With its 'Luminous Red' and matt black paint job, the Tifosi SS26 not only looks stunning but rides like it too – and all for a rather impressive price, considering the spec. With such phenomenal handling and superb comfort, it's a bike you'll never tire of riding hard and fast, whether that's around the local crit circuit or descending European mountain passes.
So why SS26? Well, according to Tifosi it's all to do with the opening scenes of the original Italian Job movie, where a Lamborghini Miura is being driven around the mountain road to the backing of Matt Monro's On Days Like These – that road is called the SS26.
As soon as you ride the Tifosi you'll see the connection – or, more precisely, feel it. Those sorts of roads, a mountain pass with tight hairpins and long sweeping bends, are in its blood. Whether you are climbing them or, more importantly, descending.
Unfortunately a European trip for testing wasn't an option, but flinging it around as many local hills as I could find, the SS26 is pretty special.
The handling on this bike is unbelievable. The front end is so tight and direct that it'll hit the line you want it to with pinpoint precision every single time. The geometry, with its steep head angle, short wheelbase and long top tube, creates a bike that feels so balanced and surefooted underneath it really lets you hang it all out for maximum speed.
Coupled with the grip supplied by the Vittoria tyres, the lean angles you can achieve will see you close to removing skin from your kneecaps, with the real highlight being the speed at which the bike banks from left to right for a chicane. Picking it up from one side to flip to the other is easy and smooth, letting you keep the speed up – and explaining why riding this bike has increased my Strava KOM lead on my favourite test route by quite a large margin...
The SS26 never becomes flustered, either by rough road surfaces or by you going into a bend a little bit quicker than you think you should have. Be confident with the steering and it'll do exactly what you ask – don't worry about the possibility of exceeding its limits as I bet you'll find yours first.
Acceleration is brisk, too, thanks to the large bottom bracket junction, down tube and chainstays, which transfer the power as you push hard on the pedals. Nothing feels wasted here and the speed increases quickly, making you glad Campagnolo Chorus allows multiple downshifts from one push of the shifter so you can keep up.
Weighing just 7kg, the SS26 is no slouch when the road turns skywards, and thanks to that bottom end stiffness you really can lay all the power out on the climbs if you wish.
It's not all about limits and speed, though. Comfort is important if you want to ride fast for a long time and it's here that the Tifosi's designers have played a masterstroke with tube dimensions and carbon layup.
The thin seatstays help promote flex between the rider and the rear wheel. Pair this with the 27.2mm diameter seatpost, which flexes more than a 31.6mm model, and you have a very plush rear end that doesn't beat your muscles up. This becomes more noticeable as time goes on – I could happily ride the SS26 for three or four hours at around 20mph average and get off as if I'd been for an hour-long recovery ride.
Tifosi might sound like an Italian brand but it's actually owned by UK distributor Chicken Cycle Kit, and a full-on race bike has been on the cards for a long time.
Wanting to put something back into grass routes racing, Chicken sponsored British elite amateur team Spirit Bikes and it was their riders who worked with Tifosi testing the early prototypes and equipment last year, with their feedback giving you what you see here in the photos.
The frame isn't from an open mould, so Tifosi hasn't gone down the route of adding its own branding to an off-the-shelf frame. The frame and fork are constructed from high modulus carbon fibre, which provides high stiffness and light weight; this medium test model has a claimed frame weight of just 950g – pretty impressive.
Tifosi has followed a pretty traditional route with tube profiling. A tapered head tube adds stiffness by increasing the cross sectional area, while the larger diameter also allows a bigger down tube to be used to resist twisting under hard effort.
The same happens at the other end, with the SS26 using an oversized press fit BB86 bottom bracket. This means the junction between seat tube, down tube and chainstays can increase in size for maximum power transfer.
All the cables are internal for a clean look, plus the SS26 will run either a mechanical or electronic groupset.
Chicken Cycles is distributor of both Campagnolo and Miche products so it's no surprise to see their components adorning the Tifosi.
You get a full Campag Chorus 11-speed groupset with carbon fibre brake levers, crankset and rear mech body, so it's certainly got the bling factor, and with a close-ratio 11-25 cassette and full size 53/39t chainset, the gearing is definitely for the racer.
If you are used to riding Shimano's latest iteration of gear shifters you might find the Chorus gear changes a little on the clunky side and actually quite 'finger fatiguing' on rolling terrain, but from personal experience of similar groupsets, Campag does wear in over the first 1,000 miles or so.
We tested the Miche SWR wheels on their own in 2014, and while they aren't the lightest carbon hoops out there for the money, they are very nice wheels; they don't give a rigid, harsh ride, more a solid yet plush kind of feel. The braking from the supplied Miche pads is very good too, even in the wet, helped by the awesome Chorus Skeleton brake callipers.
Tifosi's blurb specs the 38mm versions but our test model came with 50s, and you do get a slight aero advantage. They are quite susceptible to crosswinds, though, making the steering a little twitchy at times.
