Colnago CLX 2.0

Colnago has been one of the most sought-after, most coveted brands in cycling for longer than I’ve been alive. They’ve managed this in spite of themselves. Most riders I know who’ve owned a steel Colnago also have a story about a broken dropout or chainstay. Brazing has not always been as up to snuff as their painting.

That Colnago has succeeded in spite of this shouldn’t surprise us. Witness brands like Toyota that have suffered quality control issues and endured, with little scuffing to their reputations.

What has made Colnago a lasting symbol for bike lust has been the company’s ability to stay ahead of trends, trade on a quintessential expression of Italy’s che passione and associate itself with many of the world’s finest teams and racers. This last may be the single most important ingredient in what Colnago has achieved. The company’s ties to racing virtually ensure that every bike magazine on the planet will run a photo that shows a Colnago each issue.

Colnago has tried more ideas than any other bike company I can think of. Some of its more adventurous designs elicit guffaws of laughter that even a 1980s mullet can’t conjure. But some of those oddball designs paid off as well. I have two friends who still sing praises for the Bi-Titanio—the titanium double-down tubed frame that was supposed to offer increased lateral rigidity without creating a more vertically harsh ride. Those who actually rode one concede it wasn’t super light, but the design worked as advertised.

My time on Colnagos has been limited; I simply haven’t had many opportunities. When the occasion to review one came, I leapt at the chance.

What I received was a CLX 2.0, a few rungs down the evolutionary ladder from the company’s flagship C59. Generally speaking, what I see on the road are C59s, EPQs and Master X Lights, so I was hoping to ride something representative of what so many cyclists around the world covet.

The CLX 2.0 features construction that was state-of-the-art in 2002, but today is a bit OTB. A monocoque carbon fiber main frame sports lugs into which wishbone seatstays and chainstays are plugged. And despite asking for something in the 57 or 58cm range, I was told I would get a 56cm frame, but as it turns out Colnago doesn’t make that size in the CLX 2.0; what I received was a 54.

So when I tell you that this bike was plenty stiff and I had no trouble getting enough weight on the front wheel to descend, but felt cramped, even with a 13cm stem installed, understand that each of these three aspects of the frame’s design were irrevocably influenced by the fact that this bike was too small for me.

I’ll grant that Colnago is honest with the consumer when they admit that the CLX 2.0 is meant to be more affordable than their top-of-the-line stuff, and also weighs a bit more as well. No harm there.

What I had a harder time trying to understand was why one of their staffers fed me a cock-and-bull story about why the construction of this bike was more advanced than anything the competition is doing. Really? I’ve probably seen more carbon laid up than this guy has and was pretty surprised that he’d lie to my face. Terminology in their brief marketing materials did little to tell me—or anyone else—more about the bike. I still don’t know what “alfa carbon” or “leaf-shaped seatstays” means—and I read the entire site.

I made numerous attempts to get the fork rake for each of the forks used on the CLX 2.0. Most responsible companies will spec two different forks over a range of six sizes. By using a 43mm and 45mm rake fork, they can achieve more consistent trail through all the sizes. However, I’ve seen plenty of companies spec one fork rake for six sizes, with all sizes sporting a different head tube angle. The upshot is that every bike handles a little different. And the difference in handling from the smallest size to the largest can make the bikes unrecognizable in character. I make a point of it to get both head tube angle and fork rake so that I can talk about how your experience riding a bike might differ from mine, based on changes in geometry.

I never got those numbers.

I rode the bike for about a month. The one aspect of ride quality that I can report on, the one dimension that wasn’t thrown off by being on a frame too small, was the bike’s road feel. The CLX 2.0 felt like every bike I’ve ever ridden that was constructed of 100% intermediate modulus carbon fiber. While the bike handled quickly enough (thanks to a wheelbase shorter than I’m accustomed), the frame felt fairly dead. It just didn’t possess that lively character that is present in an increasing number of bikes.

Is there anything wrong with the CLX 2.0? Nope. The paint was good, the workmanship seemed to be good and I didn’t experience any red flags, such as tracking left or right when riding no-hands or, worse, developing a speed wobble when going downhill.

The bike is perfectly fine. But it strikes me as heavier than necessary and deader in feeling than I’m apt to get excited about. That curving top tube and those swooping transitions from head tube to top tube and down tube don’t do much to increase torsional stiffness or improve ride quality, but it does add weight.

I’ve yet to ride a bicycle in which an oversized seat post or a seat mast design contributed anything positive to a bike’s feel; this is just another one of those occasions.

