how lucky can you get?
before i start this review, i should point out that this is by far the highest quality bike i have ever ridden, so many of the superlatives that i may be persuaded to use below, could conceivably apply to other top range bikes. i really have no idea (a criticism levelled at me on many an occasion).
the frame is a 54cm (centre to top) carbon fibre colnago c40 hp (high power), distinguished from the 'regular' c40 by the diamond shaped cutouts in the chainstays. unlike many carbon frames, the colnago is joined together using carbon fibre lugs into which the tubes are bonded using a colnago patented process. the seatstays exit a single point in the seat-tube lug creating the widely known 'b-stay'. the use of lugs allows colnago to customise the geometry according to the frame size thereby offering a full range of sizes instead of the more usual small, medium or large for one or two other full carbon frames.
this is the closest i'm ever likely to get to a ferrari, since all the carbon tubes and lugs are manufactured by ferrari's composites facility, and shipped to colnago for bicycle construction at their factory. in the ten years that the c40 has been in production, it has proved to be particularly sturdy - breakage in normal use appears not to be a concern. the top tube and down tube are both fluted, similar to colnago's steel master frame. whether this actually increases rigidity is open to debate, but it does look rather cool.
i can't remember the code number pertaining to the colour scheme on this particular bike, but it starts as a metallic silver at the head tube and blurs into a rather rich metallic blue as it heads along top and down tubes. the metallic silver puts in another appearance at the bottom bracket. there's some nifty whirls and colnago logos painted on top and down tubes, but the paint fades away as the seat tube and seatstays arrive, leaving bare carbon weave covered by a high gloss clearcoat.
the only metal parts on the frame are the inserts in the head tube to take the headset, and a titanium insert in the bottom bracket lug to accept the bottom bracket.
this particular frame was ordered with the colnago carbon force fork which, similarly to the higher priced star fork, is all carbon including the steerer, but with alloy dropouts. the star fork has carbon dropouts. since the roads round these parts are in a rather sorry state, i figured alloy dropouts would be a safer bet. the steerer, while carbon, is particularly 'thick' carbon, so there are no worries about strength there. on a trivial and trainspotting note, on the original c40, the letter/numbers 'c40' used to appear at an angle towards the top of the seat tube with the word 'carbon' on the rear right of the top tube. on the hp version, the c40 has disappeared from the seat tube and re-appeared at the rear right of the top tube. c40hp now appears above the cutouts on the seatstays (see photo)
this bike has a mixture of campagnolo's top groupsets, since the thought of putting shimano on a colnago gives me the shivers (though it doesn't seem to do rabobank any real harm). the headset, bottom bracket and ergo levers (carbon) are all campagnolo record. the brakes (with differential rear caliper), chainset, gear mechs, pro-fit pedals, and cassette are all from the second rung chorus groupset. the seatpost is a colnago carbon model (28.0mm) and the ahead-stem is a colnago badged itm alloy, as are the non anatomic itm alloy bars (44cm). the saddle is a san marco colnago hoskar model. chain is a campag record and chainrings were a rather standard 53/39. the whole colnago theme was topped off with colnago logo cork ribbon. the all up weight is around the 17lb mark - it is easily possible to lift the bike with one finger, and i find that very impressive. only controversy seems to surround the colnago seatpost; height adjustment is by a 5mm allen bolt at the rear and an 8mm bolt at the front, thereby giving a very accurate angle adjustment. there are certainly easier ways to set the angle of a saddle using only one bolt but, to be honest, once set it's not the sort of thing you have to alter everyday.
the campag ten speed gear set-up worked straight out the box, with which i was very surprised. having fitted the cable in the right-hand ergoshifter, the cable was pulled finger tight with the chain on the eleven sprocket. two anti-clockwise turns on the adjuster to shift up to the twelve and the gears have worked impeccably ever since. now how often does that happen?
nothing too special, just a pair of hand-builts using older (circa 1998) campag record hubs, dt swiss double butted stainless steel spokes laced three cross into the thirty two eyeleted holes on a pair of mavic reflex anodised rims. i've actually got three pairs of wheels: the above mentioned, a similar setup but with a chorus front hub, and my 'training' wheels which are veloce hubs on rather heavy ambrosio black rims.
how does it ride?
unbelievably. having pedalled a steel colnago superissimo for the past six years, and having very seriously considered the purchase of a colnago master x-lite because i like steel frames, i was absolutely flabbergasted at the difference a carbon frame made to the riding experience.
very much a plus for me is a top tube that is about 1cm longer than that on the superissimo. i have rather long arms and this increases the degree of comfort on longer rides as far as i am concerned. having read one or two reviews of carbon frames that alluded to a certain 'deadness', the c40 doesn't even come close to this description. since islay's roads are not in the best of condition, particularly over the west side, there are a lot of bumps for a frame to soak up. while the steel managed this reasonably well, the carbon frame and forks make an even better job.
