Silverback is a brand few will know. It has little presence in the US and UK, and a minute distribution network here in Australia. But this German-based company produces bikes that are worthy of investigation.
The Scalera is a UCI approved race bike, which won a 2012 Eurobike Show Award. At its heart is a full carbon, aero influenced frame sporting one of the most massive down tubes we’ve ever seen. We tested the Scalera 2, a colourful Ultegra Di2 equipped machine that’s built for speed.
Ride and handling: quick and stiff, but lacking planted stability and all-day comfort
The Scalera’s handling is predictably rapid, and meets with a short cockpit that places the rider into a position somewhere between a fully-fledged race machine and a relaxed endurance ride.
A short deda stem and a stack of spacers give a more upright position; a slammed, race-ready position awaits with a longer stem : a short deda stem and a stack of spacers give a more upright position; a slammed, race-ready position awaits with a longer stem David Rome / Future Publishing
A short stem and a stack of spacers give a more upright stance; a slammed, race-ready position awaits with a longer stem
It’s hard to say just how much difference the aero profiles make without a wind tunnel, but at higher speeds the bike rolls with consummate ease. It behaves normally and in a controlled manner in high crosswinds too.
Throwing the bike side to side in a sprint or committing into corners brings to your attention a perfectly stiff frame that gives no hint of flex – not exactly a revelation given that enormous down tube and 386EVO bottom bracket.
Smoother roads are greeted with positive feedback, and an immediate feel for how your power is or isn’t being transmitted into forward motion – something that’s crucial in a fast group sprint.
Silverback’s aero fork is stiff – perhaps a little too stiff: silverback’s aero fork is stiff – perhaps a little too stiff David Rome / Future Publishing
Silverback’s aero fork is stiff – perhaps a little too stiff
Rough roads, meanwhile, reveal a minute amount of frame compliance that’s negated by the Scalera’s stiff, 23c rubber-shod Mavic Cosmic Elite rims. Fast, corrugated descents transmit plenty of road buzz and road irregularities to the rider and, upfront, the aero blade fork, alloy handlebar and thin bartape present a rather rattly ride on severe surfaces.
With space for a 25c switch, cyclists bothered by the ride quality will be easily able to improve it – though this is only really a ‘Band-Aid’ type fix.
And while the stiff ride quality is one factor that will limit the Scalera’s appeal to the mass market, the choice of just four frame sizes is sure to shrink the bubble of well-suited riders further. (With our usual sizing falling somewhere between a small and medium, the potential limiting effect was immediately apparent.)
Frame and equipment: great lines and flawless spec, yet misses the fine details
The Scalera has a bagful of aero features despite its chunky shapes, including a raised top tube that presents a near flat surface to frontal wind, concealed seat clamp and proprietary seatpost, sharp lines, bladed fork, curved head tube and internal cable routing.
Allowing such a bruiser of a down tube is the equally hefty BB386 bottom bracket, something that opens up great cross-compatibility between the various bottom bracket standards. To fit the smaller diameter Shimano crankset, Silverback has fitted a downsizing converter cup.
At the business end the stout, curved head tube hosts an integrated tapered headset and full-carbon fork. It’s a stiff combination and easily serviced.
The hidden, integrated seat clamp within the top tube provides a clean look; but beware its recommend 5 Nm max-torque, which isn’t flagged up anywhere on the frame. It’s also important to note that although there are hex heads on both sides of the clamp, only the drive-side will actually tighten.
A look at the integrated seat clamp – the lack of torque markings or sign of which side to tighten from aren’t ideal though : a look at the integrated seat clamp – the lack of torque markings or sign of which side to tighten from aren’t ideal though David Rome / Future Publishing
A look at the integrated seat clamp – the lack of torque markings or sign of which side to tighten from aren’t ideal
Silverback’s proprietary Deda branded triangular seatpost is a high quality piece of kit, but its unique shape also means upgrade options are virtually nonexistent. A matt black finish looks like an afterthought too, not matching the overall gloss paint scheme.
While the frame was deemed worthy of a Eurobike award, many prospective buyers won’t look past the near flawless Shimano Ultegra 11-speed Di2. This groupset shares the functionally as the top-end Dura-Ace offering, albeit at a higher weight. Hitting the shift button greets you with an instant, accurate change that is consistent time and time again. Undoubtedly the nicest aspect of Di2 is the front shifting, with the servomotor taking the usual hard work out of switching.
Another example of messy finishing: most other brands would have included some form of plug to surround the di2 wiring: another example of messy finishing: most other brands would have included some form of plug to surround the di2 wiring David Rome / Future Publishing
An example of messy finishing: most brands would have included some form of plug to surround the Di2 wiring
While the frame is designed to handle both mechanical cables and Di2 wiring, the latter aspect was a mess on our test bike, with gaping holes at both the rear derailleur and head tube awaiting some form of plug to clean up the look. It’s a minor detail, but also something that bigger brands wouldn’t ignore – though it doesn’t affect performance.
Our sample arrived with a race-inspired 53/39T front setup and 11-25T rear cassette rather than the advertised compact 50/34T crankset – a great match to the Scalera’s fast handling and slippery design. This gear range will suit the strong, race-hardened rider just fine, though for most others it will feel a little tall at times.
Ensuring the chain doesn’t drop off the inner ring no matter the conditions is a Token chain catcher, something that’s seen on most pro bikes.
semi-aero mavic cosmic elite wheels and matched rubber perform well, but don’t do much for ride quality: semi-aero mavic cosmic elite wheels and matched rubber perform well, but don’t do much for ride quality David Rome / Future Publishing
Semi-aero Mavic Cosmic Elite wheels and matched rubber perform well, but don’t do much for ride quality
As mentioned above, the wheels are semi-aero, yet weighty Mavic Cosmic Elites with Mavic Yksion Comp rubber encircling them. These hoops are stiff and handle nicely, though getting them up to speed is a small chore on this otherwise fast-accelerating ride.
The cockpit is finished with Deda Zero100 handlebar – often used by some of the world’s best and equipped on many everyday ‘no budget’ superbikes – and base-level stem.
Despite our minor gripes, the Scalera is a swift steed that offers all the right performance metrics under the right kind of rider. And in Australia, Silverback is sold as a dealer-direct brand through BikeBug – resulting in almost unbelievable pricing. If you’re in a location that allows you to get fitted and receive advice from BikeBug, this is no doubt one of the best deals going.