With all the scandal and gossip in the cycling world over the last few months it can be easy to get distracted, bogged down even, and forget about the real reasons we wake up early to ride, or subject ourselves to enduring lactic acid burning legs, or push our heart rate beyond normal limits chasing the wheel in front over the crest of that climb. Riding the Casati Demone, I was reminded of all the right reasons. There is nothing quite like that feeling of riding with a tailwind on smooth tarmac when all you can hear is the gentle hum of tyres on the road. The Demone’s integrated package was just the tonic resurrect this feeling of carefree, easy performance.
When the Casati first rolled down my driveway and we were introduced I saw several things: Firstly, this was a Casati. Not a high volume brand, but one that often hand makes their frames in Italy; tick. Secondly, I spied the electronic Campagnolo EPS; tick. Thirdly, the stealth colours, frame tubing design and deep dish wheels. This bike looked fast; tick, tick tick. The ‘sneaky’ thing about this Demone, however, is that it is not the usual handmade Italian job, but rather an Asian built monocoque construction. Thus the frameset price is a more affordable RRP of $3,395, shaving a couple of thousand off its hand built siblings. Combine this frameset with Campagnolo Record EPS and a Mavic Redwind clincher wheelset and the result is a complete bike with a retail price of $9995. This is not a price to be sneezed at but it is much less than other Casatis and also much lower than the impression the bike gives your mates when out on bunch rides or at club races.
The monocoque frame is a dual carbon construction. It consists of T800 carbon front triangle to give some compliance for comfort and T1000 at the rear for rigidity and power transfer. The frame weight for the medium comes in a respectable 920g. I found that the feel of the frame reflected the carbon lay-up. The ride tended on the stiff and racey end of the spectrum, but after four hours in the saddle I found I was still comfortable (although this may have also had a bit to do with the great Selle Italia SLR saddle -160g-). The frame felt especially rigid under hard accelerations, and the geometry whilst allowing me to get nice and low, also felt good over long climbs in the saddle. Cornering was surprisingly tight for an Italian bike. Perfect for crit racing but you need to be aware of what you’re doing on fast downhills.
A huge highlight of this bike was the Campagnolo Record EPS. Super Record EPS was reviewed thoroughly in the previous issue of Bicycling Australia, and the Record is so marginally different that this review will just touch on a few pros and cons experienced. Electronic shifting, whether it be Shimano or Campag for me is a game changer because of what it brings to front derailleur shifts. I believe that most high end mechanical group sets have pretty much nailed rear shifting, but can still drop chains or give clunky shifts at the front. Electronic front shifting amazed me by how smooth and seamless it is. In this regard the Record EPS did not disappoint. I found myself getting lazy and not thinking about the best times to shift, because I didn’t have to. Whenever I asked the EPS to shift, up or down front chainrings, it performed faultlessly, smoothly and within appropriate time. The EPS possibly doesn’t shift quite as quickly and forcefully as the Shimano Di2 front derailleur, but I never felt like I was left waiting. The auto trim of the front derailleur also serves as a little reminder that the EPS is there like a faithful concierge at a five star hotel, looking after your every need. Campagnolo Record EPS, does come with a five star price tag, so perhaps this service should be expected. After riding with seamless, smooth shifting, I was expecting myself to go into mourning once I was riding my mechanical again. However, changing back to my bike showed me that I feel more connected with the bike riding a mechanical group. You are much more acutely aware of every shift. It is akin to the difference between driving cars with auto versus manual gearboxes. As such, I expect that not all people will fall in love with EPS, but most will. The net gain of problem free shifting is greater than this loss of ‘connection’.
I very much enjoyed riding this bike and so I took it out whenever I could. In my time with the Casati I clocked up around 2,000 km before the EPS battery went flat and the rear Vredestein Fortezza tyre wore out. This battery life is in line with Campagnolo’s expectations, and the system doesn’t simply shut down but rather beeps at you and stops shifting for five seconds at a time, every few minutes. Enough that you won’t forget it’s going flat, but neither does it ruin your ride. In contrast I was quite disappointed with the Fortezza tyres. They had great road feel reminiscent of Michelins top offerings, but I encountered multiple flats during the mediocre 2,000km rear tyre life. It’s difficult to blame tyres due to varying conditions and speed versus the possibility of flats is always going to be a trade off. But this distance is about half what I get out of a Continental GP4000s.
The Fulcrum Redwind wheels were an interesting choice for this reasonably high end bike. They certainly look the part and matched the colour scheme nicely, but at around 1700-1800g they are by no means the light wheelset, which a bike like this deserves. They felt good at speed as you would expect from deep wheels, but due to the weight, didn’t feel quite as lively when accelerating out of the saddle. The Fulcrums certainly let you know when you were riding in gusty conditions, but this is the downside of using most deep section rims as an everyday wheel. A set of sub 1,400g simple clinchers would finish the Demone setup nicely without necessarily blowing the bike price out of the water and you can easily customise this choice at the point of sale.
In the end, the greatest strength of the Casati Demone was not any of the good componentry or stunning frame but rather the way the bike delivers an integrated ride. It just feels like all the parts were specifically designed for each other and this creates a fast bike that feels comfortable not matter what you throw at it. Let’s face it though, when you are spending close to 10 big-clams on a bike you really expect something that delivers in every aspect. Does the Casati do this? Yes and no. You can buy a much lighter bike for a lot less. You can get bikes with electronic shifting for less too. What Casati has accomplished with the Demone, however, is the Italian package which comes close in every area. What you get, for maxing out your credit limit is a bike that looks every bit the hand-crafted Italian thoroughbred and one that is definitely an absolute pleasure to either whittle away the hours on, or race hard.
Everything on the Demone is done nicely. From the gold headtube Casati insignia to the seatpost decals. Good componentry is matched well with a very nicely finished frame. The result; a high quality bike in almost every aspect.
The Casati frame is a real treat to ride, really nice and stiff with a reasonably balanced geometry. Combine this with the silky EPS shifting and you have a race ready weapon. Add some lighter wheels and this bike is the complete performance package.
Value is an interesting concept when you are sinking $10k on a bike. The law of diminishing returns really starts to kick in at around $5,000 in my opinion. What the Demone offers in the value stakes is a high performance machine from an almost boutique Italian manufacturer without the ‘handmade’ $15k+ price tag.
A high performance bike with a lovely frame, sharp looks, and silky electronic Campagnolo shifting. This bike looks the part and rides just as well. What’s not to like? Well perhaps a lighter wheelset, but that’s being picky.
Frame: Monocoque T800 and T1000
Fork: Carbon with Carbon Steerer
Stem: Deda Demone Custom
Handlebars: Deda Zero100
Saddle: Selle Italia SLR
Seat post: Deda Demone Custom Carbon
Shift Levers:Campagnolo Record EPS
Brakes: Campagnolo Record (single pivot on rear)
Front Derailleur: Campagnolo Record EPS
Rear Derailleur: Campagnolo Record EPS
Cassette: Campagnolo 11 speed
Chain: Campagnolo Record 11 speed
Crank: Campagnolo Record
Bottom Bracket: Campagnolo UltraTorque
Wheels: Fulcrum Redwind
Tyres: Vredestein Fortezza
Distributor: A and S Imports