Sarto Asola Disc

Ital­ian cus­tom car­bon gets the disc brake treat­ment

Cyclist - - Bikes - Words SAM CHAL­LIS

Rather sur­pris­ingly, it hasn’t taken that long for disc brakes to be­come an ac­cepted norm on road bikes. Yet even now, de­scrip­tions of disc-equipped bikes still of­ten in­clude the caveat: ‘It’s quite aero­dy­namic for a disc bike’ or ‘It’s pretty light for a disc bike’.

For­tu­nately, that’s start­ing to change. De­signs such as Spe­cial­ized’s lat­est Venge, Trek’s new Madone and 3T’s Strada have proven that discs can be added with­out af­fect­ing aero­dy­nam­ics, and now bikes like the Sarto Asola Disc prove that the same can be said about weight.

This bike weighs just 6.99kg. That’s light, pe­riod, not just for a disc bike. It may be dressed up in Cam­pag­nolo’s Su­per Record H11 disc groupset, but its heft (or rather its lack of it) demon­strates that the per­for­mance gap be­tween disc brake road bikes and rim brake bikes is re­duc­ing all the time.

‘There’s no se­cret to it – we’re sim­ply get­ting more ex­ten­sive op­por­tu­ni­ties to re­fine our de­signs,’ says Sarto’s Manuel Columbo. Only 300 Sarto-badged frames left its Ital­ian fac­tory in Pian­iga, near Venice, last year, and only a small per­cent­age of those were disc bikes. That doesn’t seem like ‘ex­ten­sive’ ex­pe­ri­ence on the face of it, but it’s im­por­tant to re­mem­ber that Sarto-branded bikes rep­re­sent only a frac­tion of the com­pany’s to­tal pro­duc­tion.

Sarto is a cus­tom con­trac­tor that fab­ri­cates frames for many other brands, to their own spec­i­fi­ca­tions, along­side its own epony­mous de­signs. It’s a fit­ting line of work ex­plained in the brand’s name – Sarto is Ital­ian for tai­lor.

Columbo tells us there has been a huge up­surge in the de­mand for disc frames, with most of the brands Sarto pro­duces for scram­bling to get one into their own col­lec­tions. It means Sarto is ex­posed to a wide va­ri­ety of car­bon road disc de­signs, and there­fore has plenty of op­por­tu­nity to learn what works best be­fore then ap­ply­ing that to its own frames. What’s more, the frames Sarto builds un­der its own name re­main com­pletely ex­clu­sive and as such won’t be avail­able un­der any other la­bel.

As a re­sult, Sarto has been able to pro­duce this Asola Disc frame­set at just 150g more than the reg­u­lar Asola, and the dif­fer­ence could ac­tu­ally have been smaller still. The top weave of 1K car­bon is only cos­metic, but is nec­es­sary ‘to pro­duce a dis­tinc­tive fin­ish, sort of like a Sarto sig­na­ture’, ac­cord­ing to Columbo.

There have been changes to the fork and the chain­stays on the Asola Disc, but oth­er­wise the look of the Asola – a bike for the purists among us – has been main­tained. Of the bikes in Sarto’s line-up, the Asola is the light­est and the most clas­sic-look­ing, with round tubes and fairly stan­dard ge­om­e­try. The con­struc­tion method is tube-to-tube, and Columbo says Sarto works in this way be­cause it is the only real pos­si­bil­ity if you want to of­fer a fully cus­tom frame.

‘It’s so much bet­ter for check­ing the qual­ity of the prod­uct too,’ he says. ‘Lay­er­ing, weight and thick­ness can all be as­sessed more ac­cu­rately com­pared to a mono­coque con­struc­tion, so ul­ti­mately the ride qual­ity and in­tegrity of the frame is more con­sis­tent.’

Class and charisma

Sarto has a rep­u­ta­tion for pro­duc­ing high-qual­ity bikes, and the pre­vi­ous models that have been tested in Cy­clist were all well re­ceived, so I was in­clined to take Columbo’s claims at face value. And hav­ing spent some weeks aboard the Asola Disc, I was right to.