The SWRs were paired with Vittoria's Rubino Pro tyres in a 25mm width (Tifosi specs 23mm), and what a great set of tyres they are. The soft compound offers plenty of grip and they roll quickly too, and while the wear rate might not be the best, I certainly didn't suffer any issues with cutting or punctures.
Keeping things Italian, Tifosi has specced Deda finishing kit from its high end Superzero (carbon seatpost) and Zero100 (stem and handlebar) ranges. The front end may be aluminium and very stiff, but the frame qualities take the sting out.
Topping off the seatpost is a Selle Italia SLR Flow saddle, which I found pretty comfortable for long distances and firm enough for those short sessions when you really want to get the power down.
Our test bike's build is the default from Chicken Cycles, and although £3499.99 isn't cheap, I think it still represents good value for money compared with many of the SS26's natural competitors. With a carbon fibre frameset as good as this, a carbon fibre wheelset, full Chorus groupset and Deda finishing kit, it's an impressive spec list when you add it all up.
The frame is the real star here, though, with the components being the icing on the cake. If you want to go down the frameset-only option, that can be yours for £1,249.99; compare that to, say, Canyon's new Ultimate CF SLX (a frame that, to my mind, shares all the qualities of the SS26) at £1999.99, and it shows how well priced the Tifosi is.
Overall, the Tifosi SS26 is an awesome piece of kit which makes riding very fast not only possible but hugely fun and engaging, as well as comfortable.
It's an all-round great package, focused mainly on speed, making it ideal for the racer or quick sportive rider. If you have three and a half grand to spend on a fast road bike, it should definitely make it onto your shortlist.
The SS26 is a truly stunning race bike that is responsive, light and stiff – and comfortable
road.cc test report
Make and model: Tifosi SS26
Size tested: Medium
About the bike
State the frame and fork material and method of construction. List the components used to build up the bike.
FRAME - Full UD Carbon Monocoque
FORK - Full UD Carbon Monocoque
COMPONENTS - Campagnolo Chorus 11x
BARSTEMSEATPOST - Deda Elementi Zero100/ Superzero
SADDLE - Selle Italia SLR Flow
WHEELSET - Miche SWR RC Full Carbon
TYRES - Vittoria Rubino Pro G+ 700x23c
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?
"Proudly ridden by British Elite Amateur team Spirit Bikes, the SS26 is a pure racing machine at its heart. Ready to take you to victory, no matter what your level of competition."
The SS26 is race bike through and through. It's nimble, stiff and very, very quick!
Frame and fork
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
An excellently finished frame and fork right through to the thick paint job.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
Both the frame and fork are constructed from high modulus carbon fibre.
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
With steep seat and head angles, a short wheelbase and a low front end, the SS26 is very much in the race bike camp. Full geometry details are here - http://www.tifosicycles.co.uk/bike_detail.php?bike=4
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
Our 54cm has a stack of 548mm and reach of 388mm giving a ratio of 1:4. Exactly as expected for this type of bike.
Riding the bike
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
Very much so, the rear end of the frame gives a compliant ride.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
Yes, the front end is tight, as is the bottom bracket area.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
Power transfer is very smooth through the bottom bracket, which sees the bike accelerate quickly.
Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so, was it a problem?
How would you describe the steering? Was it lively, neutral or unresponsive? Lively
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
The handling is very quick without being twitchy, which means you can really push the SS26 hard through the bends. It feels very settled at high speed.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?
The Deda finishing kit is very stiff but the frame, fork and Selle Italia saddle take the sting out of the road bumps.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's stiffness? would you recommend any changes?
The Deda bar and stem combo lets you really yank on the bar for hard acceleration and the Chorus carbon chainset is very stiff too.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's efficiency? would you recommend any changes?
The Miche SWR wheels feel very aero, especially once the speed starts to get above 25mph.
Chorus can feel quite clunky if you're used to Shimano, but it does wear in.
Tell us some more about the drivetrain. Anything you particularly did or didn't like? Any components which didn't work well together?
Campagnolo's Chorus is a lovely looking groupset with its smattering of carbon fibre bits and pieces, plus the Skeleton callipers are some of the best rim brakes I've used. The shift function is quite heavy compared with Shimano iterations when it is new, and if you're riding in hilly terrain you do notice the extra effort through your fingers.
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?
The handbuilt Miche SWR wheels make a solid wheelset and to see them on a bike of this quality, at this price, is very impressive. The 50mm rims worked well at high speed and the braking was very good for a carbon rim.
The Vittoria tyres also rolled very well, giving an almost tubular like feel even at 120psi.
Tell us some more about the controls. Any particularly good or bad components? How would the controls work for larger or smaller riders?
The Deda products are quality offerings that provide plenty of stiffness and comfort for lightweight alloy products. The compact shape of the bar will work for most.
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes
Would you consider buying the bike? Very much so.
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your score
The quality and performance of the ride from the SS26 is nothing short of astounding, offering speed, comfort and beautiful handling. In fact I found the ride more precise and engaging than many bikes I've ridden costing twice the price.
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.