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Torelli Zona Cross SS

Review: Torelli Zona Cross SS

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Right Out of the Box


So In this day and age we get all sorts of cross bikes in. I would say about 90% carbon and 10% aluminum. So when we had the opportunity to get a steel cross bike in we were really excited. To add to the excitement the frame set was made for us and it was custom painted for us as well. Not to mention this frame set is hand made in Italy. Not in a factory by a bunch of cold robots on an assembly line but hand made by people that are passionate about cycling. We got this bike in and when we pulled it out we could hear a pin drop as we just took it all in. It was beautiful. The paint was a rich deep Belgium blue. It had a orange band and gold stripe accents were just amazing to look at. Granted am I just saying this? So I had some friends over for some second and third opinions. Each and everyone of them thought it was beautiful. Its one thing to have that classic "Old School" steel shape with the small round tubes and distinctive lugged junctures. But then you put that with a awesome paint job, the whole thing comes together in something that you fall in love with at first sight. The only thing modern about it was the carbon Ritche CX fork. This too was painted to match the frame set.

Road Test Ride


Because the bike came as a frame set we had to hunt down the parts for the build. After a lot of phone calls FSA was the company that really came through for us. So we were really excited to get the bike out on to the road and get to know it. After we got it finally built up which took forever, the first thing we noticed about the bike was how tall it was. In the description on the web site they say that the bottom bracket was high. They were not kidding. So once we got it built up we headed out on it to give it a proper shake down ride and get all of the bugs out of it.

I want to state up front that this is from the perspective form someone that is not use to a high bottom bracket.

Out on the road you can really tell the difference a few centimeters make. While rolling down the Springwater Corridor I thought I could see to Seattle on a clear day. But after a while I got use to the extra altitude and I could pull off my oxygen mask and enjoy the ride. I must say its been a while (years actually) that I had the chance to ride a steel steed. I had forgotten what it felt like and how good steel feels underneath you. With a mixture of old world (72 head tube) and modern geometry (73.5 seat tube) Zonda Cross was alive and snappy on the road. i actually like this type of geometry because its a little forgiving in the cockpit but quick in the engine room. When you put this with the high quality triple butted tubing from Columbus and you get a great well balanced ride.

Dirt Test Ride


We went to Powell Bute Park and took the bike in the single tracks, fire roads and the twisty descents that this large nature park has to offer. Now I have not ridden a single speed cross bike before. Sure, I have raced on the track and I have trained on the road on a fixed gear but this was a little different. With a single speed it takes a little more thought in how you ride the course because you don't have the gear selection with a single speed. So, you have to have 2-4 different cogs to have to then choose what will be best for the course and the conditions at hand. If your from the PDX area then there is a good chance that you have ridden in this park. I like to go in there because I can get a good mix of terrain from some climbs, rollers and flat wide open autobahn type of fire roads at the top of the park. So Its a good place to see how a cross bike will do in different types of situations.

The bike climbs pretty good and the steel frame is just a pleasure to ride. I ended up lowering my seat even more than usual because on some of the bumpy stuff the bike was starting to buck me a bit and there was a chance that I could crash. Repeat after me, crashing is bad... After that we were good and found myself playing and having a good time while my teammate Joe was cursing me as he had not been training and thought that because I only had one gear that it would be a different story. There were times that I was wishing that I had other gears to climb with and to descend with. I found that I had to think more when I needed to get on the gas and when I should back off. It has been pretty dry this year and it had been raining the day before so the ground was just perfect for railing through corners. It was just tacky and not dry. So the FMB tires that I was running was sticking to terra firma like Velcro. This translate to a lot of fun on the descents.

The wheels are just amazing. And made a lot of what I was able to do on the bike possible. They are the Vision Metron 40 super high end ceramic tubular. They are wide and hardly weigh anything. So when I stomped on the gas the bike just took off and it didn't take much to spin those wheels up to speed. These are the same wheels that Ben was using all year. I can see why he loves them, I do too. They are also available in a disc version and for the nice little price tag.

