ChilloutTGIF: Officina Battaglin – blending new cycling tech with traditional materials

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The principals of Officina Battaglin were in Singapore recently, and we caught up with them to see what they have been up to. And had a good look at their 2022 bicycle collection.

Chillout TGIF: Presenting Officina Battaglin

Giovanni Battaglin

Founded by legendary Italian cyclist Giovanni Battaglin in 1981, the company celebrates its 40th anniversary this year. Giovanni became famous for winning the Giro d’Italia and the Vuelta a Espana in just 48 days, being only the second rider to accomplish the Giro-Vuelta Double in a single calendar year when he achieved this feat. One only preceded by what many consider the GOAT (Greatest of All Time) cyclist Eddy Merckyx in 1970, and since by Alberto Contador in 2008.

Giovanni Battaglin. Singapore 2021.

He founded the officina (workshop, or atelier in Italian) right after his victory, and the company has been focused in producing hand made steel bicycles ever since. For a short time, they took a mis-step and followed the trends of the day. Experimenting with aluminium, and joined the carbon fibre bandwagon. In 2012, Giovanni decided that he needed to return to brazing custom steel frames. Much like the Swiss watch industry returned to luxury mechanical watches after flirting with quartz in the 1980s. He dusted off old machinery that were still in his workshop, and created the new Officina Battaglin, returning to his roots.

Alessandro Battablin, Giovanni’s son who has taken over the business, explaining the intricacies of the handwork of their bikes.

During the presentation, the handmade aspect and Made in Italy stood out as strong takeaways. Alessandro took lengths to explain their philosophy of making by hand (fatto a mano in Italian). Steel was chosen as the material to make the frames, as it was strong, robust, and had the capability of a nice, pliant ride characteristic. We were presented with two models – the more modern Power+ EVO which was fillet brazed, and the more traditional lugged construction Portofino. Also in this year’s catalog was a classic model, called the Marosticana, which we did not see.

The models run for a year, and are limited editions of 50 pieces per model. For the 2021/22 season, this gives 150 frames for the year. The average price for the fully custom frameset is about EUR 5,000 and it does not take much math to figure out that this is a small independent company, much akin to independents in watchmaking. The same attributes can also be ascribed – passionate owners who on the one hand cling strongly to tradition and classical methodology, but yet with an eye to the latest innovations of the industry.

Battaglin Power+ EVO

This is a followup model to their successful Power+ model which was unveiled in 2014. The frame was co-developed by the father and son team of Giovanni and Alex and it featured oversized steel tubing, with smoot fillet-brazed joints.

Giovanni with the Power+ EVO in Rosso Chromolato.

The new Power+ EVO pushed the development of steel frames further. The design had to cater for new groupsets and integrated cockpits, which needed tubesets to cater for internal routing of cables and tubes for hydraulic brake systems. This drove Battaglin to work with Columbus, the premier Italian supplier of steel tubing, to develop the Columbus Sprit tubing and designed the frame around the Deda Elememti DCR Headset. This made for an exceptionally clean look for the bicycle. The tubing is also not the traditional small diameter round shapes, but features round leading edges with squared trailing ones, and morphing in shape through the length of the tube. The tubes are also triple butted for strength and weight.

The headtube features 1”1/8 1″1/2 tapered steerer, and the badge. The fork is carbon, specifically designed to work with steel tubing, and is supplied by Deda. Paintwork is done in the Battaglin factory, here showing the Cromolaveto in red.

The paintwork is spectacular. A special finish which Battaglin calls Chromovelato is used. This finishing is unique, as far as we know Battaglin is the only one offering it. And it begins with applying a chrome coat to the steel or carbon tube. A special method was developed to chrome carbon, which was used for the stem and fork. Paint pigment is then added to the clear coat which is then applied over the chrome, creating this beautiful semi-transparent colour which leaps out over the shiny chrome interior.

Each frame comes with a plaque with the edition name, year and serial number.

The bar and stem combination on the Power+ EVO is the Deda Vinci model, made in Italy in carbon. It too takes the same Chromovelato paintwork as the steel frame. The fork is also in carbon and specifically designed for Battaglin by Deda. And yes, made in Italy and also finished in Chromovelato.

Completing the Italian theme, the bikes shown were equipped with Campagnolo Super Record 12 EPS groupset. The Campagnolo HQ facilities in Vincenza, Italy is about 34km from Battaglin’s factory in Marostica. The bikes can also be supplied with SRAM and Shimano components, but Alex tells us that more than 90% of the factory builds are supplied with Campagnolo.

Battaglin Portofino

The Portofino is a more traditional look, offering a more compliant ride. Alex recommends that the Power+ EVO is for weekend warriors who makes perhaps 2 rides of 80-100km a week. While the Portofino is more suited for daily riding. The lugged construction is not only a more classical look, but a more comfortable ride. Though frame geometry is customized, the Portofino is generally less race aggressive than the Power+ EVO.

Giovanni with the Portofino in Blu Chromovelato.

The lugs are over-sized, and designed by Battaglin, made in Italy by a lost wax process. The combination of the lugged construction and steel tubes is unusual to say the least. The tubes are also made by Columbus, and are the Spirit HSS. Modern lugged frames, like the Zullo Maxsilanus we presented, had small diameter round tubing. The Zullo had the traditional quill stem and steel fork which required the shifter and brake cables to be exposed, the Portofino had carbon components in the fork, integrated cockpit and seatpost with internal routing for the cables.

The Chromovelato finish is also available on the Portofino. And here, it is shown in a magnificent blue. We asked Alex if he considered using stainless steel in their bikes, and his answer was no. Because he feels that stainless steel tubing by Columbus tend to be very thin in the effort to safe weight, and in his mind this is not a tenable position when it comes to durability. We have ridden Columbus XCR stainless steel bikes, like the Pegoretti Responsorium, and have noted that the ride characteristic is perhaps stiffer than regular steel tubing, but the bike tends to be lighter, and the frame can develop kinks due to the thinness of the tubes.

Bottom bracket standard chosen for all the Battaglin bikes is the BSA, another nod to tradition which works well. BSA and ITA bottom brackets are threaded and offers a long life service without creaking which tend to plague modern pressfit brackets.

The Battaglin flower patterns on the frame is made by masking during the Chromovelato process, and shows the chrome under-layer. Running one’s fingers across, one can feel the indents at the area of the pattern. This is similar to how the dots on the Pegoretti Responsorium’s Goze schema.

Concluding thoughts

Overall the two Battaglin bikes we saw were magnificently. The Chromovelato paintwork is flawless, and shines beautifully in the sunlight. The proportions are classical, and looks right. Very beautiful bicycles. I did not have the benefit to test ride the bikes, so will be unable to say how it rides. Though going by experience, steel bikes have a tendency to feel more supple than race carbon frames like my Pinarello F10. However, talking to frame makers, we understand that it is ultimately possible to take the frame material out of the equation as it is possible to tune any material to ride like any other.

The Battaglin bikes are custom made, and hand made in Italy using Italian components and craftsmanship. At the EUR 5,000 price point for the frameset which includes the frame, cockpit, fork and seatpost, I think is a rather reasonable value for the money. Mass produced top of the range carbon bikes from makers like Pinarello, Specialized, Colnago, Trek are similarly priced.

Photo Notes

All photographs were taken in-situ at 28Wilkie, a one Michelin star restaurant in Singapore. Photographs of the bikes were taken outside the restaurant in natural sunlight. Fujifilm GFX 50S II with GF 50 and GF 80 lenses were used.

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