Colnago Concept first ride review

Italian aero for the one per cent

This article originally appeared on BikeRadar

The Colnago Concept was launched last month in Germany, the first production aero road bike from the Italian maker that has a history of producing some of the most drool-worthy bicycles in existence. The Concept shares its name with a ground-breaking design from three decades ago that was never released to the general public, but the 2017 machine is an entirely new project. 

Colnago Concept frameset highlights

We covered the features of the new frameset in some detail in our launch story, but just to refresh your memory, these are the highlights:

  • Wind-tunnel tested carbon frameset with truncated aerofoil tube sections, internal cabling and dedicated aero seatpost claims to save 20 watts at 50km/h against range-topping C60
  • Frame weight is a claimed 990g without paint, plus 400g for the fork
  • Direct mount brakes offer clearance for tyres up to 28mm (depending on rim choice)
  • Special composite headset cups absorb road vibration and isolate fork from frame
  • Colnago's own ThreadFit 82.5 bottom bracket shell claims to combine the best features of threaded and press-fit bottom brackets, and accepts all BB86 BBs

Colnago Concept spec overview — as tested

  • Weight: 6.9kg including pedals (size 50s)
  • Frame: Concept
  • Fork: Concept
  • Seatpost: Concept aero
  • Handlebar: Deda carbon
  • Stem: Deda
  • Levers: Campagnolo Super Record
  • Rear derailleur: Campagnolo Super Record
  • Brakes: Campagnolo Super Record direct mount
  • Cranks: Campagnolo Super Record 52/36
  • Cassette: Campagnolo Super Record 11-27
  • Chain: Campagnolo Record
  • Wheels: Campagnolo Bora Ultra 50
  • Tyres: Tufo S3 Elite 23mm tubular
  • Saddle: Selle Italia SLR for Colnago

Colnago Concept frame and equipment

Colnago supplied the journalists on the launch with bikes dressed up to the nines with full Campagnolo Super Record groupsets and deep section Bora Ultra 50 tubular wheels. My size 50s bike (that's a 50cm sloping frame, equivalent to a typical medium) weighed 6.9kg with pedals.

Colnago doesn't do standard builds as such, but this one's very much in line with what we'd expect the well-heeled Campagnolo enthusiast to choose, except for the fact that our test bikes didn't have the new super-aero Concept stem fitted for reasons of practicality. The wedge design makes swapping out stems a time-consuming affair, and with a crowd of persnickety journalists to please no chances were being taken.

Oh, and the choice of old-school 23mm tyres was perhaps a little odd given the large clearances available but as we soon discovered, the quality of the roads meant these were just fine and dandy.

Colnago Concept ride impression

I should qualify my riding impressions by noting that I was feeling pretty awful on the day of the launch and during the ride. 90 percent of my attention was focused on analysing the riding experience of the Concept, while the other ten was devoted to a quiet longing for Death's cool embrace. A cold is a hell of a thing.

The ride took in 60-odd kilometres of the smoothest roads I've ever had the pleasure to cycle. The landscape was one of lush, rolling hills with ribbons of that perfect tarmac draped across it, twisting its way between fields of hops, apples and corn, and punctuated by picturesque Germanic barns.

This lovely road surface did of course present a problem: it made it incredibly hard to tell just how much compliance Colnago has succeeded in building into the Concept's frame, and whether those funky composite headset cups were actually doing anything.

Certainly on the rare bumps that we did encounter the bike was utterly inoffensive despite its skinny tyres, very much in line with current aero bikes rather than bone-shaking first generation machines (e.g. the original Scott Foil), but we'll have to try it on the UK's woeful roadways before properly passing judgment.

We did get the chance to ride over a little bit of that picture-perfect pavé that European towns have around their prettier piles of architecture. Again, the Concept seemed very well behaved and not at all buzzy, but that's not an overly taxing test either, it's hardly the stuff of Belgian epics.

The wind was blowing hard that day and as I swept round bends it was tugging at the front wheel a little, although not as much I feared it might given the Campagnolo rims' comparatively conservative cross-section — they're a lot less radical in shape than some of the current crop of ultra-fat hoops from the likes of Zipp et al.

Braking on these rims (in the dry at least) is very good indeed incidentally, so no complaints there.

Overall, the Concept felt completely at home in this environment, blasting up short rises, zipping along on the flat and diving down twisty descents. It's certainly a proper racer — it's stiff and precise, light and lively, exactly what you expect when you plunk down a few thousand pounds or dollars on a new go-faster machine.

The bike feels entirely encouraging when you stand on the pedals and thrash it as hard as you can and yet it's an incredibly neutral ride that left me wondering… is that it?

Perhaps the problem is that Colnago is such a storied name — it truly is the Ferrari of road cycling (indeed the company has collaborated with the car maker on numerous occasions), so it’s hard not to have incredibly high expectations of any of its machines.

There’s no question that the Concept is a fine and talented bike. It looks aggressive and purposeful and not a little bit stylish, and it backs up its appearance with thoroughly competent performance and road manners. But for me, the jury is still out on exactly how special it is. Buying a Colnago is as much an emotional decision as it is a rational one; if you just wanted a technically accomplished bike you'd probably opt for a Specialized or a Giant, and for that reason I can't decide if the Concept does enough to justify itself.

This bicycle feels more like a rational response to the demands of the market than the bonkers superbike you might hope for from the brand. It's very, very good, but it doesn't set my heart a-flutter, and I'm somehow left wanting more.

Colnago Concept early verdict

The Concept is fast and fun, but we're not sure it's mad enough for a place in the Italian superbike hall of fame.

Colnago Concept pricing and availability

Concept frames will be available imminently, with UK distributor Windwave expecting stock in October. Pricing is as follows for the UK, with other markets TBC:

Colnago Concept frameset including headset and seatpost: £3,499.95
Complete bike bike as tested: approximately £8,000

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