There must be something in the water at the Scapin factory. The Italian company manages year on year to produce fine looking bikes that offer a little individuality in a market that can sometimes look a little one-dimensional.
Not so with Scapin. The company clearly goes to great lengths to stand out, as do a number of other Italian companies that I could mention but won’t. But what Italian bike brands in general and Scapin in particular seem to understand better than most is style and desirability.
It all started in 1954 when Scapin began making steel frames, earning themselves a high profile for their workmanship and high quality. The company has gradually added carbon to the range over the past few years, with some interesting steel/carbon mixes. But now the number of full-carbon bikes in the range is increasing. The Etika is the latest.
The design principle behind the Etika is to slice through the air cleanly, and with that in mind the frame wears a host of aerodynamically designed features. The aero-styling extends to every part of the frame, with a blend of smoothly curvaceous tubes, recessed edges and aerodynamic elements.
Beginning at the front, the forks are teardrop shaped with a long trailing edge, and slot into a slim hourglass shaped head tube. Both the top and down tubes are profiled to encourage fast air flow across their surfaces, and the seat tube follows a path around the rear wheel. The bottom bracket is, not unusually, reinforced with plenty of carbon plus a small bridging section between the seat and down tubes.
Behind the bottom bracket, box section chainstays blend into an oval section about halfway along. The seat stays converge into a wishbone. The other distinct feature of the frame is the integrated seat tube. This is something that Scapin have been championing for several years, and the Etika wears a half-height version, with a reinforcing trailing edge blending into the wishbone seat stays
The frame is made from 3K carbon twill and takes the scales round to 1.1kg, with this complete build coming in at around 7.7kg (17lbs). The supplied fork is a ORS XF-SL carbon item, weighing 350g. The geometry, 72.5° head and 74° seat, provides a balanced ride with handling on the fast side of neutral. Worry not if the colour scheme doesn’t excite you, as another half a dozen colour options are available.
Finishing touches include an integrated FSA headset and twin-bolt seat clamp.
Our Etika came built with Shimano Ultegra components, FSA SLK compact cranks and Mavic’s Cosmic wheels. FSA also supply the seatpost, headset and the one-piece carbon stem and handlebars. You might have spotted a couple of riders using handlebars like these in the Tour de France (most notably Michael Rasmussen). I have to admit to being a bit sceptical before using them, but after a while came round to loving them – happily they were just the right width and length and the ergonomic drops found no complaints. They were considerably stiffer than other carbon two-piece bar and stem combinations I’ve tried, but weren’t at all harsh. The aero flats increase comfort on rides too.
Despite their popularity, I’ve never been a particular fan of SLR saddles: I find the raised middle section extremely uncomfortable. The SLR XP however, is considerably more comfortable, due to the cutaway section along its length.
Mavic’s Cosmic Carbon wheels are a popular choice on and off the race circuit, and their speed in a straight line suited the bike amply. Criticism can be levelled at their lack of feel and extra weight, so when we tried a pair of Mavic R-SYS wheels (though only briefly), we instantly noticed how much livelier the bike rode.
Describing the ride of the Etika is simple. It’s fast. But, hard-pushed to identify how much difference all the aero design features made in speed tests, without a wind-tunnel at our disposal. It’s certainly no slouch, and despite a slow-pickup of initial speed, once wound up the bike was easy to keep at high speed – it shrinks long distances.
But the bike doesn’t just do fast. It also manages comfort. It wears quite a tall head tube so the front isn’t all that low, and there’s enough damping through the carbon frame to remove the worst of the road vibrations before they reach the contact points. This came as a pleasant surprise on longer rides.
Handling is handled with aplomb, with the steering just on the fast side of neutral. Around some of our test circuits the Etika provided confident steering and handling. Pick your apex of the corner, brake, aim, turn in, and power out. Delightfully smooth.