As part of our mega guide to the best bikes on the market, we look at the Colnago Concept and others that simply ooze history.
Colnago Concept (frame, fork, headset, and seatpost), $4,999
It’s difficult to find a bike brand with a more impressive pedigree. Founded in Cambiago, Italy, in 1954, Colnago has claimed 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 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-1980s with distinctive lobed tubes, and the C40, which debuted in the mid-1990s 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 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 a “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. (My least favourite thing about aero bikes is how they amplify every noise).
The geometry is essentially identical to other Colnagos, and so is the handling. It’s more neutral than the typical 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 bejeezus out of the rider.