Colnago Extreme C
me say here and now, I'm an out and out Colnago convert. Which
means the following report may be slightly skewed and clouded by my
subjective judgement. Having said that, everything I've written is
I currently own five Colnago's. I have a Start on my turbo; a
Dream as my winter bike; a C40 which is my crit bike; an E1 which I've
used for racing but have "lent" to Dianne; and my current pride and joy;
an Extreme C for my sportives. I also had a C50, but six just
seemed obsessive, so I made sure it went to a good home. ~ Below is my
steed, as tested for this review.
All Colnago's are special, but some are more special than others.
The Extreme C is based on an evolution of the C50 that was originally created as a prototype for the Rabobank riders in
the Tour's mountain time trial up Alpe D’Huez in 2004.
The C50 family itself evolved from
the classic, five times Paris Roubaix wining, C40. Ernesto Colnago has been building
quality bikes from 1953; so obviously the C40
(Colnago 40 years) appeared
in 1993 and the C50, ten years later in 2003. The Extreme C and
Extreme Power are discipline specific variants of the C50 all rounder,
if such a derogatory term could be used for a Colnago.
The Extreme C has been put on a diet and the Extreme Power has been put
The palmares of Colnago
frames surpass all, and I mean all, others. This is a fact, not
just my jaundiced opinion. No other manufacturer, especially a
young upstart American firm, comes
near. There's a reason for that; the best riders in the world ride
the best bikes in the world. When pro's retire, they choose
Colnago's to ride. As my mate Bob says, that's because they're an
"old man's bike". He has a point, but there's a very good reason
As well as the best riders,
Colnago has formed technical partnerships with some of the worlds best
engineering firms. Ferrari and ATR led technology and expertise,
allow us mere mortals to reap space age dividends every time we throw a leg
over that autographed top tube. Here's why.
The C50 frame is made using
high-modulus carbon-fibre tubes and compression-moulded lugs from ATR
Composites. ATR build carbon race components for Aprilia, Ducati,
Lamborghini, Maserati and Porsche. Their race proven pedigree is
just a hairs-breadth away from aero-space technology. Other carbon
components may look the same, but trust me, they're not. I've seen
inside a Colnago lug and other manufacturers lugs. Just like me
and Brad Pitt, we may look the same from a distance, but close up...
Extreme C has angle cut lugs that save weight over their previously, full-sized,
straight-cut C50, counterparts.
But it seems less is more.
Because angled lugs actually give a greater bonding surface area than a
traditional straight-cut lug! This makes for a lighter, stiffer
joint that resists torsional stress and (for some reason unknown to me) offers a greater propensity to
dampen out road vibrations. How good is that?
The Master Tubeset profiles,
seen on the C50 are lost for the Extreme C. The tubes
are weight-saving round, and of a smaller diameter than their bigger, beefier,
bi-conic, siblings. They are lighter and torsionally stiffer than
fluted tubesets of a similar size. It's almost magic.
The front triangle components are also size
specific with diameter and tube thicknesses honed to suit their
individual task. Round tubes give a better stiffness to weight
ratio than fancy shapes. For example, to get the stiffness you need for an
Extreme Power, you'd have to have massively oversized (read
ugly) round tubes; hence the differing tube profiles for differing
Also lost on the Extreme, are the HP
chainstays. The C has beautiful oversized, curved Folio chainstays
which may lack the armchair comfort of the HP setup found on the 50 but if it doesn't benefit you
when climbing then you won't find in on the Extreme. The HP setup
may be more comfortable but they're slightly heavier than the Folio arrangement, so off they went.
What does remain is the
paradoxically stiff, yet dampening, B stay set up that feeds in to the top
of the seat tube. Again, you'll see from the photo above, the lug
is cut desperately short, not a gram of weight is kept if it isn't
needed. To this end, at the bottom of the 28mm seat tube you'll
find a slotted, removable, titanium bottom bracket shell. Another few grams shaved
and another innovation that adds value.
1 1/8th head tube has a "normal" headset setup. No hidden sets
here. Tradition, pragmatism and longevity are the order of the
day on a Colnago. Fashion will never triumph over engineering
Firing out of the head tube there's the greatest road fork
I've ever ridden. The Star Carbon forks transform a bike like you
wouldn't believe. I'd often wax lyrical over the C40's 1 inch set
up, but the C50's upgraded front wheel holder has to be one of the stiffest, most
direct, yet compliant forks on the market today.
