colnago c40 | colnago c40hp | colnago c50hp | colnago dream |
50th anniversary interview with ernesto colnago | colnago teams since 1968
robert millar colnago c40 review | colnago clx | colnago c50 2007 |
colnago arte | colnago eps | colnago cx-1 | ernesto colnago interview 2008 |
colnago clx centaur | colnago ace 2010 | colnago clx 2.0 2010 | colnago c59
it is customary, if not compulsory, to run with a comprehensive description of that which is under review, varying only in intensity as to whether it's a frame or a complete bicycle. in this case, the bicycle is complete, though bereft of the twiddly bits that afflict modernity. the frame style is directly influenced by the steel track bikes of yore, right down to the bars.
the steel frame bears none of the more usual columbus stickers informing which particular strain of steel is being employed, so the best colnago leave us with is that it is butted cr-mo. i'm just assuming it was built in italy; there's nothing to say one way or t'other. colnago was once renowned for its lugged steel frames, and this is no exception, though only the lugs attached to the head-tube are chromed; those at the seat-tube/top tube junction and bottom bracket are thickly coated in the smooth cream paint that covers the bulk of the frame. this is contrasted by maroon portions on down and seat tube, flattered by retro colnago decals.
the precisa forks are as straight as a die, in common with all colnago bicycles since the mid-eighties, though only the crown is chromed. as far as west of scotland weather is concerned, the less chrome the better. this extends to the rear triangle where neither set of stays is chromed, and the road heritage is briefly denied by the rear-facing track ends. these latter edifices are drilled and fitted with axle stops. a nice touch. it's notable that the only tube bearing bottle cage bolts is the down-tube.
the retro look would have been greatly enhanced by a quill stem, particularly with the fitting of track drop bars which look the part but perhaps err on the wrong side of practical. headset is listed as colnago, but the one fitted here had fsa etched into the cups. the stem and bars are both shiny aluminium, but instead of standard brake levers, the super features a pair of minimalistic tektro flat bar levers. the brake calipers are unbranded, but polished aluminium alloy, though colnago list them as the same brand as the levers. bar tape is leather lookalike, matching the saddle.
measurements are just a tad on the tight side; while the frame size was my preferred 54cm traditional, the top tube was at least a centimetre shorter than that of my similarly sized c40. the saddle fits the mood just dinky-doo; the only improvement would have been to place a brooks swallow atop the aluminium seatpost, though this would likely have edged the price over that carefully engineered £1399.95. the seatpost, a nominally old skool 27.2.mm, was slightly undersized on the test bike, taking a good bit of tightening and an aerosol of carbo-fix to stop it sliding down.
the hubs are merely listed as colnago, though if i were them i wouldn't be quite so keen to take the blame. they are of the traditional cup and cone assembly and not particularly impressive for that. the rear is a flip/flop, allowing for a fixed sprocket on one side, and a similarly sized (in this case 18 tooth) freehweel on the other. with a confirmed aversion to fixed due to cultivated incompetence, i rode only the freewheel side. front and rear are affixed via track nuts; not a quick release in sight.
the chain is a track friendly 1.125" running over a 48 tooth sugino messenger chainwheel. crank length on this and the 56cm is 172.5mm. both front and rear wheels use stainless spokes laced to unbranded but apparently alex rims. tyres are vittoria zaffiro pro. bottom bracket is a matching sugino square taper.
a more brief description than usual, but then there's a lot less to examine by way of componentry. if nothing else, it brings home just how many accoutrements there are on my more regular review bicycles, than on a stripped down single/fixed.
the colnago super is purchased as a complete bicycle, and while i think i might have concern with one or two of the component choices, it still remains that the review has to concern itself with everything that came out of the box (well, actually it was a bike bag, but if you don't tell, neither will i).
let me come clean straight away: although the super has a flip-flop rear hub, the fixed sprocket remained on the left side of the frame throughout the test. i have, on occasion, managed to pedal just such a machine, but it's not a frequent occurrence, and i'd prefer not to make it so. this obviously leaves me wide open to accusations of wuss-ness, but i'm a big boy and i can take the flak. a 48 chainring married to an eighteen tooth freewheel gives, if my calculations are anywhere near correct, a 72 inch gear; and i found that a bit larger than i'd have liked. a twenty tooth freewheel or a 46 tooth ring would have suited my knees far better, while my chris hoy thighs were at the cleaners.
however, by questioning the efficacy of the gearing, i'm taking this bicycle totally out of context; the single-speed/fixed setup is an urban thing, not necessarily exclusively so, but that's the heritage it's saddled with (pardon the pun), and i'm pretty much sure that this is the market colnago are aiming for. a few years back, colnago uk had a fixed master frame on their stand, part of a batch colnago had uncovered in cambiago, and painted up in saronni colours they sold like hotcakes. colnago uk stated that they could have sold almost unlimited amounts had there been any more. however, basing a frame around that of a track bike has its disadvantages for me, manifesting itself in the shape of a rather short top tube. one centimetre to be presact, and while it doesn't sound like much, i did find it a bit of a disadvantage over longer distances. conversely, nipping around the village in the midst of not a lot of traffic, it is nimble in the extreme without displaying any degree of skittishness. manoeuvrability is undoubtedly its finest hour.
