The year 1986, for those that can remember, wasn’t really an eventful year in Western culture. Among the most popular songs of that year were Falco’s Rock me Amadeus and Europe’s Final Countdown. It was also a year where seemingly all men were wishing they were Tom Cruise in Top Gun and most women wished they were dating Tom Cruise in Top Gun.
In Italy however, some art of a higher level was taking place. The artisans at Gios were producing the Compact Pro. A bike sculpted in the finest Italian tradition and intended for racing. A bike made, as was the norm at the time, from quality steel tubing joined with detailed lugs and hand welded, to form a finished product that was as beautiful to look at as it was to ride. The type of bike where little details, possibly insignificant to either handling or performance, were added purely for aesthetic enhancement. Bikes where component choice was often a by-product of national allegiances over functionality. Unfortunately the advent of aluminium, carbon, mass production and the global marketplace seems to have swayed the pendulum irreversibly towards cost reduction, simplicity of design and a commonality of shapes and designs. One could be forgiven for thinking that it was mandated that all current bikes should be painted black, white, red or a combination of the three.
I tend to have a foot on each side of the generation gap. I like the classic styling of the older bikes but I love the performance and reliability of our modern machines. I love the history and traditions of cycling but still marvel at the fact that I can now have electronic shifting on a sub 7kg race bike. I still spend hours each year looking over the photos from the North American Handmade Bicycle Show and being astonished by the intricate detail and craftsmanship, but am also in awe of the engineers that can design and optimise a carbon frame on a computer and virtually have it production ready before it leaves the screen.
If I were to sit down and describe what I would want from a bike that would satisfy both sides of my cycling brain then the Gios Compact Pro is pretty much the embodiment of that wish list. A frame from an Italian brand that has history and pedigree, produced using a replication of the finest steel tubing available when the Gios Compact Pro was at the pinnacle of racing hardware. A bike resplendent with all the features and embellishments you would expect from a finely crafted frame of that era. Campagnolo running gear of course, befitting the national pride inherent in this frame but in its modern 11 speed Athena guise to give reliable and precise shifting and a wide range of gears not available when this bike first rolled off the assembly line. Top that off with some 32 hole Mavic Open pro rims and what you would have is a modern day re-creation of a classic machine, and many riders’ dream bike.
The Gios brand, while not well represented in Australia, has a deep history in Europe. It has been the bike of choice for national champions, and classics winners. In their heyday Gios were also at the forefront of technical innovations. Fork crown modifications, adjustable rear dropouts, sealed internal cable routing and cast bottom brackets with integral chain stay bridges were just some of the advancements brought about by Gios’s close involvement with their sponsored racers.
To be honest, when I received the Gios I wasn’t sure whether to ride it or simply display it. It truly is a thing of beauty. It is no surprise that the colour chosen is Gios blue. As ubiquitous as Bianchi Celeste, the blue of Gios came about when Gios became the official bike sponsor of the Brooklyn Chewing Gum team in the 1970s, and the team bikes were painted to match the sponsor’s colour. As this was Gios’s first foray into the international racing scene, that deep blue and the Gios name quickly became synonymous. It’s a refreshing change from the current standard colour schemes and the deep rich blue also beautifully offsets the chrome lugs that join the seat and down tubes to the head tube and the chromed drive side chainstay. When the initial visual sensory overload subsides, you are then able to take in the finer details of the Compact Pro.
The top tube has a raised Italian flag motif to display its national pride. The bottom bracket has the company’s name engraved on it and the remaining logos are subtle and in keeping with the era from which this bike is inspired. When hopping on board a few things grab your attention. When looking down at the bars it is unusual not to see a top cap and indeed a beefy stem. Instead you gaze upon a rather elegant looking quill type stem. Thankfully the quill stem is a two-bolt type for those of us who can remember having to un-tape bars and remove levers to get handlebars off in the ‘bad old days’. The top tube also is slender and unusually in this day and age a simple tubular shape. The bars are a classic-bend aluminium version that is simply 26mm all through its length, which also takes some getting used to after riding ergo topped bars for so long. There is also the little matter of weight. At 9.64kg bare weight, the Compact Pro will build up with water bottles etc, into a 10kg+ bike, and that also takes a little getting used to.
