Tifosi Auriga Review - Cyclist
A very capable bike at a price that won’t break the bank[expand review]
For Italians, cycle racing is more than just a sport. The word tifosi translates simply as ‘fans’, but that is to completely underestimate the passion of the devout Italian followers.
You can be a cycling ‘fan’ from the comfort of your living room, glued to a flat screen, but a true tifoso would only ever be truly happy standing by the roadside, staring into the pain-glazed eyes of the riders – willing on their heroes in the flesh.
The bike brand Tifosi (not to be confused with Tifosi the sunglasses brand, which is an entirely separate company, and is Italian) takes its name from this fervently passionate band of cycling fans.
But that is where the Italian heritage ends. Rather less romantically, the company actually has its roots in Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire.
However, that’s not by any means an observation made in a negative manner. Tifosi’s middle-England setting makes it no less an exciting bike brand.
The company has been steadily making considerable headway, with a very decent range of UK-designed bikes, since its launch back in 2000.
Interestingly, the brand’s focus has always been on what it terms ‘affordable excellence’ and it has had some notable successes on this front – particularly in it's CK7 winter bike.
However, the bike we are testing today is its speed machine, the Auriga. A pacy number, the Auriga has already been around the racing block, but we hopped on the updated 2018 model to see what the future looks like for ‘affordable excellence’ at speed.
Since 2016, Tifosi has been the title sponsor of the UK Elite racing team, Spirit Tifosi Bikes, and the partnership has spurred the brand on to redevelop its race-level machines.
‘Although the original Auriga proved a hit with team members, landing a total of 40 victories in 2017, the feedback from racers suggested it was a little on the harsh side,’ says Josh Lambert, Tifosi’s technical specialist and product developer.
‘We redesigned it completely for 2018, paring back some of its aero virtues in order to achieve a bike that was a little more capable all-round – adding more comfort, particularly at the rear.’
Having ridden the Auriga, I would agree. As far as aero bikes go – and especially considering it costs less than some big name brands charge for a frame alone – I was pleasantly surprised by how well the bike dealt with harsh, rutted road surfaces as I took to my local lanes.
Some of that credit must be given to the Deda Elementi SL38c wheelset, shod in 28mm tubeless Schwalbe Pro One tyres (which I typically ran between 75 and 85psi).
It did a great job of absorbing the road buzz, while the frame itself – and particularly the seatpost – seemed to offer ample flex to take the pain out of bigger impacts.
Yet it’s not gooey – the Auriga frame has a reassuringly well-built feel and I didn’t detect any undesirable flex. No matter how hard I pulled on the bars, or shoved the front end into a turn, or stomped on the pedals, I was always met with resolute firmness.
This was pleasing in terms of power delivery, but also in providing the stability and handling that gives you the confidence to sit up and slip on a jacket at speed on a descent.
Neat features on the 2018 Auriga include dropped seatstays, aero tube profiles, a hidden seat clamp and fork integration at the top and bottom of the head tube.
The upper headset cap is also a sleekly modelled addition, which is available in three heights to allow positional adjustment without interrupting the aero aesthetic.
As I rode adjacent to Poole harbour on one ride, watching kitesurfers skim across the water like missiles in a fierce wind, I wouldn’t have been surprised to find an aero bike wriggling in my hands like a live salmon.
But not so the Auriga – the Tifosi was well behaved in the gusty crosswinds. It suggests its CFD-developed tube profiles (and those of the Deda wheel rims) are well considered and translate into real-world benefits.
Another modern aero feature, the rear calliper brake – hidden away behind the bottom bracket – is a less desirable attribute. Riding out of the saddle on a climb, the rear brake pads would incessantly rub the rim each time I swayed the bike left to right.
Only with the pads adjusted – so far from the braking surface that the lever would almost come back to the bar tape before contact was made – could I dispense with the irritating tsshh-tsshh-tsshh-tsshh noise as I climbed or sprinted.
It’s a criticism I have levelled at almost every one of the bikes I’ve tested with the rear brake in this position. I have no idea why manufacturers haven’t long since given it up as a bad idea.
The simple solution, to avoid reconfiguring the frame completely, is a move to disc brakes, but currently, there is no disc option of the Auriga in the offing.
Tifosi is the in-house brand of UK distributor Chicken Cycles, which also looks after Deda Elementi and Campagnolo. So it’s no surprise to see both featuring heavily here – and they certainly help to give the bike the Italian feel the name suggests.
The wheels, as I’ve mentioned, were hard to fault, plus the finishing kit is classy.
Whether you get on with Campagnolo groupsets is almost as personal as saddle choice and, for me, the fit of the shift levers is just not as well-suited as its US and Japanese competitors’ products.