Nothing but nothing carves a
turn like a star carbon fork. The front tyres whine with grief
every time I fire the bike in to my test curve which I try to take
without braking. It's my ultimate test for all my road tests.
Some bike (no matter how hard I tug on the bars) have crossed the white
line on the exit, others have brushed it. The C50 and the Extreme
both come in a foot under the line; such is the grip generated by the
rock solid fork.
At nearly £600
you wouldn't want to damage them. But to be honest, if I did, I'd
replace like for like in the blink of an eye.
My "normal" sportive wheels are
the gold, bling-tastic, Campag Shamals. They have to be the
best alloy wheels I've ever ridden. I bought them to replace my
year old Eurus wheels, which are probably the second best I've ever
The only reason I replaced the Eurus' was because the
Shamal's are lighter. If you're getting a super-light, climbing
specific bike, then you should, in my opinion, dress it with the best wheels you can
In Jersey I ride the bike
with Campag Hyperons. An absolutely astonishing wheel that feels
lighter than air and accelerates like you wouldn't believe. But
for this test; it's Campag Bora Ultra's, supplied courtesy of Pedal
Power Jersey, through their
53x39 on line
shopping mall. How lucky am I?
The Bora's make you faster.
It's a fact. Every time you come to a short rise or a signpost
looms ahead, you feel you just have to get out of the saddle and get the
"noise" going. Hyperons are probably more practical but the Bora's
just seem to gather momentum the faster you get them spinning.
The more you get them
spinning the more noise they make; the more noise they make the faster
you want to go. It's a self-defeating dilemma that's bound to have
you breathless. But trust me there is no better training aid!
Braking is almost as good as
an alloy wheel, as long as you use the Campag carbon specific brake
blocks. NEVER use your normal brake blocks on carbon rimmed
wheels. It has nothing to do with braking efficiency, because they
will stop you almost as well.
All it takes is a sliver of
alloy stuck in a "standard" brake block's compound and bam! Your
splendiferous, sexy, pride and joy gets sliced open like a hot sharp
thing going through a soft fat thing. Carbon rims will always come
off second best to slivers of alloy; never mix and match, you might live
to regret it.
In my opinion, you can't put Shimano on an Italian bike. I
still shudder every time I see a Rabobank photo!
I'm lucky enough to be able
to ride a Record groupset. Which is lighter than Dura Ace and
cheaper than SRAM, so it's a simple choice. The levers fit my
hands, I can blast through up to five gears in one lever swipe and I can
change up when sprinting, so top marks there then. Personally I
feel the proboscis Shimano levers are a victory of form over function.
Elegant they are not.
Admittedly Campag doesn't
have the silky smooth change of a Shimano but there's something that
appeals to the engineer in me when you get a solid, perfunctory,
mechanical, "snick" as the gear changes to its desired location.
You know it's in and you get instant mechanical feedback.
just ordered a pair of the pro-spec Record Rosso levers to stiffen up
the mechanical action. Campag have offered 600 pairs for "public
consumption." I'll report back when I get them.
The Skeleton Brakes are also
an engineering marvel. 30 grams lighter than the previous
class-busting Record set up with better modulation and control to boot.
With differential braking (double pivot front, single pivot rear) you
get much more control over your braking in the rain, on descents and in
"panic" situations. You have to be really clumsy or unlucky to
lock a skeleton rear wheel.
I'm an ITM man when it comes to bars
and stem. There's a super light magnesium The Stem, holding in
place a pair of Millenium Strada bars. Everyone tells me I could
go stiffer and get less flex. Why in bars, is stiffer better?
Riding seven hour sportives is hard enough without taking road buzz
through the arms the entire ride.
Atop the 28mm Colnago seat
post is a Fizik Arionne saddle. I know it's not the lightest in
the world but sometimes comfort has a place. And a saddle is
definitely it. Holding the bottles is a pair of Elite Potao cages.
I've ridden Roubaix, Flanders, Het Volk and a host of other cobbled
classic sportives and never even loosened a bottle. And they look
good to boot and come in two sizes for added sexiness.
