Stiffness is okay and reliability is impressive too, no issues with them going out of true or grumbling bearings, although admittedly rain has been in short supply down here for the majority of the test period.
The tyres are Vittoria's budget Rubino Pros in a 25mm width, which offer a reasonably grippy ride with above average rolling resistance for their price point. I've used these on my winter commuter in the past, with puncture resistance and longevity being their key elements.
During the test period I upgraded to some Miche Syntium wheels and Pro-Lite Race tyres, and both made a noticeable difference to the performance of the Tifosi. As well as knocking a couple of hundred grams off the weight, they also highlighted how good the stock equipment is.
Bringing a little more Italian flair to the mix are Cinelli's handlebar and stem. These add a little bit of class to the spec sheet without breaking the bank. It's an aluminium setup, and with plenty of stiffness and hand positions in the drops it's a nice place to be.
On the whole the Tifosi is a classy looking bike with a mix of finishing kit appealing to those who like something a little less mainstream. For the money you are getting a competent frame and fork that are well built and finished. It's easy to ride too, and very flattering over the majority of terrain making for an excellent club run machine or going for a fast time in a sportive.
We asked Chicken Cyclekit about our findings with the handling and they sent us the following reply.
"Scalare has a longer wheelbase (stable) higher top tube (higher standover, less compact) and longer chainstays (less crit cornering, more stability)…"
As we've said, it's a comfortable, stable bike that's not really designed to descend Alpine roads at warp speed."
Okay, fair enough. The way I look at it though is that the Scalare is indeed very much a race bike, they even call it a 'high speed racer' on the Tifosi website, when you take the geometry into account.
The technical handling may be a very small part of the overall ride time, especially as it only really causes an issue when you are travelling in excess of 45mph but its existence is worth noting.
It takes nothing away though from how well the Scalare behaves for the other 99% of the time though.
Impressive frame and finishing kit for the money offering a really engaging ride, lacks sharpness on the fastest technical descents though
road.cc test report
Make and model: Tifosi Scalare 1.1 Carbon Ultegra
Size tested: 55cm
About the bike
State the frame and fork material and method of construction. List the components used to build up the bike.
FRAME UD Carbon
FORKCarbon UD 1 1/8'- 1 1/2'
COMPONENTSShimano Ultregra/ Miche 11x
BARSTEMSEATPOST Deda Elementi El
SADDLESelle Italia X1 Flow
WHEELSET Miche Race
TYRESVittoria Zaffiro 700x25c
Tell us what the bike is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about the bike?
Tifosi describes the Scalare as somewhere in the middle of being a race bike and an endurance steed. Steep angles and a 145mm head tube length work well with the 547mm equivalent length top tube to create a bike that's quick with a fun ride though its not quite as sharp at the technical end. Comfort is impressive through the carbon frameset too.
Frame and fork
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
It certainly looks well finished, the matt black paintjob working well with red and white decals.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
The frame uses unidirectional carbon fibre for all of its layers; it's painted so there is little point in adding a patterned decorative layer like the chequerboard 12k. The fork is manufactured in the same way.
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
Racy. A 73-degree head angle and 73.5-degree seat angle give you quick steering and a forward bias saddle position for geting the power down in the drops. Full details are here: http://www.tifosicycles.co.uk/scalare_1.php
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
Stack is 548mm while the reach is 385mm on our medium. I found it pretty much spot on to get a decent flat back position for cracking the miles out at speed.
Riding the bike
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
Comfortable on the whole, a little harsh on rough surfaces but nothing excessive.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
Yes, it likes to sprint.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
Very well indeed, everything feels tight where it needs to be.
Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so, was it a problem?
A tiny scuff, so no cause for concern.
How would you describe the steering? Was it lively, neutral or unresponsive? Lively, a touch of understeer possibly though when pushed.
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
The Scalare has a smooth turn in with plenty of feeling and feedback as you cut through the bends, until things become fast and technical, that's when I found handling became a little vague - which could catch out even experienced descenders on unfamiliar roads.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?
The saddle was a little on the harsh side for me, but other than that the Tifosi is a comfortable place to spend a few hours.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's stiffness? would you recommend any changes?
There isn't a hint of flex from the alloy bar and stem.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's efficiency? would you recommend any changes?
The spec sheet says they should be Zaffiro tyres, but our model had Vittoria Rubino Pros. They aren't the most supple and can blunt acceleration a bit but they are certainly robust and hardwearing.
A few issues right at the limit
Tell us some more about the drivetrain. Anything you particularly did or didn't like? Any components which didn't work well together?
The Miche cassette really lets down the shifting as it doesn't offer the crispness of a Shimano unit so that'd be my first upgrade. You do miss the Shimano's 11-28 spread of sprockets too, especially with the compact setup.
The rest of the build is a bit of a mix but all works well.
Wheels and tyres
Tell us some more about the wheels and tyres.Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the wheels or tyres? If so, what for?
For stock wheels the Miche Race 707s are a decent quality and roll well for their £149 rrp. The Rubino tyres aren't too bad either for budget rubber, but a change to some test Pro-Lite Pro Racing 1s and Miche Syntium AXY wheels gave the Tifosi a real boost in performance.
Tell us some more about the controls. Any particularly good or bad components? How would the controls work for larger or smaller riders?
The Cinelli mix up front is good stuff and certainly looks the part, tying in with the whole Italian theme. The seatpost is unbranded and pretty basic but it works.
Anything else you want to say about the componentry? Comment on any other components (good or bad)
If you want a bike that has a complete groupset, look elsewhere, as the Tifosi is a proper mix 'n' match. It all works, though, and the Miche stuff is of a good quality, apart from the cassette which I'd change.
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes, the technical handling issues make up a very small part of its personality.
Would you consider buying the bike? No
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Depends on their riding style.
Use this box to explain your score
One of the hardest bikes I've had to mark, because I really enjoyed riding for 99 per cent of the time I had it. It would easily be an 8 verging on a 9 but I've docked it a mark for the combination of that cassette and it's slight lack of poise on high speed technical descents.
With regards to the technical handling issues, they make up a very small amount of the overall ride but they are there so can't be ignored. To put it into context, I love descending, really pushing a bike to as close to its limits as possible and I found them with the Tifosi. Yes, Chickens say that's not what this bike is for, but the marketing info and it's geometry would lead you to expect otherwise. I think the Tifosi should deal with fast technical descents better considering its geometry and frame and the overall score takes this into account. Depending on your riding style his might well not be an issue for you and by that I don't mean if you descend slowly cos you can definitely go down hills fast on this bike. As for the cassette, forty quid or thereabouts will buy you a Shimano Ultegra 6800 11-28 from most well know online cycling emporiums or indeed you could just buy one from your Tifosi dealer and get them to fit it. it would be money well spent.
Other than that, the Tifosi has a lot going for it, with a frame that is ripe for upgrades without spending a fortune.
About the tester
I usually ride: This month's test bike My best bike is: Mason Definition
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, club rides, sportives, fixed/singlespeed,
Stu knocked out his first road.cc review back in 2009 and since then he's chucked the best part of seventy test bikes around the West Country, a couple of them quite literally! With three alloy and two steel bikes in his fleet he's definitely a metal man (that'll be the engineering background) but is slowly warming to that modern carbon fibre stuff along with fat tyres & disc brakes.
It's not all nostalgia though, after spending the last few years in product design Stu keeps banging on about how 3D printing is going to be the next big thing and he's a sucker for a beautiful paint job too.