Scapin has been building super sweet mountain bikes the Italian way for a long time now without really getting the widespread recognition it deserves. Scapin released the Nope for 2006, a MTB that should definitely top the list of anyone wanting truly sublime steel speed.
FEELS LIKE SPRING
It's certainly a stand out bike even when it's standing still. Combining ultra thin walls with a carbon fibre seat tube means weight and responsiveness are competitive with alloy or Ti pipes. It's the pencil thin stays with their gentle tapering and curved profiles that really give the Nope its outstanding spring heeled character on the trail, though.
Scapin also shines in a world of very similar 'classic' steel hardtails with its exquisite detail touches. The steel seat tube section is windowed to showcase the carbon tube sleeve inside and the head tube also gets a Scapin logo cut into it to show the carbon fibre sleeve inside - there's even a screw thread for a road race style number board under the top tube.
The tubes are also shot peened to blast any stress points out of the surface grain, and the inside of the frame is fully corrosion proofed so you needn't worry about rust.
Singlespeed fans will delight in the Roto eccentric BB shell option (£90 extra), which allows a half inch of bottom bracket movement for ultra clean chain tensioning or finite geometry fettling. You can also have the bike custom sized at no extra cost. Just be careful how you treat it, as the back end of our bike was actually slightly out of line after a run in with baggage handlers.
It's still a lot to pay for a steel hardtail too, until you actually ride it. Within minutes we were grouping it with two of our all-time favourite steel bikes (a 1997 Ibis Mojo and a 1999 De Kerf Generation SL). You'll feel the chain momentarily 'load' the rear stays as you press the pedals but then it's gone, catapulted down the trail with an irresistible spring loaded urgency. Skipping from root to rock to lip to next straight line sprint seems to double your actual velocity in terms of perceived speed and you'll be howling with the joy of riding, even when the gradient or gear means you should be seriously hurting.
The rear end also sucks up a remarkable amount of trail chatter and chamfers sharp edges off rocks as though the bike is running 10psi less than it really is. This adds real ground wrapping traction and means it's a 'hard' tail you can hammer all day. Big mainframe tubes mean that there's nothing noodley about the frame when you brace yourself between bars and bottom bracket for maximum power, though.
It's no surprise that the narrow flat bars and short 80mm travel forks give the Nope a real head down, snap steering character. We actually really enjoyed it because the bike just felt better and better the harder and faster we rode, but longer forks and risers will make it a less 'seat of the skin shorts' experience. It'll also tip the weight balance back a bit for a less tail-happy ride than our fishtail rich experience.
FRAME OR FULLY BUILT
Scapin supplies the frame only through Veloce Bikes, or can offer you fully built bikes through its linked shop Boneshakers (01423 709453). Flat bars not withstanding, you could do a lot worse than what our test bike was wearing - although you could save at least another half pound in tyre weight to give an even faster accelerating ride.
Scapin has taken the spring of fine steel hindquarters and blended it with oversized main tubes and carbon fibre in a masterly fashion. The result is a truly sublime ride, whether you're after veinpopping velocity and skip to the summit climbing ability, or just floaty, sweetly balanced grin-widening singletrack speed. Exquisite finishing detail means you'll even be in love with it when you're not riding it, too.