Words and photos by Hannes Unterkofler
My name is Hannes and I’m a 55+ cyclist from Austria. I live in the tri-border region of Austria, Slovenia, and Italy. So, I am in the fortunate position of being able to choose the best from each of these three regions every time I ride one of my bikes. I’ve been cycling for more than 30 years. I started with mountain biking but soon I got into road riding. I’ve participated in many Gran Fondos in Italy, the best known being the Nove Colli at the Adriatic coast in Cesenatico and the Maratona dles Dolomites, the world-famous road bike marathon in the Dolomites. And I’ve been a big fan of gravel riding for some time. Nowadays, you’ll find me either on tarmac or on gravel roads.
It’s only been a few weeks since I picked up my Bixxis Fronda from the frame builder. So, I can’t write about any big rides with it just yet. But I can tell you a story from ordering a custom bike up to the moment of the personal handover.
Perhaps not everyone is familiar with the brand Bixxis, but you should know the people behind that brand. It’s Doriano De Rosa and his daughter Martina. I can recommend anyone who wants to know more about them to dig around online. The Bixxis Fronda is not the first bike that Doriano de Rosa has custom made for me. My first was back in 1994, made with Columbus SLX steel tubes. After that came a Bixxis Titanium road bike in 2016. What a fantastic bike! That’s actually a different story, but if you are interested you can search the web for “100 days Bixxis.”
Now let´s come back to the topic – the Bixxis Fronda: In recent years I have asked Doriano and Martina several times when they will offer a gravel bike. And they always asked for a little patience. In spring 2020, the time should have arrived. Bixxis wanted to launch the Front at NAHBS in Dallas, Texas. But because of COVID-19, things turned out differently than expected. So, the bike was featured on the website and social media, and I placed my order immediately. And I had to make my decisions. Single or double chainring? Mechanical or electronic shifting? Shimano or SRAM? To make the story short, I chose Shimano GRX 810 11-speed mechanical. End of discussion. And the color scheme Matte Bourbon and Blue was created in close collaboration with Martina de Rosa. Everything was set, or so I thought.
A bit later, I received an email. Bixxis indicated that a well-known Italian company may launch a gravel-specific groupset soon, but so far nothing concrete could be said. Possibly with 1×13 speed. Although I didn’t know any further details and hadn’t seen photos, I rescheduled right away and ordered this Italian groupset. I didn’t even know the exact price but was told it should be somewhere between Chorus and Record. I have always trusted Doriano De Rosa and Campagnolo. And I suspected Doriano knew more than he was allowed to tell me. What could go wrong?
- Frame Bixxis Fronda, Columbus Spirit with custom chainstays
- Fork ENVE All Road tapered
- Rims Campagnolo Shamal Carbon / Fulcrum Rapid Red 3
- Hubs Campagnolo / Fulcrum
- Tires Pirelli Cinturato Gravel H 700×35 / Gravel M 700×35
- Handlebars Deda 100
- Headset Chris King InSet 8
- Crankset Campagnolo Ekar 1x, 38 teeth
- Cassette Campagnolo Ekar 13v, 9-42
- Derailleur Campagnolo Ekar
- Brakes Campagnolo Ekar
- Shifter(s) Campagnolo Ekar
- Saddle San Marco
- Seatpost PMP Titanio
- Stem Deda 100
- Front bags Miss Grape Moon
- Frame bags Miss Grape Internode 2
- Rear bags Miss Grape Cluster 20 WP
- Other accessories King Cage Titanium water bottle cages
I had to wait patiently for the launch day of the new groupset. In the meantime, my frame was built by Doriano and I received some photos of it from Martina. Meanwhile, some minor details had still to be clarified with the painter. It’s unbelievable how much details need to be discussed when you have ALL the options. But shortly before the scheduled launch date in August, I was informed that the presentation would be postponed to September 24th. I was informed too, that in the middle of September my frame would be assembled with the groupset and the new Campagnolo Shamal carbon wheels. At that occasion, I received the first photos of the complete bike, still “top secret.” It was quite exciting. The new groupset had already been discussed in countless internet forums. Lots of rumors and assumptions, but nothing specific. But Ekar was already assembled on my frame and ready to be picked up by me… but no earlier than on launch day.
In mid-Septemeber, I traveled to Italy with my wife for a special event with Campagnolo and Bixxis. After an evening with other handmade bicycle enthusiasts that was full of friendship and warmth, I left with my new Fronda in my hands, a bike that represents more than 40 years of experience from one of the most respected frame builders around. On the way to the hotel, my wife–who is an avid cyclist too–was already asking me how much it would cost to get one built up with Shimano…
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