The Tifosi Cavazzo has been designed as four bikes in one – cyclo-cross racer, commuter/general road bike, gravel grinder and a possibly-stretching-it-a-bit flat-barred 'adventure' bike. With flat mount disc brakes, loads of tyre clearance and sensible geometry, plus mounts all over the place, it's a pretty good shot at being the one bike you'll need for a multitude of uses. Just don't mention the axles...
- Pros: Adaptable, well-thought-out frameset
- Cons: Higher gearing than is friendly for hilly rides or load lugging, annoying axle choice
Tifosi is the house brand of UK distributor Chicken Cycle Kit, and there's a pretty good pedigree in the stable – a fellow-Tifosi is the world's lightest production model, the Mons, at £9,000 for the 4.6kg Campagnolo Super Record build.
The Cavazzo is Tifosi's shot at a do-it-all frameset that can adapt to various uses. So long as the geometry is neutral enough and there's clearance in the frame/fork, the most effective way to change a bike's characteristics and suitability for different activities is a tyre swap – most obviously, going from 28mm or less for road riding up to 40mm and beyond for bridleway/gravel and properly off-road fun.
Tifosi advertises the Cavazzo as good for 700C x 40mm or 650B x 53mm/2.1in. If you've set yourself up tubeless – and why wouldn't you? – this is a bit of a faff, swapping over tyres and sealant, reseating beads and so on. In this case, having an extra pair of wheels to hand is very convenient – and with decent sets now around the £300-or-less mark, it's a perfectly achievable option for many looking to stick with one bike but change uses daily.
The near-universal adoption of flat-mount disc brakes and decent thru-axles makes this a no-faff reality, and the likes of Hunt wheels with their hubs taking quick-release or 12/15mm thru-axle adaptors makes swapping wheels between bikes with differing axle standards a non-issue.
Axle to grind...
The Cavazzo fits this bill nicely: 12mm thru-axles, flat mount discs, and masses of tyre clearance (at least 60mm front and back). My only gripe is the choice of thru-axle. The axle threads into a loose six-point nut which sits in a recess in the rear dropout and fork end. Because it's not captive or threaded into the dropout itself, it can and does fall out – pretty much every time you come to re-insert the axle, or lean the bike over even slightly to the right with the axle removed.
Apart from making it very easy to then lose the nut in a recess of your car's boot or in roadside grass, it means that when you come to re-thread the axle you have a one-in-six chance of getting the QR lever locked back in the position you want – that's rearward for the front and between the chain and seatstay for the rear (for me, anyway). Pedants, be warned.
I ended up putting a dab of paint on the nut and dropout, so when replacing the nut I'd know the QR lever would close back in the correct position with the appropriate closing force.
Questioned about this design choice, Tifosi commented: 'The axle end nuts in the Cavazzo were designed so that we could reinforce the front and rear dropouts, strengthening the connection points. This removes the threaded alloy inserts normally found in frames today, those can de-bond during use and we wanted a frame that really can handle all you throw at it; be it commuting in all conditions to racing the Dirty Kanza'.
I asked around the carbon-gravel scene and couldn't find anyone who'd seen this issue, including arguably the world's expert on carbon frame/fork issues, Raoul Luescher of Luescher Teknik in Australia. In the many, many hundreds of carbon frames and forks he'd diagnosed/repaired, he'd never encountered dropout failure.
This might sound like a trivial matter – and not everyone in road.cc Towers agrees with me here – but after you've searched under your workshop benches or in the driveway for the nut for the tenth time it gets pretty tedious. If you lost it on the roadside, or inside your black car boot crevasses at a sportive car park pre-ride, it could be game over for the day. It's beyond me how an otherwise well-thought-out bike was allowed to market with such a user-unfriendly feature.
Test Miche special
The 'Commuter' spec on show here isn't what you get in the shops – the wheels provided with the review model were the 1,990g Miche Race AXY DX WPs that Stu reviewed and found middling in terms of performance – nothing to set your world afire, but good enough for most. The production model will feature Velox Stormer Tubeless-ready wheels (1,960g).
Other Miche components include the 12-27-tooth 10-speed cassette, which in this day of wide-range rear mechs like the Tiagra RD-4700 fitted, with its 34-tooth maximum sprocket capability, appears downright mean. Hauling my combined person-bike 85kg up a few 20 per cent grades after a few hours' riding made me question the thinking of whoever spec'd such a narrow range for a bike destined to be pointed at hills, likely with panniers attached.
Speaking of which, there are fairly hefty mounting points front and rear for luggage – the rear capable of holding 25kg, the front 15kg, using the single dropout and outside-mid-fork bosses; yes, you'll be doubling up the rack and mudguard stays. You get full frame mudguard mounts at the rear, both at the BB and bridge between the seatstays. The upper fork guard mount is an insert behind the fork crown.
