Press & Reviews / Rizello
Written by James Spender
There are three ways to make a cyclist like you. One, bring them cake. Two, bring them a cuppa. Three, bring them cake and a cuppa. So when I opened the big cardboard box that arrived from Livingston, Scotland, it was clear its contents and I would get along famously. Along with the shiny new bike from Shand was a packet of shortbread and a teabag. It’s the little things…
For those unfamiliar with Shand, it is what some corners of the industry refer to as a smallbatch builder. That is, it fabricates its frames in Livingston in a manner that is more artisanal framebuilder than mass manufacturer. Yet Shand turns out enough volume to earn itself the title ‘bike brand’, and while it will build almost anything you ask for, and paint it any colour you like, its core business is in stock models, of which this Rizello is one.
Inspired by the 1980s Scottish punk band, the Rezillos, the Rizello is the epitome of a modern steel race bike. It has flat-mount disc brakes, a T47 bottom bracket (the latest standard, which being threaded and supporting 30mm spindle cranksets, is hopefully the creak-free last), a 44mm head tube, skinny seatstays, chunky chainstays and thru-axles.
Tubing comes courtesy of Columbus, a mix of Life and HSS for the main triangle, chosen for wide diameters and low weight, and Columbus Zona and Dedacciai tubing for the stays, for stiffness and comfort. The whole thing is expertly TIG-welded and the finish, here in gunmetal grey, is exquisite. It lacks the cable integration we’ve come to expect, but the effect is to make the Rizello look classic rather than untidy.
But back to the shortbread. It might seem silly to spend time in a bike review discussing Scottish biscuits, but the shortbread is indicative of a manufacturer that really understands the importance of details and how to look after a customer, which is a vital part of the bikebuying experience..
If I had a pound for every time a test bike came badly set up I would have enough to buy a test bike. Un-faced disc brake mounts, bent mech hangers, tatty bar tape… If you’re spending thousands on a bike you shouldn’t have to spend time fettling the disc brakes so the rotors don’t rub. It should work straight out of the box, and that is what made the Rizello so refreshing, and is also why it continued to be so.
It came with the wheels set up tubeless, Di2 gears shifting with robotic precision and with bar tape so impeccably wrapped each side could be a mirror of the other. Shand even included a Torx key for the Zipp stem’s bolts, acknowledging that not all riders might have one to hand. All I had to do was straighten the bars and tighten the stem bolts and I was off. From the start, the Rizello just felt tight, every moving part perfectly adjusted and smooth.
The Rizello does what all good steel racers do, which is make up for sacrifices in stiffness with oodles of ride quality. This bike isn’t just smooth but silky too – it swivels on a sixpence, tracks through corners brilliantly and glides along like someone has greased the chipseal.
What was more surprising was the string of PBs it delivered. The Rizello’s frame is not aero, it isn’t particularly light and it is stiff but not excessively punchy. Neither am I in particularly good shape thanks to months of lockdown, but what the Rizello does have is tubeless tyres, 28mm wide, mounted on wide rims and which, crucially, I ran at 50psi front, 55psi rear.
Once upon a time I’d have recoiled at the thought of such low pressures, but the industry is increasingly providing us with data that suggests the combination of low pressure (less energy wasted to deflection) and tubeless (less energy wasted to friction of inner tube rubbing on tyre) makes for the fastest-rolling wheels.
Some will scoff, but to that I’d say give it a try if your wheelset or budget permits. What’s the harm? You never know, it might just mean you suddenly find some free speed.
As for me and my theories, they’re all well and good, but when it comes to the Rizello they are merely accoutrements to a bike that serves up functional design, precisely executed, and which delighted me every time I rode it. This Shand bike is simple, but it works, and that’s the spirit of cycling at its core.