At the beginning of this month, I went on my final proper road ride of the year. It started early in the morning in the dark and cold. As I headed out, I, of course, was second guessing a garment choice. Should have a put on lobster-claw mitts instead of gloves? All the layers and clothing anxiety were in the service of one more ride. I wanted to get out again, before the snow came, on an Italian beauty I’ve had the luxury of testing for half a year: the Scapin LTD SL. It’s a special frame, which at the time of writing, you can still get, but probably not for long.

The Scapin brand has been around since 1957. The company was founded by Umberto Scapin, a racer turned frame builder. In 2005, Olympia Cicli, Italy’s second oldest bike company, acquired Scapin. The result, says Michael Yakubowicz of Blacksmith Cycles, is that Scapin is a boutique company with some big-company resources. The LTD SL is an example of a collaboration between the big and little organizations.

In 2014, Yakubowicz, whose Blacksmith works in conjunction with Scapin USA to bring to Scapin to North America, was riding an Olympia prototype around the Mont-Tremblant Ironman course. He liked the bike and thought that with a few modifications, the frame could round out the Scapin lineup in North America. The brand has the Anouk, its lower-end carbon-fibre bike, and its 2016 Cosmobike Award-winning Kalibra Disc road bike with aero-inspired tube shapes. “What I thought we lacked was a high-end all-rounder,” says Yakubowicz. “Something in the vein of Cervelo R series, Cannondale SuperSix or the older Parlee Z5SL. Really, what we were going for was something comfortable but stiff enough to be raced, with a relatively fun, agile geometry without going into that crit machine world.”

Yakubowicz presented his idea to the Italian company. They went for it. That Olympia prototype underwent a few tweaks. It got some more Toray T1000 carbon fibre, making it lighter. The North American design team opted for a matte black frame. Yakubowicz admits that that colour is ubiquitous on road bikes, but feels the subtle drizzle-like patterns resulting from the composite process add a nice design element. The final “feature” of the LTD SL frame is that just 20 of them would be made, for North America only.

I got an LTD SL frame in late May roughly a week after I told Yakubowicz I thought the medium-size one would be right for me. I outfitted it with a full Campagnolo Record groupset. It just seemed appropriate as that component maker’s headquarters in Vicenza is roughly 60 km away from that of the frame maker’s. I opted for 170-mm crankarms for spinning the 36/52-tooth rings. They connect to a 11-27 tooth cassette. The hoops, in keeping with the all-carbon theme, are Campy’s Bora One 50. Those wheels are more race-oriented than I or the bike needed. In terms of esthetics, however, I feel they are spot on. Onto the Bora One 50s, I put Bontrager R4 320 25c road tires. Like the wheels, the tires’ performance is excellent, while their tan/gum-wall sides look fantastic.

This year, my “diet” of test bikes was definitely heavy on endurance frames. They were all fine machines that I enjoyed riding over all kinds of terrain. But, I will admit that between those test bikes, I was always very happy to jump back on the Scapin for it’s more lively handling. It’s great in the corners as I can jump into them so easily. I felt very comfortable pushing hard to make more aggressive turns. It’s not, however, a squirrelly bike. No, its designers have found a nice balance between stability and responsiveness.

Yakubowicz attributes this behaviour to what he calls the frame’s classic Italian race geometry, which he contrasts with classic North American geometry. “Classic North American geometry is a 73-degree head-tube angle and a 73-degree seat-tube angle for a nice all-rounder,” he says. “Where the Scapin differs just slightly is the slightly steeper head angle, 73.5, for the medium-size frame. On paper, it should be a touch twitchier, but the head angle simply makes it feel a bit more like a race bike. It does carve and it does dive into corners a little bit more than that 73-73 style bike. It’s just enough to keep things fun and agile, and not twitchy.”

I also really enjoyed taking the Scapin uphill. Whether in the saddle tapping things out, or standing and bashing the bars back and forth, it’s a pleasure to climb with the LTD SL.

Really, what we were going for was something comfortable but stiff enough to be raced, with a relatively fun, agile geometry

While the Scapin is much more race-like than those endurance bikes, and it wouldn’t be out of place on a start line, it’s not a total sights-on-the-podium type of frame. The design, especially the thin seatstays, and the layup are meant to let you ride for a long time. If you are comfortable with the bike’s race fit, you’ll easily ride for miles and miles. I wouldn’t take this bike on seriously frayed surfaces. But, I never avoided gravel on the Scapin either. It’s definitely up for a jaunt on the bumpy stuff.

So, after six months of riding this limited edition frame, why am I just getting around to telling you about it now as there are only a few left across the various sizes? It’s a bit unfair. But there’s a paradox that comes with such as a special frame. In a way, it’s a little secret for those who ride one. This is a review of something only 20 people will ride. Still, it’s a stunning frame and great value, too. Recently, Blacksmith was selling the frame, fork and seatpost for $1,799. Compared with the prices of some frames by other Italian brands and the high level of performance of the LTD SL, the Scapin really is something special. It’s enough to make me head out on the road, and possibly freeze my fingers, on just one more ride for the year.


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