Finally, there's my SRM,
professional, compact chainset, power meter. Probably the best
two-grand I've ever spent. There are other areas of this site that
extol the virtues of power meters so I won't bore you with details here.
The Tech Spec
Don't ever think you won't find a Colnago to fit you. None of
this, "five sizes will do, let's juggle seat pins and stems to fit" of
some other manufacturers. There are 30 different stock sizes on
offer and if you can't get one of them to fit, then there's a custom
All Colnago frames are built
within the ISO 9001 quality framework. It may mean nothing to most
people but to engineers it's a badge of quality honour. It also
ensure that all Colnago frames have passed stringent safety tests.
You won't find a weight
chart on the Colnago site but I can tell you that my bike, with a Record
Carbon chainset weighs in at 6.78 kilos, with the Arionne saddle and
Campag Record pedals.
Everyone tells me the traditional
Italian geometry of a Colnago gives a sluggish direction change and the
steering isn't the fastest. Well I'll be honest and say it's fast
enough for me. No one, and I mean no one, gets past me on a
Last year at
La Hubert Arbes I
slugged the 18k descent of the Tourmalet at an average of 58.8 kph.
In a mid-week practice descent I hit 98 kph on the upper slopes of the
Hautacam. Never had a speed wobble, never had a drama and never
once felt out of my comfort zone. The bike is as rock steady
descending as it is climbing.
The Extreme C tracks around
corners like you wouldn't believe. Colnago invented the straight
blade fork in 1987 with the assistance of Ferrari. All their
knowledge, skill and craftsmanship is in this fork. The whole of
the bike, and you, pivot around this vital piece of equipment that just
oozes confidence and can bring you back from the edge without any drama.
It's the heart of the bike.
There is no lateral flex and
no fore and aft shudder. I don't know how it works or how its
massive ridge and reinforced blades don't transfer every ripple of
tarmac through your body. It just absorbs road noise somewhere and
allows you to pull on the front brake until your finger nails bleed
without locking the wheel or tracking off line. I think the
professional writers call it sure-footed. Me; bloody marvellous!
The back end is slightly
harsher than the C50. This is due to the replacement of the HP
chainstays. The sacrifice of comfort over weight has triumphed in
this climbing-specific thoroughbred. And to be honest it's a price
worth paying. There is no discernable power loss, the bike still
glides forward with every pedal rev, especially with the Hyperons
fitted. But on the harshest of roads it feels different. I'm
not a good enough rider, or writer, to explain why. It's not
better or worse, it's just different. Besides, aesthetically the
HP stays just don't do it for me.
I'm not sure I'd be
comfortable riding Roubaix on an Extreme C but I did use it it for my
Flanders trip last weekend over the cobbled bergs of the Peter van Petegem sportive. The svelteness of the frame, compared to its butch
cousins, just makes you feel like you shouldn't be throwing the likes of
the Arenberg at it. But it did take the Molenberg and
others in its stride but I will be honest and say the C50 was more
forgiving. Maybe those HP stays aren't just a gimmick!.
There is absolutely no more
on this frame than you actually need. The passion, engineering,
precision and craftsmanship that go in to a Colnago mean they can only
be Italian. The finish of the paint work, the carbon weave, even
inside the frame (the bits you can't see) are absolute works of art that
are driven by one man's love for cycling, not a corporate's obsession
for profit margin and driving cost out of a product.
Bora wheels are so sexy it's scary. They climb well, accelerate
well, brake well and almost change direction as well as a Hyperon.
But not quite. For a climbing specific bike you need climbing
specific wheels and the Hyperons and Shamal's have it. For looks
and everything else, it has to be Bora's.
As for the rest? A
Colnago may not look the cutting edge of technology on the outside but
underneath everything is fit for purpose and the whole is greater than
the sum of the parts. Other bikes are lighter, stiffer, with more
gizmos and swirlyer tubes but very few will get near the overall
performance benchmark set
in a head to head against a Colnago.
Yes they're expensive, yes
they're indulgent and yes they're ridden by gentlemen racers. Ask
What makes me think I'm qualified to write articles and critique
bikes? Click here and I'll try to explain.