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Colnago Master X-Light Art Decor review

An all-time classic updated

This article originally published on BikeRadar

The original Master was the ultimate eighties superbike. Even when aluminum, and even carbon, started to make an appearance, the steel-framed Master was still a very desirable bike. 2013 marked the 30th anniversary of the X-Light, and Colnago have resurrected the famous Art Decor paintwork on a recreated frameset, which matches the original, aside from an updated fork steerer.

The price is obviously prohibitive, but when you consider that the unique star shaped tubing is custom drawn in Italy, the lugs and Precisa fork are chrome finished in Italy and the frames are all made in-house at Colnago by its master frame builder, you can see why. Then there’s the Art Decor paint; the graphics are a combination of airbrushing and masking that takes days to complete, not the minutes a standard frame would.

This bike was initially designed in the last century, and when you compare it with contemporary bikes, it’s easy to spot how much bike geometry has changed. The seat angle is noticeably steep, as is the head angle, and it has a super shallow head tube and a straight-bladed fork. Compared to modern ‘endurance’ bike setups, the Master is super aggressive – seemingly at odds with the svelte frame.

The overall weight of 8.35kg is impressively low. The Master X-Light Art Decor is built with a combination of carbon Campagnolo Chorus and Neutron Ultra wheels (1,470g a pair). The remaining gaps are filled with a middleweight aluminum cockpit and a slender carbon post topped with a San Marco Turbo saddle.

The saddle and leather bar tape suit the retro theme, but the black bar, stem and carbon post look out of place. We’ve no complaints about any of these parts' performance, it's just the aesthetics. With a frameset that is so beautifully styled, we’d like the components to also go that extra yard.

The Master's frame and fork feel different to those of contemporary bikes. The low front end and long, stretched-out position with the straight fork give it a ride feel that's as distinct as its paintjob.

It turns rapidly, is stable through twisting descents, fast and furious on the flat and light enough to ascend quickly. The vitality and life emanating from this bike can’t fail to put a smile on your face. Those used to admittedly more comfortable modern geometry may find the Colnago comes as a shock.

The gearing is as old school as the frame, combining a 53/39 chainset with a 12-27 cassette. It feels a little tall, but suits the bike's character. With more modest gearing, the Master would be a fine everyday ride, but that might spoil its charm.

The Master is one of the true icons of road racing and a bike we’re happy to have experienced. It’s said you should never meet your heroes, but in the case of the Master X-Light, we're glad we did.

Pros: Exquisite finish and true retro riding position make for a rapid bike
Cons: The old school position means a front end that might be too low for some riders
Buy if: You want to own the most glorious celebration of one of cycling's best ever framesets
BikeRadar verdict: 4 1/2 stars
More information:

Complete bicycle specifications

Name: Colnago Master X-Light Art Decor
Price: £4757
Available sizes: 49cm-65cm in 1cm increments (size tested: 53cm)
Frame material: DT15v steel
Fork: Colnago Precisa steel chromed
Headset: Colnago 1"
Stem: Colnago Nemesis
Handlebars: Colnago HBos
Front brake: Campagnolo Chorus
Rear brake: Campagnolo Chorus
Brake levers: Campagnolo Chorus 11 Carbon
Front derailleur: Campagnolo Chorus 11 Carbon
Rear derailleur: Campagnolo Chorus 11 Carbon
Shift levers; Campagnolo Chorus 11 Carbon
Cassette: Campagnolo Chorus 11, 12-27
Chain: Campagnolo Chorus 11
Crankset: Campagnolo Chorus 11 Carbon, 53/39
Bottom bracket: Campagnolo Ultra Torque
Wheelset: Campagnolo Neutron Ultra
Saddle: San Marco Turbo heritage
Weight: 18.41 lbs.

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