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Dream build: Electric Retro-Mod

What if you cross an elegant steel Casati road bike frame with space-age SRAM AXS? Traditionalists might be clutching their pearls, but this Dream Build is a sweet ride.

Written by: Spencer Powlison

Published on:

Posted in:Bikes

Traditionalists might howl, but I think it’s kind of cool to outfit a classic steel frame with modern components. The concept of a retro-mod is very underrated. And okay, yes I hear you, the Casati 80th Anniversary frame featured in this Dream Build isn’t technically vintage. But it’s super classy and made of steel. Plus, this frame celebrates Casati’s heritage, which goes back to the early 1920s when Pietro Casati rode the Tour de France and went on to start building his own bikes.

Sure, maybe Pietro would prefer Campagnolo on his Italian steel bike, but you have to wonder at his reaction to a wireless electronic drivetrain with a 12-speed cassette!

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Road Frame

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As soon as I saw this pearl frame with gold accents, I knew it was the perfect way to give our Dream Builds a new twist. Casati produced this frame in 2014 to commemorate the company’s 80th anniversary. While it is steel, Casati’s builders opted for a welded construction, rather than connect the frame’s tubes with a traditional lugged assembly. 

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Red AXS drivetrain

SRAM Red AXS mechanical left shifter - $438.99
SRAM Red AXS mechanical right shifter - $438.99
SRAM Red AXS front derailleur - $268.99
SRAM Red AXS rear derailleur - $579.99
SRAM Red AXS crankset - $549.99
SRAM Force AXS cassette - $184.99

Here’s where things get a little unusual. Although most of SRAM’s AXS components are made for hydraulic disc brakes, there are a handful of shifters out there that run old-school cable-actuated rim brakes. It just so happens we have the makings of a full SRAM Red AXS drivetrain for this very setup. It’s perfect for a retro(ish)-mod like this. 

You may notice the tight 10-26T cassette on my list — I think the look of that tight block will help bring out the retro vibes of this Casati. Plus, combined with the 50/37T chainring combo, the gear range actually will be manageable. 

Oh, and if anyone has a 3D printer, we must come up with a fun little trinket to thread into those shift-cable braze-ons at the head tube. It’d be like Jibbitz but for bikes!

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Wheels & tires

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Vittoria Corsa Control G20 - $149.98

I refuse to ride deep-rim carbon wheels on a steel frame. It just seems wrong. Electronic shifting? Sure, but aero wheels are a bridge too far. Luck would have it that I found a pair of ENVE SES 2.2 wheels in our inventory. These low-profile climbing wheels feel so lively. They’re a perfect match for a steel frame, and better yet, they already have the XDR freehub I need for SRAM’s 12-speed cassette. The fancy full-carbon hubs aren’t a bad upgrade either…

Naturally, with a cool steel frame, you have to run tan-wall tires. Vittoria’s Corsa Control rubber is always a fan-favorite and with a 320TPI casing, these tires are sure to ride smooth.

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Cane Creek EE brakes

Cane Creek EE Brake G4 rear - $345.51
Cane Creek EE Brake G4 front - $317.43

Do we have SRAM Red rim brake calipers in stock? Yes. Would they work for this build? Of course. But are they dreamy enough? I’d say they aren’t. During my waking hours, I’m very practical with my bike specs, but this is a dream, so instead, I’m picking the exotic Cane Creek EE Brakes for this build. For one, they’re supposed to be more powerful than the average rim brake. They’re also super-light. Also, I think it’s cool that these CNC-machined beauties are made in the USA, a nice compliment to this handmade Italian frame.


ENVE cockpit

ENVE road handlebar - $349.99
ENVE seatpost - $274.99
Lizard Skins DSP bar tape - $39.99
Selle San Marco Regal Evo saddle - $79.99 

Thanks to Casati’s matching stem, cockpit setup is a bit simpler. I like to match the bars and seatpost, so ENVE was the ticket, and it’s a nice bonus that they match the wheels too. To set off the old and new theme, these space-age carbon tubes get some Lizard Skins brown bar tape and a Selle San Marco Regal saddle that has that vintage-inspired riveted design.

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Total cost: $8,419.80

Maybe I went a little overboard. Six-hundred-sixty-ish dollars on caliper brakes is a bit silly. To that I say: Aren’t dreams usually a bit silly? Between the wheels and that steel frame this fanciful build might actually ride super sweet. However, there are many, many ways you could build out this Casati frame for less. 

Let me know in the comments if you have a Dream Build of your own in the works!