Drivetrain and braking is mostly Shimano Tiagra 4700 10-speed – perfectly serviceable, predictable and trouble-free. Deda finishing kit is also highly regarded and looks good with subtle grey-on-black branding.
Zero flex, Zero post, zero squeaking
The massive down tube segues into a bottom bracket area the size of Texas, making for zero flex when sprinting. The dead-straight seatstays won't give a mm, so comfort relies on a sloping top tube giving the 27.2mm Deda Zero post room to flex. The BB is a threaded external Shimano, for ease of maintenance and zero squeaking over time.
While on matters posterior, I found the Prologic Kappa Evo saddle very comfortable, even over 80km of 4X4 tracks.
Rounding out frame detail, there are three bottle cage mounts, two normal and one outside at the bottom of the down tube. Brake line and mechanical or electrical shift cabling is internally routed, as you'd expect at this price, and is made easier by a removable hatch under the bottom bracket to access the down tube and chainstays.
Set up to ride...
Testing a size medium, with my 35in inseam, 6ft height and long arms, I had the seatpost at max and saddle slammed rearward. This afforded me pretty much spot on my usual stack/reach, but were I to purchase one I'd probably go for the large and even more wheelbase.
As it was, the 1,038mm wheelbase and 71-degree head angle translated into a very stable, predictable ride that could still be thrown about twisty corners off-road without effort, thereby fitting the cyclo-cross-friendly build's needs while making for gravel-forest track fun. These may seem like contradictions, but it just works. I make the chainstays at 440mm, so rather longer than the standard 425mm for cyclo-cross nippiness, but more speedy-gravel-friendly.
The Michelin Protek commuter tyres are serviceable enough, and I'm sure could handle city detritus, but are clearly provided to help hit a price point.
What transformed the ride was removing the mudguards and swapping to the excellent 38mm Compass Barlow Pass slick tyres. Set up tubeless and run at around 40psi, these tyres brought the Cavazzo alive over both tarmac and gravel. The combination of well-proportioned geometry, solid axles, stiff frame/fork and supple tyres added up to a lot of fast fun both on and off road. I've run these tyres on a number of bikes now and they never fail to impress. The Cavazzo's copious frame and fork clearance make fitting fatter rubber a no-brainer as an immediate upgrade.
For me, the genuine eye-opener and standout experience came after fitting Compass's Steilacoom 38mm knobbly tyres. You can read the longform ride review here; suffice to say I still hold the KOM for an 18km gravel-4x4 rocky track descent that still brings a smile to my face on recall.
The Cavazzo's ability to hold or change lines at high speed across all surfaces encountered is testament to the design and materials, and for an out-of-the-box experience (apart from £112-worth of tyres) it was impressive. Back on the hard stuff, both sets of tyres helped propel the Cavazzo to multiple sprint KOMs, so clearly it's no slouch despite a middling weight and the average wheels on this test model. I also knocked out the Etape Caledonia 80-miler in under five hours despite a looming flu, feeling perfectly comfortable, with road buzz and knocks kept at bay by the aforementioned decent slick rubber and long seatpost.
Jack of all?
So where does that leave us with this supposed jack-of-all-trades? Yes, you can commute on it. Yes, with a £100 change of cassette/tyres to something lower-geared/fatter and more supple it's a perfectly good long or short-distance road-gravel bike. You can go knobbly or 650B and have a lot of fun off-road, and dabble in cyclo-cross if that takes your fancy. Or you could load it up and go for a few days adventuring on smooth or rough roads.
The overall spec – narrow cassette aside – is nice enough, but the Achilles' heel is those thru-axle nuts – for me, they would likely be a dealbreaker. Yes, you could somehow glue them in place, but why should you? If you do swap wheelsets, as the overall design encourages, the minute differences in hub width would translate into a need to easily adjust the thread depth and resultant lever locking position, without fear of losing a critical component. Tifosi seems to have missed a trick there, and it would be great to see it rectify the design for future builds.
Overall, I'd compare the ride of the £1,650 Cavazzo to the now-£2,000 Genesis Datum 10, in terms of adaptability and fun-factor – so Tifosi is to be commended for the frame and spec at that price.
No doubt, and as per the Datum review, people will take issue with a north-of-£1,500 bike being 'only' Tiagra – welcome to 2018 and nearly-Brexit Britain, folks. Scouting about, I was hard-pressed to even find a bike that was all-carbon, Tiagra, with hydro discs that could take a tyre of 40mm or thereabouts (larger in 650B), let alone one at £1,650. If that's what you're after, and you can live with the axle-nut issue, the Cavazzo (Commuter spec) is a pretty good option for the money.
An easily adapted, well-thought-out frameset and build, with mildly irritating/dealbreaker* (delete as appropriate) choice of axle retention system
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Tifosi Cavazzo Commuter Tiagra
Size tested: Medium
About the bike
State the frame and fork material and method of construction. List the components used to build up the bike.
