This article first appeared on BikeRadar
Legendary Italian bike maker Colnago has announced its first proper aero bike and it's called the Concept. In the appropriately grand setting of a German castle in a small town just up the road from the Eurobike trade show, Ernesto Colnago himself unveiled the new machine, which joins the C60 and the V1-r to complete the brand's range of top-end race bikes.
The new bike's name harks back to the original 1986 Colnago Concept, the company's first carbon bike which was the result of a collaboration with Ferrari. But while the eighties Concept was a showcase for innovation, the 2017 version is a full-production, monocoque carbon aero bike with all the features you'd expect of a modern racer.
According to Colnago, the aim of the new Concept is the same as with every other bike it produces: it's "to make cyclists faster".
You can't design an aero bike without going to the wind tunnel these days, and that's exactly what Colnago did, working through 41 variations of the Concept frameset to come up with the finished product. The result is a bike that bears some resemblance to other mainstream aero offerings, but which differs in the finer details.
Claimed frame weight is 990g without paint, plus 400g for the fork. As with the V1-r, the framesets are manufactured in Taiwan and finished in Italy.
According to Colnago's own numbers, the Concept offers stiffness numbers that are within a few percentage points of the C60 and V1-r, but quite a bit less vertical compliance. The flipside is that a medium sized rider at a zero-degree yaw angle will save approximately 20 watts at 50 km/h against the C60, and 4 watts against the V1-r. Small beans? That's up to you to decide.
Interestingly, Colnago made a point of saying that the Concept offers aero benefits for every one of its eight sizes, something some bike manufacturers don't really talk about. The most visible manifestation of this is at the seat stays where the larger sizes have a slightly different seat tube profile near the tube junction and allow air to flow between the stays.
We'll be bringing you a first ride review of the Concept in the coming days, but in the meantime here are some of the design highlights.
Colnago Concept fork
Colnago's testing demonstrated that the front end of the bike was by far the most important part, as unlike the rest of the bike it meets clean air. The Concept’s fork borrows its leg shape from the V1-r but ups tyre clearance and adds aero profiling. In fact, depending on the combination of rim and tyres used, the bike is designed to take tyres up to 28mm at both ends — Colnago notes that the aero penalty over 25s is actually not all that great.
A further consideration was the behaviour of airflow behind the fork crown. Initial testing with a stationary wheel was found to be inadequate, as just like in the real world the spinning wheel creates vortices that cause drag. A concave section behind the crown alleviates this and the fork blends cleanly into the frame.
The headtube gets an aerofoil profile and it's slightly hour-glassed when viewed from the front. It accepts a pretty standard steerer tube that tapers from 1 1/4in to 1 1/8in, but Colnago has designed a custom headset with special cups made from a composite of carbon, nylon and elastomers.
These key into the frame and aim to reduce road vibrations by partially isolating the fork from the frame — Colnago was keen to avoid the harsh ride quality that blights some aero bikes.
Colnago Concept downtube and bottom bracket
The Concept's downtube is fairly slim by current standards, but it still employs a truncated aerofoil cross-section of the kind seen on most aero bikes, which provides a better balance of stiffness and aero. In the real world where riders normally have a bottle mounted on the downtube, Colnago says the truncated section is actually faster than a pure aerofoil anyway.
Like the C60, the Concept employs Colnago's proprietary ThreadFit82.5 bottom bracket system LINK, which aims to combine the best features of press-fit and threaded bottom brackets. ThreadFit82.5 accepts standard BB86 bottom brackets, but adds threaded cups to the frame that can be replaced in the event of wear.
The Concept's seat tube adopts the classic aero bike approach of hugging the rear wheel to minimise drag, and it flares substantially at the bottom bracket for stiffness.
The aero seatpost is retained by a wedge placed in the usual location at the junction with the top tube and it's available in a standard +15mm offset as well as a super-adjustable -15 to +30mm 'triathlon-style' version.
Colnago Concept brakes
We're delighted to see that Colnago hasn't done anything too wacky with the brakes — both front and rear are placed in the usual locations and are fully accessible.
The designers have opted for direct-mount callipers for their excellent performance and a Colnago-branded brake is available, so you won't need to mix groupsets if you opt forSRAM shifting. (SRAM does not currently offer a direct mount calliper.) A disc version of the Concept is expected to be released around the end of 2016. The Concept takes standard stems, but Colnago will offer this tidy option with no visible bolts too
Although the Concept accepts standard stems, Colnago was keen to offer “a full aero package”, and that includes a rather pretty full-carbon stem that uses a tidy wedge system rather than a conventional removable faceplate. Although it accepts most bars (including aero ones as long as they're not too wide), it's not especially practical as you'll have to remove the bar tape and shifter from one side to swap it out.
To make the design even cleaner, Colnago has devised aerodynamic covers for the wedge bolts that sit either side of the stem.
Colnago Concept pricing and availability
Pricing for the Concept is to be confirmed, but it's expected to fall between the C60 and the V1-r. Bikes will start shipping around September 2016.
Colnago 2017 range updates
The rest of Colnago's 2017 road range has received tweaks and updates as follows:
C60 — the flagship lugged-carbon machine remains at the top of Colnago's range. The recently launched C60 Disc now has thru-axles.
V1-r — the disc version of the lightweight monocoque V1-r has been updated with thru-axles and flat mount brakes.
CR-S — The CR-S takes up the mantle of 'entry-level carbon' for Colnago with a clean and modern looking monocoque frame.
A1-r — Colnago's latest entry-level aluminium race bike aims to offer more comfort with a skinny 27.2mm seatpost, and has a carbon-steered fork and internal cable routing.
A1-r CX — a proper 'cross racer with discs, the A1-r CX is a more affordable alternative to the carbon Prestige.