Out on the road the phrase ‘steel is real’ kept going through my head. To be honest, after a little while, I could see where it had emanated from. In a blind test you would be hard pressed to feel the difference between the Gios and a well engineered carbon frame. Even with a steel fork the frames dynamics were, I must admit, surprising. The Gios handled as you would expect an Italian race bike to handle; it is stiff, nimble and quick to respond to any steering input. For a bike I thought would be pigeonholed as a ‘short trip for a short black’ it was amazingly comfortable to ride. So much so that I took it out for a few four hour rides and was surprised at how fresh I felt hopping off. The Campagnolo Athena 11 speed worked like clockwork throughout. It is worth noting that Athena was chosen for this bike as it is available with a non-carbon crankset which sits perfectly with the theme. To be honest, carbon anything just wouldn’t look right on this bike.
While this may not be the ideal bike for you if you want only one bike in your stable and you are a competitive cyclist, it would certainly fit nicely in the garage if you wanted a second bike for sunny jaunts with friends. Something to ride on a sunny winter afternoon while wearing your favourite woollen jersey. It would also suit if you have always liked the idea of riding a classic but really can’t be bothered with all the technical, trainspotting-type malarkey that comes along with restoring such a frame. The Compact Pro is Gios’s top of the line model, so if you have been dreaming of owning a classic, check out their range which begins just at the $1,000 mark.
The Gios Compact Pro is a ready-made classic, a modern day replication of a time when bikes were as much a thing of beauty as a mode of transportation or a means to winning races, made affordable due to the advent of modern technologies. It is a great mix of old and new that will age gracefully and if treated well, will give years of enjoyment without looking outdated, unlike that Top Gun bomber jacket hidden in the deep recesses of your wardrobe.
The finish of the Gios is exceptional. The attention to detail in both finish and component choice makes this bike a pure delight to behold. The construction methods and parts have truly passed the test of time and the choice of Athena instead of a higher level crankset purely for the sake of aesthetics speaks volumes about this brand.
While not as light as a modern carbon race bike, the Compact Pro handles and feels as good as any current model. The slight weight penalty, while obvious when climbing and accelerating, was barely noticeable when rolling on the flats or cruising the streets. The added training load of an extra kilo or so may also pay off when you hop back on your race rocket.
Value for Money
It’s not really fair to compare the Compact Pro with current models simply on price. If this is the kind of bike you would like to ride, then price would not be at the top of your checklist. In saying that, it is not overly expensive, and you will get a bike that theoretically could last a lifetime, and one you won’t feel the need to upgrade to next year’s model. I can guarantee when parked outside the coffee shop it will get as many stares as bikes more than double its price.
If you thought riding a classic bike was for you, but they were either too expensive to buy or too much work to build your own, then the Compact Pro solves your problem. You get a classic model bike, built with some current technology to keep things running smoothly and best of all it is off the shelf and ready to ride.
Frame Gios Dedacciai Zero 1 replica
Fork Gios Original Cro Mo 1″
Headset Campagnolo Record 1″
Stem RAS 90/110mm
Handlebars Gios Original ∅26.0
Saddle Gios Selle Italia SL
Seatpost SP-610 ∅27.2×300mm
Shift Levers Campagnolo Athena 11S
Brakes Campagnolo Athena
Front derailleur Campagnolo Athena
Rear Derailleur Campagnolo Athena 11S
Cassette Campagnolo Athena 11S 12-25T
Chain Campagnolo Athena 11S
Crank Campagnolo Athena 11S 50/34T 170mm
Bottom Bracket Campagnolo Athena Power Torque
Wheels Mavic Open Pro 32H
Tyres Panaracer 700×23C
Weight 9.64 kg without pedals