Carbon frame and fork
XS - XL
UD Carbon Fibre predominantly T500/T700 with rack mounts and mudguard eyelets
UD Carbon Fibre 1-1/8' – 1-3/8' with rack mounts and mudguard eyelets
Deda Elementi Zero 44cm
Deda Elementi Zero 100mm
Deda Elementi Zero 27.2
Prologo Kappa RS
Shimano Tiagra 10x
Shimano Tiagra 10x
Shimano Tiagra 10x
Shimano Tiagra Hydraulic Disc 160mm/140mm
Shimano Tiagra 10x Hydraulic
Miche Primato 10x 12/27
Shimano Tiagra 170mm 50/34
Miche Evo Max Bsa
Velox Stormer 17C Tubeless Ready
Michelin Protek Reflective 700c x 32mm
Tell us what the bike is for
Tifosi says, "The Cavazzo is designed to be the most versatile bike on the market, using just one frame you can build four bikes suited to different purposes.
Suitable for everyday commuting to weekend adventure, cyclocross and gravel riding. The all-new Cavazzo frame has been engineered to be strong and light, with excellent handling that is able to adapt to the rigours of many riding disciplines."
Frame and fork
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
Finished very nicely, the paintjob and surface are smooth and blemish-free. Overall it looks a very tidy package.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
Tifosi says: "The frame uses a mix of Toray T500 and T700 to give a perfect balance of strength, stiffness and weight. Sitting at the front of the frame is the tapered 1-1/8' – 1-3/8', adding strength and high torsional stiffness as well as providing pinpoint steering accuracy"
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
Tifosi says: "The geometry is based around a cyclocross race bike but uses burlier tubing to aid in the load bearing capability. The frame also has three bottle boss locations"
This is either a long CX bike or a short auxax machine – take your pick, and adjust feel based on stem length and bar width, I guess. For most folks looking to generalise in either, it'll do.
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
I'm typically on the cusp of Medium-Large, and this was no exception. Follow the actual head tube stack/reach measurements you need, and you should be OK.
Riding the bike
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
It felt stable and predictable across all surfaces, at all speeds. Comfort was aided by a long seatpost and large tyres, while power transfer benefited from a massive carbon BB area and stays.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
It felt stiff where needed, and the long seatpost plus large tyres removed road noise.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
Yes, the large BB area showing not a hint of flex via chain rub.
Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so
Not for me, and I wear EU45s.
How would you describe the steering? Was it lively Predictable.
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
It handled in a safe and predictable manner, well suited to longer rides, on rougher surfaces, possibly with a pannier load.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?
Larger-volume tyres would be the only recommendation.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's stiffness? would you recommend any changes?
No, it's all good.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's efficiency? would you recommend any changes?
Change to a wider-range cassette.
Zero flex evident.
Managed several sprint KOMs, so can't be bad.
With the right tyres, it's a nippy ride.
It wins bigtime here, longish and planted.
This is a bike for all-day epics.
Likewise, manoeuvring around trees off-road, it was fine.
Goes into corners on the line and comes out the same.
The tall head tube might make you feel like you need to get over the front more above 15 per cent gradients.
Didn't miss a beat.
Tell us some more about the drivetrain. Anything you particularly did or didn't like? Any components which didn't work well together?
I would have been happier with a wider-range Shimano cassette. The Miche choice is weird, and the first thing to replace.
Wheels and tyres
Tell us some more about the wheels.Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the wheels? If so
It's all in Stu's review, really. But these aren't the wheels you'd get with the production version.
They're fine; nothing great, but they didn't scare me.
Hard to tell given a few weeks' riding, but they look OK.
Heavy. Lots of rubber.
Very firm, definitely a commuter tyre to wear out then replace with something nicer.
Tell us some more about the tyres. Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the tyres? If so
Yes, I'd change the tyres to something larger and more flexible to improve grip and comfort.
Follows the usual new Shimano product story: it's faultless.
I'm more of a fan of the Ultegra-spec hoods, but these are fine.
It's Tiagra, it works, and it doesn't cost much.
Tell us some more about the controls. Any particularly good or bad components? How would the controls work for larger or smaller riders?
They'll be just fine. Lever reach is easily adjusted with a 2mm hex under the lever.
Anything else you want to say about the componentry? Comment on any other components (good or bad)
It's Tiagra – it's all good for the price.
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes
Would you consider buying the bike? Yes
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes, but with the proviso re wheel nuts.
Use this box to explain your overall score
If the axle nuts were captive, I'd add a whole flaming star to this review – but they aren't and that, to me anyway, is a dealbreaker owing to the life-long faff they engender. Another mark-down point is, for serious touring/commuting, the provision of a single – albeit hefty – attachment point at the rear dropout.
About the tester
I usually ride: Merida Ride 5000 Disc My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: A few times a week I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: cyclo-cross, club rides, general fitness riding, mountain biking, Dutch bike pootling.