I’ve heard that whatever you think is cool when you’re 18 will be cool to you forever. When it comes to steel bikes that is 100% true for me. There’s something so classic and so sexy about a well-built steel bike. Clean lines, shiny parts, and smooth curves, I’d take an old Cinelli over a new Trek 10 times out of 10. That said, in these modern days, with fat tires taking over and gravel riding in abundance, what is an Italian-steel-loving aficionado to do in order to stay relevant and enjoy all the group rides and off-road adventures with friends? Fear not fellow connoisseur, for the Crust Bikes Malocchio exists.
The Crust Malocchio
When Matt and Cheech of Crust Bikes first told me they were making a fat tired, Italian-inspired, Columbus Spirit tubed, steel bike, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on one. But what would it look like? The prototypes were on the way, painted in a nice pleasant blue color, soft and unassuming, with gold cursive lettering. They weren’t completely sold on the design and asked me if I wanted to take a crack at revising it.
I’ve spent the past ten years restoring and repainting Italian bikes – ranging in age from 1950s classics to contemporary machines – so I can say with very little ego that I have a solid grasp on what makes an Italian bike look and feel Italian. It strikes that perfect balance between high class and Euro-trash; like wearing a tailored Versace suit while rocking a mullet or Gucci shoes without socks. Ferraris may be elegant but they’re also bright red with a rearing horse logo and little Italian flags everywhere.
After a few design meetings with fellow spacciatore d’acciaio Lorenzo, aka Larry Ravioli, we were extremely happy with what came about. Taking our text design cues from the legendary Mario Confente, iconography from Italian folklore and superstition, and of course the catchphrase and title of the 1983 Italian classic “Occhio, Malocchio, Prezzemolo e Finocchio,” we landed in Gucci/mullet territory.
But then of course it’s one thing to make a bike look Italian, but how does it ride? In one word: bellissima. In multiple words: it’s everything I’ve ever come to expect in how a Columbus-tubed bike with Italian geometry should feel: light and springy on the climbs and sprints but stable and smooth for long days in the saddle. The only difference here is that with the Malocchio, long days in the saddle can now include just about any road or trail you encounter thanks to the mullet brake setup, which allows for up to a 42cm tire in front on both the smaller 650b and larger 700c frame variations and a 38cm (650b) or 35cm (700c) rear. You can still run matching tires if you want and a 35-38cm wide tire on a light road bike was almost unheard of a few years ago.
Before installing so much as a seat post, I knew I wanted even more tire clearance than the frame allowed. To do this I had the brake bridge removed and re-brazed to match the clearance of the fork, which enabled me to run a 700×42 tire front and rear.
Once that was finished, I began building my Malocchio with a hodgepodge of my favorite Campagnolo parts from the same era that I fell in love with cycling. And herein lies my favorite quality of this bike – that you can build it up with any road group you so desire, new or old. Save for the brakes and tires, almost all the components that went on my bike had been kicking around various used parts bins for years.
For the drivetrain, I went with a Campy Record triple, Racing-T front mech, and a medium cage Centaur rear derailleur in century grey finish. For reliability in varied terrain, I paired all this with a smooth and snappy pair of ten-speed Campagnolo bar end shifters. With those installed, I took the worn-out guts out of a pair of Record brifters making them into standard brake levers, which actuate a matching set of Tektro R559 long-reach brakes.
Rubber aficionados may note the orange-labeled prototype Ultradynamico Cava tires which provide tire clout as well as excellent speed and traction. The wheels are a sturdy H Plus Son Archetype rim laced to a pair of my favorite Campagnolo hubs of the early 2000s. To finish things off, an era-correct Centaur seatpost and a well-worn Selle San Marco Rolls saddle keep me in comfort over rough roads, while the Nitto cockpit gives a classic look with a slightly more modern (and much more comfortable) feel. The last cherry on top comes courtesy SimWorks red and green cable housing, placing me firmly in the Italian-Formaggio camp.
Frameset: Crust Malocchio
Stem: Nitto Quill
Handlebars: Nitto Road Drop
Seatpost: Campagnolo Centaur
Saddle: Selle San Marco Rolls
Shifters: Campagnolo bar end
Front Derailleur: Campagnolo Racing T
Rear Derailleur: Campagnolo Centaur
Cable Housing: SimWorks
Brake Levers: Campagnolo Record
Brake Calipers: Tektro R559 long-reach
Crankset: Campagnolo Record triple
Rims: H Plus Son Archetype
Tires: Prototype Ultradynamico Cava
Head over to Crust Bikes for more info about Malocchio framesets.