according to colnago, scientific testing shows the diamond cutouts in the chainstays to be more laterally stiff, while being more vertically compliant. now while i remember writing a washingmachinepost ridiculing this 'development' when it appeared last year, i now must eat my words because i really think they're right. when sprinting to catch up a cycling companion the other day, i swear you could feel the back wheel biting into the road and propelling rider and bike forward without any misdirection of energy. and it has allowed me to cycle up bowmore main street (about 14%) while seated with two sprockets to spare on an 11/23 cassette. and i've never managed that before.
on tight downhills (which are, admittedly, rather rare on islay), the bike corners as if on rails, and i am far more confident on tight corners than i have been over the past six years. it also definitely exhibits mountain goat tendencies when the road goes up. as somebody who has spent a whole career trying to emulate robert millar in the climbing stakes, this is an absolute delight - enjoyment doesn't begin to describe it.
the average speed has gone up by around 4kph in the past month, part of which is due to the shedding of about five pounds over the superissimo, and partly due to the sheer joy of cycling a c40. the more you put into this bike, the more it rewards your exhuberance.
overall there is a very high degree of manoeuverability no matter how you choose to cycle, and it is highly indicative to note that, aside from time trials, rabobank used their c40hps for every stage in the recently completed tour - there were no special frames for the mountains. yaroslav popovych of landbouwkrediet colnago took third place in the giro on a c50 prototype which purports to be 200g lighter in the frame, but ernesto has said when the latter is available later this year, it will be only as a complete bike, similar to the colnago ferraris. the c40 however, will continue to be available for quite some time yet. bearing in mind the fun i've had over the last month, i wish i'd bought a c40 years ago.
really, this is one of those occasions when if you have to ask
suffice to say that you could buy a decent second-hand car for the amount of money involved, but then who would want to? i have never had this much fun from driving a car. in fact i don't actually like driving at all. and if you owned one of these, neither would you:-)
colnagos are officially imported into the uk by madison and sold through a network of specialist authorised dealers. however, mike berry of maestro uk has been retailing colnagos in the uk (and the usa) for a lot longer than madison. and because he gets them straight from colnago in italy, the prices are a bit keener. during my process of researching just which colnago i was going to acquire as a replacement for the superissimo, i telephoned a number of colnago dealers for various bits of information, and even e-mailed madison direct. none were able to give me the depth of information and personal advice that i got from maestro. add to that the fact that i faxed mike a list of just exactly how i wanted my c40, and what components i wanted. within half a day he had e-mailed a detailed costing of every component and a total cost.
if you remember that i live on a west coast scottish island, the fact that the bike was despatched within three days of order and received less than a week later is quite impressive. not only that, but the order was sent united parcel service along with a tracking number that allowed me to check the status of my bike while it passed through the wonderful, but secret world of uk haulage contractors.
since it's not possible for maestro to send complete bikes by carrier, everything arrived in little boxes, with the frame and forks securely wrapped in bubble wrap. i had asked that the headset and bottom bracket be fitted to the frame before despatch, since i do not have the necessary tool for fitting headsets to frames and not too sure if i possessed the appropriate bb tool.
the forks were left with a full length steerer since i didn't know at what height i would need to set the bars. i have to say that cutting a few inches of carbon fibre with a hacksaw from the top of a pair of £300 forks is not something i would recommend to the faint hearted, but at least i got it right.
building the rest of the bike was comparatively easy, but i have been doing this sort of thing for years - whether this is a practical state of affairs for others with less technical ability and fewer workshop tools i wouldn't like to say. i would, however, definitely recommend purchasing your colnago from maestro and i'm sure mike could arrange something for those less willing to emulate a rabobank mechanic. check the website at www.maestro-uk.com
as you can probably gather, i am extremely happy with my purchase and with the service i received when making the purchase. while it could conceivably be seen as a poser's purchase by somebody who doesn't race at all, believe me, on islay there's only about one other person that might just be impressed and he's the ds at vc port wemyss. flash bikes don't impress much on islay. oh, and in a climate like islay's, the major boon is that the frame won't rust
on a slightly different note, my regular reader will have noted the addition of a 'colnago c40' rollover to the left. this contains a reprint of a recent article featured in cycle sport magazine, which they were very kind to let me present here (because i'm a colnago geek) i have also found an excellent review of the colnago c40hp here
i have been asked to add the following link to the post by wheelygoodcause. they're a cycling club dedicated to arranging epic rides for charity and do not charge charities for the pleasure. They ride because they want to, and the next ride takes them from st malo to biarittz and then across the raid pyrenees. so i have. and here it is.
Remember, you can still read the review of 'the dancing chain' the utterly excellent book on the history of the derailleur bicycle by clicking here
any of the books reviewed on the washing machine post can probably be purchased from amazon.co.uk or amazon.com
as always, if you have any comments on this nonsense, please feel free to e-mail and thanks for reading.
this column almost never appears in the dead tree version of the ileach but appears, regular as clockwork on this website every two weeks. (ok so i lied) sometimes there are bits added in between times, but it all adds to the excitement.
on a completely unrelated topic, ie nothing to do with bicycles, every aspect of the washing machine post was created on apple macintosh powerbook g4, ibook and imac computers, using adobe golive 5 and adobe photoshop 7. needless to say it is also best viewed on an apple macintosh computer.