I first heard of Epoca through a friend and his brother who had both purchased road bikes. Neither of them are into fads or flaky claims and appreciate good quality products and design so I trusted their opinions to look into the new to the UK frames. I dealt directly with Zetta Distribution and found the proprietor ( Ali Katir ) to be friendly, helpful and very knowledgeable about their product ( verging on obsessional! ). Normally the process to order includes a phase of visiting Artisan Cycles for measuring up with their Italian guru Giuseppe. I couldn’t get booked in for a bespoke fitting so decided to do self measurement with comprehensive guidelines myself and visit Giuseppe at Artisan’s post delivery and build of the frame. As part of the process I was offered bespoke paint for the frame and after consultation and example drawings of the scheme I placed my order for my made to measure carbon frame. The only hitch was it was just before the Italian national holidays so I had to wait a little longer but it turned out it was worth it.
The frame arrived very well protected and quite frankly immaculate. The paint work is outstanding, the build quality at the fork ends, tube joints and general quality of finish is excellent. The frame also had a black to carbon weave and back to black effect through the tubes for that extra special bespoke touch. I had decided to kit the frame with Shimano Ultegra Di 11 speed groupset with Miche SWR full carbon wheels, Ritchy Bars and Stem ( more on them later ). Just because I am old fashioned I went for a Rolls titanium saddle. I was booked in for a frame check and finishing at Artisans.
The frame fitting was a great experience, Giuseppe knows his stuff! He’s not a very talkative chap but he’s one of those worth listening to when he does speak. Artisan Cycles Diego along with Zetta’s Ali were also there to go through the process, both of whom know their beans when it comes to bikes. First problem wrong shoes! Sorted, next wrong bars! Too short bar stem! Replaced them with classic kind to the eye Deda’s, a good choice. Thankfully my saddle position was just about spot on just the front of the cockpit to change. That said I have to say all the advice and expertise was correct, the finished riding position was more comfortable, more variety of options and I’m assured biomechanically efficient. It was nice to spend the afternoon in the company of such knowledgeable, relaxed and passionate about bikes people. Plus Giuseppe commented the set up looked like Alessandro Pettachi, if only I had his sprint! I must call in when I’m nearby again.
The last big test, the road ride. I didn’t want to ride in the UK’s horrible winter road conditions so I opted on a weeks training camp in Lanzarote, sun, wind and varied terrain would be a perfect test. I did however replace the Miche Carbon wheels for some cheaper Shimano ones for transportation purposes. First impressions were the rigidity of the frame in relation to power transfer through the bottom bracket, virtually no discernible deflection. Second impression was how the bike flicks predictably and lightly when riding out of the saddle, some bikes a built too short on the front to create this impression then handle horribly at speed, we shall test that later!
First test was climbing and the bike passed with flying colours feeling at ease in and out of the saddle and the transition. Second test was a prolonged period of riding into very strong head and side winds. This is where the bike fitting in combination with the bike build paid dividends, I enjoyed a comfortable on the drops riding position allowing efficient power transfer and engaging my core more effectively, and importantly no shuffling about in the saddle which I normally have a habit of thanks to the perfect riding position.
Next test? Descending, probably the most dramatic and important test of a frame and a bikes credentials. 80 kph descending, hairpin bends, rough surface, gentle fast brake free bends, adverse camber corners, all gobbled up by this bike. I have owned a lot of bikes in 35 years of cycling and can say I have never descended at such speeds, in such comfort and with such reassurance of safety when cornering. Not a hint or a whisper of dissent from the frame and bike, total balance, hard to quantify the benefits to a riders morale knowing you can fly down a mountain and the bike won’t be the cause of any worry whatsoever.
Last 2 tests? Sprinting, as with climbing the bike responds rapidly, predictably and you feel like all your power is going into propelling the bike forwards, not being wasted in flex and deflection. The last test was an extremely rough road section, the closest I could get to pave! I bounded onto to the section at speed employing the right tactics, loose grip on the bars, big gear. The bike glided over the surface as if shouting at my legs not to slow down otherwise it would begin insulting me for wimping out, so I had to keep going at pace, no choice. Then I realised towards the end of the week something I hadn’t initially considered, no back ache, shoulder or neck ache, I had been riding the bike with no unwanted pain ( legs were exhausted from the training on the hills! ), no distractions from the ride.
This bike appears to have achieved the ultimate balance of rigidity in the right places, comfort where it is needed and yet lively and entertaining to ride even with heavy dull wheels, have Epoca achieved perfection? Or just bike alchemy? I reckon yes and from the moment I step off it I can’t wait to return to it. Italy’s best kept secret.
My only question is, when do the time trial bikes arrive?!