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This latest version of the Tifosi Cavazzo is light, capable and lots of fun. The frame is versatile and light with accurate handling and a forgiving nature in the dirt. The Campagnolo Ekar components are a deserved hit with a wide, simple gear range and powerful brakes. The whole package, while not cheap at a bit over three grand, is excellent value for money too – if you look at our best gravel bikes buyer's guide you'll see you can spend a lot more.
This is the third iteration of the Cavazzo and it's moved confidently out of the endurance/gravel crossover category and into being more or less a pure gravel bike. That manifests as more tyre clearance (up to 45mm from the last version's 40mm and the original's 35mm), a slacker head angle for more stable handling at speed, extra mounts for bottle cages, bags and the like, and a couple of other small geometry changes.
This build comes with the Ekar 1x13 transmission, which has been a big hit for Campagnolo, now accounting for half its component sales according to an interview with a US website earlier this year. And you can understand why, since it provides something no other volume maker of bike components offers: mechanical shifting and a single chainring for simplicity, combined with a wide gear range and excellent brakes.
Damn, this bike is fun. Tifosi has nailed the handling. It's bang in the sweet spot between too responsive, which often makes for a front end that wanders on climbs and at low speed, and too stable, which is great for hurtling down steep dirt roads, but can be ponderous at low-to-medium speeds.
Instead, the Cavazzo does what you want it to do, sometimes before you realise it yourself. Barrelling down a rut that amounted to a singletrack groove in a wider trail, rediscovering the joy of damp, slippery trails after this year's long dry spell, the Cavazzo flipped from loamy rut to slightly grippier grass with barely a thought from me.
When the tyres do lose it, the Cavazzo has an easily controlled, balanced slide, which makes recovering from trouble very easy. It's surefooted and accurate in turns, too.
Downhill riding is a planted, stable whoop-fest whether on dirt or tarmac. Course corrections at speed are a doddle, as I discovered when a single lane road was unexpectedly occupied by a van coming the other way and I had to change line while grabbing a big handful of brake.
The Cavazzo's not road-bike eager on climbs, but with its 38mm tyres and fairly heavy wheels you wouldn't expect it to be. Nevertheless, it's pretty damn good, responding well to surges of effort or measured tapping-it-out pedalling.
Overall, the handling is friendly, accurate and fun – the Cavazzo challenges you to push your limits and rewards you with loads of grin-inducing moments.
The Toray carbon fibre frame has rated clearance for tyres up to 45mm but actually looks like it could take considerably fatter rubber. I think you'd get 50mm tyres in there.
Cavazzo 3.0 has mounting points for mudguards and racks, three pairs of bottle cage mounts and a bento box mount at the front of the top tube.
The fork only has one mount on each side instead of the three that have become common in the last couple of years.
The cables and hoses are internally routed with removable port covers to make replacement easier, and the threaded bottom bracket that appeared in Cavazzo V2 continues.
If you wanted to buy the bare frame and build it up yourself, you can choose to use a single chainring or double chainring transmission; there's routing for both, and a front derailleur mount, looking a bit forlorn and lonely on this build.
An annoyance that emerged early on is that the rear derailleur hanger is only held in place with one bolt, plus the thru-axle. When you take the axle out, the hanger can pivot on the bolt, so it's no longer aligned with the axle thread. This makes getting the wheel back in almost bike-throwingly awkward. The bolt takes a T20 Torx, but the socket for the tool is so shallow it can easily slip out. I tightened it up extremely carefully with plenty of Loctite on the thread to keep it that way and it subsequently behaved itself. Rather than the flat countersunk screw used here, it needs to be a domed screw so there's room for the T20 hole to be broached a bit deeper. At least it's better than the loose nut Tifosi used in the 2018 version.
I'm really impressed with the ergonomics of the Campagnolo Ekar controls. The brake levers have a broad tip so they're easy to grab from the drops, the shift paddle behind them has a lip so your fingers don't slip off it as you shift into lower gears, and the C-shaped upshift switch ('Lever 3' in Campagnolo-speak) is easy to reach from the drops or the hoods.