We Liked

The Feel of Steel: There are lots of things to like about this frame. The material is great. Nothing rides like steel. If you have ridden a high quality steel frame before you know what I mean. I think that most people that have ridden one of these pieces of art will agree with me when I use this adjective that it feels alive. You feel more connected to the bike and ground with out it beating you up. Nothing rides like carbon or like Aluminum and there is nothing like riding a high quality steel frame.

The craftsmanship on the construction was first race the welds were nice and smooth and even. In this day of over sized carbon and aluminum its very nice to see some one take the time and do something in a classic manner from a time where the frame builder was part engineer and part artist.

Get the Blue! The Belgium blue that Torelli is showing on their web site does not do it justice and the pictures of the bike on our site don't either. Take my worked for it its pretty impressive and everyone that has had a chance to look at the bike always makes a comment on the color. To me this is the only color to get this bike in.

Dress her in Carbon! So with Steel there is usually a trade off of weight. Now this is not a carbon frame or a beer can bike. She is not a light weight but we went out and got some sweet carbon from FSA to dress this frame out with and needless to say this Italian steel steed came in at 17 lbs with pedals and that's a 58 cm! You put this weight with quality Italian steel and you get a great ride.

Hot Wheels! The wheels are super sweet! They are light and very aero. We got the Vision Metron 40 and (1,320 grams) add in that they have ceramic bearings and not only are these babies light hoops but they spin up super quick when you stand up and drop some power into them. The Metron 40 is a little bit wider than the normal mid deep tubular. They mimic the Zipp Firecrest in its width for aerodynamics. We rode that particular wheel on the road and in cross and found it to be very fast. Same with the Metron 40. This will give you a wider foot print with your tires and you can run them at a lower pressure! Bigger footprint = better edging!

We Didn't Like

I want to put this in a constructive text. As well all know that manufacturers are always moving towards making their product better. So even though this section is things we didn't like. I'm going to make it "Things that we would change". and then leave it up to you the reader to decide if the changes that we would make would be better for you. Some of the feedback is "taste" rather than a "Rule".

Drop outs. I think that if you get a SS bike it should come with a chain tensioner. We opted for a Surley tugnut and found that works really well with out really disrupting the nice elegant lines of the frame. But I think the frame should come with one. These things are a little hard to come by, I had to do a little hunting around town to fine one. The installation was simple and easy.

Drop it please. If I could only change one thing on this bike it would be the bb drop. Some people do fine with it and I'm not one of those people. There has been quite the debate in a lot of cx forums on bb drop and I am on the side of a lower BB. The reason that I like it lower is because the bike is more stable and corners better. The higher bottom bracket puts me up higher and makes me feel more unstable.

A little more Belgium in the decals would be nice. We took the liberty to put in the gallery what we think the decal should look like on the bike. But that is just a detail.


None as you really can't upgrade this Italian piece of art.

The Final Say

So what do we think about the Zona Cross bike? Its a classic and it makes us remember why we love cycling so much. Hand made in Italy from Columbus triple butted tubing, what's not to love about that. Now, you can get it lugged or TIG welded. We opted for the tig welded one as you can see in the pictures. The paint is first rate and we have had no chipping or anything that would make us believe that the paint is nothing but first rate. The pictures just don't do it justice in my opinion. The group was first class, world cup level with the FSA group and Vision Metron 40 carbon tubular wheels. This kept the weight down on the entire build to 17 lbs with pedals. We love the majority of the geometry that the Zona possess. Its a mix of old euro steering (72 head tube) and new world seat tube (73.5) but, the only thing that we would change about this bike is the bottom bracket drop. We are not use to a high bottom bracket and so it changes everything for us. If I were to do this review over I would request that the bottom bracket be in the 65-67 range for the drop. The lower the bottom bracket the more stable the ride will be. Another option to this is to go down a size and ask for a longer top tube. This will still put you at altitude, unless you run a longer crank, but the stand over will be better. So this is theonlything I would change with the frame. And this debate can go on and so if you prefer a high bottom bracket then this is the bike for you. Either way this Italian steel steed is a work of love and art.

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