5 Drool-Worthy Dream Bikes
Well, for starters, it’s difficult to find a bike brand with a more impressive pedigree than Colnago. Founded in Cambiago, Italy, in 1954, Colnago claims victories in Grand Tours, spring Classics, world championships, the Olympics, and hour-record attempts. And it has worked with some of the greatest racers of all time, including the likes of Merckx, Saronni, Dancelli, Motta, Maertens, Museeuw, Freire, Fondriest, Ballerini, Rominger, Petacchi, and Zabel.
BUT WHY AN AERO COLNAGO – ISN’T THAT, LIKE, ANTI-HERITAGE?
Nope. Colnago embodies a living and breathing heritage, not some artfully packaged nostalgia. The former racer and race mechanic in founder Ernesto Colnago – who, at 85, still walks across the street from his home to work at the headquarters every day – has always inspired him to experiment prolifically.
Two of his most legendary frames are the Master, a steel frame that wowed the world in the mid-80s with its distinctive lobed tubes, and the C40, which debuted in the mid-90s and was perhaps the first truly great carbon-fibre racing bicycle. Colnago’s heritage is steeped in tinkering and seeking every advantage.
Colnago is racing; and today, racing is aero. In the 2016 Tour de France, riders on bikes that claim some kind of aero optimisation won 15 of the 19 full-length stages.
OH. OKAY… I’M IN!
You should be. Though it is an aerodynamic bike, the most striking thing about the Concept is how smoothly it rides. And that’s not followed by the ‘for an aero bike’ asterisk.
The Concept busts a few other aero-bike asterisks too. The frame has none of the wobbly sensation early aero bikes could be plagued with. This one is stiff and responsive: it jumps when you jump, with no mushiness at the bottom bracket or rear wheel, and feels crisp and powerful when you’re sprinting. It’s also as quiet as a normal bike.
The geometry is essentially identical to other Colnagos, and so is the handling. It’s more neutral than the typical American crit-style frame, which means it takes a slightly more deliberate push on the bar to tip it into a turn, or make mid-corner corrections. It still dives through corners with precision, and while giving good – though not great –feedback. Overall, the steering is supreme: agile enough for tight pack riding, composed at high speeds when the rider is folded into a tuck, and able to carve up technical descents without scaring the bejeebers out of the rider.
The Concept is also user-friendly, compared with many other aero road bikes. It has a standard bar and stem, and easily accessible direct-mount brakes. Routing for cables is comparatively straightforward. These details probably harm the aerodynamics, but we think it’s a worthy trade-off for the non-pro.
HMMMM… ANY OTHER TRADE-OFFS?
Well, the one aero-bike asterisk it can’t avoid is weight. It’s a little heavy for a high-end racing bike (but not an aero bike), which somewhat mutes its explosiveness relative to a traditional race bike; though it still feels quick, and you can always upgrade other parts to make it lighter and more in line with its contemporaries.
Also – and this might complicate your decision – I’m not saying the Concept is the best Colnago. Without question, that distinction goes to the C60. The only carbon frame Colnago makes in Italy, the C60 is a more traditionally envisioned bike that is executed to such a sublime level that the comfort, performance, and handling make it one of the most special bikes in the world.
Even so, if you want a frame from a brand with heritage that epitomises what created that heritage, you want the Concept. (But you’ve never ridden anything like the C60.)
PRICE: R61 900 (frameset)
GET IT NOW: alpinesports.co.za
Basso Diamante MAAP
Italian brand Basso (no relation to retired pro rider Ivan Basso) isn’t widely known in SA, yet it’s been around for 40 years. Every bike is manufactured, painted, and assembled in Vicenza, Italy.
Basso co-sponsors a Melbourne-based amateur race team with Australian apparel company MAAP, and the two co-designed this striking paint scheme (also available in four other colours). This bike does not blend in.
Look at MAAP’s apparel line and you’ll see where the inspiration comes from. The company didn’t just slap its logo onto this bike – it blended its style with it.
PRICE: R89 999
GET IT NOW: bikemob.co.za
The Rca is Cervélo’s pinnacle product. It was preceded by the R5ca, which was so cutting-edge when it was introduced seven years ago, it would still be among the lightest and best-riding race bikes today.
And yet Cervélo surpassed that with the latest Rca, shaving off 63 grams – while improving stiffness, ride quality, and aerodynamics – for an incredible 667 grams for a 54cm frame, with all hardware. Its fork is just 277 grams!
But that’s not all. It also has excellent overall frame stiffness, especially at the bottom bracket – even more so than the next race bike in Cervélo’s line, the R5. Cervélo also claims that the Rca fork is its stiffest laterally, for accurate handling and a smoother ride.
PRICE: R140 000 (frameset)
GET IT NOW: twowheelstrading.co.za
I WANT TO GO OVAL
It may sound counter-intuitive, but there’s substantial scientific evidence to show oval chainrings supply better power transfer than normal rings – not to mention a smoother and more efficient pedal stroke. Absolute Black have been at the forefront of oval development for several years, and are the go-to guys when it comes to this somewhat dark art.
The rings work a treat on both road and mountain bikes, the only difference being the narrow/wide teeth on 1x MTB rings, which help prevent chain drop and the like. In terms of road stock, the chain pick-ups are different in that they feature a nifty grooved surface, as opposed to normal pin-based items. And they work superbly, transferring chain between blades seamlessly and without delay. They’re also appreciably light and look bad-ass in full flight – they’ll mesmerise your rivals. Go to absoluteblack.cc.
