Italy’s Olympia are probably the biggest bike brand you’ve never heard of. They started way back in 1893, and only Bianchi (who were established in 1885) have more longevity in the Italian bike industry.
Olympia offer a huge range of bikes, from children’s models, traditional city bikes and mountain bikes all the way up to superlight, pro-level carbon options. All are made and designed from their Piove di Sacco headquarters.
We tested the original Ego last year, soon after Olympia arrived on UK shores. It was an impressive ride – stylish, stiff, and great value for an Italian bike. This, however, is the completely redesigned RS model, new for 2013.
Frame & equipment: Lightweight and comfortable
The frame is constructed with a blend of Toray T700 carbon at 70-, 60- and 50-degree angles of weave orientation throughout the frame. That means stiffness is where it needs to be but that the designers can add some flexibility when they want to add comfort.
The front end has been reshaped to take in the tapered steerer, monocoque carbon fork. It expands from a standard 1 1/8in to an oversized 1 1/2in lower race. The fork mates seamlessly to the head tube with straight blades, which start broad and deep at the crown and slim down through the length to the carbon dropouts.
The down tube has a boxy profile that flows into an oversized press-fit (BB86) compatible bottom bracket shell. Deep squared chainstays keep the rear end taught, kinking upwards and backwards in their final few inches to meet the slender seatstays. This adds valuable extra length to the seatstays, giving them room to flex and helping with rider comfort.
The top tube slims radically from its broad dimensions at the head tube to a seat tube joint that’s narrow in both width and depth. The RS has fully internal cable routing, keeping it sleek and slick looking. It’s compatible with Di2 drivetrains, too. Weight-wise, the frame is a big improvement on the outgoing model, tipping the scales at 1,100g – impressive for a bike at this price.
The drivetrain and wheelset are exactly what we’d expect on a bike at the price, with the ubiquitous Shimano 105 handling shifting and braking duties throughout. The wheels follow suit in the form of Mavic’s much admired Aksium/Aksion hoop/tyre system.
The bike is finished with a few highlights, with FSA’s Carbon Pro compact bar and carbon seatpost adding bags of value and real quality. The all-Italian theme continues with a Selle Italia X Feel saddle and even a quality Elite bottle cage and Olympia-branded Elite bottle.
Ride & handling: Comfortable but powerful
Out on the road the class of the Ego RS is immediately apparent. The frame has the sort of secure and consistent handling we’d expect from a bike that combines classic frame angles (73-degree head, 73.5-degree seat) and a wheelbase that just creeps over a metre.
This all makes for a bike that you’ll feel more than happy cruising the hills on during a sociable Sunday ride, but that has fine responses when you want to tear things up.
The front end’s stiff and stable nature makes for a highly confident descender that we pushed to the wrong side of 40mph whenever possible. The gearing is ideally suited to the all-round rider, combining a compact 50/34 with an 11-28T cassette for a hill-busting 28 at the bottom end.
The Ego’s firm feel transfers into rapid propulsion on the climbs. Whenever we got out of the saddle to attack a gradient the Olympia didn’t exhibit any drama or unwanted flex – it just rails forwards using all of your efforts through the rear tyre.
The ride quality over differing road surfaces is always firm but never harsh. The slick chassis is in no doubt helped by the classy carbon bar, carbon seatpost and generously padded X1 saddle. All these factors eliminate road buzz, especially up front, keeping your arms and hands comfortably cosseted during lengthy rides.
The FSA compact bar shape is one of our favourites, encouraging you to spend more time on the drops as they’re so easily within reach. This keeps your body more aero and helps you increase your average speed for the same effort.
All in all, the Ego RS is a big improvement on the previous model. It’s lighter, smoother and much better equipped, and if you’re looking for a bit of Italian exotica without the usual premium on the price then Olympia should be first on your shortlist.
This bike was tested as part of Cycling Plus magazine’s 2013 Bike Of The Year feature – read the full results in issue 273, available now on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.