The Palta II might have a softer side when compared to the previous model but it hasn’t sacrificed any of its insatiable desire for speed.
- - Terrifying levels of speed.
- - Precise and agile handling.
- - User-friendly frame details.
- - Excellent levels of compliance.
- - Plenty of range and faultless shifting from the SRAM RIVAL XPLR groupset.
- - 45mm tyre clearance is below the 50mm status quo.
- - Wavering composure on really rough gravel.
The broadening of the gravel sector has left many brands scratching their heads as to what direction to take their drop-bar off-roaders. While the answer to what is the best gravel bike is very subjective, Basso strongly believes that a gravel bike should be an extension of the road bike, bringing with it speed and efficiency to produce a trailblazing machine on the ups and downs. This ideology was clear with the original Basso Palta - a bike that really impressed us when we tested it.
Most gravel bikes talk of versatility and exploration, but the overarching philosophy for Basso is speed. While it might not be top of the list for all gravel riders, in Basso’s eyes speed makes everything better. In its own words, “adventure can be competitive, that performance doesn’t require a race number, that exploration is better with adrenaline and speed”. To distil speed into the Palta, Basso has stuck to its racing and competitive roots, drawing from its experience of creating race bikes for the road.
While the second iteration of the Palta looks much the same as the outgoing model, there are some notable updates and improvements. Geometry has been tweaked, it’s more compliant, and tyre clearance has been increased too. The one thing that hasn’t changed, however, is that the Palta II is still fast.
Design and aesthetics
Basso knew there were a lot of positives with the original Palta, however one area that it felt could be improved was in the compliance, something that we remarked in our review of the original bike.
Obviously, Basso wasn’t going to do this if it compromised speed, and while the Palta II looks very similar to its predecessor, Basso has actually made quite a lot of small but calculated changes. The seat stays have been subtly reshaped and curved to add compliance, and their meeting point with the top tube has been dropped a touch to expose more seatpost for further flex. The seatpost is now held in place with Basso’s 3B clamp system as well, which gets a new vulcanised flange and rubber gusset to help absorb vibrations. The frame can now fit 45mm tyres, and the chainstays have actually been shortened by 5mm to 425mm, hence the new scoped seat tube for clearance. The headtube 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 been a few other geometry tweaks as well, with the head angle now slacker at 70 degrees to complement the capability of the wider tyres, and the seat tube is a little steeper at 74 degrees. The top tube has been increased by 10mm too, and is paired with a slightly shorter 90mm stem.
There have been some aero tweaks as well, although again these changes aren’t dramatic. The most obvious update is that the cable routing is now internal, cleaning up the front of the bike and reducing drag. The routing goes through the handlebars and along a channel on the underside of the stem which is then covered by a faceplate to keep it looking clean and simplifying cockpit adjustments. The fork legs, head tube and downtube all get some Kammtail shaping as well, to add to the marginal gains.
Not all the Palta II updates are an unbridled pursuit of speed, and Basso has added some genuinely useful practical details to the Palta II as well. The frame gets a downtube protector to combat stray rock strikes, and there is also a stem lock system to stop the bars from rotating and coming into contact with the top tube in the event of a crash.
The top tube has bag mounts that are neatly hidden by a cover when not in use, and three bottle cage mounts (two in the main triangle and one under the downtube). Basso even includes a neat Wahoo/Garmin GPS mount, although if you have a larger GPS device like the Garmin 1080, you will need to purchase the longer version separately which comes with a bonus action camera mount on the underside.
One of my favourite features is the stash of small tools in the Palta II’s thru-axles. They comprise a simple Allen key with a hinged handle, but Basso has made sure to limit the number of tools needed for mid-ride adjustments. So although collectively there are only four different tools, they actually cover a lot of the most likely culprits that might need attention on a ride.
Our bike came equipped with the new SRAM XPLR groupset which, despite being SRAM’s lowest-rung AXS groupset, offers impeccable shifting performance. The new XPLR cassette with its progressive ratio jumps is great as well, and while a go-faster bike like the Palta could easily expose awkward jumps, I never felt like I was inadequately catered for when I reached for the next gear. I could have done with a slightly lower gear on some of the climbs but considering most riders won’t be winching themselves up 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, supplied by the good folks at Hunt and equipping the bike with a set of 35 Carbon Gravel X-Wide wheels, which were fitted with a set of Pirelli Cinturato Gravel tyres.
