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Colnago goes big, respects history with new C60

  • By Caley Fretz
  • Published Mar. 5, 2014
  • Updated Mar. 6, 2014 at 8:13 AM EDT

VIAREGGIO, Italy (VN) — Since the debut of its C40 20 years ago, Colnago’s C-series frames have been a combination of history and technology, equal parts memoir and textbook. The latest iteration, launched officially on Wednesday, is no exception.

Ernesto Colnago set the parameters, as he always does. It must be stiffer, and lighter, he said. But it also must retain the company’s famous Master star-shaped tubes, a shape that has become synonymous with the Colnago brand. It must be built for longevity, and that most idiosyncratic of parameters, ride quality, must be the primary goal. It must be fast, but there is no need to eek every ounce of performance out of its carbon. “An emotional bike, with soul,” Ernesto says, describing his new baby as only an Italian can.

Colnago engineer Davide Fumagalli, a man with a doctorate in aerospace engineering, young enough to be Ernesto’s grandson, was tasked with applying composite technology to Mr. Colnago’s parameters. It was he who developed the new, massively oversized bottom bracket, the method by which Colnago has been able to apply the Master shape to its lugs, not just the center of the tubes, and the durable aluminum dropouts that, somehow, are lighter than many of their carbon brethren.

Emotional, with a soul. Stiff and light, utilizing advanced composite construction techniques. The two goals may seem at odds and yet, with Colnago, it seems to work.

But we still have questions. What, exactly, is the C60?

Even Colnago has trouble pinning it down into one of the myriad categories created by the bike industry in the last decade. A pure race frame? No, not exactly. The M10 is a better fit there. An endurance frame, à la Specialized Roubaix or Trek Domane? No, it’s not that either. The geometry isn’t right, and comfort-oriented gimmicks are conspicuously absent.

I’ve spent a week pondering this. And my only conclusion is that that the C60 simply does not fit into any of the major production-bike categories. It’s really closer to a hand-built frame, and people are likely to buy it for many of the same reasons — it’s made in small numbers, by hand in Italy, painted in such a way that each one is a bit unique, and though it is built with a nice dose of modern tech, it loathes to forget its roots. Geometry can be standard or custom. The price is astronomical. Like a hand-built frame, one buys it for these less tangible characteristics as much as for its technical prowess.

Nonetheless, that technical prowess tends to be what we are presented with at bike launches. Even Colnago knows that its origin story can only take it so far.

Colnago makes everything bigger in the C60

Like the C59, the C60 will be built in Colnago’s Cambiago, Italy, facility — across the street from the home of Ernesto Colnago himself. Much of Colnago’s production has moved overseas, but the company’s premier frames, including the steel Master x Lite and the C-series, are still “fatto in Italia.”

The overriding engineering theme of the C60 is a simple one: make everything bigger. The new design is intended to bring Colnago’s premium frame up to technological par with other top frames available today. It’s 140 grams lighter than the C59 (though it’s still not light, at 1045 grams), and a whole heap stiffer, yet it retains Colnago’s signature Master star-shaped tubes, and the traditional lugged construction that the company has used for decades. But the similarities between the C59 and C60 end there. Everything is bigger, wider, and stiffer.

Thanks to the C60’s lugged construction, it is easiest to consider the new frame in terms of each of its distinct parts. That’s how it is built, after all — like a jigsaw puzzle.

Building a C60 is simultaneously quite simple — not all that different from the first carbon bike the company produced 20 years ago, the C40 — and quite complicated. Construction is a simple process of gluing shaped tubes to identically shaped lugs; but the details of each of these components has a dramatic impact on ride quality. Ernesto Colnago made it clear to his engineers that the C60 had to retain the star-shaped tubes and traditional construction.

(As part of the product presentation, Colnago staff laughed as 20 somewhat esteemed international cycling journalists tried, and mostly failed, to put all the parts together themselves. It’s not so simple after all.)

The most obvious change is the new downtube, the largest individual tube ever produced by Colnago. It tapers dramatically, widest at the BB and narrowest at the head tube, and utilizes the Master shape from tip to tail.

The big downtube is matched to an equally oversized bottom bracket section, which itself is large enough to swallow the old C59 BB whole. The lugs emanating out from the bottom bracket itself use the same Master shape as the tubes, a new feature that Colnago claims improves stiffness and decreases weight.

The seat tube sees a similar size enhancement, jumping from 31mm in diameter to 55mm. The tube is now asymmetrical, with most of the increase in size occurring on the non-drive side, as the tube spreads out to fill the most of the width of new, wider bottom bracket shell. The increased seat tube diameter means the C60 will use a 31.6mm seatpost.

The chainstays now feature internal ribs for improved lateral stiffness and are tapered for a slight upward flex, and the seatstays use a conical design and tapered diameter, thinner at the dropouts than at the seat tube junction, along with a reduced wall thickness to decrease weight while improving comfort.

The dropouts are aluminum, but much slimmer in design than the C59 dropouts. That makes them much lighter, but still more durable than carbon dropouts, according to Fumagalli.

All of these changes are centered on one vital component: the bottom bracket and its associated lug. It appears massive and muscular next to the C59 version it replaces, and features a unique design called Threadfit 82.5.

At the heart of Threadfit 82.5 are two aluminum sleeves that thread together, creating a removable, replaceable bottom bracket shell that will accept a normal BB86 bottom bracket. The idea is to provide the stiffness of a wide press fit bottom bracket without the associated reliability and durability concerns — since the BB is pressed into a component that can be removed and replaced, there is no danger of permanent damage to the frame with poor installation. It adds a bit of weight relative to most press fit systems, but adds versatility.

The system is less likely to creak and groan, too, since the sleeve can be machined precisely. With carbon press fit shells, as are found on most carbon bikes these days, you’re stuck with whatever came out of the mold.

A disc version of the Colnago C60

A direct result of Fumagalli’s involvement in the engineering process is the inclusion of a disc brake version of the C60 frame. He’s an avid mountain biker, largely sold on the benefits of discs, and said that sticking to just rim brakes was never an option.

Colnago has partnered with Manitou to build a thru-axle disc fork with the company’s Hexlock15 standard, a system that allows for quick and easy axle removal (similar but not identical to the Focus system we reviewed not too long ago). It is quicker and easier, Fumagalli said, than a standard quick release.

The new thru-axle fork will be available at Eurobike in August, while the standard QR bike and fork are available now.

Colnago makes the C60 available in 12 color options

The C60 will be available in twelve color options plus a Europcar team edition, and the rim-brake version is available now. A disc version with a standard QR9 fork is also available now, with the thru-axle fork version coming for Eurobike in the fall.

Nine compact sizes will be available along with five traditional sizes. All sizes are guaranteed to accept a 25mm tire, though Colnago admitted that most 28mm tires will also fit.

Prices, at press time, were still yet to be decided.

Editor’s note: Colnago covered flights and a hotel stay in Viareggio, Italy, for VeloNews and other attending media outlets.

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Caley Fretz

Caley Fretz

Tech Editor Caley Fretz can usually be found chasing races along the backroads of Europe or testing bikes and gear in the mountains outside Boulder, Colorado. If you can't find him there, check the coffee shop across from VN World Headquarters.

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