The most affordable model in the Italian company's range, Bottecchia's Unica offers a very good ride for the price, only really let down but its rather high weight compared with rivals at this price.
Bottecchia may not be the most well known of the Italian cycling brands, but they have plenty of history (the company is named after Ottavio Bottecchia, the first Italian Tour de France winner).
We like: Good value, solid ride performance, wide ratio of gears
We dislike: High weight, poor brakes and lack of mudguard mounts
The Unica is a great starter road bike or an attractive option for someone upgrading from a cheaper first road bike. Take the spacers out from under the stem and you can get a very low aerodynamic position, making it ideal for racers or speed merchants, and the geometry provides good stability and balance that make it a friendly and appealing ride in most situations.
There's plenty to like about the Unica. The 6061 aluminium frame is cleanly built with some nicely profiled tube shapes and it's propped up at the front by a carbon fibre fork. The geometry reveals the company's race heritage - with a short 160mm head tube and stretched 555mm top tube on the size 54, it's definitely on the racy side. Don't let that put you off if you have no interest in racing, though, despite its speedy credentials the Unica is surprisingly comfortable over longer distances and compares well with many other bikes at this price.
The aluminium frame is responsive without being unnecessarily harsh, and the carbon fibre fork takes some of the buzz out of the front, as well as contributing to the snappy steering that's revealed when you sling it through turns. Aluminium frames have an unfair reputation for being overly stiff, and the Unica provided a reasonably compliant ride.
It's a nicely finished frame, too, with gently profiled main tubes and a shaped head tube. The gear and brake cables are externally routed, so servicing is an easy task, and there are two bottle cage mounts. While you can fit a rack to the frame, handy if you want to use it for commuting, it's a shame not to see any mudguard eyelets on the frame or fork.
Gears, brakes and wheels
The Shimano Claris groupset is typical of any bike occupying the same price bracket as the Unica. It's a cracking groupset with Shimano's Dual Control shifters, just like you get higher up the Japanese company's groupset range, but rather than the cables concealed under the bar tape, the gear cables sprout out of the side of the hoods.
It's a shame the budget couldn't extend to the Tiagra chainset. Instead, Bottecchia have fitted their own-brand compact chainset, in a compact 50/34 setup. It worked okay, with reasonably clean shifting between the two rings, but the white cranks do cheapen the overall appearance a bit.
With the compact chainset and 11-30 cassette, the Unica isn't short of low gears - a good thing as the 10.96kg (24.16lb) is definitely a handicap on the climbs. It's giving away a kilogram to the Cube Peloton Claris I tested recently, a weight difference that can't be ignored, especially if you're just starting out in cycling.
The Shimano theme isn't carried through to the brakes, but the R340 callipers provide adequate, if not sparkling, performance. They feature non-cartridge brake blocks which give a slightly less crisp braking feel than cartridge blocks, and make brake block replacement less straightforward.
The Bottecchia Racing wheels won't win any prizes for lightness, but they are competent with a stiff and durable build, and the hubs kept rolling smoothly throughout the test period.
The 27.2mm seatpost and nicely shaped and well cushioned saddle are nice touches and help to improve ride comfort. Still, I'd like to see 25mm tyres rather than the 23mm ones fitted, to provide a bit more comfort. The CST/VRB tyres failed to impress, with a distinct lack of suppleness and poor traction in wet conditions.
It's not often I get on with saddles on cheaper bikes, they tend to be too squishy or oddly shaped, but the Unica's was a hit, with a good shape and comfortable cushioning.
Some will find the stem too long, but for me it offered a comfortable reach. If you're not racing or wanting to push your limits all the time, you might want to ask the bike shop to swap for a shorter one. Bottecchia have thoughtfully added several steerer tube spacers so if you find the head tube a little on the short side, you can easily raise the bar.
The handlebar is from Italian company Deda. It's rare to see top quality branded parts on bikes in this price range and the bar is a highlight, with a pleasant shape and comfortable drops, but the money might have been spent on a prettier stem.
I'm not sure what Bottecchia were thinking in fitting the fake carbon fibre bar tape, though. It offers neither an attractive appearance nor a comfortable place to put your hands. Without gloves it's slippery, and it doesn't provide as much cushioning as some gel cork tapes. I'd change it in a heartbeat.
While there are a few issues with the Unica (weight, bar tape, tyres), with a few changes it would be a really good bike. As it is, it's competent, with decent ride manners and a pleasant appearance, but the weight penalty is hard to ignore. As likeable as the Unica is, there are better choices at this price.
Likeable ride with racy geometry but let down by its high weight
If you're thinking of buying this product using a cashback deal why not use the road.cc Top Cashback page and get some top cashback while helping to support your favourite independent cycling website
road.cc test report
Make and model: Bottecchia 1 Unica Reparto Corse
Size tested: black /white/red
About the bike
State the frame and fork material and method of construction. List the components used to build up the bike.
BSA 68 mm
Semi-Integrated 1 1/8
Alloy 1 1/8 weight 850 grs. OPTION: Carbon alu weight 490 g
c62 Black white red - c21 Black white
Size M row 1.720 g
Tell us what the bike is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about the bike?
Italian company Bottecchia aren't the most well known bicycle brand in the UK but they have a lot of heritage. They are named after Ottavio Bottecchia, the first Italian Tour de France winner. This £600 Unica is their most affordable offering and features a 6061 aluminum frame with a carbon fibre fork and a Shimano Claris 8-speed groupset.
Frame and fork
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
Really good quality of finish across the frame.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
6061 aluminium frame with profiled tube shapes and a carbon fibre fork, with an alloy steerer tube.
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
It's on the racy side with quite a short head tube, which will obviously suit racers and anyone interested in riding hard and fast most of the time.
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
I found the reach really good, with the long stem contributing to the good fit. It won't suit anyone wanting a higher and shorter position, but there's a nice range of adjustment in the stem height so many people should be able to achieve a good fit.
Riding the bike
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
It's not the most refined ride but the aluminium frame can't be accused of being harsh or overly stiff.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
The carbon fork contributes to a bit of extra smoothness from the front end, and there's good power transfer when pedalling hard.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
Yes it was effective at not wasting the effort of your power input.
Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so, was it a problem?
How would you describe the steering? Was it lively, neutral or unresponsive? Neutral but a shade fast at higher speeds.
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
It possesses similar handling to race bikes with an emphasis on an aerodynamic and attacking riding position.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?
The tyres had a noticeable lack of ride feel, lacking smoothness and traction in the wet. I'd recommend swapping the bar tape straightaway too.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's stiffness? would you recommend any changes?
Some will find the stem too long, but that's easily changed.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's efficiency? would you recommend any changes?
Some higher quality tyres in 25mm width would make a positive improvement.
Wheels and tyres
Tell us some more about the wheels and tyres.Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the wheels or tyres? If so, what for?
The tyres had a noticeable lack of ride feel, lacking smoothness and traction in the wet. I'd swap them for 25mm.
Did you enjoy riding the bike? On the whole, yes
Would you consider buying the bike? There are better specced and lighter bikes for the same, or similar, money
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Difficult to recommend when there are lighter options
Use this box to explain your score
While there are a few issues with the Unica (high weight, bar tape, tyres), with a few changes it would be a really good bike. As it is, it's competent with decent ride manners and a pleasant appearance, but the weight penalty is hard to ignore. As nice as the Unica is, there are better choices at this price.
About the tester
Age: 31 Height: 180 Weight: 67
I usually ride: My best bike is:
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo-cross, commuting, touring, mountain biking
David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.