Dura Ace 7800 parts still compare favorably in the eyes of many riders.

As part of our ongoing Buyer’s Guide look at new bikes and gear for 2010, we uncovered a good bargain in the Superleggera road bike from Tommaso Bicycles. Tommaso is a classic name established in the cycling community since 1985, but only in the last few years Tommaso has reinvigorated the brand with new bikes, a new Web site and a new focus.

We didn’t have room in our Buyer’s Guide (now available on newsstands) for this or other models from Tommaso, but the Superleggera is one of many affordable bikes from this little company that merits attention.

According to product manager T.R. Maloney, “Tommaso is really pushing hard to become a strong player in the cycling community.” The company has expanded significantly in the last few years, and for 2010 will offer nearly double the number of road bikes compared to a year ago. “We’ll also be adding three tri bikes – one aluminum and two carbon – and two ’cross bikes,” later for 2010, said Maloney.

The Superleggera – mixed pick, moderate price

New for 2010 is Tommaso’s own component brand, including saddles, seatposts, stems, and handlebars.

The Superleggera is one of three carbon fiber road models built on the same frame platform (the others are the Aggraziato and Corvo). It’s got a sloping top tube, monocoque carbon frame and fork with a 1-1/8th inch carbon steerer and standard threaded bottom bracket, available in five sizes from 51cm to 61cm. Maloney said that as currently built, a complete Superleggera weighs 17.2 pounds in a size 54cm – which is pretty reasonable for what sounds like a no-frills road frame.

Where it gets a little more interesting is the parts spec, which involves an unusual blend of older Dura-Ace and Ultegra. The shifters and rear derailleur are Dura-Ace 7800, paired with an Ultegra 6600 front derailleur. Maloney explained, “Later production will have 7900 but the 7800 has been a proven performer and we will offer it as long as Shimano has inventory.” As the product manager, Maloney is always trying to find the best parts and the best value for the bikes he assembles, and he didn’t pass up an opportunity to offer reliable components at a good price. “This of course gives our customers a nice price break too,” he added.

The mix and match doesn’t stop with non-model-year Shimano components, however. “We chose the FSA Gossamer compact crank for its stiffness and performance-to-price ratio,” Maloney said. The same thinking led him to specify Shimano RS20 wheels, which are laced with 16 (front) and 20 (rear) butted and bladed spokes. Maloney says they’re a great value and sturdy enough for many seasons. Capping the mélange parts pick are Tektro R580 brakes and Tommaso’s own “TRS” branded bar, stem, seatpost, and saddle.

Full suggested retail on the Tommaso Superleggera is $4500, but distributor Randall Scott Company is currently offering the bike for $1800 on its Web site.

Social networking opens Tommaso to community

The FSA Gossamer compact crankset on Tommaso’s new road bike should make tackling the hills a little easier.

Like many brands sold mostly via the Internet, Tommaso has worked hard to build a community of fans online. “We’re very proud of our accessibility and social interaction,”  Maloney said. Tommaso owners (and cyclists of any persuasion) can provide comments, feedback, and suggestions directly to Maloney, and he typically responds within hours. Furthermore, “we provide total transparency in the production of our bikes, by way of photographs and video,” which are posted online, he says.

Naturally Maloney has the final say in the shape that Tommaso bikes assume for sale, but that doesn’t mean it’s permanent. As a small company he’s got the benefit of quick reaction time if he needs to make an adjustment. “The beauty of our size as a company is that we can make changes on the fly and have new bikes in four months,” he said.

He described an example of upgrading the parts group on one of Tommaso’s road bikes. “Just recently we decided to up our Rival bike to Force and that bike, with new paint, will hit the USA in February,” he said, indicating that a running change can be made in just 8-10 weeks.

“We listen to the customers on our Facebook fan page and then, if it makes good sense for the majority of our Tommaso customers, we act on it,” added Maloney.

So if you are looking for a moderately priced bike and the chance to join a small but growing community of fans online, consider Tommaso. You’re almost guaranteed to have a parts mix like no other, and if you don’t like it, T.R. Maloney won’t take it personally – he’ll just consider improving it for the future.

View more photos of the Tommaso Superleggera in the 2010 VeloNews Tech Album.