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Colnago C64: In-depth review

1 Aug 2019
Verdict:

The newest successor in Colnago's flagship handmade C-series dynasty redraws the blueprint and impresses from the outset

Cyclist Rating: 
Price: 
£4,099 framset only
For 
A true dream bike – sharp handling, stable descending, impressive comfort and firm power delivery
Against 
Pricey, but not much else

The Colnago C64 is the first bike that made me blush. One Saturday morning I pulled into a cafe, placed the C64 beside a dozen other bikes and looked up to see a flock of club riders ogling it shamelessly.

It made me a little self-conscious, and almost embarrassed for the poor inanimate object being, well... objectified.

But then, the C64 is built to attract cafe stares. What matters, though, is whether it’s more than merely a trophy bike. For those unfamiliar with the C64’s lineage, the C-series is a handmade carbon bicycle dynasty.

Buy the Colnago C64 frameset from Merlin Cycles here

It’s iconic for its crimped tube shapes and carbon lugs yet harks back to the stylish looks of classic steel builders. All C-bikes have always been available in custom geometry, and they’ve been at the forefront when it comes to technology, too.

The C59 was the first custom carbon road bike to feature disc brakes, way back in 2012.

The bottom bracket junctions of the last few generations have been technological marvels, if a little incomprehensible.

Colnago introduced the ThreadFit 82.5 bottom bracket with the C60, offering a ‘stiffer pedalling’ platform and a unique BB-standard. The C64 has been further redesigned with ‘more complexity than ever’.

‘It’s even more complicated than the C60 because the cable guide is modelled into the lug itself,’ says Colnago designer Davide Fumagalli.

Instead of a small plastic guide, the carbon shell has a cable channel modelled within it. While some have complained that the C64 looks very similar to its predecessor, a major visual change is in the seat tube and seatpost.

Where the C60 used a lug to join the top tube, seat tube and seatstays, the C64’s lug and seat tube are moulded as a single piece. It means the frame is a little more like a monocoque carbon frame and can use the same aerodynamically shaped seatpost as Colnago’s V2-R.

To my eye, this has modernised the entire look of the bike.

One of the biggest changes is a very simple one, though – the widening of tyre clearances.

Where the C60 struggled to fit 25mm tyres, the C64 boasts clearance of at least 28mm. Overall the bike features some thoughtful design and savvy engineering, but it’s time to look beyond the stats.

Thin end of the wedge.

In years past, I rode the C59 and C60 and found both to offer a rare balance of comfort, speed and agile handling that the best Italian builders do so well, and I can’t deny that I was more excited by the C64 than the recent monocoque offerings from Colnago, such as the V2-R and Concept.

Unfortunately, my first encounter with it left me grumbling. To assemble the C64 I had to tighten a bolt tucked behind the aerodynamic wing of the handlebar, but it was placed in such an awkward position that I could only get an allen key partially into the bolt hole at an exteme angle.

This meant I risked rounding off the bolt, which would have rendered the bike unusable at a stroke. With tentative care, I did manage to tighten the bars, but it’s still a poorly conceived aspect of the bike, and I’d recommend a conventional handlebar and stem over this aero design.

However, like all classic romcom storylines, from an awkward and frosty start the C64 began to charm me on all fronts, and I felt a beautiful relationship begin to emerge.

Gone with the wind

From the outset, the stiffness Colnago has targeted shines through. The bike responds to power input with decisive bursts of speed, but they’re coupled with a natural smoothness too. I first rode this bike on the well-maintained roads of Lanzarote, where the C64 simply glided over the tarmac.

Yet I also found that the stiffness through the back end of the bike let me feel the road beneath and make sharp, accurate steering corrections, all while filtering out any nasty shocks.

Not many bikes achieve all that at once. It bestowed a confidence that saw me get up to 88kmh on one descent (I don’t risk such speeds very often).

That’s possibly partly down to the bike’s front end, where Colnago uses an elastomer polymer in the headset that offers a very small but detectable degree of compression and suspension within the head tube. It means that while the fork is extremely stiff, the headset filters out some of the jolts.

On the lanes of Surrey, that type of compliance is pushed to the limit, where small road scars become gaping potholes and smooth tarmac is an abstract fantasy. I’d say on that terrain, the C64 is on the harsh side, but bearable.

I believe that with a set of 28mm tyres it could even be put to work on a cobbled Classic.

The frame comes in at just over 900g, which I found agreeable and noticeably lighter than the C60 (1,050g). A 7.12kg build with deep section wheels and Campagnolo Super Record EPS feels plenty light enough on a steep climb.

As for aerodynamics, the C64 isn’t specifically designed as an aero bike – Colnago has the Concept for that – but it does include more aerodynamic features than we would usually expect of a bike available in custom geometry.

While it’s hard to assess a bike’s aerodynamics outside a wind-tunnel, the C64 certainly holds speed well on the flat, and just feels fast.

Partly, if I’m honest, that sensation of speed is down to the sound resonance that the C64 achieves – it produces a perfect hum as it glides over the road. The Campagnolo Bora wheels also do a great job of holding speed, and it seems to take little effort to accelerate into a fast sprint.

Buy the Colnago C64 frameset from Merlin Cycles here

But there’s something else about the C64. The way it reacts to input from the rider is so sharp, so tuned, that it just made me want to turn the screw on my efforts whenever possible.

The C64 is a bike that manages to stand out even among rival superbikes for that very reason.

That’s quite possibly why Colnago has endured in popularity – the bike manages to foster a feeling of innate speed coupled with sharp, agile handling as if it were designed by sensation alone.

Step back from that fantastic ride quality and there’s a stunning bike, with a historic story and home-grown, custom-built Italian appeal.

A dream bike, some might say.

Price

The Colnago C64 frameset is currently 10% off with Merlin Cycles, retailing at £3,699,  available to buy here.

Spec

Frame Colnago C64
Groupset Campagnolo Super Record EPS
Brakes Campagnolo Super Record
Chainset Campagnolo Super Record
Cassette Campagnolo Super Record
Bars Colnago C64 carbon handlebar
Stem Colnago C64 carbon stem
Seatpost Colnago carbon seatpost
Saddle Prologo Scratch 2 saddle
Wheels Campagnolo Bora Ultra 50, Vittoria Corsa G+ 25mm tyres
Weight 7.21kg (56cm)
Contact windwave.co.uk

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