If you want a slammed, stretched-out and responsive entry-level race machine but you still want a forgiving ride you should take a serious look at the Reparto Corse Duello from Italian brand Bottecchia. Whether you're racing competitively or just out for a spin on the club run, the Duello is a blast to ride.
We love a metal frame here at road.cc; although some think carbon fibre has taken over, this Duello is an example of just how good aluminium frames have become.
First there is the comfort. The Duello easily puts to bed all of those myths about finger tingling and bone shaking rides and feedback. It doesn't crash through potholes or resonate over rough surfaces, it's smooth and even rather plush. That's with the 25mm wide Vittoria Zaffiro tyres pumped up north of 100psi too.
The tubes are triple butted, as in the wall thicknesses are three different depths along the length of the tube: thicker at the ends for strength and welding, and getting thinner towards the centre. Not only does it drop a little bit of weight, it allows the tube to flex a little without affecting the overall stiffness of the frame.
This is just enough to absorb the road buzz and vibration, meaning much less physical fatigue for the rider. I did a couple of four-hour rides on the Duello and I could barely tell the difference between that and the carbon-framed Merida I was also testing.
The internal cable routing is nice to see, giving the whole bike a more expensive and clean look. The top tube is curved and creates quite a compact frame shape, which in turn means you have a lot of seatpost exposed, adding comfort and flex.
That doesn't make it a soft option, the Bottecchia will lay the power down when you ask it to in a very precise manner. It's not as sharp as, say, the Cannondale CAAD10, now sadly confined to the history books, or the Bowmans Palace frameset, but it's efficient, and you never feel like you're wasting any energy.
Traditional and modern
Bottecchia has kept things pretty traditional at the bottom bracket area, with threaded outboard bearing cups retaining the shell's standard diameter and width.
It's a capable sprinter or climber, responding to your input with a bit of a surge as you stamp on the pedals. The only thing stopping the Duello from reaching its full potential is the wheelset. A common theme on bikes around the grand mark, but the Fulcrum Racing Sport's 1.9kg weight just takes the edge off the performance.
I swapped out the Fulcrums for a set of Mavic Ksyrium Elites, dropping around 350g of revolving weight, and what a difference that made. The Duello felt much more responsive and alive. That'll be your first upgrade then.
Up front Bottecchia has gone down the tapered steerer route with a 1 1/8in diameter at the top expanding to 1 1/2in at the crown. The increased surface area adds stiffness to the front end to handle cornering loads.
With a 73-degree head angle, the steering is quick but composed, making it ideal for a whole range of rider capabilities. It feels composed on the road and descending at speed never gets scary or twitchy. It's not quite an eyeballs-out, seat-of-your-pants thrill-fest in the bends – the Duello doesn't quite have the directness right at the limit as the other two bikes I mentioned, but it's marginal and you'd have to be hanging it all out to notice the difference.
In the mix
This build is specific to the UK, and it's a bit of a mixture of brands to hit the budget, again something we see a lot of at this price point.
Specifying Shimano 5800 105 shifters, front and rear derailleur is a good start. Shimano's entry to 11-speed is hard to beat on a performance to value budget, so it's great to see on a sub-£1,000 bike with such a good frameset.
The gear changes are as snappy as ever, with plenty of feel at the levers for both shifting and braking. The Duello uses an FSA Omega chainset in place of a 105 version, and shifting isn't quite as crisp when going from the big to the little chainring, especially under load. It's also good to see Bottecchia spec a 52/36 setup paired with an 11-28 cassette to give a slightly higher gear ratio for speed work than a more common 50/34 compact does.
Rather than 105 brakes, the Duello uses a set of Tektro dual callipers. They are pretty basic but I have to say I was pretty impressed with how well they stopped on such basic moulded pads.
Apart from the Deda RHM handlebar, which just so happens to be super-stiff and comfortable for a budget bar, the rest of the kit is Bottecchia's in-house brand Raxe. It's basic stuff but does the job, although I did find the stem slightly short for a bike of this size, so I swapped it out for a 110mm model.
The saddle, Bottecchia's own Eagle Flow, is quite highly padded but I didn't find it uncomfortable, even for long rides. It was a little squidgy, though, so personally I'd change it for something a little less plush for really hard efforts.
