Guerciotti (say: geer-chi-otee) are an Italian bike company who have a long tradition in the world of cyclo-cross. A Family run business founded in 1964 they have plenty of expertise in the family. Paulo Guerciotti was a cyclo-cross specialist representing Italy at the 1979 world championships and winning several national events during his racing career.
So, do they know what it takes to build a race winning bike?
Frame and fork
Cyclo-cross bikes need to be several things, they’re a sort of do-it-all bike. They need to be nippy through singletrack and technical stuff, but they also need to be able to accelerate on the flat and cruise at a decent speed. This may be the reason they have become more and more popular – combine all this and you’ve got a pretty good fun bike – and a practical one too if you can’t afford several training/commuting/off-road bikes. If you are serious about racing ‘cross then you’ll also want a light bike, not so light it will fall apart under you, but light enough so it can be shouldered easily for running or negotiating obstacles.
The frame of this bike has been built from special Dedacciai double Butted ‘Force/Energy’ cyclo-cross tubing and it’s quality stuff, light and strong. But it is the design of the Force that sets this apart from most off the peg ‘crossers.
Basically relaxed angles, a high bottom bracket and a short top tube combine to make this bike particularly agile, on rough stuff it inspires confidence and feels more like a mountain bike. Yet, surprisingly, on the road it buzzes along like any good quality italian road bike should. The head tube angle is 70 degrees matched to a 72 seat tube angle. As a result the position on the Force is one of ‘control’ and this is a major plus for riding ‘cross, you want to be able to see stuff long before you have to negotiate it. On the down side this means the steering is slower than most but it matches the Sintema fork pretty well and helps keep the bike stable.
The Sintema ‘Muddy’ fork is an established ‘cross product, carbon forks are lighter than steel forks and just as good and the 1 1/8″ steerer tube adds welcome confidence to the steering. There was a little judder under heavy braking, but this is in part due to over enthusiastic Shimano cantis and slippery rim anodising. The fork certainly helps smooth out the trail and, compared to an aluminium fork, the Sintema is a dream. I have found carbon ‘cross forks a little too lively in the past but the Force’s super-slack head angle seems to compensate for the frisky feel. This relaxed approach also makes the top tube shorter and puts the front wheel further away from your toes, so no pedal overlap which is important on a ‘cross bike. Cables are routed across the top tube which is sensible and they are placed slightly inboard at the head tube which makes cable routing smooth and effortless. Other neat details include: a set of bottle bosses for longer training rides, mud clearance around the rear brake and bottom bracket and suitably short (but not too short) chainstays – so that the bike climbs as well as it descends. Frame weight is a respectable 1.6kg which compares well with similar priced options.
Remember that this is a bike to go racing on, so at this price there has to be a downside. The wheels on the Force are budget affairs and were our only criticism of this bike. Having said that they provided no problems during the test ride and we battered them pretty well. There was only a slight buckle on the front and the rear remained perfect. The Quando hubs aren’t too bad either, the 36 hole Rigida Aero rims felt reasonably secure but the rustless spokes will look pretty awful after a few muddy outings. The Michelin Mud 2 tyres are a great improvement on the already established mark one versions, far more grip and confidence with reinforced knobs and a harder wearing casing. These wheels will be fine for training, but weight could be saved and a better ride gained if upgraded to a better set-up.
Cyclo-cross bikes are usually a bit of a graveyard bike. Take all those worn bits off your road bike and save in the parts bin for muddy use. But there has to be some reliability to your cross bike if you expect to race and this means buying new kit, the Force proves it doesn’t have to be top drawer.
What we have here is a Shimano Tiagra group mixed in with some better and more practical bits, remembering that this is a budget/mid-price race bike based on a quality frame. The Shimano stuff was, as ever, perfectly well behaved. I have a few observations though. Firstly if you have short fingers Shimano STIs are a nightmare to reach and the levers ‘clack’ when going over rough ground. Just one reason why I prefer Campagnolo especially for ‘cross, the other is that Shimano brake levers move sideways to shift gear which means they can get knocked when crashing or carrying. Then there’s those untidy cables all over the place…
The gear ratio was 38/48T on a 170mm Stronglight crank with a 12-25T cassette, all fine for racing although I’d consider a 28T bottom gear, as it’s nice to have the option.
Braking on a ‘cross bike needs to be predictable rather than fierce. Your speed is essentially scrubbed by the brakes so we aren’t looking for eyeball popping disc style stoppers, just consistent slowing so as to keep your momentum going. The Shimano cantilevers on the Force were a bit too good really, they took a little getting used to. However once we’d realised they needed less input at the lever for a lot of output at the rim we were more than happy with their performance.
Saddles and bars are a very personal choice, so it’s hard to judge a bike by what it comes with. The Selle Italia O2 saddle was not a big hit with my backside. I changed it for the familiar comfort of a Turbomatic. The seatpost was an 888 dual bolted design which will stay put once tightened, especially important on a bike that you have to jump onto at speed.
The ITM bars and stem are reliable and suitably lightweight – The ergobars were a little too deep for me but nice and wide for climbing, the whole set up had a secure feeling which helps inspire confidence for descending and technical stuff.
The Force is a great handling bike and although there are a few bits you’ll want to upgrade or personalise, this bike will be happy racing straight out of the box. In fact it’s far better thought out than most complete bikes from ‘big manufacturers’ that cost a lot more.
PCL/Fatbirds have put together a competitive package that their race team are more than happy to ride and we’d be more than happy to keep it (and yes, we did ask). So if this is the ‘cheap’ Guerciotti the EM2 or the Comete carbon version should be very interesting, we’ve ordered a Comete so watch this space…