Bianchi Oltre XR4 Campagnolo Super Record
In 2013 bianchi started weaving CounterVail, a vibration-damping viscoelastic material, into the carbon fibre of its road frames. The first CounterVail model was the Infinito, aimed at the spring classics.
The material worked its way into all the company’s premium offerings, including the super-light Specialissima road race bike, with each subsequent CounterVail bike riding better than the ones that came before. Bianchi’s newest road frame, the aerodynamic Oltre XR4, tops them all for most of our testers.
The Oltre XR4 is positioned as an all-round model for road racing and riding. In designing the bike, Bianchi were careful to pay attention to overall performance, not only watt savings; intending to craft a frame that, above all else, would be comfortable. The theory: if you aren’t fighting a harsh ride, you will go faster. Adding CounterVail helped engineers meet that goal.
I rode the Oltre XR4 up and around hills, down old roads, in strong winds, and on routes that serpentine around farms.
It’s easy to forget the Oltre XR4 is an aerodynamic bike, both in looks and by its ride. If you’re in love with Bianchi’s heritage, you’ll appreciate that the frame utilises subtle tube shaping to give the bike a classic look.
And on the ride, the characteristic, severe aero-bike feel is totally absent. The only other aero model I’ve ridden that comes close in terms of suppleness is the Trek Madone 9-Series. The XR4 feels even nearer to the feathery-light but noticeably less rigid Bianchi Specialissima road race model in terms of ability to soak up and deaden road noise and chatter. Despite all that smoothness, the bike absolutely flies.
Under normal riding conditions – just riding along, or doing a bit of tempo work – the XR4 is smooth; small vibrations are hushed by the comfort that CounterVail brings to the ride. I also had plenty of opportunity to lash the bike, playfully charging streetlight sprints on group gallops and tackling short, punchy hills. Frame stiffness is respectable, whether you’re driving the bike around bends (there’s little flex through the front triangle) or flogging it in a sprint.
The geometry and length put the rider in a good position for fast riding, without sacrificing balance and comfort. Head and seat angles fall just to the sedate side of aggressive, and a long and low layout means you can hunch down and really drive it.
The one-piece Vision Metron bar/stem combo does make it a little trickier to accommodate fit – on my 53cm tester, I would have preferred a slightly longer stem than the 100mm that came stock – but Bianchi will be offering different sizes, and will swop them through your dealer at no charge.
The Oltre XR4 is a great example of what a modern aero bike can be: fast, smooth, good-looking. If you’re still asking why this is the Bianchi to buy, here’s your answer: a bike like this doesn’t just happen.
It was born of Bianchi’s passion for pushing the design envelope, and a relentless commitment to improvement. The Oltre XR4 is the best example of that mission in Bianchi’s line-up.
PRICE: R158 950
WEIGHT: 6.4kg (53CM)
GET IT NOW: jjcycling.co.za
Raleigh Grand Vitesse
I drove a toffee-apple-red, 1972 Ford F100 – manual steering, column shift, no damn radio – until I couldn’t anymore. At eight months pregnant, slipping a lap seatbelt under my belly wasn’t just uncomfortable, it was irresponsible. So I parked the truck and bought a Subaru.
While I missed the throaty rumble of the Ford’s exhaust when I hit the accelerator, the way it hummed across the road like a tank, and how indestructible I felt inside its steel cab, I embraced my new car’s modern amenities.
I live my life this way – torn between the romance of classic vintage and the appeal of modern convenience. I recently came close to scrapping my 1950s oven and replacing it with a new stainless model. Then, patience and perseverance led me to a company that makes custom parts for vintage appliances, and the decision to fix it was a no-brainer – even though I was beginning to like the idea of owning something new.
But sometimes you can have both.
The Grand Vitesse is one of five bikes in Raleigh’s Heritage line, which stems from the company’s deep history and love of steel. The bike has classic looks, but uses modern components.
Its tubes are constructed of 853 Reynolds steel, which is heat-treated and air-cooled to make it stronger while allowing for thinner walls, resulting in a lighter frame. A carbon fork increases comfort and performance, and shaves weight. The Shimano Ultegra drivetrain clicks through gears with a lively feel, and when the ground beneath turns to gravel, the Clement Strada 28mm tyres move across the earth with poise.
My first ride alone was so deafeningly tranquil, I talked to myself – out loud. And my first fast-paced group ride was so much mindless fun, I got 10 achievements on Strava. When I wasn’t in the mood for Lycra, the Vitesse’s casual, non-racy position made for a worthy street-clothes commuter.
But if you know anything about steel bicycles, you know the fun doesn’t end where the pavement stops.
That with them comes a natural trustworthiness, the kind that says, yes, it’s acceptable to fly down the steep, grassy hill with your eyes watering. Go ahead – race your nine-year-old on that washed-out dirt road. And while you’re at it, test the bike’s patience across a soft, ploughed cornfield not yet hardened by winter.
The original bicycle frame material has already earned its wings, but it will never stop teaching you new ways to fly.
PRICE: R39 000
WEIGHT: 9.2kg (54CM)
GET IT NOW: evogroupsa.com