The real problem I have with this bike isn’t that it’s ordinary. An ordinary carbon fiber bike is an extraordinary thing to most cyclists in the world. But making an acceptable bike isn’t what’s at stake here. We’re talking about Colnago, a company that has done more to inspire bike lust than any other maker on the planet. I hold them to a higher standard. Making a lesser Colnago so the serfs may also ride one dilutes the brand. It’s not a pig in lipstick, more like a really good-looking golden retriever in lipstick.

So I’ve drawn my line in the sand. Perhaps the best rebuttal to my view should be presented Colnago, to wit: the company offers four models (a mountain bike, two fixed-gear models that aren’t track bikes and a hybrid) that seem utterly wrong for the line. Were I the product manager, I’d axe all four of them for the U.S. market. I don’t see hipster fixie kids with ironic handlebar mustaches ogling the Super, but Colnago seems to be selling plenty of bicycles. My opinions may be missing the message behind the brand.

So other than bitching about how bike reviews ought to include information about fork rake for each frame size (which I’ve been bitching about for more than 10 years), I don’t know that this review has provided any service to the reader. It’s not going to make anyone want to rush out and purchase a CLX 2.0 and it has done nothing to illuminate why people want the C59.

Back to that issue of service: This isn’t a bike you need to be warned about. It’s not a bad bike, but it’s definitely not a great one. The fact that I was sent a bike that was too small for me and then told it was plenty big shortchanged not just me, but you and Colnago. A bike that fits gets a better review. Every. Damn. Time.

As I’m not in a position to review every bike out there, I feel better about picking and choosing just what I’m going to review, based on those bikes that I think are a real cut above or at least worthy of mention—that’s why up until now every bike I’ve reviewed has gotten a pretty stellar review. It would be a different story if my whole job was reviewing bikes for a magazine. My feathers would be clipped from saying some of the more pointedly negative observations I have, but I’d also have a responsibility to get through as many different bikes out there as possible. But that’s not my mandate.

What I like least of all is that in concluding this review, I feel I’ve done nothing to inspire you to go for a ride. And that, dear reader, IS my mandate. I can accept that lack of inspiration if I’ve been on a tear about doping, but when I write about equipment, it should get you to thinking about riding, about your own riding and how the very next free moment you have needs to be on your beloved bike.

 

, , ,

27 comments

  1. Andrew Karre

    Colnago makes a hybrid? Steve Jobs’ advice to new Nike CEO Mark Parker:”Well, I do have some advice. Nike makes some of the best product in the world. I mean, product you lust after, absolutely beautiful, stunning product. But you also make a lot of crap. Just get rid of the crappy stuff and focus on the good stuff.”

  2. mark

    I don’t have the traffic you do, I don’t have as much invested in my blog as you do, but when I do a review, it’s for the same reason: I’ve used something with which I was impressed enough that it was worth taking the time to write.

    With a couple of exceptions, I’ve never received these things for free, and the discounts I have received were never deep enough that it was too good a value to pass up, even if an overall better product existed.

    I look at your reviews as a knowledgeable friend pointing out something he considers worthwhile and the reasons why. Please keep them coming.

  3. Glenn

    Honest and important review for someone like me who spent hours (even days) online researching moderately-priced ($3-4K) bikes–this model being one of them–only to decide that I would be better of spending less than half that money to upgrade parts my 8-year old rig.

    Wasn’t long ago $3K could virtually get you an Italian-made, speed-of-light rocket ship relative to other market offerings. Now all it gets you something more akin to the lunar shuttle.

  4. James

    I’m with SinglespeedJarv, it’s a great review because if Colnago doesn’t care enough to give a reviewer the right equipment, what does it say about what they would give me? I’m guessing the answer is the shaft! I have noticed in recent years that Colnago is not the “force” they used to be. Their treatment of you goes along way to explain that. Thanks as always for an insightful review! Gee, I feel like going for a ride now!!!


    1. Author
      Padraig

      Thanks everyone for weighing in.

      Singlespeed Jarv: Huh? Really? Okay, that’s not the reaction I was expecting (or, uh, wanted).

      Andrew: Exactly.

      Mark: Thanks much; you’re a close reader and it’s nice when execution satisfies purpose to give a reader something enjoyable.

      Glenn: Thanks for chiming in. You raise an important point about the bike industry arms race. Increases in bike prices have outstripped any increases most of us have earned in pay by thousands of percent. You’d think companies would be more sensitive to that.

