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Colnago V1-r review

Colnago V1-r review
30 Apr 2015
Verdict:

The V1-r is Colnago's latest collaboration with Ferrari, but is it a stallion worthy of the legendary prancing horse?

Price: 
£3000

Colnago needs as little introduction in the bicycle world as Ferrari does in automotive circles, so it’s fitting that the two Italian legends have once more collaborated, just as they did to create the first carbon Colnago frames in the mid-1980s. Enzo Ferrari may no longer be alive to see the V1-r bear his company’s legendary Cavallino Rampante (prancing horse) and Ernesto Colnago, now 83, may no longer be on the workshop floor as he would have been back then, but the powerful influence of both men lives strong, and it’s a bit of that magic I was hoping to find rekindled at the heart of this latest creation. 

With its enviable heritage, Colnago has never seen the need to entice potential customers with hi-tech claims or reams of performance statistics – but times are changing. Not only has competition grown fierce in the marketplace, so too the pro teams (Colnago sponsors Team Europcar) are increasingly demanding those all-important marginal gains, and I believe the V1-r is Colnago’s response. It was launched at almost the same moment as its latest flagship C60 last autumn, and it feels as if the two bikes are designed to fulfil different needs. The C60 is pure Colnago, in the best traditions of the brand, while the V1-r is made to compete against the army of superlight and aero bikes that are appealing to a new breed of tech-savvy racers.

Frame

Colnago V1-r frame

The Taiwanese made V1-r is the lightest frame to ever bear the Colnago logo, thanks in part to Ferrari bringing its carbon fibre expertise to the project by guiding the material choices and lay-up. At a claimed 835g it’s lighter than the Pinarello Dogma F8 but still a bit behind the mark set by the likes of the Cannondale SuperSix Evo and Trek Émonda. Of course, the other subject matter that a team of leading F1 engineers knows a thing or two about is aerodynamics, and it’s clear the V1-r has been given more than just a bit of attention in this regard. Practically every tube has been contoured, predominantly conforming to the truncated aerofoil (Kammtail) principle, with rounded leading edges and a squared-off tail. This, Colnago claims (in line with other notables using the same concept), offers the best of both worlds, providing similar benefits to a classic teardrop aerofoil shape, but by removing the tail improving its all-round performance in mixed wind directions.

Colnago V1-r headtube

My relationship with the V1-r began positively. Our test model arrived as just a frame, so I had the freedom to build it up as I liked. I initially set the bike up with a solid carbon San Marco Aspide Superleggera saddle, thinking my first few rides would probably be fairly brief and I could swap it for something more padded if it proved to be uncomfortable. Rather unexpectedly, more than five hours into my first outing I hadn’t even thought about it, and a further hour later I arrived home still none the worse for the experience. 

I’d classify the ride feel as being at the firmer end of the spectrum but not uncomfortable, especially given my unforgiving perch, which at least allowed me to feel precisely what the frame was dishing out in terms of bump forces. It wasn’t so much that the bike was negating the harshness of the saddle – a lack of padding doesn’t necessarily mean it will be painful to sit on (see p45) – but it was nonetheless a good insight into the way the frame coped with vibrations from the road. And, in fact, the full-carbon saddle stayed put throughout my testing as I never felt the need to swap it. 

The ride

Colnago V1-r bottom bracket

I was fortunate enough to have an enviable spec for the V1-r, including Campagnolo’s limited-edition Super Record RS groupset and Mavic’s 125th Anniversary Ksyrium wheels. It left very little room for improvement, and the resulting weight was a mere 6.5kg. I realised quickly that the V1-r was going to flatter my every effort. It’s a solid build with a robustly engineered bottom bracket shell that facilitates a wide connection with the down tube. It felt practically immovable beneath my pedal strokes. The front end too delivers solidity through the fork into the head tube, backed up by the pleasingly stiff Deda bar and stem combination. 

The top tube is beefier than many top-end lightweight frames, but I think it’s a few extra grams well spent, given the crucial supporting role it plays in keeping the rear and front end tightly connected. However I rode the V1-r, be it in or out of the saddle, hunkered down to force the pace or leaning deep into a corner, there was no doubting its capabilities. It’s a bike that cheekily encourages you to push even harder. 

Colnago V1-r ride

It’s rare I test a bike without finding a few chinks in its armour, though. Firstly, that old rear brake issue rears its ugly head once more. As I’ve said before about this odd trend for mounting the rear calliper under the chainstays, it brings more problems than benefits. Frequent pad rub, fiddly set-up and a soft, poorly modulated lever feel were a few of the issues I experienced. The direct mount front brake feels superb, but this further highlights the poorly performing rear. Also, while not directly a fault of the bike, the Super Record RS gears required constant tweaking to keep them quiet, something that the other groupset manufacturers seem to have sorted long ago. 

I’m sure these niggles could be overcome, or at least reduced to a more acceptable level, so they’re not really deal breakers. It’s undeniably fast and very capable at speed, but I’d stop short of outstanding. If you want to whip up steep inclines the V1-r is not going to hold you back, but it’s not the best mountain climber I’ve ridden. 

Aerodynamics are tough to assess from road tests alone, and again the V1-r is certainly no slouch, but it’s not the strongest performer in this field either. So, where does that leave it? It’s hard to pinpoint the outstanding feature that would make this bike a must-buy, other than the fact that it is, after all, a Colnago. For many people that will be enough, especially given the Ferrari collaboration on this model. For me, though, I expected those two legendary heads to have come together to produce something extraordinary, but while I enjoyed the ride, I didn’t feel the magic. 

Geometry

Geometry chart
56cm Claimed
Top Tube (TT) 580mm
Seat Tube (ST) 560mm
Head Tube (HT) 190mm
Seat Angle (SA) 72.72

Spec

Colnago V1-r (as tested)
Frame Colnago V1-r
Groupset Campagnolo Super Record RS
Brakes Colnago V1-r direct mount brakes
Chainset
Cassette
Bars Deda Superleggera
Stem Deda Superleggera
Seatpost Colnago V1-r
Wheels Mavic Ksyrium 125 Year anniversary
Tyres
Saddle San Marco Aspide
Contact windwave.co.uk

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