DIVO ST: PEZ’s First Ride Update
July is a month like no other in cycling, and with the Tour but one week away, it’s natural for one’s thoughts to cast back to last year. I returned to ‘la grand boucle’ for the first time in years, and discovered the French Alsace and some amazing roads while test riding the DIVO ST. Twelve months later the race promises the strongest line up of competitors in years, but I also wondered how things have progressed at the DIVO bike company.
I fired off a quick email to Pietro Caucchioli – the man behind the brand, and as usual he responded right away, and was happy to meet me on skype all the way from Italy. His home base these days is Florida, but he spends a lot of time in his native land overseeing the business of DIVO. The company is still small in a good way, that means customers get attention from the boss, but orders have tripled well into triple digits in just a few months. And while DIVO launched with a set offering of standard sized road frames and build options, the real growth has been in their custom frame builds.
The DIVO ST posing for me ahead of our two hour grind to the summit of the climb to Chamrousse at the 2014 Tour de France.
The ST is still the one model available but a lot has changed since I first published my ride report in Aug 2014. Their company website wasn’t even live yet. But now it’s rolling full steam with a very cool custom paint program that allows you to color your frame with almost endless options, and if one of the stock sizes isn’t quite right, you can choose full custom geometry. After riding the bike over several days at the 2014 Tour de France, I know my toughest decision wouldn’t be whether to get one, but what I’d want mine to look like.
And now that we’ve rolled out our wide format stories here at PEZ, what better time to take a fresh look at a bike that I’m willing to bet none of your friends have…
We first saw the brand new DIVO marque at Sea Otter 2014, it impressed PEZ Tech Ed. Charles enough to warrant more than a passing mention in his report. While very few of the bikes actually existed in July that year, I was lucky enough to ride one for several days at the Tour de France’s middle week in the Vosges and Alps mountains stages.
Over the past 13 years we’ve ridden some of the latest and coolest cycling gear, and along the way helped some new brands with the kind of exposure that often leads to them not being new brands anymore, but nothing beats just plain “showin’ & sharin”. This bike looked so cool that I didn’t want to wait for Interbike to see one, so I asked about riding one at the Tour de France this summer. Both the bikes and my driver come from Italy, so all we had to do was connect the two of them and I’d be set.
The DIVO ST is the baby of former pro Pietro Caucchioli. He knows a thing or two about riding fast – finished 3rd in the Giro back in the 1990’s. Since leaving the pro ranks he’s been working with a couple Italian bike brands and has landed in the US, setting up distribution for AleBikeWear, and pretty soon his own brand of high end carbon racing bikes.
In recent months I’ve spent some time skyping with Pietro, whose English is a lot better than my Italian, and getting my own sense of the man who the record books show was one of the first banned from the sport when the governing bodies began making motions that they were doing something to fight doping. I mention this not as a slight against Pietro – he rode in the 1990’s when the entire peloton approached performance enhancement differently than today – but because it was one of the first things we talked about, and HE brought it up.
There’s no bitterness on his part, just a guy stating the facts about how his career ended before he was ready. He’s not trying to hide anything, although he admits that the DIVO name might be a better choice than his own for marketing purposes. (Again, I take this as simply stating a fact.) He’s smart and pragmatic, but being Italian, and essentially a small builder (ie: without the resources to hire individuals to do every single task), I wasn’t entirely sure that his promised test bike for my two weeks at Le Tour would arrive as planned.
Not that I made the delivery easy… I flew from Vancouver to Paris – some 15 hours+. The bike was coming from northern Italy, and had be delivered to the Torino train station where my driver had to meet DIVO’s agent with the bike. As my driver was enroute to the Tour he also had little time to pick up our rental car, get the bike, and aim for the Alps. Precise timing, lots of guys on the field, and ref’s armed with hair-trigger whistles… Expected percentage of success? Let’s be generous and say less than 100.
But I arrived in Paris on time. Then my bags appeared on the carousel. Then I connected with Mino via phone and he was already in the airport… WITH the Bike!
This may sound like a lot of words to describe a bike delivery – but the point is that Pietro Caucchioli did what he said he would – and that goes a long way in my books. To further underscore the significance of what he achieved here, I found out just a couple weeks before my trip that he was building up a bike especially for me to ride – and with no fleet of demo bikes assembled and only 20 frames built so far, that meant one from scratch.
The bike is his first model – the DIVO ST – full carbon frame, tubes moulded and assembled in Italy by guys who really know carbon frame building, and regularly build for much bigger brands. The bikes will be fully customizable by the customer, but Pietro chose to build my tester with Campagnolo Super Record 11-speed index shifting, and Campy Bora 38mm carbon tubular wheels.