Whether you get on with Lever 3 is very much a matter of taste, though. Liam didn't like it at all when he reviewed the 3T Exploro Racemax Ekar. I found there was an acclimatisation period crossing over from Shimano, but I soon got used to it.
When you pull the rear mech back to make it easier to fit the rear wheel, a catch engages to keep it in place. A tiny button on the mech body releases the catch so that the derailleur can wrap the chain properly again. If you forget to press the button, the shifting becomes completely dire because there's loads of chain between the jockey wheel and the sprocket. I found this out by spending 10km of a ride thinking 'damn I've really got to adjust these gears' before I realised what I'd done wrong. Oops.
A foreseeable medium-term problem with Ekar is the running costs, as detailed in this reader comment on Matt Page's Ekar review. A replacement gear cable costs £60, a chain around £40, a cassette about £200 and a chainring around £90. Forty quid isn't a silly price for a super-narrow modern chain (it's actually cheaper than top-flight SRAM and Shimano 12-speed chains), but if you let it get so worn that it takes the chainring and sprockets with it, you're looking at a hefty bill.
Ekar therefore requires careful maintenance and monitoring of chain wear. While the same is true of top-end SRAM, you at least have the option of replacing a worn Red cassette with something cheaper but heavier; that's not the case here.
That said, I didn't experience the problems Jimmy Ray Will mentioned keeping the gears tuned and working. The Ekar rear mech clicked smoothly and easily from one sprocket to another right across the block. I suspect it's vital that the mech hanger be aligned as close to perfectly as possible and that the gear cable be kept moving freely.
Here we go again with John Complains About 1X Gear Ranges. The Cavazzo comes with Campagnolo's 9-42, 13-speed cassette and a 40-tooth chainset for a gear range from 26in to 120in. For everything but racing it'd be far better to use the 10-44 cassette and 38-tooth chainring options, yielding 23in to 103in; a bike that's going to be ridden off-road can't have too low a bottom gear, but you can always coast downhill if you spin out.
That said, Ekar is the only single-chainring system I can imagine having on my own bikes. You can get a decent gear range out of it without enormous gaps, especially if you're willing to forgo very high gears, and with a change of chainset you can fit a small enough ring that it would work great for touring. I'd go for a 30 or even 28-tooth chainring with the 9-42 cassette.
Some folks are going to worry about the gaps between sprockets. They didn't bother me, but I'm used to wide-range gearing that many would consider gappy. If you're a finely-tuned pedalling machine who's uncomfortable outside a narrow cadence range, then, yeah, you're not going to get on with this setup or many other wide-range gear systems.
The Cavazzo's tyres really could do with being fatter. They're 38mm Schwalbe CX Comps and work reasonably well on a variety of surfaces, but having got used to 43mm tyres on my own gravel bike, I missed their extra cushioning. Fortunately there's room in the frame for tyres up to 45mm, which will do the trick nicely.
And it's not like the Schwalbe CX Comps are bad tyres. If you're going to mix up tarmac and dirt, they'll suit you nicely. They roll well on blacktop, while still having decent grip on everything but properly sloppy stuff.
Nevertheless, I slapped on a pair of 43mm Vee Tire Co Rails and found their extra bag size provided some handy extra cush and forgiveness of errors. We have a guide to the best gravel bike tyres if you're not sure what's out there.
The wheels are listed as Mavic Allroad Disc, but the Miche Graff XLs fitted are lighter, so that's a small win. They're otherwise unremarkable, but they do the job and stood up fine to my unfinessed riding style.
They're held in place with 12mm thru-axles operated by a 6mm hex key. After decades of quick releases it seems like a backwards step to have to fish out a multi-tool to remove a wheel, especially since at least one previous version of the Cavazzo had quick-release thru-axles.