but let's be entirely fair; the super is espresso fodder, and debbie's is 15km away, at the end of a long-open stretch of flat road. this gives the wind free reign to get in the way for every one of those kilometres, and trying to pedal at an acceptable rate, comparable to that achieved on my c40, was hard work and a bit uncomfortable. i don't mind telling you i had a sore back on more than one occasion. but had those 15km been through bus, vehicle and taxi traffic, with sets of lights (of which we have none) and constant built-upness, i'd likely have an entirely different point of view. what i'm trying to say, in a very round about way, is that the colnago super is not necessarily the appropriate choice for a rural location, let alone an island on the edge of the north atlantic.
that, however, is not a criticism, but merely an observation. the bike, not the lightest colnago that has ever graced the bike-shed, even though it probably should have been, given the bits that weren't there. referring back to my comments on the gearing, i did find it a bit of struggle up some of the short, sharp hills, and thus made no attempt to ride it up the hills i normally include in several weeks of test rides. not having a pair of lever hoods on which to pull, made climbing slightly harder than it likely could be; i'm not that great at ascending holding the centre of the bars, while the drops were so short it was difficult to grab enough for a marco pantani emulation. climbing was, however, the only activity undertaken that showcased a bit of movement about the bottom bracket area. just saying.
the brake levers are some of the most minimalistic i have ever witnessed on a quality bike, but they worked darned well. i thought my incompetence may have got me into trouble with the levers being in the centre of the bars, but this arrangement was surprisingly easy to get used to, and the calipers never ever gave the impression they might be having a day off.
i'm of the mind that we have all been sucked into the world of carbon, because it happens to suit the manufacturing aspirations of the big boys, and quite a lot of the smaller chaps too, just the same way as we had aluminium imposed on us from a great height in the latter part of last century and the early part of this. steel has properties that some have never experienced, and most of the rest of us have conveniently forgotten. riding the super down through the abattoirenberg forest gives rise to the nearest experience i have comparable to paris roubaix, and it augurs well for such a relatively heavy butted cro-mo frame that it was undeniably comfortable and resilient while being hammered across the remains of a country road. even the presence of a straight steel precisa fork up front, absorbed as much road buzz as colnago's straight carbon fork. steel is indeed real.
when the bicycle arrived, the cone on the fixed side of the rear wheel was substantially loose, requiring a good seeing to with a pair of park tool cone spanners. it remained properly adjusted for the remainder of the review, but emitted an uncorrected noise throughout. it may well be that the bearings need a helpful slather of grease, anad it bothers me that i didn't follow this up, but on a relatively new bicycle, this is not something that should have come to light at all. the wheels were a tad on the heavy side, and really didn't look as if they belonged with such a finely lugged frame. i've heard it pointed out that it's possible to purchase a steel fixie for considerably less than the cost of the colnago super; but it was conversely pointed out that no other would have ernesto's signature on the top tube, and colnago emblazoned on the down-tube. your reaction to this depends on your appreciation of cambiago's heritage, but colnago could bolster the latter statement by fitting a better pair of wheels.
i fear that the colnago branded track bars may be an acquired choice. they are certainly not up to the job of taking someone over long distances in one swell foop, since their narrowness and steep drop-off limits the number of comfortable hand positions. and similarly the drops themselves, which stop just as you're getting used to the curve. that said, they do look the part, and i can't imagine the super being fitted with anything else. like anything, with repeated use, it is possible to get used to them, but i found the lack of lever hoods on the bendy bit meant my hands bore more of the strain than i'm used to. however, flipping through traffic, i'd imagine they'd be the ideal steering companion.
the vittoria zaffiro pro tyres are an admirable choice; i have warmed greatly to vittoria's tyres on several colnago models, and while the zaffiros are not something you would fit to your best race bike, in this context, they are entirely apposite. sitting down being an activity that accounts for around 90% of any ride, the degree of comfort afforded the posterior can sell or ruin. colnago have supplied a faux leather saddle with a string of rivets across the back. these fulfil cosmetic purposes only, but the saddle was very comfortable indeed, rivalling that of more expensive origin. the no-name, polished aluminium seatpost was sadly slightly undersized for the 27.2mm seat tube, something that had obviously concerned my predecessor in the review chain. unwrapping the saddle and post from its bubble wrap, the latter displayed vertical and squiggly scrape marks down most of its length.
first couple of outings just to make sure all the bolts were set properly, the post slipped down, despite tightening as hard as i could manage. the slot in the clamp should still be visible under normal adjustment, but in this case both sides were clamped hard together, and i added some carbo-fix spray to keep it in position. i did try replacing the seatpost with a better quality version of the same size, and that's how i know the colnago one was undersized. tightly clamped and sprayed, it remained correct until stripped down for return.
i apologise if this sounds like i was less than impressed with the super; in terms of what the bicycle was designed for, riding it round islay was removing it from its comfort zone, and to be honest, riding it was removing me from mine. it was likely the latter that gave rise to the above. while the bike can be ridden particularly quickly when the occasion demands or allows, pushing into an atlantic headwind is very unlikely to have been foremost in the minds of cambiago's design department when the super left the drawing board. a bit like riding fixed, it was a nice place to visit, but i wouldn't want to live there.
posted on sunday 28 march 2010.........................................................................................................................................................................................................