societa colnago |colnago c40 | colnago c40hp | colnago c50hp | colnago dream |
colnago teams since 1968 | robert millar c40 review | colnago clx | colnago c50 2007 |
colnago arte 2008 | colnago eps | ernesto colnago interview 2008
The following article was originally printed in Cycling Weekly, January 17 2004. the washingmachinepost is extremely grateful to the editor for permission to reproduce the road test of the Colnago C50HP below. cyclingweekly.co.uk
Colnago's C40 bikes have become the most revered of all race bikes, but the C40 is no longer the apex of the range. Taking over this mantle is the new C50. In a UK exclusive, Mike Hawkins puts the C50 through its paces and gives his verdict on the most eagerly awaited bike of 2004.
It's hardly been a quiet few months for the Cambiago-based manufacturer. Colnago has launched three new bikes, come up with new designs for each and celebrated 50 years in the business. And after what has seemed like an eternity, we have received the latest road race bike from the manufacturer.
As with all things these days, time is of the essence and no sooner had the C50 arrived in the office than it was jetted to Nice to be photographed. Here too, time was short, so my first experience of the bike was descending a mountain pass, having ridden up on another machine. The bike had arrived the day before the trip Ð it had barely been built and never ridden, so the trip down became a rapid lesson in why Colnago bikes are so highly rated. Luckily for me, this wasn't my first ride on a Colnago; they all have the same geometry, so I had a rough idea of what to expect, but even so, the first few corners could best be described as hair-raising
Gaining Confidence Chasing Roger Morgan (Stilton RT), one of the test riders for the trip, down the mountain pass was surprisingly easy on the C50. By the third corner my confidence in the C50 and what it could do was at a level where I was happy to push harder to stop Roger from pulling away. As the metres clicked past on our drop from the 960m summit to the Mediterranean far below, the C50 showed what it had to offer. The narrow mountain pass was a single lane and offered either rock face or sheer drop if you got it wrong, but the possibility of doom slipped from my mind as the front end bit reassuringly into the tarmac at every corner.
As the cornering load built and the angle of lean increased, there was ample feedback as to the amount of grip and just how hard I could push. You don't need to be a genius to ride this bike fast downhill, just know your limits and stay within them. Even when a mid-bend bump caught me out and the line ran wider than anticipated, it was never a drama, just a little more lean and normal service was quickly resumed. There was a slight tendency for the front end to push wide and understeer at the start of the corner, perhaps as a result of the initially high front (too many spacers) or perhaps as a result of overconfidence. Soon enough it tucked in nicely, though, and drew a tidy arc from the mid-point onwards. With handling this refined you can afford to take liberties with how you ride; just don't do it too often!
Begging For Speed Between corners the C50 was a winner too. It begged to be ridden faster and felt super-confident, even when sprinting for a town sign, downhill at over 40mph. It was a dream to ride on the slick continental roads but, then again, they bring out the best in any frame.
If there is one thing that the C50 is known for, it's that it has a 1 1/8inch headset Ð all previous Colnagos had a one-inch version. Owing to the similarity of the C50 to the C40, it's hardly a surprise that this is what people have latched on to. There are, of course, a huge number of changes to the frame and the C50 shares just the seat tube with last year's C40, yet, because it uses a similar tubeset, the comparisons are understandable. And to be fair, why would Colnago want to make a big deal about the changes? The C50 is compared favourably to the original, everyone is a winner.
When Ernesto Colnago first produced the C40 there can be little doubt that he and his engineers would have tried many differing variations of tube sizes, thickness and probably even a 1 1/8 inch head tube, which was becoming the norm with mountain bikes, if not yet road bikes. I guess we will never know why a 1 1/8 wasn't used. I've always believed that by keeping traditional lines to the carbon tubes, which at this time were quite revolutionary, Colnago ensured that the bike would be accepted by the traditionalists. And it was this acceptance that contributed to the colossal reputation of the C40.
I'm starting to wonder if I should revise my view about the reason for the head tube, though. On Continental roads - well known for their smoothness - the C50's front end feels very, very good. Once on wet British roads the composure starts to fall apart somewhat. It's the sort of area of bike dynamics that's easy to miss the first few times you ride the bike, as you just accept the small shocks that are coming through to the hands from the front wheel.
It's only once you get more used to the position and more comfortable with the bike as a whole, that you start to notice the extra kick to the vibrations.
In ordinary riding the front end is merely hard, but what really brought out the firmness was navigating a wet roundabout. The choppy surface required plenty of concentration. With the water and cars bearing down on me, I found that I didn't have enough concentration left to spare. I felt unable to lift my eyes off the road to make sure the cars were going to stop. This was the worst occasion of fighting the front end and certainly led me to go slower next time.
Up-Front News Perhaps it was this hard front end that put Colnago off the 1 1/8 headset in the first place. Swapping from Mavic Ksyriums to Bontrager XXX-Lite wheels proved that these were not entirely at fault, it was more that Colnago has decided to impart the C50 with a very firm front end. It's no doubt a combination of the fork's 1 1/8 steerer tube, head tube and larger diameter top and down tubes that makes a stiff front end. Putting it into perspective, this is a character trait of the C50 and shouldn't be seen as a flaw. Plenty of riders won;t find anything wrong with this feel, but it's certainly worth noting.
If the front end wasn't the best, then the back certainly was. The back of the C50 is perhaps the most outstanding feature of its ride. Simply put, the rear end of the bike is the perfect combination of torsional rigidity, horizontal stiffness and measured vertical compliance. Most bumps in the road can be hit without having to lift your weight out of the saddle, such is its vertical compliance and shock absorbency. In this respect it compares favourably with a titanium bike. As for the drive, this is class leading and makes the bike feel even lighter thanks to the speed at which it picks up when pushing hard. Kick-back from shocks encountered by the rear wheel can be felt through the pedals, but that's as afar as it goes, which beautifully illustrates the direct nature of the bike.
While we are dealing with the back end of the frame, it's worth mentioning that Colnago has specified a 28mm diameter seatpost so there are few, if any, other options other than to fit an own-brand version. Every Colnago comes out of the factory wrapped in brown corrugated paper. As if getting the box and opening it wasn't a big enough event on its own, gently unwinding the paper to reveal the clean, timeless livery beneath is one of the best off-the-bike experiences going. There is just something about seeing one of the best carbon bikes on the planet slowly revealed before you that raises the pulse and whets the appetite.
Andrea Tafi had a c40 painted as a Cervelo while the latter developed their own carbon frame
All In The Details
As far as I'm concerned it's all part of the joy that comes with buying a Colnago. Should you be lucky enough to be able to fork out the cash for one, make sure you are there for the event. With its covering of paper it's reassuring to find that the frame is spotlessy finished from the factory. All the threads are clean and everything is beatifully faced. With Shimano's new Dura-Ace 7800 groupset, building the bike was straightforward and everything slotted into place.
One area that drew plenty of attention at the cafe stop was the High Power (HP) chainstay diamonds. The C50 features a second-generation version that's smoother contoured, but works in the same way to reduce vibration and add stiffness.
There can be little doubt that Colnago has made one of the best road race bikes on the market, but then, after the C40, what else would you expect? It's in the same mould as the C40 and doesn't raise the bar substantially - perhaps that's why the C40 is still in the range. The C50 offers a more efficient machine, but in my opinion at the expense of some comfort. However, this bike is a s close to perfection as it's currently possible to get.
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societa colnago |colnago c40 | colnago c40hp | colnago c50hp | colnago dream |
colnago teams since 1968 | robert millar c40 review | colnago clx | colnago c50 2007 | colnago eps | ernesto colnago interview 2008