One deeply quirky component choice here is the Selle Italia Model X saddle, a wide, short design with a top layer of grippy rubber that helps keep you in place during big efforts. However, it keeps you in place the rest of the time as well, so if you like to move around on your saddle when riding off road, you might want something narrower and shinier. No complaints about comfort, though, and props to Selle Italia for its effort here in coming up with a saddle that's 100 per cent recyclable and has minimal emissions associated with its manufacture.
It sits on a Tifosi-branded aluminium seatpost with a side-by-side two-bolt clamp. Saddle and post are quite a stiff combination, especially with the size L frame (chosen to get the reach right for me) not leaving much seatpost showing.
Also Tifosi-branded, the bar and stem are functional but basic. I'd have liked something wider than the stock bar, which is 42cm centre-to-centre at the hoods, flaring to 49cm at the ends. The extra control of 2-4cm more width would be welcome.
A bit over three grand is a lot to pay for a gravel bike, but on the other hand, this is a great price for an Ekar-equipped bike, cheaper than the £4,999 3T Exploro Racemax Ekar that Liam reviewed last month, the now-£3,899.99 Orro Terra C Ekar that Stu tested last year or the £4,990 Dolan GXT Titanium Ekar we tested in March (though builds start at £3724.99). Only the Holdsworth Mystique Ekar is cheaper at £2,900.
I've really enjoyed riding the Tifosi Cavazzo Ekar and if I possibly can I'll be hanging on to it for a long-term test to further explore its capabilities. It's friendly, fun and versatile and I can see making it my main bike for all sorts of riding.
Who shouldn't? If you've got three grand to spend on a gravel bike (and I realise that's not a trivial amount of money) it's excellent value, and with a second set of wheels shod with slicks it could easily be the proverbial one bike to do everything. The handling's friendly enough for a gravel beginner, but it's manoeuvrable enough that an experienced gravel rider will still have fun chucking it around. It'll happily take bags for bikepacking adventures, though if you're going to really load it up you might want to upgrade to a fork with three bolts on each leg for mounting bags.
Fun, friendly and versatile gravel bike that's at home on dirt and tarmac alike
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Tifosi Cavazzo Disc Ekar 13x
Size tested: L/56.5cm
About the bike
List the components used to build up the bike.
Frame: UD Toray T500 and T700 Carbon with mudguard, rack and 3 bottle cage mounts
Sizes: S, M, L, XL
Fork: Carbon UD 1-1/8" to 1-1/2" with mudguard eyelets and front rack mounts
Brake Type: For Flat Mount Disc Brakes
Cable Routing: Internal
Bottom Bracket: BSA Threaded
Max Tyre Clearance: 700 x 45c / 650b x 2.1
Weight: 1300g (frame) / 500g (fork)
Drive Train: 1x13 speed Disc Brake
Shifters: Campagnolo EKAR 1x13
Rear Derailleur: Campagnolo EKAR
Brakes: Campagnolo EKAR Flat Mount Disc
Rotors: Campagnolo AFS 160mm (front) / 140mm (rear)
Cassette: Campagnolo EKAR 13x 9-42T
Chainset: Campagnolo EKAR 13x 40T
Chain: Campagnolo EKAR 1x13x
Wheels: Miche Graff N3W
Tyres: Schwalbe CX Comp 700x38
Handlebar: Tifosi Alloy Gravel Bar
Seatpost: Tifosi Alloy 27.2mm
Stem: Tifosi Alloy
Saddle: Selle Italia Model X Superflow
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 a gravel bike, therefore it's for all sorts of minor road riding from dirt tracks to back lanes with grass growing down the middle.
THE IDEAL BIKE FOR YOU IF . . .
You have a pioneering spirit, always looking for adventure and heading off the beaten path.
The Cavazzo is Tifosi's full carbon do-it-all frameset, one Cavazzo, limitless possibilities. Find your own path and the Cavazzo will excel no matter what the terrain.
The Cavazzo's frame design utilises a mix of Toray T500 and T700 carbon fibre to provide the perfect balance of strength, stiffness and weight. The dropped rear stays are designed to suit 1x or 2x drivetrains and the short chainstay length is perfect for agile handling. To suit the Cavazzo's go anywhere design, the frame has mudguards bosses with clearance for up to 50mm guards and tyre clearance for 700c x 45mm or 650b x 2.1" tyres.
