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So far it’s a solo ride.

Behind the Build: A Climber’s Sarto Asola

Derek Yarra |

Our client Josh tasked us with creating an exceptionally light road bike that would fly up the hills, a fun and carefree machine for rides in the Bay Area and Marin. Naturally, new builds often require a little back and forth between frame options, but not this time. With one Sarto already in his quiver, the Italian brand’s handmade, featherweight road silhouette Asola leapt out as the natural choice to help this eagle of San Francisco ascend to new levels of performance.

Equipping the frame proved equally straightforward. “I try to pick Campy for all of my bikes, if possible,” Josh explained during a recent catch-up call to see how his new bike was bedding in. “And for the Asola, a Campagnolo Super Record EPS system made complete sense”. Not that everything had to be Italian. “I like the performance and bite of EE brakes,” he noted, “and of course, we were chasing the lowest possible weight, so discs were out.” And with grams top of mind, there was only one choice for the wheels. “I rode Lightweights on rough roads for most of the pandemic, and I never had a single problem with them,” he said. “In my experience, that level of reliability is hard to come by.” And the choice of ENVE for the cockpit? “Simply put, it worked with the finish of the frame!” As did the complementary Chris King Headset colors and tan wall René Herse Chinook Pass tires we selected for the build - Extralight editions, of course.

Sarto Asola lightweight

Given the build’s effortless climbing prowess, we asked Josh whether the newest addition to his bike collection would change his riding habits or open up new avenues. “I was born and raised here and generally ride in San Francisco and over the Golden Gate into Marin, which won’t change,” he said. “But the weight savings within the build are unquestionably noticeable on days with a lot of vertical. I tend to reach for the Asola when I want to ride fast and free and have a lot of fun. It’s light on climbs and still descends as impeccably as my other Sarto. Plus, it does not have a power meter, so I do not have to concern myself with numbers.”

Before signing off, Josh was kind enough to talk about his experience coming to Above Category for a custom build. “I value the skills that come from years of striving for excellence,” he began, “and the AC team has been building top end bikes for as long as any group I know. I tend to pick a direction for a bike and then let the team take over. They check in with me on small things I care about, like my odd fixation on stems. Other than that, it was in their hands, and I was thrilled with the end product.“

FEEL FIRST, WEIGHT SECOND

At Above Category, we believe that a light bike is all about feel. We’ve built startlingly light bikes before that have felt sluggish on the hills. Maybe they climbed quickly, but a thousand tiny signals told us that something wasn’t right. So weight is relative, feel is everything, and unless it inspires you to ride, it’s not a great bike, no matter what the number on the scale tells you. It’s an ethos that extends to what we spec for each bike. For example, the Chris King Headset on Josh’s Asola is heavier than Sarto’s stock internal headset, but we prefer its design and aesthetic. The handlebar and stem could have been much lighter, but we have a lot of time for the ENVE Aero models and value their performance and reliability. And we could have shaved grams if we’d used Shimano’s Dura-Ace electronic group, which is lighter than the Campy equivalent. But it’s Campy! 

THE BUILD

FRAME: Sarto Asola

COCKPIT: Enve Aero Road bar and stem, Phenum seatpost, MOST Lynx carbon saddle

DRIVETRAIN: Campagnolo Super Record EPS w/ CeramicSpeed OSPW

WHEELS: Lightweight Meilenstein 24E Schwarz Ed.

TIRES: René Herse Chinook Pass