Overall, the Duello is a really capable bike that is fun to ride hard and fast, like the majority of aluminium race bikes. But its masterstroke is how well it smooths out that ride to give a near carbon feedback, so you can continue to ride it hard and fast for longer.
With a claimed weight of 1320g, the Duello is right in the ball park for an entry-level performance race frame, and an upgrade to those wheels, as I said earlier, will really make it shine.
If you want a race bike but with enough comfort that you can go long, and you don't need or want to go down the whole endurance bike route, the Duello is ideal.
Excellent alloy frame draped in functional components and ideal for racing or just blasting about
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Bottecchia Reparto Corse Duello
Size tested: 54cm
About the bike
State the frame and fork material and method of construction. List the components used to build up the bike.
FRAME Hydroformed 6061 Aluminium alloy
FORK Carbon fibre with tapered alloy steerer
GROUPSET Shimano 105 5800
CHAINSET FSA Omega Megaexo Alu 52/36
WHEELS Fulcrum Racing Sport
CASSETTE Shimano 105 11/28 11s
BRAKES Tektro dual calliper
TYRES Vittoria Zaffiro 700x25 black
HANDLEBAR Deda RHM
STEM RAXE Super Light
SEATPOST RAXE Alu Light 31.6
SADDLE Bottecchia Eagle Flow
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?
The Duello is a sporty bike with its long, low position and tight handling. With an upgrade to some lighter wheels it would make an excellent entry-level racer.
Frame and fork
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
Nicely finished and a hard, durable paint finish. Nice to see small touches like internal cable routing for a clean look.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
The frame is manufactured form triple butted 6069 aluminium alloy tubing, using a hydroforming (water at high pressure) process to shape them. The fork has an aluminium tapered steerer bonded to carbon fibre legs.
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
With steep angles for the steering and seatpost the Duello is aimed purely at the speed end of the market. A relatively short head tube at 140mm and top tube of 545mm makes for a stretched out position.
Full details are here - http://www.bottecchia.com/en/modelli/2016-duello
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
Our 51cm had a stack of 540mm and a reach of 385mm, which gives a ratio of 1.4, exactly where it should be for a race bike.
Riding the bike
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
Yes, no buzzy alloy here.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
It is stiff without being overly harsh.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
Very well. You can't really feel any movement through the bottom bracket or chainstay area.
Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so, was it a problem?
A little bit but no issue.
How would you describe the steering? Was it lively, neutral or unresponsive? Quick but also very composed.
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
Bottecchia has achieved a very good balance of sharpness in the steering without making it twitchy. Ideal for novice riders but enough of a challenge for the more experienced.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?
The plush saddle was certainly comfortable on long rides and the own brand stem and handlebar aren't harsh.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's stiffness? would you recommend any changes?
All of the components work well together with the frameset so I wouldn't change a thing on the stiffness front.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's efficiency? would you recommend any changes?
Upgrade the wheels for a real benefit to acceleration and climbing efficiency.
Tell us some more about the drivetrain. Anything you particularly did or didn't like? Any components which didn't work well together?
It's great to see a set of 105 shifters and mechs at this price point. Rear shifting is spot on as usual but the FSA chainset doesn't have quite as crisp a gear change as a 105 one.
I was also pleasantly surprised with the Tektro brakes.
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 Fulcrum wheels are entry level and it shows in the weight at around 1900g a set; this is what blunts the sprinting and climbing abilities of the Duello. The Zaffiro tyres are good value for money if not the quickest.
Tell us some more about the controls. Any particularly good or bad components? How would the controls work for larger or smaller riders?
A good mix of components that are functional and comfortable to use. The compact bar will work with all hand sizes.
Anything else you want to say about the componentry? Comment on any other components (good or bad)
It's an all-round sensible selection to bring the bike in on budget leaving you free to upgrade as you go if you wish.
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes
Would you consider buying the bike? Yes
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your score
The Duello is a great entry to the world of race ready bikes and with a few tweaks like an upgrade to the wheels and tyres would give you a very confident fast racer that's comfortable enough to spend all day on 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.