For distinctive and determined-feeling road racers in the classic Italian style, at under a grand, Olympia bikes are well worth a look. They might be low-profile in the English-speaking world, but Olympia are a major bike company in their Italian homeland and they also own superbike brand Scapin.
The Italian aspect is very clear straight away on the Speedy Plus. The long stem puts your hands a fair way out in front of an already long top tube, making for a proper speed stretch even on this 54cm (bottom bracket to seat tube top) frame.
The stable steering and a very planted feel on the road immediately reminded our test team of the classic Italian character of brands like Colnago and Pinarello. The kit is suitably Italian too: comfortably curved thumb-and-finger Campagnolo Ergopower shifters working 10-speed Veloce derailleurs driven by an FSA chainset.
The smooth rolling and usefully light wheels are from Fulcrum too, although Michelin tyres provide a French finishing touch to the otherwise Latin line-up. The grippy Lithion 2s get a thorough workout from the Olympia, as the low, long position creates a sense of commitment and confidence that translates just as well to twisty English country lanes as to the northern Italian Alps around Olympia’s base.
There’s no twitch or flutter from the front end, just a locked down feel that’s all about lean angles, dropped shoulders and pointed knees rather than sitting up and grabbing the brakes. It’s equally keen on keeping momentum too, with a reasonably firm feel through the pedals thanks to the extensively shaped frame tubes.
Back the pressure off slightly and there’s a smooth roll-on sensation from the naturally lower, more aero riding position; it’s a bike that feels like it wants to race rather than just look at the view. While the wheels spin up to speed quickly, a frame weight close to 2kg means getting it there or up a climb definitely takes more effort than on a lighter bike. It also limits the upgrade value of the chassis.
While the Ergopower hoods and San Marco saddle are contact point highlights, the firm ride feel starts to get tiring on longer rides. Your shoulders and back certainly come in for more hammer over the long haul, again making it more suited to hard and fast riders than comfort-seeking cruisers.