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A seemingly natural evolution of the updated Portofino R road bike that was just overhauled last December, the new handmade-in-Italy Portofino Gravel is the kind of bike just begging to be ridden down dirt roads between olive groves and over the rolling white gravel roads of Tuscany.
Remember how when Campy introduced their Ekar gravel groupset, they said Campagnolo had been building bicycle groupsets since before there even were paved roads? Those pre-asphalt roads are exactly what this beautiful Battaglin Portofino Gravel bike was built to explore…
Battaglin Portofino G lugged steel gravel bike
Let me start off by saying that one of my favorite bikes, and one of the oldest I still regularly ride, is a lugged steel cyclocross bike that a friend custom-built for me more than 15 years ago. Shout-out to what was Clark Custom Cycles. So now jump ahead to roughly four years ago when I first saw Officina Battaglin’s modern custom chrome-lugged but still rim brake Portofino steel road bike, and I thought to myself ‘that would make a beautiful gravel bike’. Well, now that time has come, and it is so much more refined than that first Portofino.
Now, this isn’t meant to be some backcountry adventure bikepacking gravel bike. This is a gravel bike for riders looking to ride fast across any type of road surface – asphalt, dirt, gravel – but wants a bike with more soul than an off-the-rack carbon bike.
What’s new in gravel?
The key technical detail of pretty much any gravel bike is its tire clearance, and the Portofino G is designed to fit a max 700 x 40mm tire. That places it squarely in the all-road to fast gravel category, just where Battaglin wanted it while maintaining the eponymous workshop’s “distinct road racing DNA”.
“While gravel is booming… we didn’t want a bike that resembled a drop-bar mountain bike, or a relaxed geometry for bikepacking. We wanted a gravel bike with the reactive handling of a road bike.“
The new Battaglin Portofino G gravel bike is very similar to the recently updated Portofino R Road bike, but it does get its own unique head lugs to fit an off-road specific downtube and a straight 1.5″ headtube that allows Battaglin to build the bike with completely internal cable routing around a standard round tapered steerer full-carbon gravel fork – even with mechanical 1x Ekar shifting and the possibility for dropper post routing for those who want it.
The core tech of a Portofino really are those custom oversized steel lugs that Battaglin developed to work with the latest modern lightweight shaped, multi-butted Sprit HSS-level steel tubing that they have custom drawn for them by Columbus. The lugs allow for a strong frame with very light tubing and a “unparalleled riding experience”.
But it also does lock in the bike a bit more in terms of custom geometry. Yet, Battaglin maintains some flexibility and describes that gravel geo starting point as the evolution of what the brand developed for pros in the 1980s & 90s when their lugged steel bikes raced the likes of Paris-Roubaix, now having adapted it for more modern mixed-surface gravel riding and racing.
The gravel bike also borrows a few more bits of tech from the recent flagship road bike. That includes a 31.6mm seatpost secured with the new hidden clamp built into the seatlug (also helping with dropper post compatibility), the new 68mm wide T47 threaded bottom bracket, upgraded 12mm thru-axle dropouts that incorporate the flat mount disc brake caliper and clean derailleur cable routing, and lastly dropped seatstays.
Battaglin Portofino Gravel – Pricing, options & availability
Officina Battaglin only builds a limited number of bikes in their Marostica workshop west of Venice in northern Italy each year. So, every Battaglin bike is a limited edition, and just 70 new Portofino G gravel bikes will be made available in 2023, with frameset pricing starting at 5000€.
Like all of their bikes, that gets you custom geometry including a personal fit consultation with Giro-Vuelta winner Giovanni Battaglin, and the made-to-measure, individually-numbered frameset including a painted-to-match full carbon gravel fork in your choice of color of Battaglin’s signature high-gloss cromovelato finish with a polished chrome logo fade, and a certificate of authenticity… as if anyone could duplicate this bike.
Since this is a highly integrated design, Battaglin will mostly sell the Portofino G as a complete gravel bike, with complete builds in the ballpark of 800-8500€. Extra components can also be color-matched in cromovelato as an upcharge, like that seatpost or customizable stem, if you feel the need to go ultra-shiny.
Options are effectively limitless – although a full Italian Campagnolo Ekar build like this is a lightweight, high-performance no-brainer. 1x or 2x, mechanical or electronic, affordable or ludicrously expensive wheels, really only your budget is the limit. Build times vary, but expect at least 4 months to get a bike this customized.
I think it’s time that I seriously consider getting a custom Italian lugged steel gravel bike.