In September, on a day that was colder than I was used to, I went on just the type of ride a gravel bike is designed for: a bit bumpy and connecting roads and trails on a new-to-me route. I joined Michael Yakubowicz and Matt Norman of Blacksmith Cycle on their Saturday-morning before-work route, which took us through some of Toronto’s ravines and over to some light Don Valley singletrack. I admit, I decided to walk the bridge that looks like a prop from an Indiana Jones movie with its narrow slats all generously spaced apart.
I was riding a bike that Blacksmith carries, a DeAnima Soul. The Italian brand’s principal is Gianni Pegoretti, brother of the late Dario. The brothers did work together on the Pegoretti brand from 1996 to 2005. Then, Gianni split. Soon after, he worked with San Patrignano, an organization that helps people struggling with drug addiction, to set up a shop in which youths could learn the art of frame building. One student, Antonio Attanasio, became quite adept at building bikes. Roughly five years ago, he, Gianni and former Pegoretti employee Matt Cazzaniga started DeAnima. Now, in a shop just east of Trento, Gianni and Antonio build bikes from carbon-fibre tubes produced in Italy, as well as steel frames.
“The DeAnima Soul carbon frame isn’t made of tube-to-tube connections. Instead, it’s a bonded-style construction,” Yakubowicz said. “It’s still hand-wrapped at the joints, like a tube-to-tube bike would be, but you don’t have every tube as a distinct part. You have sections like top tube/ head tube/down tube that can be modified for size, but you still get a stiffness like a monocoque frame.” I was struck by the seat tube, which seems quite narrow compared with the beefy down tube and BB386 bottom bracket. The seat tube takes a 27.2-mm seatpost that offers a nice amount of comfort on rough roads. If you’re a bigger rider, your build can sport a 31.6-mm seatpost.
Components SRAM Force 1 drivetrain, 11-36 tooth cassette, 42-tooth chainring
Wheels Enve M525 G
Sizes 47 to 58 cm
Price $5,350 (frame and DeAnima Gravel fork)
Some of my other test rides were on the country roads west of Waterloo, Ont., that featured long stretches of gravel and the odd twisty bit of recreational trail. On the straight stuff, the bike handled the road chatter nicely, not only thanks to the narrow seatpost, but also the flat seatstays. The Enve M525 G wheels pulled the 35c tires out closer to 38 mm, which also helped keep things smooth. But what really impressed me was how the bike felt when I put pressure on the bars. Some gravel bikes can feel a bit languid in the corners. The DeAnima Soul’s turns felt direct. If you’re a rider looking for a geometry that works for bigger trips, the builder can lengthen the wheelbase and slacken the headtube angle. For my half-day to day-long rides, however, the geometry I had was perfect. Would I change anything? Well, if I were to get a custom DeAnima Soul, I might opt for fender mounts and a third waterbottle mount on the down tube. It’s just the kind of bike you want to keep riding and riding.