Carbon-framed road bike featuring Shimano Ultegra groupset and Fulcrum Quattro wheels for £3500
Brief history lesson aside, what we have here is Massi's Pro SL. Essentially a frameset, it's a blank canvas for you to build on. Nothing new in that, you might think. But with Massi's approach to custom bikes for the masses, there is a slight difference.
With plenty of buying power, the Spanish firm gets keen prices on groupsets and wheels. Then it has its own handlebars, saddles and finishing kit - right down to tyres and bar tape - exclusively manufactured. All of these cost savings are passed on to buyers via a Massi-approved specialist dealer that builds the bikes in Spain from the ‘assembly kit', based on specifications as ordered.
From this kit, you can specify everything from stem size to crank length; bar width to bar tape colour. For these ‘non-upgrade' modifications, there is no extra cost on top of the base price. Indeed, Massi's ethos is that you should be able to buy a bike that fits you perfectly without having the inconvenience and expense of swapping parts that are key to rider comfort and performance.
Of course, no right-minded manufacturer would want to stop you from going crazy with the spec sheet, should you wish to. Available upgrades are numerous, include many popular brands and, as you might expect, can raise the price considerably. But Massi has come up with another way to save the customer money.
All upgrades are supplied and fitted from source at manufacturers' OE (original equipment) prices, so it's highly unlikely you'd be able to build a bike to the same specification for less. You probably couldn't achieve it as quickly, either - turnaround for your bespoke, hand-built bike delivered to your door is, according to Massi's website, "never over one week".
The Pro SL sits at the top of the range, the Twin-Sys suffix indicating that the frame is compatible with either mechanical or electronic groupsets, thanks to the design of the internal routing for cables or wires. Menu choices include all the various permutations of Ultegra and Dura-Ace or, for Campag die-hards, Athena all the way through to Super Record EPS.
Different options including SRAM are on offer for the next model down, the Pro, while the more basic groupsets are only made available on the third-tier model, the Team.
Massi was keen to stress that almost anything is possible off the menu. Anything not made clear on the website can be talked through directly with the distributor, who will be keen to find the right solution.
Direct and responsive
Our test bike came supplied à la carte with a full Ultegra groupset, compact chainset, Fulcrum Racing Quattro wheels and a host of Massi-branded parts. The finish is striking, with a deep, lustrous quality to the paintwork that suggests it will survive the British weather very well.
Massi's own-brand finishing kit is very well made too, right down to the pinch bolts. In fact, the only criticism I could level at any of the parts is the skinny handlebars, in particular the way they taper down from the stem to the tops. Full marks for the comfortable bar tape and cable-tidying rubbers that hold everything neatly in place, though.
The riding position is, of course, highly adjustable from the outset, with much of the sizing taken care of at point of purchase. While the head tube could be a touch shorter for those with pro levels of flexibility, the frame geometry is just on the right side of racy, with generous saddle setback and enough uncut steerer to give plenty of adjustment for racers and sportivistes alike - whatever their physical peculiarities or personal preferences.
The ride itself is, as you'd expect from a quality carbon frame, direct and responsive. Long-ride comfort is up there with the best carbon frames, and handling is exemplary. The steering is precise and the slightest drop of a shoulder or swing of a knee is enough to get the Pro SL tracking a tight arc, the Ritchey-made, Massi-branded Volcano tyres inspiring plenty
Despite this lively steering, high-speed stability never feels compromised, even on some of Surrey's sketchier descents. Threading a fine line through patches of gravel or simply hanging on over battle-scarred bitumen that should have long since been resurfaced, there's rarely a need to scrub off speed.
The combination of Ultegra calipers and a decent wheelset means that braking is, unsurprisingly, excellent.
As with the rest of Shimano's superb Ultegra 6800 groupset, both performance and function can be pretty much taken for granted. Gear changes are nearly always super-slick and, even when they're not, the useful inclusion of in-line adjusters on the cables means that fine adjustment to the tension is a doddle, keeping the gears chatter-free and smooth-running.
With more riders becoming savvy to the fact that a bike that fits properly will be faster than one that doesn't - regardless of the specification - Massi's bespoke bike building menu is good news for the, erm, masses.
Being able to change the stem size, crank length and bar width without any additional outlay means that fit should never be an issue. Or at least it won't be for experienced riders who know what their preferred dimensions are.
Massi's own-brand kit surprised us with its quality, but the Spanish firm has also sourced money-saving deals on popular brands such as Selle Italia and Fulcrum for those who prefer to stick with what they know.
So, if you've been dreaming of building a bike to your own specification and have been weighing up different framesets and costing up different components, this could be a much more affordable reality.
Massi Carbon Over
Massi UHM SL carbon monocoque
Shimano Ultegra 11-speed (compact)
Massi Carbon Lite
44, 48, 52, 56
Massi Carbon X-Lite
Fulcrum Racing Quattro