The London firm, currently enjoying surging popularity, has launched a new version of the Italia for 2011 with a completely different shape, but still keeps it crucially a penny below four figures with this SRAM Apex build.
The Italia is made in Italy from Deda 7003 aluminium and the most striking aspect is the swooping flattened top tube, whose arc continues in the chainstays. This is paired with an oversized down tube and standard round-gauge seat tube. The rear brake cable routes internally through the top tube, which gives it a clean look, and the minimalist, arty graphics accentuate the effect. On the practical side, the frame has mudguard eyes and rear rack mounts. Condor says the arched top tube is not just for aesthetics – it allows a D-lock to be mounted inside the main triangle.
SRAM’s new budget Apex groupset has a super-wide range of gears beyond anything offered by its Japanese and Italian rivals. SRAM has reworked the compact chainset using a system already successful in its mtb components to give the Apex 10-speed cassette a spread of gears from 11 to 32 teeth. Still keeping the standard 50/34 at the front, Apex is actually the first road groupset to offer these ratios. The shifters use the same Double Tap mechanism as the more expensive groupsets.
The wheels are made for Condor by Italian track component specialist Miche, and the finishing kit is also Condor-branded and made by the usual Italian names (Selle San Marco, Deda).
Upright and at ’em
Apex does not offer long-reach calipers – surely an oversight – so because the Italia has proper mudguard clearance, Condor has fitted its own-brand solution. The other deviation is the cheaper non-series SRAM S100 2.2 chainset and splined BB.
The Condor has the tallest head tube on test at 17.5cm, giving a more upright position than the others. This gives a good clue as to the sort of riding the Italia might be best put to – commuting and more leisurely riding – getting round a sportive comfortably rather than setting the fastest time.
The Apex groupset by the same token was launched to kill off the triple chainset offered by Shimano on its entry level bikes. Although SRAM points out that the likes of Alexandre Vinokourov used Apex to climb Monte Zoncolan in the Giro d’Italia, the reality is that such a spread of gears is going to mean bigger jumps between the ratios, and more serious riders generally prefer closer ratios to keep cadence as even as possible.
It's not particularly light but the Condor rides extremely well. It's stable, predictable, comfortable and easy to like. This winter, with mudguards fitted, it has been the bike we've gone to and in a bike test that's telling.