      James: I can’t really share your assessment. Were you planning to buy a Colnago, I trust that the dealer you’d be working with would do a fitting with you and order the bike that you and they agreed worked best for you. Colnago’s judgement, or lack of it, really wouldn’t interfere. There are times when bike companies allocate exactly one bike from a given model for reviews. It’ll be a 56 or a 54 or whatever, and then they send it to Bicycling, then RBA, then whoever is next. For most of those magazines, the reviews don’t drill down far enough for it to matter. All that said, I’m pleased that you’re excited about getting out for a ride. Have fun!

  5. Doug P

    An honest bike review. I feel like Diogenes finding you! The worst are the “reviews” which are just the manufacturer’s press release, often not even paraphrased! And to add insult to injury, these are publications one pays for, not a free blog!
    I’m still putting my pedals to metal. Reasonably priced carbon bikes are likely to feel “dead”, as you so correctly pointed out. I will join the plastic fantastic “revolution” someday, probably after Rapha starts rhapsodizing about the “smell of carbon”.
    I agree with Glenn, the manufacturers are chasing after a smaller and smaller demographic, as their bike’s prices rise to stratospheric levels. Oh well, more fun for me, as I fly by another gaggle of dentists on overpriced machines! The wonderful thing about cycling is that your credit card doesn’t really make you go faster, despite bike manufacturer’s claims. And yes, I’ll be riding after the sun comes up!

  6. Gob

    Someone correct me if I’m wrong, but I was under the impression that Colnago’s head angles (and fork rakes) were a closely guarded secret for some weird Italian reason, and simply weren’t released.

    I’ve ridden several of them, an older Aluminum Dream, and a new C59, (in the proper size) and they both handled unbelievably well. I don’t disagree that they are diluting the line, but I would argue (gently, and without a lot of conviction) that the Ultegra version of this bike at 2800ish dollars is a pretty attractive value for the guy who’s always wanted a Colnago but lacked the dollars for the top of the range. Putting Dura Ace on it is sort of defeating the entry level purpose of this frameset, but someone asked for it, so there it sits.


    1. Author
      Padraig

      Doug P: the only myth I feature in is as a stand-in for Sisyphus. ;-)

      Gob: That used to be the case. These days, most makers give head tube angle (HTA), but fork rake isn’t usually revealed. I had trouble getting HTAs with Merckx, with Moser, and with a few other Euro brands back in the days of steel bikes, when head angles all measured in whole degrees (not fractionals). The “sensitive trade secret” argument was pretty pointless. With carbon fiber bikes were seeing HTAs in fractions of degrees because the precision of the molds is so high.

      In every instance in the past, I’ve gotten the numbers I’ve needed, but this time I was completely blown off. These days, though, I don’t really care what the trail is. What I’m concerned about is whether a company is using a single fork rake through all sizes. It’s plain lazy and results in every size handling a bit differently. If there is truly one aspect of reader service I want to discuss in a bike review it is how many sizes are offered and how trail varies through that size range.

  7. Mike

    Carbon, Aluminum, Steel, Titanium – I’ve got all of them, but I can’t feel much difference between them. What’s the matter with me? I make a bigger fuss about saddles, fit


    1. Author
      Padraig

      Regarding the issue of spec on this bike, I really didn’t want to get into that in the review. The bike shown on the Colnago web site is displayed with Dura-Ace components with a Colnago crank and Fulcrum wheels. My review bike was full Dura-Ace, right down to the wheels. On the Interwebs, you can find the bike equipped with Chorus and Ultegra among other groups. I don’t think it ought to be dinged for the Dura-Ace. I didn’t get into suggested retail pricing, instead, merely noting that the bike was less expensive than its A-list brethren. This bike, like most other Colnagos, is available as just a frameset, so if you want a less-expensive Colnago, you can purchase the frameset and build it however you want, though that route usually isn’t the most cost effective, but the option remains.

      My opinion is that a review should only consider the spec in as much as the bike’s price will determine the relative value. Reviews that discuss how well the Dura-Ace drivetrain shifted are wasting space that ought to be devoted to the ride of the frame and fork.

  8. lqdedison

    I’d have to admit that I only read the review because you promised us in your other post that you would give us one bad review. When it comes to reviews, like you I really only pay attention to what I’m interested in. At first glance I already made up my mind and was not interested the bike.