Plus, I can’t help finding its mechanical shifting a bit clumsy (I’d better be careful what I say or the tifosi will be out to get me). Overall it’s a small gripe, and the Auriga remains a very capable bike at a price that won’t break the bank.
Tifosi Auriga Review - Cycling Weekly
"The Auriga is capable of being raced at elite level – as the Spirit Tifosi team demonstrates – but is equally at home on longer, slower-paced training or endurance rides."[expand review]
The Tifosi Auriga is the aero bike of the house brand of Chicken CycleKit, UK distributor of iconic brands including Campagnolo and Cinelli.
Chicken has for the last two seasons sponsored the Spirit Tifosi UK elite race team, which last year notched up 34 victories on the first-generation Tifosi Auriga. We have the new second-generation version, re-engineered based on the team’s feedback and launched for 2018.
Tifosi has used unidirectional Toray T700 and T800 – good quality carbon – to create a dramatically styled, wind-tunnel-tested aero frame that comes in a fittingly flash shade of fluoro lime green with Aztec-inspired detailing.
Based around an enormous down tube with a flat-backed Kamm tail profile, the Tifosi Auriga is packed with wind-cheating features such as dropped seatstays, a rear brake hidden behind the bottom bracket and a clever little headset cover that smoothes the airflow over the top tube. There’s a proprietary aero seatpost with a downtube-mounted hidden clamp.
To further amp up the stiffness the monster down tube attaches to a tapered head tube, which has extra gusseting behind it, and plenty of material enclosing the bottom bracket shell.
However, for a race bike claimed to be based on a race team’s feedback, the geometry is very endurance, suggesting that Tifosi wants to widen the Auriga’s appeal. The size L we tested needed its stem slamming to achieve a racy position and a picture of a team Auriga on the Spirit Tifosi Facebook page shows its front end significantly lowered with a negative-rise stem.
The Ultegra R8000 build (photographed here with an FSA PowerBox Carbon power meter we’re testing instead of the original Ultegra chainset) is the middle option: the cheapest is Campagnolo Potenza at £1,899.99 and the top one is Campagnolo Chorus with upgraded Miche Revox wheels at £3,299.
The latest Ultegra shifts well but isn’t as easy to index as past versions of Ultegra due to a redesigned barrel adjuster that is now much less positive.
The brake callipers are Miche DX2 direct mount and considering the wheels are by Miche too, stopping power could be a little better.
Our test bike came with Michelin Power Endurance 28mm tyres on the Miche Altur wheels, which have a nice big volume and no doubt enhance ride quality but don’t go past the Miche calipers easily – the rear is especially tricky – meaning you ideally deflate the tyre if you want to take the wheel out. The Tifosi website states that it comes with Michelin Dynamic Sport 25mm tyres but the point is there’s plenty of clearance for 28mm tyres, which is great as long as you don’t want to keep taking the wheels in and out to transport it in a car.
The wheels themselves, aluminium deep-section, are a few notches below the rest of the Auriga’s spec and are on the heavy side at over 1,700g. It’s here that the savings have been made to bring the Auriga in sub £2K, but with the size large coming in under 8kg you really can’t complain.
The geometry of the Tifosi Auriga frame might be more relaxed than a pure race bike’s, but that’s not to say it doesn’t take its job seriously. The riding position with the stem slammed is aggressive enough, and the seat and head angles at near 73° parallel give handling that, while not as fast as a WorldTour pro might be accustomed to, is traditional, predictable and weekend-warrior friendly.
As for stiffness, with a downtube that has such a large diameter and a reinforced head tube the Auriga was never going to noodle. The small rear triangle also helps keeps the back end tight for climbing and accelerations. The result is a responsive, fast, fun ride.
The Auriga undoubtedly owes some of its comfort to the 28mm tyres, but for an aero bike it’s not harsh, with vibration absorbed well so that it doesn’t rattle but still feels connected to the road.
Strava data seemed to suggest that the Auriga really is aerodynamic: it’s fairly unusual to see 20mph averages at this time of year, but they came relatively easily – pleasantly, even.
Even with the cost-saving wheels – which actually ride well and have stayed totally in true but just add a bit of extra weight – £2,000 for this bike equipped with Ultegra is a very good price indeed.
The Auriga is capable of being raced at an elite level – as the Spirit Tifosi team demonstrates – but is equally at home on longer, slower-paced training or endurance rides. We had a couple of niggles with the spec but when you consider this bike costs under £2K they are certainly not deal breakers. This bike is fast, light and exciting: with upgraded wheels, it would really fly.