Colnago C59 Tested
(Taken from the recent review in Road CC)
We’ll get to all the technical details later but first you’ll want to know what it rides like…? Superbly, is the short answer, the frame is absolutely sublime, getting the right mixture of comfort and stiffness is nearly always a compromise when designing a frame but I’d say it’s pretty spot on here. Obviously the C59 is a pro level bike so dealing with the relative amounts of power your average club rider can put out compared to the sprinters at the tour probably doesn’t cause it too much of a headache.
Even with the harsh deep section carbon wheels our test bike came with there was no hint of road buzz getting through to your contact points but yet none of your power input is lost. Long days in the saddle are easily achieved thanks to the relaxed nature of the C59, the ride is certainly engaging but only when you want it to be. On a relaxed club run or an early evening steady ride the C59 is right at home cruising along requiring very little rider input (apart from turning the pedals obviously) but when you want to get a move on it really shifts.
The bulk of the testing was carried out on my old training roads taking in the hills of Dorset, many years of club runs on various bikes giving me a good benchmark to compare the C59 to and it certainly impressed. The Colnago is a joy to climb on, long steady climbs are dealt with in comfort being able to sit in the saddle and keep the pedals spinning while the short sharp ones take just a rise out of the saddle and a couple of stamps on the pedals to reach the brow and accelerate over the top. Whether in or out of the saddle, that overall stiffness plays its advantage again wasting none of the power. Faced with technical descents or other obstacles the C59 responds to every command whether through the controls or a shift in body weight.
Steering is very quick but not in a skittish way and the front end weights up nicely through tight bends on descents. No flex at all is felt from the 100% carbon fork allowing you to carry plenty of speed while banking the bike over. You’re never going to lose the sprint for the village sign either due to the rapid acceleration that the light weight and stiffness brings; it really does pick up speed like nothing I’ve ever riddenSteering is very quick but not in a skittish way and the front end weights up nicely through tight bends on descents. No flex at all is felt from the 100% carbon fork allowing you to carry plenty of speed while banking the bike over. You’re never going to lose the sprint for the village sign either due to the rapid acceleration that the light weight and stiffness brings; it really does pick up speed like nothing I’ve ever ridden.
The ‘Omega’ carbon fibre frame was developed in collaboration with Ferrari engineers and is completely hand built in the Italian factory. Colnago sticks with its lugged construction which allows a huge range of sizes, 22 to be exact (14 traditional and 8 sloping) giving a virtually custom fit carbon frame. There are 150 different moulds in the factory and 30 different head tube lugs to accommodate all the variations. Each individual lug is made up of 12 layers of carbon cloth consisting of woven and uni-directional fibre sheets. The tubes are hand wound from pre-impregnated carbon fibre cloth as well; this allows the tubes to be laid up to control the composition and ride characteristics of each individual frame size.
Both the top tube and down tube are created using a mandrel to achieve the cloverleaf profile, the tubes include an internal I-beam rib which Colnago states is there to maximise stiffness. The top tube is tapered ranging from 40mm diameter at the head tube end where the larger stresses are placed down to 35mm at the seat tube end. At the front Colnago’s C-HS2 semi-integrated headset is used, being 1 1/8” top and bottom bucks the trend of most new frames as everyone seems to be going tapered. A Q2-Stay rear triangle has deep section chain and seat stays to keep thing stiff at the rear end. The flowing curves create a nice contrast to the almost harsh profile that the lugs create on the rest of the frame. All these parts are joined together using a high strength bonding agent which is then cured in a steel jig to enable perfect alignment.
While of course all the above is very important we all know that looking good is just as important and while some Colnagos have had some dodgy paint jobs in the past our test bike here certainly didn’t. Hand painted in the factory by the same guys that spray the pro BBox-Bouygues Telecom team bikes (Google Thomas Voeckler’s C59 French national champion paint job) among others the finish is a work of art. Each paint layer is cured in the oven before the next is applied, even the decals are painted using laser cut maskings. Full internal cable routing keep the frame looking clean and there is a flat section at the bottom bracket area ready for a Di2 battery if you go down that route.
Sold as a frame and fork package, equipment choice for your C59 is going to be up to you to decide what to hang from it. Ours came with a full 11 spd Campag Record groupset excluding the chainset. This is the first time I’ve ridden Campag’s newer style lever hood and I must admit that so far I prefer the older version – maybe they’ll grow on me, that aside the shifters and mechs worked faultlessly over the test period.
FSA supply the K-Force Light chainset along with matching handlebars and stem and even the brake callipers. The hollow cranks felt stiff and the chain shifted cleanly between the 50/34T rings even under load. The brakes worked just as well as anything from Shimano or Campag even on the carbon rims with plenty of modulation once the heat has built up which was no doubt helped by the yellow Swisstop pads. The bars and stem showed no flex whatsoever even during out of the saddle scooter chasing efforts, which is quite impressive considering the light weight.
In a nutshell everything our frame came built up with is all good quality kit and compliments the frame and fork in both performance and looks. SManie provide the saddle and bar tape. A company I’ve personally never come across, the saddle was very comfortable, to be fair I never paid much attention to it which I suppose is the sign of a good seat. The handlebar tape had a velvety style finish which looked good and was and should prove durable. FSA also provided the wheels with their 50mm deep Visionmax carbon rims, reasonably lightweight at around 1400g. There was a bit of flex under load but on the flat the aero advantage could be felt and they do make a lovely noise as they cut through the air.
By the time you’ve finished choosing parts that are going to reflect the quality of the frameset you’re going to be looking at a figure around the £6k mark and that is a serious amount of cash to be throwing at a bike. Is it worth it? In my opinion, yes, no matter how good you are it will flatter your riding style and just the feel good factor of riding it is a big boost. Comparing the ride to the Lapierre Xelius 900 tested by roadcc last year things are very similar, bearing in mind this was only £4600 for the complete bike using a similar spec build it goes to show that at this pro level point spending a lot more money doesn’t necessarily give a huge performance benefit.
The hand made in Italy moniker is always going to add a premium and as described above, the amount of work that goes into each frameset is time consuming. Top end Colnago’s never seem to date either, C40’s and C50’s still command high prices on the second hand market and this is what it’s all about, buying a bike for its style, its tradition, not just how it rides. With so many bikes coming now from the same factories with just different company logos to tell them apart the C59 is something a bit special. If you’ve got the cash and you’ve got to have one, whether for racing, sportives or just a potter round the lanes, go for it, you won’t regret it.