    I’m quite the picky cyclist and I’m okay with that. There are so many brands these days and so many choices I believe we have to be picky. Honestly what turned me away from this bike is that it’s from an Italian cycling company. Colnago, like the rest of the Italian cycling manufacturers, is surviving by the idea that they are Italian. When it comes down to it the only thing Italian about them may be the name on the frame and sometimes the paint. As a whole the Italian manufacturers have been selling their heritage to anyone naive enough to believe in it. Oddly it seems to be working. That’s another story. My point is that like most other brands from the country they have moved frame production to China and in return have gotten a lineup of some seriously boring frames. It’s just uninspiring in every which way. I think that is evident on the first photo.

    Then there’s the fantastic customer service which you unfortunately experienced first hand. I’d also have to ask why such important information such as frame geometry wasn’t readily available? Part of buying a bike includes these very important aspects of customer service and available information. I haven’t been to the Colnago website but I’m also guessing that the warranty information is buried on there as well. I’d just assume it’s the standard 3 year Italian warranty. In a game with so many choices all aiming to get you over their product simple mistakes like this can be costly.

    Some cyclists including me and I’m guessing the readers of this blog really just want honest reviews. If something sucks well then it should be known. How can a company know they made a crap product if nobody tells them?

    I know your aim is to inspire us to get out on our bikes and ride. Believe me when I say it that most of us already have that motivation and your posts will only strengthen it. Especially when they are truthful and honest.

    Fantastic review. I enjoy the bad ones as much as the good ones.

  9. sophrosune

    Padraig, I believe that when you did a review of the geometry of my Colnago E1 that one of the commenters, who said he had worked in some capacity for Colnago, explained that Colnago used 43 degree fork rakes across all their frame sizes. I guess because of Colnago’s reluctance to offer this information themselves we don’t whether that is in fact the case, but it seems to be the most authoritative information we have at the moment.

    I like that you offered the scuttlebutt on the old steel Colnagos. I heard that too and in a pretty authoritative way. A really knowledgable bike retailer in Rhode Island, who is no longer in the business, had a Colnago frame and he had cut it to reveal the quality of the welds and compare them to the Italian brand he believed in, which was Grandis. The Colnago did not fare too well in the comparison.

    As you know, I have a Colnago E1, the last of their lesser priced frames to be built in Italy, and I love it (despite my blaming it for a high-speed wobble that I am certain now was human error). My instincts for buying the frame were it was on sale, it had the look I wanted and it was a Colnago.

    I have a utterly arbitrary rule for bike purchasing that I am apt to dismiss upon a whim and that is a bike should have the builder’s name attached to it. It bothers me to think I am buying a company (Specialized, Trek, Focus, Canyon) rather than a man (or woman). I will not defend this prejudice because…well, it’s a silly prejudice. But it matters to me from time to time when I’m sitting on the bike.

    Anyway, great review. I’m with the others here, negative reviews don’t keep from riding, they just keep me from riding inferior equipment. Cheers.

  10. Jarvis

    Padraig
    I’m not prone to reading bike reviews, I would research online if I was buying a new bike, but the only reviews I read were in Procycling mag because I had it subscription. And they’re all the same.

    I simply don’t believe that there isn’t any crticism to be levelled at any of the bikes on test. The other issue is that the review tends to be as much about the kit hanging off it, as it does the frame.

    The fact that Colnago couldn’t be arsed, the fact that the rep tried to bullshit you, the fact that you didn’t know what the alfa-leafed stays meant or did…it all adds up to make me question Colnago, whether I was in the market for a CLX2.0 or a C59. I’d love that detail of information in all reviews. Otherwise you’re left with the impression that all bikes are the same.

    I like to think I take an interest in tech. But even I get stuck at carbon fibre level. Over the last two or three years I’ve been led to understand that Giant, Time, Cervelo, Parlee and Look make the best top-end frames. that Parlee make frames for a Pro team and so must be good, that the Pinarello Dogma is the best bike. Specialized’s marketing department do a good job of making out their bikes are best and Colnago trade off a famous history that almost died when Carbon came along.

    Ultimately, most of us aren’t going to be able to afford the top-end frames and the arm’s race is just making us poorer and the cycling world’s marketing men richer. Reputation is one thing, but attention to detail and customer care is just as important to those looking to get the best for their far-stretched money in the mid-range and reviews like that all help to process the information and make the decision that might have to last the next 10 years.


    1. Author
      Padraig

      All: Let me reiterate that my experience with just one person on Colnago’s payroll should not be extrapolated to indicate how the entire company sees the world and deals with customers. I really don’t think that’s a sin they should be crucified for.

