The Battaglin S11 Sora is a great introduction to race bred road bikes, currently selling at an end of 2013 bargain price.
The 2014 model is almost identical to the bike on test here but will have a Campagnolo Veloce groupset option if you prefer that to Shimano Sora.
The inevitable problem with testing bikes in the autumn is that it's close to the end of the selling year for many brands. In an ideal world we'd only be testing 2014 products now, but in the real world there are some great end of season bargains to be grabbed.
The Shimano Sora equipped Battaglin S11 is one of them. It was a pretty good buy at its full recommended retail price of £699. At the time of writing the UK distributor Wiggle is selling it for 31% less, with 105 and Ultegra equipped versions available for similar bargain discounts. As with so many end of season bargains though, sizes still available may be limited. As of Sunday December 8, Wiggle is showing stock of size S and M, and taking orders for L and XL at this price.
For those unfamiliar with the name, Giovanni Battaglin was a very successful Italian road pro between 1970 and 1984. He started Battaglin the company a couple of years before he retired from the peloton. It's not a particularly big brand, with just six frames in the range, a variety of component choices and a strong focus on affordability.
The 2013 range included Shimano Ultegra and 105 versions of the S11 as well as this mainly Shimano Sora equipped model. They're imported by direct sales giant Wiggle so inevitably the prices reflect a no-retailer-middleman approach.
Bear in mind that this also means you're not likely to get preferential treatment at your local bike shop if you need to get a problem sorted.
The S11 has a relatively ordinary 7005 heat treated aluminium frame with two sets of bottle bosses but no mudguard or rack eyes.
The oversized down tube is biaxially ovalised to boost strength and rigidity at the head tube and bottom bracket. The hourglass shaped steerer has integrated headset cups with a tall stack of washers for height adjustment over or under the stem.
A look at the 2014 bikes on Battaglin's web site would suggest that there are no major changes between the years in terms of the frame and fork: the fork has carbon blades with an aluminium crown and steerer.
We're surprised it doesn't get a tapered steerer for 2014 but it's really no big deal as very few riders can feel a difference between tapered and non tapered on a bike with an already very stiff aluminium frame.
Shimano's Sora group, which accounts for the complete drivetrain and brakes on the S11, has dual control STI shifters with the downshift lever behind the brake and upshift lever, an improvement on the the old thumb button. It has external brake cabling rather than the under-bar-tape cables that come with a higher spec group.
A 50/34 compact crankset and 12-26 nine speed cassette provides a wide enough spread of gears for most riders on most terrain and shifts remained superbly smooth throughout the test period.
The wheels use Shimano Ultegra hubs laced (radial front, left radial rear) to Battaglin branded 30mm aero rims shod with reasonably grippy Michelin Dynamic Sport 23mm tyres.
The shallow drop handlebar, FKX seatpost and stem and Selle Aventis 3 saddle are all well made, nicely finished and feel the part, with a flat sweep forward on the bar creating a really comfy hand position on the lever hoods.
If we were to gripe about anything it would be the performance of the Sora brakes.
While we don't really expect to find better at this price, Sora brakes have a very wooden feel to them compared to the more modulated feel of Shimano's more upmarket offerings.
We'd recommend an almost immediate upgrade to better pads as the Sora pads don't grip particularly well in the wet and setting them up accurately is fiddly. You have to hold the pads very tight while you fasten the bolts, or they swivel out of line with the final turn of the allen key.
On the road, with the low price in mind, we were very impressed with the ride of the S11.
We measured the geometry at 71.5 degrees at the head, 73.5 at the seat. It's hard for a manufacturer to get it wrong with those angles and the handling reflected that.
Steering was rock-steady but still sprightly enough for instant direction twitches to avoid weather-ravaged potholed surfaces.
The 'semi-deep' section rims made a bit of racket on rough surfaces and both rims suffered from poor joins that clicked on each revolution under braking. We sanded the rim joins flat after the first couple of rides.
The 9.66kg (21.25lb) weight is good for a bike at this price and you can feel the benefit on the climbs and in initial acceleration.
The long reach from the saddle to the bars is a plus factor on climbs too, making it easy to pull on the centre of the bars on long seated sections.
Comfort over rough roads wasn't really a highlight but fitting 25mm tyres instead of 23mm would improve that considerably, and go some way to damping down the slightly clackety ride of the V rimmed wheels. Again, for a bike at this price this isn't a big issue, and is easily rectified.
Our size Large sample bike (also available in Small, Medium and Extra Large) had a 57.5cm centre to centre top tube, a 54.5cm seat tube (bottom bracket centre to top) and a 17.5cm head tube. With so much adjustment on the steerer's washer-stack and the possibility of running the stem either way up, the bar position can be tuned to suit pretty much any rider.
The stem is fairly long and the bar has a generous forward sweep so some riders who feel happy with the seat tube length may find the reach from saddle to lever hoods too long; a stem swap solves that.
We'd say the 2014 S11 is well worth looking out for, especially in its Campag Veloce incarnation, but if you're quick you might still grab an absolute bargain on a 2013 model. We don't have prices on the 2014 bikes yet.
Great introduction to race bred road bikes, currently selling at an end of 2013 bargain price.
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Make and model: Battaglin S11
Size tested: L/57
State the frame and fork material and method of construction. List the components used to build up the bike.
Welded 7005 heat treated aluminium frame, carbon fork.
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?
It's intended as a race bred bike at a budget price, and it achieves that nicely.
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
For the price, it's superb.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
7005 aluminium frame. Carbon fork with aluminium steerer
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
71.5 degrees at the had, 73.5 at the seat. 54.5cm seat tube. 57.5cm horizontal top tube reach
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
Fairly long reach for a bike with a 54.5cm seat tube, but loads of bar/stem/saddle height adjustment
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
25mm tyres would have added to comfort but already surprisingly comfy for a race style bike at this price.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
Felt just right.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
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? Neutral
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
Rock steady handling but still nimble enough for quick steering adjustments.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?
Comfy saddle, comfy bar shape with a good flat reach to levers.
25mm tyres would be an obvious upgrade
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's efficiency? would you recommend any changes?
Excellent drivetrain and wheels considering the price.
Inevitably not as sprightly as a more costly bike.
For the price, excellent.
Again, for the price 21.25lb is excellent
Tell us some more about the drivetrain. Anything you particularly did or didn't like? Any components which didn't work well together?
We suspect some riders would like a 28 rather than 26 biggest cassette sprocket, but with a 34 up front it's manageable.
For the price, excellent.
Bigger tyres would add to comfort.
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 tyres and wheels are far better than average for a bike at this price.
Tell us some more about the controls. Any particularly good or bad components? How would the controls work for larger or smaller riders?
The stem is long for a bike with a 54.5cm seat tube, so check sizing carefully. Lots of height adjustment potential though.
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes.
Would you consider buying the bike? No.
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes.
Anything further to say about the bike in conclusion?
We don't know what 2014 prices will be yet but at the time of writing this model is still available in some sizes and is reduced to real bargain levels.
Age: 58 Height: 181 Weight: 78kg
I usually ride: Merlin Ti My best bike is: Ibis Silk SL
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: cyclo cross, commuting, touring, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mtb,