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Is that a handle? Check out the quirky Casati Marte HT road bike, now sadly discontinued

Tonight we celebrate a bike that's a tribute to Italian frame building art… or is it craft? (maybe both). Oh yeah, and it's got a hole in it!

While certain other aero bikes with holes in have even started appearing on the World Tour in the last year or so, we're bringing you some Italian gaping goodness from the 2000s for this edition of Bike at Bedtime to coincide with the Giro d'Italia coming to an end for another year. The Casati Marte HT was a bike I used to make a point of seeking out at bike shows, which is where these photos were taken several years ago. After all, who doesn’t like a bike with a hole in the top tube? (that's a rhetorical question)...

Casati Marte - hole close up

Tonight’s encounter with the Marte HT takes us to the Milan Bike Show in 2009. Now that was a show! Not just bicycles but motorbikes too, and by the time of our visit the bike bit is down to one hall (but what a hall) and the rest is motorbikes.

The next year the bike bit was basically down to one stand (okay it was a big stand, a Shimano stand) but the organisers cunningly lured myself, Vecchiojo and our then head of… er, getting in to scrapes, TR McGowran by sending out a press release saying that 100 of Italy’s top bike brands would be showing their bikes at the show. They didn’t mention it would be one of each all the way round the Shimano stand. You live and learn. But I digress…

Casati Marte hole 2.jpg

Truth be told, at one point during the mid-noughties almost every bike on the Casati stand had an extra hole in  - well, every carbon bike anyway. I couldn’t truthfully tell you if they were all Martes, and my feeling is they weren’t.

By this point in 2009 it was pretty much the Marte HT; and though the number of holey bikes had diminished - to my eye at least the hole itself* had definitely increased in size - teardrop in shape and a few (reassuring) centimetres in from the top tube’s junction with the seat tube. 

Casati Marte - alt angle

Okay, okay you want to know what the hole is for... well picture a man shrugging, because even though it looks like a handle of sorts (perhaps it could be revived as a cyclocross racer in 2023?) no official reason was ever given. I’m sure if the Casatis (this was and is a small family business) had a hot marketeer on the team they would have come  up with something semi-plausible involving the old vertical compliance schtick. I never saw any bold claims, but mind you I don’t speak (or read) Italian.

Instead I’d like to think it was done simply because they could. A demonstration of their skill as frame builders (Casati have been making frames since 1920 and still are**) and the fact that they knew enough about the material they were working with to stick a conversation piece hole in it, confident that it wouldn’t kill, maim or injure whoever bought it. 

Oh, one other reason I’m fairly confident the hole did nothing is because if the bike industry/anyone who knew more than me about how frames work thought it actually bestowed a performance benefit (especially a marketable one) they’d have ripped it off/licenced it by now; or in some way paid homage by making a hole and filling it with silicon… oh, hang on.

*Those two hole pics are a couple of years apart
** We featured the Casati Steel Espresso RS in 2016, and if the Casati website is anything to go by, they no longer seem to make any bikes with extra holes in. Though I'm sure they might if you asked nicely…'s founder and first editor, nowadays to be found riding a spreadsheet. Tony's journey in cycling media started in 1997 as production editor and then deputy editor of Total Bike, acting editor of Total Mountain Bike and then seven years as editor of Cycling Plus. He launched his first cycling website - the Cycling Plus Forum at the turn of the century. In 2006 he left C+ to head up the launch team for Bike Radar which he edited until 2008, when he co-launched the multi-award winning - finally handing on the reins in 2021 to Jack Sexty. His favourite ride is his ‘commute’ - which he does most days inc weekends and he’s been cycle-commuting since 1994. His favourite bikes are titanium and have disc brakes, though he'd like to own a carbon bike one day.

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