      Regarding geometry charts, I’m a geometry nut; that is, flat end of the bell curve. Bike companies hate the questions I ask, as a general rule. Most, I repeat, most bike companies publish what I consider to be incomplete geometry charts. There’s a long list of figures that determine how a bike will handle and fit and people deserve to get all of them.

      Sophrosune: You’re right. I went back and looked up the post (“A Study in Geometry”) and SuperDave (who’s still a Cat. 1 and kicking ass in the bike industry) said all the bikes had a 43mm rake. Lazy. Other than cost (oh wait, there’s a technical term for it—sku control) there’s not a single good reason to use one fork rake through every size you make. When it’s possible to give a woman who’s 5′ 2″ the same riding experience as a man who is 6′ 0″, why wouldn’t you do it if what you profess to be is the best of the best?

  11. Jonathan Wallis

    I totaly agree with everyone’s positive comments about your review. And yes Colnago would do well to follow the advice that Jobs gave Nike . But the C59 , overpriced as it maybe, is just the most fantastic ride.So , yes Colnago could really improve their game but the C59 proves that Colnago are not just trading on the past and can produce a phenomenal frame. Its all a matter of opinion, of course, but I’ve yet to see anyone regardless of their allegiances , get off one with anything less than a massive smile on their face .

  12. Bikelink

    Hearing bad reviews helps me understand the other side of why some bikes are good. I feel like one of the blind mice feeling for a part of the elephant I don’t understand. I do understand why it’s not good business for you to do bad reviews. I do believe you’re good reviews. I don’t need every thing you write to inspire me to ride. I like your blog because I’m a person who is inspired to ride, not because I read something and want to ride. If you can, please do post reviews good or bad, though I’ll understand if you don’t air everything that’s bad. Please review more mid level stuff…if none of it’s as good I need to know that…maybe I should shell out more for a top level frame. But if I don’t understand the incremental value (and you’re one of the few sources that I can trust on this stuff), then I won’t.

  13. velomonkey

    You jut reviewed a BMW 1 series. My point, it’s not a colnago, just like a review of a BMW 1 series isn’t a review of a BMW. Doesn’t matter if people will buy it – it’s not a BMW. Does it diminish the brand – that’s another topic. You also reviewed a bike in the wrong size. A wrong size bike will never, ever, ever work. This is bike review 101. Maybe you’re editorial judgement should have been not to do a review knowing it was the wring size, but maybe that’s hoping for too much.

    Bay leaf design means the chain stay looks like a leaf – it’s very attractive and it has to be seen in person to appreciate it. It’s part of the artistry colnago still has that so many others lack. It’s certainly better in every regard than say – BB right. If you don’t get the artisan of colnago than you don’t get colnago.

    If I were you, or really any reviewer of a site that doesn’t have many reviews – you can’t go from the brand new top of the line Dale to this bike. Or if you are then you need to quantify the review – the review is on a bike that has an extra price tag cause it has a sticker that says colnago – but it’s not a colnago. Just like a BMW 1 series commands a price, isn’t a BMW but is more a civic. I’m sure BMW would give you some line of crap on their manufacturing, too. It’s par for the course.

    If you’re going to review a colnago – either review a C59, EPQ or Master – and get it in the right size – otherwise you are only doing a disservice to yourself. I will say this – you got me to read the whole review and I would never, ever, ever actively seek a review of this bike.


    1. Author
      Padraig

      Velomonkey: You’ve just covered all the reasons why, originally, I elected not to review this bike at all. I hope you’ll bear in mind that this review was less about the bike than the problems that can lead me to elect not to review a product.

  14. Mattman

    Well, I just got one, beautiful in all white with full Ultegra, and I’m enjoying the sh*t out of it. Climbs beautifully, fits me like a dream, love seeing it in the garage. I rode Felt, and BMC, and Specialized, and this bike won. It’s all a matter of perspective I guess.

    I don’t really think you should ever, ever, ever….. ever say never :)

  15. Sanjay

    Hi

    I had just decided to buy this very bike with ultegra chose it over BMC and Cervelo RS and alos Bianchi oltre

    I am completely messed up, please guide me before i spend all my saving on this one … this was going to be bike i would keep for a long long time

    Sanjay

  16. Mattman

    It’s a great bike. Ride it, and if it makes you smile more than the others, buy it! Develop a good relationship with your LBS and they’ll take care of you.

  17. Pingback: Specialized 74 Road Shoes and Gloves : Red Kite Prayer

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>