Basso’s Palta already had a reputation as one of the fastest, sleekest gravel bikes around and this evolution version builds on that basis with more tire space and more speed. Prettiness hides some less than practical aspects though and whoever specced the tires needs to go and stand in a corner and think about what they did.
I tried to take nice pictures of the Palta II but they really don’t do justice to how damned pretty this bike is. It’s not just the metallic flake boy racer's BMW paint over the flowing aero lines. There’s an Italian red, white and green tricolor flag that flashes into view on the back of the fork crown when you turn the massive internal control hiding stem. That internalization is helped by the fact the head tube is 1.5in oversized top and bottom, matching a massive boxy down tube that’s deep and broad enough to give it an almost e-bike vibe.
The triangular rear stays are suitably stout for a power bike too and the seat tube is mostly squared off with a rounded front and blunt rear to give a hint of ‘Kammtail’ aerodynamics. The lower back of the seat tube is also scooped away to give more mud clearance (Palta means ‘mud’ or ‘dirt’ in some Italian dialects). Tire clearance is increased up to 45mm on the II as well, putting it ahead of obvious competitors like the visually similar Cervelo Aspero. The seatpost also gets a scooped back, which syncs with the top end of the seat tube where a rubber gusset seals the frame gap. A rubber strip hides the two ‘gas tank’ bag bolts for aero/aesthetic reasons.
That makes it seem extra odd they haven’t bothered to unbolt the redundant alloy seat tube wing for the front mech it doesn’t have.
The seatpost is secured in place with a three-bolted internal plate tightened by small Torx keys on the back face. That’s pretty much the worst place to put bolt heads in terms of potential clogging and seizing though so I’d definitely suggest covering them with a strip of gaffer tape so adjustment stays easy. Gaffer tape would be useful to stop the rubber protective layer ahead of the press-fit bottom bracket from peeling off, which doesn’t look great and certainly isn’t aero.
In contrast to most of the frame the rear stays and forks are super skinny, with the forks getting a forward throw at the crown to emphasize their slimness. They’re ‘Kammtail’ shaped too just so you can really irritate the people who say aero has no place in gravel. Presumably by going fractionally faster than them for the same effort.
Components and build
The 35mm deep front and 40mm deep rear rims of the Campagnolo Shamal wheels, plus their gloriously smooth bearings are another gift towards extra speed. The axles are home to pull-out gooseneck tools with the various heads needed to tighten each part of the bike. The Campagnolo Ekar gear set with its broad armed carbon fiber crank and spider is the lightest mainstream single ring setup available too, even with the comparatively large 9-42 tooth 13-sprocket rear cassette.
The Magura collab Campagnolo are largely – and I’d say rightly – regarded as the best drop bar disc brakes available with plenty of power and fantastic control. The shape of the bars is good though as long as you don’t want extra leverage and the recycled plastic Selle Italia Model X Boost saddle is a great place to sit even on rough terrain. The shifting has a plasticky feel and excess lever movement that I’m not such a big fan of though. Whoever decided to fit cheap, basic compound, numb carcass, small volume Schwalbe cyclo cross tires that I’d complain about on a £1,000 bike to a thoroughbred costing five times as much needs the same sort of kick up the arse that they deliver as soon as you hit remotely rough surfaces. Needless to say I swapped them for a set of the latest Schwalbe G-One RS race tires straight after the first ride for the good of the bike.
Ride, handling and performance
And peeling rubber armor and seizure inviting seat clamp aside, the Palta II is good. Very good if you want easy sustained speed with a surprisingly smooth and flowing ride across all surfaces. While it’s not particularly light, the oversized frame tubes transmit any power you put through the cranks and bars really well so it accelerates and climbs keenly. The smoothness of the wheels and the lack of kickback through saddle and fork means you can keep pedaling cadence consistent and it comes into its element on rougher, rolling terrain with short stab climbs. Even with the blunt, boxy down tube it’s easy to believe that the hidden cables, aero wheels and skinny stays and forks are part of the package that made it a consistent high achiever on Strava segment times.
As long as you’re not really pushing hard through turns, the 70-degree steering angle is agile and responsive without being nervous and it feels at home on road and off. The custom flush fit spacers under the stem can be unclipped easily so you don’t have to unplumb the rear brake and gears to lower the stem height. The shaved away fork legs mean the front wheel does start to twitch around and get vague if you’re asking it awkward questions over cross-threaded ruts or rockier/washboard sections. It tended to run wide rather than carve in hard for the same reason when I first started riding it too, but I soon adapted to put a bit more knee and shoulder into the initiation. In contrast you’ll be enjoying the comfort gains and reduced hand fatigue from the extra compliance long after you’ve adjusted to the steering nuances.
Basso’s Palta gives a great balance of easy speed with surprising smoothness that makes it a pleasure to ride on road and off. It’s got all the tire space you’re likely to need for gravel racing and it looks gorgeous as well. It’s not without aspects that glitch with the overall aesthetic of the bike and did I mention the tires are a disgrace?
- Surface: Gravel, road, farm track and woodsy singletrack
Tech specs: Basso Palta II Campagnolo Ekar
- Price: £5,199 / €4,946
- Discipline: Race Gravel
- Frame: 6061 alloy
- Head angle: 70 degrees
- Fork: Carbon fibre monocoque
- Wheel size: 700c
- Wheels: Campagnolo Shamal C17 Disc Brake 35/40mm deep
- Tires: Schwalbe CX Comp 700 x 38mm tires
- Drivetrain: Campagnolo Ekar 13 speed rear mech, shifters, 40T carbon chainset, bottom bracket and 9-40T cassette
- Brakes: Campagnolo Ekar Hydro hydraulic disc brakes
- Bar and stem: Basso Paradigma 420mm bar and 80mm stem
- Seat post: Basso integrated seat post
- Saddle: Selle Italia Model X Boost
- Size: S, M (tested), L, XL
- Weight: 8.71kg (size M)