When I was a kid, I had a huge poster on my wall of a Lamborghini Diablo. It was red, bright dazzling red in fact, it was my dream car. Stunning good looks, powerful, dizzingly expensive and exclusive, it had everything.
Why am I talking about cars you might ask? [no idea – ed] It’s with our latest test bike, the Scapin Karbon S8, that I’ve realised I’ve found the bicycle equivalent of the Lamborghini. You see what also made the Lambo such a desirable car is that most people wanted the more common Italian supercar, Ferrari. But with the Lamborghini came a rarity that is hard to put a price on. [Dave’s just not quite as fast tho’ – ed]
Scapin has this same rarity value. The company came about in 1957, when Stefano Scapin felt the desire to make his own frames. Perhaps he wasn’t happy with the then current offerings. We don’t know. But in his frames he displayed an incredible passion for quality craftsmanship, with a great eye for detail. Fast forward to the present day, and the company has built quite a reputation on the strength of their steel frames alone. We fell in love with the quite unassuming Spirit R8, beautiful handling, predictable, lovingly finished. But like most companies they’ve turned to carbon for the latest range. You won’t see many Scapin’s in the UK, but importer Veloce Bikes is hoping to change this.
At the forefront of the companies philosophy to bike design is embracing new technologies. The Karbon S8 is Scapin’s flagship carbon monocoque frame, made from Mizuno 3K carbon. The end product is a frame pushing the scales up to 895g – not a lot at all. The nice thing about the Karbon is that it looks unique, there’s a good few carbon frames on the market which share more than a passing resemblance to other frames.
The market for carbon frames is now a crowded one, so it’s nice that the Karbon has some unique finishing touches to make it stand out, and add value. We particularly liked the double-bolted seat clamp. We’ve had issues with carbon seat posts slipping in carbon frames before, but this approach completely prevents any chance of that happening. The dropouts too are equally tidy touches.
The designers wanted this frame to be stiff, so the head tube and bottom bracket junctions are massively oversized, and the top and down tubes are on the ‘fat’ side. To avoid any twist in the rear triangle when you’re laying down the power (because we all think we’re Tom Boonen don’t we) the seat and chain stays have been meticulously worked on. They’re ribbed along their length to prevent flex, and this is noticeable, but thankfully the ribbing doesn’t result in a loss of comfort.
Instead of fitting aftermarket forks, Scapin have developed a range of forks to fit their frames. This makes sense as they can tune the forks to perfectly suit the frame and offer the ride they’re looking for. The SL-FK forks proved a good match, and get some of the ribbing used on the rear triangle.
Scapin importer Veloce Bikes offer a range of builds. If you’re on a budget you can get an Ultegra equipped model for £2199, but spend a bit more and a DuraAce, FSA carbon finishing kit and Mavic Cosmic Carbone’s can be yours for a smidge under £4K. Our test bike came with all top-drawer kit: carbon finishing kit from FSA and Selcof, a carbon/ti SLR saddle and DuraAce doing the transmission duties. The two highlights of our spec were the Mavic Cosmic Carbone SL wheels and the FSA K-Force Compact MegaExo cranks. The Mavic’s gave the bike (and will with most bikes in fact) the finishing touch. The deep section wheels are fast, and while not the lightest (front 787g, rear 978g) the aerodynamic advantages are great. Handling is precise, acceleration rapid, they were a great match for the Karbon. The FSA cranks completed the carbon-theme. 780g, monocoque carbon spider and arms, CNC machined rings and an oversize bottom bracket with outboard bearings – the result a very stiff crank, and the ramps and pins on teh chainrings meant shifting was as quick and precise as Shimano’s benchmark DuraAce offerings.
Fast. Fast. And Fast. In every gear, every direction, the Karbon explodes into the next mile. And the mile after that. It’s like Scapin have simply attached a rocket to a carbon frame. The acceleration is blistering, but like all great supercars, it corners as well as it accelerates. The geometry was spot on, the reach perfect (after a quick stem change), and this translated into steering both stable and nimble in its nature. It had a kind of finger-tippy feel to the steering, not a lot of input was required and a soft touch was definitely preferred – the Karbon doesn’t need muscling around like some bikes can tend to.
The frame is undeniably stiff, but thankfully this doesn’t also mean a bumpy ride. What better way to find this out than ride the Etape on. Over eight hours in the saddle and I didn’t want to get off it, ‘another hill please’ [BTW this is not the way I remember it – ed]. It was no slouch on the descents either, whistling (did I mention the sound the Cosmic’s make?) down the hills and cornering the alpine switchbacks with acute accuracy.