A few custom bikes have already been done as the demo fleet takes shape in time for Interbike, and as Pietro tells me, no two are the same colors. He showed the naked carbon weave finish at Sea Otter, but he’s also done versions in orange fluo, pink, sky blue, and camoflouge. My demo bike was finished in high-gloss white paint, with big fat DIVO graphics emblazened proudly on the downtube and fork blades – both offering up substantial real-estate.
While stock frame sizes will be offered, most of the line will be full custom builds, which makes perfect sense from a small business angle – there’s no need to invest in loads of OEM parts when your production run is so small it wouldn’t get most OEM Parts managers’ attention. But better for customers who get to choose all parts and color, and get a bike that no one else has. And that’s exactly who’s gonna buy DIVOs.
Personally I love white as a bike color – clean, bold, looks good in pictures, and goes with any color kit. The DIVO head tube badge in the classic Italian tricolor looks right at home and caught more than a few eyes on the roads of France.
The frame is all carbon, head set and bottom brackets are moulded in, with the only aluminum being a replaceable derailleur hangar. The tubes are individually moulded then glued together, an excellent method that offers infinite possibilities when building custom frame sizes.
The tube’s sizes are big and immediately eye catching. The lines are stylish (as expected from an Italian), but tube shapes are more angular than a lot of brands. A Medium sized frame weighs 1050 grams, plus paint. It’s not the lightest bike around, but that mass is well used to soak up a lot of what other lighter frames would deliver as road chatter.
The head tube is a unique octagonal shape, that connects beautifully with one of the more substantial forks I’ve seen. Pietro told me it’s all part of the plan to make the front end as stable and strong as possible.
It’s worth noting here too that internal cable routing is well placed, and as you can see in the photos – overall finish quality is excellent.
The fork blades really are quite massive, and it’s easy to see how the depth between leading and trailing edges adds to a very solid front end. Looking at the whole bike, the forks might make the rest of the tubes appear smaller than they are, but that’s not the case – the toptube, headtube, downtube junction is quite big, as is the diameter of the downtube, which increases in size as it approaches the bottom bracket.
The seat tube is a beefy hexagon shape that stabilizes the bottom end from multiple directions, and features a cutout in the back to help snug the rear wheel in, and just looks cool.
The rear triangle maintains the solid look with (you guessed it…) more large sized tubes designed to keep the keep the drivetrain stable and maximize power transfer.
Riding the bike was a blast. Yes, I know I had fresh roads and a brand new bike to enjoy – but a couple things stood out for me.
While the frame size is DIVO’s standard Small version, Pietro requested my specific measurements for seat height, saddle setback, bar reach and height, and delivered a bike that fit me almost perfectly out of the box. I’ve tried enough bikes to know how much just a small change in bike fit can influence what and how I feel on the bike – and I was impressed that the ST fit me so well. We made a small adjustment to the saddle height and that was all.
More impressive though was the ride quality. Granted, I was on unfamiliar wheels, but the Campy Bora tubulars really were a pleasure to roll on. Overall the feeling is solid – as intended.
While the bike is not as light as you can get elsewhere, I never felt like I was hauling extra weight. My rides included a lot of climbing – every day – sometimes going uphill for 2 hours (yes I stopped in there to snap some pics), so I had plenty of time to blame something other than me for my slow ascents – but the bike did all that my legs asked of it.
Out of the saddle the bike is as solid as it looks – I noted several times how rocking backing and forth showed no noticeable flex anywhere from the frame or wheels. Just like Pietro told me – the bikes is built to be strong in the front, and strong in the back.
Going up for so long also means that you gotta get down too – and anyone who’s ridden in Europe will attest to the pure awesomeness of a long mountain descent – 20 – 30 minutes of uninterrupted swooping, diving, high speed fun. I’m not what most would call a fast descender, but I go fast enough to get myself pretty excited from time to time, and I never got this bike anywhere close to its limits – and that’s the way I like it.
Braking was exceptional – and what better place to test yourself and machine than 20km and dozens of turns on your way back to the valley floor? Those switchbacks can come up pretty fast at 65-70kph, and while the Campy wheels and brakes performed flawlessly under heavy braking (even in a full downpour), none of it works without a frame and fork strong enough to handle the loads and stresses created on big long descents.
If you haven’t clued in by now – this bike impressed me on all kinds of terrain. The feeling is solid, stable, strong. My set up with the Campy Bora tubulars was never harsh and responded to whatever I told it to do. This bike is worth a closer look for anyone wanting a custom build that’s different from anything else you’ll see in your local group.
Pricing is right in line with what you’d expect for a fully custom high end Italian carbon frameset:
• Standard sizes: US$5,275
• Custom size and color: $5,780