It may sound Italian, but this bike is actually a solid, Uk-designed racer
For Italians, cycle racing is more than just a sport. The word tifosi translates simply as ‘fans’, but that is to completely underestimate the passion of the devout Italian followers. You can be a cycling ‘fan’ from the comfort of your living room, glued to a flatscreen, but a true tifoso would only ever be truly happy standing by the roadside, staring into the pain-glazed eyes of the riders – willing on their heroes in the flesh.
The bike brand Tifosi (not to be confused with Tifosi the sunglasses brand, which is an entirely separate company, and is Italian) takes its name from this fervently passionate band of cycling fans. But that is where the Italian heritage ends. Rather less romantically, the company actually has its roots in Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire.
However that’s not by any means an observation made in a negative manner. Tifosi’s middle-england setting makes it no less an exciting bike brand. The company has been steadily making considerable headway, with a very decent range of Uk-designed bikes, since its launch back in 2000.
Interestingly, the brand’s focus has always been on what it terms ‘affordable excellence’ and it has had some notable successes on this front – particularly in its CK7 winter bike. However, the bike we are testing in this issue
‘We redesigned it completely for 2018, paring back some of its aero virtues’
is its speed machine, the Auriga. A pacy number, the Auriga has already been around the racing block, but we hopped on the updated 2018 model to see what the future looks like for ‘affordable excellence’ at speed.
Since 2016, Tifosi has been the title sponsor of the UK Elite racing team, Spirit Tifosi Bikes, and the partnership has spurred the brand on to redevelop its race-level machines.
‘Although the original Auriga proved a hit with team members, landing a total of 40 victories in 2017, the feedback from racers suggested it was a little on the harsh side,’ says Josh Lambert, Tifosi’s technical specialist and product developer. ‘We redesigned it completely for 2018, paring back some of its aero virtues in order to achieve a bike that was a little more capable all round – adding more comfort, particularly at the rear.’
Having ridden the Auriga, I would agree. As far as aero bikes go – and especially considering it costs less than some big name brands charge for a frame alone – I was pleasantly surprised by how well the bike dealt with harsh, rutted road surfaces as I took to my local lanes. Some of that credit must be given to the Deda Elementi SL38C wheelset, shod in 28mm tubeless Schwalbe Pro One tyres (which I typically ran between 75 and 85psi). It did a great job of absorbing the road buzz, while the frame itself – and particularly the seatpost – seemed to offer ample flex to take the pain out of bigger impacts.
Yet it’s not gooey – the Auriga frame has a reassuringly well-built feel and I didn’t detect any undesirable flex. No matter how hard I pulled on the bars, or shoved the front end into a turn, or stomped on the pedals, I was always met with resolute firmness. This was pleasing in terms of power delivery, but also in providing the stability and handling that gives you the confidence to sit up and slip on a jacket at speed on a descent.
Neat features on the 2018 Auriga include dropped seatstays, aero tube profiles, a hidden seat clamp and fork integration at the top and bottom of the head tube. The upper headset cap is also a sleekly modelled addition, which is available in three heights to allow positional adjustment without interrupting the aero aesthetic.
As I rode adjacent to Poole harbour on one ride, watching kitesurfers skim across the water like missiles in a fierce wind, I wouldn’t have been surprised to find an aero bike wriggling in my hands like a live salmon. But not so the Auriga – the Tifosi was well behaved in the gusty crosswinds. It suggests its Cfd-developed tube profiles (and those of the Deda wheel rims) are well considered and translate into real world benefits.
Rubbed up the wrong way
Another modern aero feature, the rear calliper brake – hidden away behind the bottom bracket – is a less desirable attribute. Riding out of the saddle on a climb, the rear brake pads would incessantly rub the rim each time I swayed the bike left to right. Only with the pads adjusted – so far from the braking surface that the lever would almost come back to the bar tape before contact was made – could I dispense with the irritating tsshh-tsshhtsshh-tsshh noise as I climbed or sprinted.
It’s a criticism I have levelled at almost every one of the bikes I’ve tested with the rear brake in this position. I have no idea why manufacturers haven’t long since given it up as a bad idea. The simple solution, to avoid reconfiguring the frame completely, is a move to disc brakes, but currently there is no disc option of the Auriga in the offing.
Tifosi is the in-house brand of UK distributor Chicken Cycles, which also looks after Deda Elementi and Campagnolo. So it’s no surprise to see both featuring heavily here – and they certainly help to give the bike the Italian feel the name suggests. The wheels, as I’ve mentioned, were hard to fault, plus the finishing kit is classy.
Whether you get on with Campagnolo groupsets is almost as personal as saddle choice and, for me, the fit of the shift levers is just not as well-suited as its US and Japanese competitors’ products. Plus, I can’t help finding its mechanical shifting a bit clumsy (I’d better be careful what I say or the tifosi will be out to get me). Overall it’s a small gripe, and the Auriga remains a very capable bike at a price that won’t break the bank.
Whether you get on with Campagnolo groupsets is almost as personal as saddle choice
THE SPEC Model Tifosi Auriga Groupset Campagnolo Chorus Deviations Campagnolo direct mount brakes Wheels Deda Elementi SL38C Finishing kit Deda Elementi RHM 02 handlebar, Deda Elementi Zero 2 stem, Tifosi aero carbon seatpost, Prologo Kappa RS saddle,...
REAR BRAKE It has never been a good idea to put the rear brake under the chainstays behind the bottom bracket. It is a faff for mechanics and can rub with the side-to-side movement of climbing out of the saddle or sprinting.
HEADSET COVER The sculpted aero cover for the top headset bearing is available in three heights (15, 20 & 30mm) to allow front end positional adjustments without ruining the aesthetics or aero performance.