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Colnago G3-X review

23 Nov 2020

Best suited to a rider who wants to go fast, everywhere, sticking to modest off-road trails and gravel forest roads. Photos: Mike Massaro

Cyclist Rating: 
Fast and efficient • Spritely feel
Weight of wheels

Think of Colnago and you’ll probably think of elegant steel-tubed road bikes and top-end carbon race bikes. What does Colnago know about riding off-road?

Quite a bit, as it happens. Cyclocross legend Sven Nys, who dominated the sport for nearly two decades, rode a Colnago cross bike for the majority of that time. He also rode a Colnago mountain bike in both the Beijing and London Olympics.

Add in the fact that Lars Boom and Wout van Aert have also won cyclocross world titles aboard Colnagos, and clearly the Italian brand is more than happy to get down and dirty.

For more on the Colnago G3-X, visit Colnago's website here.

That said, it was obvious from the outset of my testing where on the spectrum the G3-X gravel bike is pitched. This is not the sort of bike to leave you feeling short changed in terms of pace, on or off-road.

The relatively slick 38mm tyres only compound the feeling of speed that the frame’s solidity helps to deliver, especially on tarmac. But as R&D manager Davide Fumagalli explains, the G3-X is not trying to be a bike that suits all types of rider.

Race ready

‘There are many different shades of gravel and I don’t think you can design a bike that can really tick all the boxes,’ he says. ‘We decided we would start with a project close to the racing heritage Colnago comes from, so the G3-X is something more aligned to “gravel race” than, say, bikepacking.

‘We started from our Prestige [cyclocross race bike] geometry but we optimised around a 40mm tyre, plus adjusted the reach more for the targeted use.

Overall, though, the sensation of stiffness and precise handling characteristics should feel similar to a road bike.’

Fumagalli suggests the frame stiffness is on par with Colnago’s flagship race bike, the V3Rs, and indeed the G3-X shares a lot of similarities in terms of construction, but there is one crucial difference under the skin:

‘We changed the carbon fibre layup to increase the wall thickness of tubes in certain areas, as we felt the super-thin tubing used on the V3Rs would be too much at risk of damage.’

Further evidence that Colnago is mindful of the potential damage to carbon tubes is the inclusion of a rubber bash guard attached to the underside of the down tube and bottom bracket, designed to protect the frame against stones and debris being flicked up from the trail.

It’s a nice touch, but does add to the frame weight that comes in at a claimed 1.05kg for a 52s (about the same size as a standard 56cm frame).

This test bike snuck in at a smidgen under 9kg. That’s not the lightest by any means for a carbon gravel bike, and I’d suggest a good portion of the reason for that lies with the relatively budget set of alloy Shimano RS370 wheels that weigh nearly 2kg on their own.

Surprisingly, that didn’t seem to detract from the bike’s lively ride feel. On the road it felt rapid, encouraging an aggressive riding style and leaving me wanting for nothing on a pacy group ride.

What came as a little more of a surprise was how the bike performed when I left the road and swung onto the trails. The G3-X showed itself to be pretty adept on the rough stuff too, which rather went against my predictions.

Given the frame’s stiffness, I expected to find myself being flung around like a pinball, but that sort of wild ride never happened.

On gravel forest roads I could ride happily at speed, and when I pointed the bike down some twisty, root-infested singletrack it surprised me again by proving to be remarkably stable.

It’s not the smoothest gravel bike ever, but I can make allowances for that, and comfort could easily be improved by switching to bigger tyres. The G3-X can take up to 700x42mm and 650x47mm.

Know your place

Aside from the top-box mounts on the top tube, there are no mounting points for luggage or even mudguards, so if you’re thinking of multi-day trips into the wilderness then there are more appropriate choices than the G3-X (although, Fumagalli says, Colnago is working on its own range of bikepacking bags).

For more on the Colnago G3-X, visit Colnago's website here.

The G3-X is a bike best suited to a rider who wants to go fast, and who is planning to stick mainly to modest trails and gravel forest roads.

As such, if you’re a road rider looking to transition to gravel, or even to do some off-road racing such as the Dirty Reiver, the G3-X is a great choice.

Pick of the kit

Endura Pro SL bibshorts, £119.99,

Uniquely, Endura offers its latest 2020 Pro SL in three pad widths and two leg-length options. This helps achieve a precise fit and appreciably increases performance, with exceptional comfort and zero irritation.

The high-quality fabrics and pre-contoured construction strike a good balance, feeling supportive (so the bib straps almost seem superfluous) while not being at all restrictive.

They’re also a very reasonable price, especially with the safety net of Endura’s no-quibble, 90-day, money-back guarantee.


Get some e-assistance

If a bit of motorised pedal assistance would help extend your gravel adventures, Colnago’s eGRV range (from £5,000) is based on a similar frame construction as our G3-X test bike.

Not ready for gravel?

If you want a pure road bike, opt instead for Colnago’s flagship V3Rs, as ridden by the likes of Fabio Aru and Tadej Pogačar of UAE Team Emirates. Pictured here in Sram Red eTap AXS spec, it will cost you £8,000.


Frame Colnago G3-X
Groupset Shimano GRX Di2
Brakes Shimano GRX Di2
Chainset Shimano GRX Di2
Cassette Shimano GRX Di2
Bars Deda Gravel100 
Stem Deda Zero1
Seatpost Colnago carbon
Saddle Prologo Proxim
Wheels Shimano RS370 Disc, Hutchinson Overide 38mm tyres 
Weight 8.97kg (size 52s)
£2,500 frameset, complete bike as tested £4,900