The expansion of the gravel sector has left many brands scratching their heads in which direction to take their drop-bar off-roaders. While the answer to what is best gravel bike is very subjective, Basso strongly believes that a gravel bike should be an extension of the road bike and bring speed and efficiency with it to produce a groundbreaking machine in ups and downs. This ideology was clear with the original Lav Palta – a bike that really impressed us when we tested it.
Most gravel bikes talk about versatility and exploration, but the overall philosophy for Basso is speed. While it may not be at the top of the list for all gravel riders, speed in Basso’s eyes makes everything better. In his own words, “adventure can be competitive, that performance does not require a race number, that exploration is better with adrenaline and speed”. To distill speed into the Palta, Basso has stuck to his racing and competitive roots, drawing on his experience in creating racing bikes for the road.
While the second iteration of the Palta is very similar to the outgoing model, there are some notable updates and improvements. The geometry has been fine-tuned, it is more compatible, and the tire clearance has also been increased. The one thing that has not changed, though, is that the Palta II is still fast.
Design and aesthetics
Basso knew there were many positive sides to the original Palta, but one area that it felt could be improved was consistent, something we noticed in our review of the original bike.
It was clear that Basso would not do this if it compromised on speed, and while the Palta II is very similar to its predecessor, Basso has actually made quite a few small but calculated changes. The seat holders have been subtly reshaped and curved to add compliance, and their meeting place with the top tube has been tapped to reveal more seatpost for additional flex. The seatpost is now also held in place with the Bassos 3B clamping system, which gets a new vulcanized flange and rubber wedge to help absorb vibrations. The frame can now fit 45 mm tires and the chain lengths have actually been shortened by 5 mm to 425 mm, therefore the new scoped seat tube is at a free distance. The front tube has also been lengthened by 20mm, but considering how slammed the original Palta was, you still get a racy position, just with fewer spacers under the stem.
There have also been a few other geometry adjustments, where the main angle is now slack at 70 degrees to supplement the wider tire capacity, and the seat tube is slightly steeper at 74 degrees. The upper tube has also been increased by 10 mm and is paired with a slightly shorter 90 mm stem.
There have also been some aero tweaks, though these changes again are not dramatic. The most obvious update is that cabling is now internal, cleaning up the front of the bike and reducing traction. The guide goes through the handlebars and along a channel on the underside of the trunk, which is then covered by a faceplate to keep it clean and simplify cockpit adjustments. The fork legs, main tube and downtube also get some Kammtail shaping to increase the marginal gains.
Not all Palta II updates are an unrestrained pursuit of speed, and Basso has also added some really useful practical details to the Palta II. The frame provides a downtube protector to combat stray stone attacks, and there is also a spindle lock system to stop the rods from rotating and coming into contact with the top tube in the event of a breakdown.
The top tube has bag brackets that are neatly hidden by a lid when not in use, and three bottle holders (two in the main triangle and one below the bottom tube). The Basso even includes a nice Wahoo / Garmin GPS mount, even if you have a larger GPS device like the Garmin 1080, you have to buy the longer version separately, which comes with a bonus action camera mount on the underside.
One of my favorite features is the stash of small tools in the axles of the Palta II. They consist of a simple Allen key with a hinged handle, but Basso has made sure to limit the number of tools needed for adjustments in the middle of the ride. So even though there are only four different tools overall, they actually cover many of the most likely sinners who might need attention on a trip.
Our bike came equipped with the new one SRAM XPLR group set which, despite being SRAM’s lowest stage AXS group set, offers impeccably changing performance. The new XPLR cassette with its progressive ratio jumps is also great, and although a faster bike like the Palta could easily detect awkward jumps, I never felt like I was inadequately accommodated when I reached the next gear. I could have done with a slightly lower gear on some of the climbs, but considering that most riders will not wind up on the Dolomites, the 40T chainring and 10-44T cassette will be spinny enough for most scenarios.
Basso treated us to a wheel upgrade on our test bike, provided by the good folks at Hunt, and equipped the bike with a set of 35 Carbon Gravel X-Wide wheels equipped with a set of Pirelli Cinturato Gravel tires.
The cockpit was a mix of Basso’s own 90 mm stem and an Easton rod, although the production models come with Basso’s own gravel-specific carbon bar, which has an eight degree flare and 122 mm drop as well as a narrower circumference on the drop sections so thicker rod bands can be mounted without increasing the circumference strongly.