Also fitted with mounts for racks with weight limits up to 15kgs for the front and 25kgs for the rear, for all your touring or bike-packing equipment needs.
3 x bottle bosses for extra hydration or equipment, with additional fast fuel eyelets on the top tube. Suitable for all electronic and mechanical groupsets with full Internal dropper post routing. Flat mount standard for hydraulic or mechanical disc brakes and 12mm thru-axles to keep everything stiff and secure.
Where does this model sit in the range? Tell us briefly about the cheaper options and the more expensive options
It's Tifosi's only gravel platform. There are cheaper builds with Shimano GRX instead of this bike's Campagnolo Ekar.
Frame and fork
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
Nicely finished, lots of tyre clearance and excellent handling on and off road.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
Good old carbon fibre. To be precise, per Tifosi: UD Toray T500 and T700 Carbon.
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
It's pretty much a mainstream modern gravel bike geometry. It's not as progressive as some, with a 72-degree head angle that owes more to touring bikes than the mountain bike influence of many rowdier gravel bikes, but the handling that emerges from the numbers is bang on.
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
It's relatively tall for a size L, which I needed to get the reach I prefer.
Riding the bike
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
Tyres dominate the ride of gravel bikes, and while the fitted Schwalbes are okay I'd switch to something fatter and get even more cush and comfort.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
I'd have liked a softer saddle and more flexible seatpost.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
Everything around the bottom bracket is beefy AF and therefore stiff. Power transfer is not a problem.
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? On the lively side of neutral.
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
It bowls along very nicely in pretty much all situations.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?
A less-stiff saddle and seatpost would improve things tremendously.
There's no feeling of power-robbing flex anywhere in the system.
The bike's nippy; shame about the rider!
It belts along at pace very nicely.
Really feels like you could just tap out the miles for days.
Bang on; not twitchy enough to wander, not so stable that it's hard to manoeuvre.
Not quite light-road-bike eagerness, but for a graveller, it's damn good.
Easy and effective: the most impressive 1x system I've used.
Ekar's expensive, but you get what you pay for.
Tell us some more about the drivetrain. Anything you particularly did or didn't like? Any components which didn't work well together?
I'd change to a wider, lower set of gears.
Wheels and tyres
The Miche wheels work well but they're nothing spectacular.
They're 1,730g with rotor lockrings and rim tape. That's unexceptional.
Not noticeable one way or the other.
Tell us some more about the wheels.Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the wheels? If so what for?
They work fine, but I'd be tempted to splash out on something lighter.
They're fairly fat so they're fairly comfy. That's how tyres work.
Tell us some more about the tyres. Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the tyres? If so what for?
I'd go for something fatter just on general principles. 43mm-wide tyres fit with plenty of space; I suspect you'd get narrower 29er mountain rubber in there too.
I'm loving the function and ergonomics of the Ekar brake/shift levers.
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes
Would you consider buying the bike? Yes
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes
How does the price compare to that of similar bikes in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
A bit over three grand is a lot to pay for a gravel bike, but on the other hand, this is a great price for an Ekar-equipped bike, cheaper than the £4,999 3T Exploro Racemax Ekar, £3,899.99 Orro Terra C Ekar or £4,990 Dolan GXT Titanium Ekar. Only the Holdsworth Mystique Ekar is cheaper at £2,900.
Use this box to explain your overall score
Despite a couple of minor flaws, this latest Cavazzo is a very good package and a solid platform for subsequent upgrading should you want to tweak the wheels and tyres.
About the tester
I usually ride: Scapin Style My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, touring, club rides, general fitness riding, mtb,
John has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.
He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.
Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for CyclingNews.com. Along with road.cc founder Tony Farrelly, John was on the launch team for BikeRadar.com and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.
John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of TotalWomensCycling.com before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.
He joined road.cc in 2013. He lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.