The cockpit was a mix of Basso’s own 90mm stem and an Easton bar, although the production models will come with Basso’s own gravel-specific carbon bar that has an eight-degree flare and 122mm drop, as well as a narrower circumference on the drop sections so that thicker bar tape can be fitted without greatly increasing girth.
For a gravel bike that prides itself on not sacrificing any performance, the Palta has a surprisingly smooth ride. We remarked that while we loved the racier feel of the previous Palta, it could become jarring and uncomfortable over longer rides. Basso says it paid close attention to making the Palta II more comfortable, and the work that has been put in is clearly evident. There is a noticeable calmness around the Palta II when turning the pedals over rough terrain, despite there not being any obvious compliance engineering like we have seen in other bikes, such as Canyon’s leaf-sprung VCLS seatpost or a full-blown suspension system like the new BMC URS LT.
This extra compliance hasn’t come at the cost of sharp handling and instantaneous reaction either. If it was possible to do a blind handling test on a bike, the Palta II would be almost indistinguishable from a road bike. There’s no floppy or lazy steering here, just point-and-shoot laser targeting. Basso was not shy about sending us down some of the gnarliest gravel tracks I have ridden, consisting of incredibly loose sedimentary limestone rock waiting to punish clumsy riders and poor line choice. When the terrain got more technical, the Palta II’s accuracy didn't falter, allowing you to pick lines and track through trouble with confidence. If the gravel gets truly radical then dropping out the saddle, loading the front wheel, and getting a foot out will see you through. Such a move might seem almost uncouth from a gravel race perspective, but this is the sort of adrenaline-pumping situation the added tyre clearance will encourage. That said, when things do get very hectic the Palta II will find its limit. The short wheelbase and high bottom bracket will start to feel unstuck where longer, lower gravel bikes will calmly hold a line and plough through.
On the flip side, the short wheelbase and chainstays paired with the low weight instil a very snappy characteristic in the Palta II that is immediately noticeable when riding. If you need to pick the bike up over drainage ditches, or you’re the sort of rider who is always looking for a little airtime, the lively nature of the Palta II is clear from the offset. Acceleration is snappy when you need to surge forward, and climbing on tarmac or gravel doesn’t have the ‘pack horse’ feeling that some heavier gravel bikes suffer from. Instead, you can attack the peaks with focus and tempo rather than being forced to settle and spin it out. Even on the road, there isn’t the sluggish feeling that can be attributed to many gravel bikes, and if you have a second set of wheels, the Palta II is going to do an excellent impersonation of a road bike if you need that cross-over.
The Palta II is still every bit as racy as the outgoing model, dispatching gravel and tarmac with the same feverish desire for speed. It encourages you to turn the pedals and attack on the flats, climbs and descents alike. The agile nature and confident handling back up the velocity as well, negotiating rough trails with precision. Despite the consequential nature of the terrain we rode, it was clear the Palta II only has one setting: full speed. That means it's easy to be lured into trouble though, and there were a number of points throughout the 130km of testing where I needed to reassess my levels of self-preservation to safely negotiate what was ahead. If you are tackling terrain where speed can be used to jump and skip undesirable sections, the poppy Palta II is going to float over trouble. However, barrel full-speed into a rocky pinball and the short wheelbase and higher bottom bracket will show the Palta II’s weaknesses.
Basso never set out to build a MTB-inspired gravel bike though, and to achieve everything that makes the Palta II a thrilling gravel speed machine is going to result in a compromise being made somewhere. It must also be caveated 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 small tweaks Basso has made has really added up. The old Palta could become unforgiving as the miles added up, yet I was consistently surprised at how smooth the new bike felt. Combined with the updated frame refinements and dialled riding position, the Palta II will excel at long format endurance gravel racing where speed matters from the first mile to the last, covering a wide variety of terrain.
Tech Specs: Basso Palta II 2022
- Price: £TBC / €4,762 / $TBC
- Frame: Basso Palta
- Size: 54cm
- Weight: TBC
- Groupset: SRAM RIVAL XPLR AXS
- Crankset: SRAM Rival XPLR crank; 40T
- Cassette: SRAM Rival XPLR 10-44T
- Wheels: Hunt 35 Carbon Gravel X-Wide wheels (MX25 as standard)
- Brakes: SRAM Rival CenterLine Rotors
- Handlebar: Easton EA70 AX (Basso Carbon as standard)
- Stem: Basso
- Seatpost: Basso Seatpost
- Saddle: Sella San Marco Ground
- Tyres: Pirelli Cinturato Gravel, 45mm
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