For a gravel bike that prides itself on not sacrificing any performance, the Palta has a surprisingly smooth ride. We noticed that even though we loved the race-rich feel of the previous Palta, it could get shaky and uncomfortable on longer rides. Basso says it was very attentive to making the Palta II more comfortable, and the work that has been put in is clearly evident. There is a noticeable calm around the Palta II when turning the pedals over uneven terrain, despite the fact that there is no obvious compliance technique that we have seen on other bikes, such as Canyon’s leaf-sprung VCLS seatpost or a fully blown suspension system like new BMC URS LT.
This extra consistency is also not at the expense of sharp handling and immediate response. If it were possible to do a blind handling test on a bicycle, the Palta II would be almost indistinguishable from a road bike. There is no floppy disk or lazy control here, just point-and-shoot laser targeting. Basso was not shy about sending us down on some of the gnarliest gravel tracks I have ridden, consisting of incredibly loose sedimentary limestone waiting to punish clumsy riders and poor line selection. As the terrain became more technical, the accuracy of the Palta II did not falter, so you could pick lines and track the issues with confidence. If the gravel gets really radical, then you drop the saddle, read the front wheel and get a foot out, you will see your way through. Such a move may seem almost inappropriate from a gravel run perspective, but it is the kind of adrenaline-pumping situation that the extra tire release will encourage. That said, when things get very hectic, Palta II finds its limit. The short wheelbase and high bottom bracket will start to feel uncomfortable, where longer, lower gravel bikes will calmly hold a line and plow through.
On the back, the short wheelbase and chain lengths paired with the low weight provide a very beautiful feature in the Palta II that is immediately noticeable when driving. If you need to pick up the bike over drain ditches, or if you’re the kind of rider who’s always looking for a bit of transmission time, the lively character of the Palta II is clear from offset. The acceleration is fast when you have to climb forward, and climbing on asphalt or gravel does not have the ‘pack horse’ feeling that some heavier gravel bikes suffer from. Instead, you can attack the peaks with focus and pace rather than being forced to settle down and turn it out. Even on the road, there is not the sluggish feeling that can be attributed to many gravel bikes, and if you have a different set of wheels, the Palta II will make an excellent imitation of a road bike if you need it cross-over.
Palta II is still as boring as the outgoing model and sends gravel and asphalt with the same feverish desire for speed. It encourages you to turn the pedals and attack both the flats, climbs and descents. The agile nature and confident handling also backs up the speed and trades hard trails with precision. Despite the terrain we were driving on, it was clear that the Palta II has only one option: full speed. That means it’s easy to get lured into trouble, and there were a number of points during the 130km test where I needed to re-evaluate my levels of self-preservation to safely negotiate what lay ahead. If you tackle terrain where speed can be used to jump and jump over unwanted sections, the Palta II poppy will float over problems. Barrel full speed into a rocky pinball and the short wheelbase and higher bottom brackets, however, show Palta II’s weaknesses.
However, Basso never set out to build a MTB-inspired gravel bike, and to achieve everything that makes the Palta II an exciting gravel speed machine, it will result in a compromise somewhere. It should also be noted that the Basso team really threw us in the deep end and there were a number of tracks we tore down which were clearly popular mountain bike routes and not your usual gravel affair.
Where the Palta II no longer compromises is the ride quality and all the little tweaks Basso has made have really added up. The old Palta could become unforgivable as miles added, yet I was consistently surprised at how smooth the new bike felt. Combined with the updated frame improvements and named driving position, the Palta II will excel at long-format endurance gravel runs, where speed is important from the first kilometer to the last and covers a wide range of terrain.
Technical specifications: Basso Palta II 2022
- Price: £ TBC / € 4,762 / $ TBC
- Frame: Lav Palta
- Size: 54 cm
- Weight: TBC
- Group set: SRAM RIVAL XPLR AXS
- Crankset: SRAM Rival XPLR crank; 40T
- Cartridge: SRAM Rival XPLR 10-44T
- Wheel: Hunt 35 Carbon Gravel X-Wide wheels (MX25 as standard)
- Brakes: SRAM Rival CenterLine rotors
- Control: Easton EA70 AX (Basso Carbon as standard)
- Stem: Stall
- Seatpost: Make a seatpost
- Saddle: Sella San Marco Ground
- Tire: Pirelli Cinturato Grus, 45 mm