By Colin Dennis
There’s nothing like a cycling in the brisk, salt-laden freshness of West Cornwall to help soothe body and soul. Thankfully, the easy to handle and responsive ride of the alloy-framed Bottecchia Duello was just the ticket on which to start my road to recovery.
A few days before heading off to Cornwall on a working, weekend break recently, I jumped at the opportunity to take the Bottecchia Duello with me. Recovering from a nasty shoulder injury from earlier in the year, my ability to reach the drops of a road bike was proving to be a challenge.
Cometh the hour, cometh the bike.
The Duello, at a 51cm frame would normally be too small for a rider at 5’ 11” but in reality, Bottecchia bikes measure up quite big for their apparent sizing. Certainly worth noting if you’re in the market for buying one of these lovely bargain rides.
Having a gentle slope to the top tube enabled a fair amount of seat post to be visible and added to the comfort of the ride with its added flex. But as for my recovery riding, the 51cm frame proved to be just right. The Duello’s geometry is pretty stretched out for a small frame, but the 54.5 toptube was bang-on for my limited reach.
The comfortable geometry, size and set-up was just the start.
Bottecchia’s nimble 6069 triple butted aluminium frame and matching carbon forks simply soaked up the road buzz of the rough West Penwith tarmac, proving that alloy bikes are still able to compete with carbon in the comfort stakes if built correctly.
Triple butting certainly helps keep the weight down on the Duello, pushing hard on the pedals out of the saddle, the Duello springs into action and the lack of weight is noticeable on the long climbs as the Duello fails to succumb to the ever increasing gradients.
Up front, the aforementioned unidirectional carbon forks feature a smooth-acting, integrated headset fitted around a tapered alloy steerer tube that controlled and held true the precise steering of the Duello.
The Duello is without a doubt a good looking machine. Nothing fancy or flashy graphics to hide potential limitations. For the money, the Duello is without reproach – except maybe the Vittoria Zaffiro tyres when pumped to capacity.
Vittoria make world class racing tyres, but the lack of threads per inch (TPI) on the Duello's Zaffiro 25mm tyres was quite noticeable when pumped up to near max and lacked a little suppleness to fully enrich the Duello’s otherwise, faultless ride.
No big deal as such though. We dropped the tyre pressure down to somewhere south of 100psi and normal service was resumed. Taking into account that most bikes are built to a price-point, Bottecchia, working closely in conjunction with UK distributors, Reece Cycles, have done a fantastic job kitting out the Duello as they have at a penny under a grand.
The Fulcrum Racing Sport Wheels on the Duello provided a smooth rolling platform on which the Cornish roads gave no quater and remained true throughout the test period. At a gnat’s whisker under the 1900g mark for the pair, the the Fulcrum's are not exactly light, but neither are they cumbersome.
The ride quality of these hoops is another pleasant surprise of the Duello. Yes, you could rightly argue that any road bike bought under a certain amount of money (usually thousands of pounds) requires an instant wheel upgrade.
But it’s that price-point element again. Bikes need to have an all-round, well balanced look and offer a level of componentry that makes that particular brands bike attractive. If you’ve shopped around you’ll have soon discovered that lightweight wheelsets don’t come cheap.
Groupset and match
Shimano 11 speed 105 is now a sound choice for many bikes found further up the food chain, but the Duello is also a prime platform on which to hang Shimano’s all-thing-to-all-men workhourse groupset.
The gear shifting on the Duello has the smoothest I’ve come across on any bike fitted with Shimano 105 in a long time. This might be due to the unobtrusive and rattle-free internal cable routing, especially where it exits at the bottom bracket and heads off to the front and rear mechs.
Either way, the shifting proved faultless, crisp as the bright Cornish sky, and with an equally forgiving nature with miss-shifts from my part.
But shifting away from Shimano 105, the only alien element to an otherwise full-house of gearing was the inclusion of an FSA Omega chainset.
The 50/34t chainrings and 11-28 cassette set-up is pretty standard stuff nowadays and works well here on the Duello.
Sportive riders will appreciate the low gearing on any subsequent visits to this part of the West Country, I certainly did. I grew up around here and respect to the abundance of long, steep hills and the turbulent weather should always be at the forefront of your mind when riding this far west.
But not today. The sun hangs high in the sky as we descend at speed towards Penzance. Across in nearby Marazion Bay, the clarity of the turquoise sea surrounding St Michaels Mount almost defies belief.
Bottecchia in-house branded components are suitably stiff and comfortable to hand giving precise steering up front and a welcoming soft ride at the rear, so to speak. A deviation from Shimano 105 comes to the surface once again, but this time it’s the brakes.
At a glance, the all-black Tektro dual calliper brakes look distinctly 105, but although they don’t quite match the Shimano stoppers in refined quality of materials, there’s no faulting the braking power. Modulation drops off a little after prolonged pulling on the levers.
Just as the rest of the Duello continues to quietly surprise me with its competence and performance, I can happily live with the ability of the Tektro brakes to stop or control speed.
In summary: the Bottecchia Duello is one helluva ride for your money. Classy Italian styling and a responsive alloy frame that's suitably decked out with competent fixtures and fittings for the British climate.
The Duello is so easy to get on with and it makes you wonder, just a little bit, what all the fuss is about with the facination with carbon. If we did value for money ratings at Cycle Reviewer, the Duello would easily get 10 out of 10