Hills, steep pitches, flowing stretches, fast descents with wide hairpin bends, sometimes narrow and bumpy roads, slicing through the vineyards of the Euganean Hills, south of Padua, in Veneto. This is our proving ground for the day.
The yellow leaves and autumnal colours hues of the landscape are in contrast to the summery temperatures, a bad sign for the fate of the planet, but perfect for a bike ride. We’re here to preview the new Raso, the latest beauty to be produced by Sarto, the Italian company known globally for the construction of bespoke carbon fibre bicycles.
Made to measure, entirely by hand
This test actually began a few weeks in advance, when my measurements and those relating to the positioning on the saddle arrived in the hands of Enrico, Deus-ex-machina of the company and the son of Antonio, who founded Sarto back in 1959.
The bicycle we are about to test, the new Raso, is built entirely by hand and represents Sarto’s entry into a new production era. It is, in fact, the first frame entirely produced with the company’s new machinery: A plotter for cutting carbon fibre and an autoclave to optimise the technical solutions, meaning they can perform all of the necessary steps in the build without the need to rely on external suppliers.
“The new cutting plotter and the autoclave,” explains Enrico Sarto, “were an important investment and allow us to accelerate research in the field of materials and the development of processes. This is because every new production detail can be cured, verified, checked in its quality and efficiency thanks to direct feedback.”
Made using a unidirectional carbon fibre, the Raso is the result of decades of research and development in the field of carbon, and also the result of a the company’s extensive knowledge base.
“By producing our looms by hand and following the requests of our customers, we are able to fully understand their expectations and also to identify market trends fairly in advance,” says Enrico.
The design of the Raso is modern and muscular, with a truly perfect balance of square and angular lines that include the alternation of clean cuts and more rounded portions.
The transitions, connected to each other by tubular sections printed and cut to size, are precise and smooth. There’s a distinct impression of modernity from the first glance and the frame, without frills, appears solid and balanced, with no extraneous details. The impression is that the bike was designed from scratch, while still maintaining the classic, stylish touch that’s so characteristic of an Italian hand-built bicycle.
The wheel passages are carefully designed to maximise aerodynamics while still allowing you to mount tires up to 35mm. It is precisely this aero modernity that winks at modern gravel bikes, and it’s one of the most seductive details of the new Raso, making it a real all-road bike that’s unique to the market.
“New bicycles are being created to meet the expectations of a new type of consumer and which are an expression of a new way of thinking about cycling,” says a genuinely enthusiastic Enrico.
On closer inspection, the Raso really looks like a leap into the future compared to the more classic Asola, Seta and Lampo.
Added to all of this is a stunning matte black paint job, with copper and metallic blue touches. Through the paint, unidirectional carbon fibres are perfectly visible but remain discreet and not too flashy. All cables are fully integrated, and the handlebar bend has a slight opening angle in the lower portion that ensures driveability and comfort of the shoulders and arms, allowing ideal alignment of the wrist, elbow and shoulder joints. With a drop of 125 mm and a reach of 75 mm, the feeling when in the drops is that of an ideal set-up for spending many hours in the saddle and feeling in full control on any type of terrain.
In the saddle
The Euganean Hills are like a custom-built venue for cycling. After a short warm-up on the flat, we begin the real ride by tackling a few short uphill stretches, in which the Raso is immediately reactive and ready to effectively transmit every pedal stroke. The bike I'm using is equipped with a Campagnolo Super Record EPS groupset and 39mm Partington wheels. It’s an ideal set-up for a multi-purpose user interested in every area of road cycling, from fast group rides to long solitary rides on the great climbs of the Alps.
If the Raso is impressive uphill, downhill it really comes into its own, with a real sense of control and manoeuvrability. And on 30mm Continental tyres, it’s comfortable in the corners, both in the wide and fast hairpin bends on the perfectly paved road, and in the more tortuous and less smooth sections that characterise the narrow roads that pass through the vineyards of the Paduan hills.
At the factory, Enrico has pointed out that the customisation of the frame resides in every part of the structure, which is built taking into account the customer's anthropometric characteristics, his weight and the type of use he intends to make of the bicycle. One of these customisations concerns the length of the rear stay, which alone can define the character of the bike.
As I pedal and go through the downhill bends, or when I stand on the pedals to sprint, I try to focus on the rear wheel and it’s easy to feel a sense of control, but also of comfort. It’s also impressive to hear (and difficult to explain to someone who has never ridden a Sarto bike) how the frame always seems to react to every little force or impulse sent by the body, without returning any annoying vibrations or being difficult to manage.
A true all-road aero bike
It is difficult to fit the Raso within the confines of the big brands’ usual categories. With its aero shapes, handcrafted and customisable construction, it feels like a high-end racing machine, but the comfort and ease of control are typical of an endurance bike. One thing is for sure though, the latest addition to the Sarto line-up is a leap in the future.
If you have the opportunity, book a test ride. Even if you decide not to buy one afterwards, the experience will serve to establish a standard for the future. Because with the Raso, Sarto has raised the bar significantly.
For more information, visit sartobikes.com