This Asola Disc was built to my mea­sure­ments so I was pre­dis­posed to suit it, but even then I was sur­prised to dis­cover quite how at ease I was on the bike from the very first pedal stroke. It was like buy­ing a brand new pair of brogues to find they had al­ready been bro­ken in to my feet.

It was like buy­ing a brand new pair of brogues to find they had al­ready been bro­ken in to my feet

There are some who sug­gest that cus­tombuilt frames are un­nec­es­sary and that for most rid­ers a stock bike can be ad­justed to fit just as well, but I’d say there’s more to it than that. A cus­tom frame pos­sesses some­thing ex­tra that is un­quan­tifi­able, per­haps even psy­cho­log­i­cal, but no less pow­er­ful all the same. On the Asola Disc, this man­i­fested it­self in the han­dling – it just seemed to be more as­sured, more nat­u­ral, than most stock bikes I’ve rid­den.

Ge­om­e­try goes some way to ex­plain­ing the pleas­ing bal­ance be­tween re­ac­tiv­ity and sta­bil­ity. Rel­a­tively short 408mm chain­stays cre­ate a tight back end, while a slacker than nor­mal 72.5° head tube length­ens the front cen­tre enough to keep the bike from be­ing twitchy at high speeds. It cre­ated the sense that I could steer the bike with my hips. Com­bined with Cam­pag­nolo’s H11 disc sys­tem, the Asola Disc was one of the most con­fi­dent de­scen­ders I’ve ever rid­den.

While on the sub­ject of Cam­pag­nolo, I hap­pen to think that it pro­duces eas­ily the most el­e­gant groupsets of the big three man­u­fac­tur­ers, with a per­for­mance that matches both Shi­mano and Sram. As such, it was the per­fect ac­com­pa­ni­ment to the Sarto frame.

When I wasn’t div­ing through the cor­ners of my lo­cal Dorset lanes, I found the Asola Disc to be equally agree­able on the straights. The frame isn’t race-bike stiff, so even over bro­ken or loose sur­faces it didn’t get skit­tish or un­com­fort­able, and I would re­turn from long rides still feel­ing rel­a­tively fresh.

Mov­ing with the times

Some of the com­fort af­forded by the Asola Disc will be down to the 28mm tyres, and if I’d de­cided that I needed even more cush­ion­ing or grip there is scope to go even wider. With no need to ac­com­mo­date rim brakes, Sarto has de­signed the Asola Disc to ac­cept up to 32mm tyres.

Pro­gres­sive touches such as this are wel­come re­as­sur­ance that Sarto is not con­tent just to trade on its her­itage or its sub­con­tracted work, but that in­stead it can keep pace with trends and pro­vide per­for­mance lev­els to match big-name brands in its own right.

Many years ago there was a be­lief that the ad­vent of off-the-peg suits would prove to be the death of Sav­ile Row. Sarto’s Asola Disc goes to show that, what­ever the in­dus­try, there will al­ways be a need for a good tai­lor.

A slacker than nor­mal head tube cre­ated the sense that I could steer the bike with my hips

THE SPEC Model Sarto Asola Disc Groupset Cam­pag­nolo Su­per Record H11 De­vi­a­tions None Wheels Cam­pag­nolo Bora One DB Fin­ish­ing kit 3T Ernova Team Stealth bars, 3T ARX LTD stem, 3T Sty­lus LTD Stealth seat­post, Selle Italia Flite Flow sad­dle, 28mm Pirelli...

BE­SPOKE DE­SIGN The Asola Disc is closely re­lated to the Asola - both share clas­sic tube shapes and low weight. The Asola Disc could have lost the bridge on the stays but it has been re­tained to pro­mote rigid­ity.

GROUPSET H11 is Cam­pag­nolo’s first disc brake but you wouldn’t guess - brak­ing is con­sis­tent and pow­er­ful. What’s more, the tech­nol­ogy still fea­tures the clas­sic er­gonomics and gearshift feel you’d ex­pect from the man­u­fac­turer.

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