We've tested the latest version of Colnago's Italian-built superbike
When we rode the C60 last summer, we loved the ride quality but noted the lack of modern features in Colnago’s superbike. Ernesto must have been listening, because six months later out comes the C64, with a host of updates to its predecessor’s classic design.
It’s called the C64 to mark the 64 years since Colnago was founded, and like the C60 is hand built in Italy. It’s available in six colours and disc-brake or direct-mount rim brake versions.
The C64 is still a lugged frame, with butted carbon tubes bonded into carbon lugs, reflecting the design of Colnago’s classic steel road bikes, used by the likes of Eddy Merckx in his glory days.
The lugged construction allows Colnago to offer a wide range of frame sizes and either a sloping or a horizontal top tube. The C64’s tubing is wider, lighter and, Colnago says, stronger than the C60’s tubes, shaving a claimed 205g off the C60’s weight.
Colnago has also moved away slightly from the fully lugged construction, with the seat tube being a single piece incorporating the lug for the top tube and seatstays, rather than bonded into a separate lug at its top. Colnago says that this adds stiffness and reduces the frame’s weight. It also means that the company has to juggle its stock of 14 different seat tubes, one for each frame size.
The single-piece design allows it to integrate the seatpost clamping bolt into the underside of the top tube for a more modern aesthetic, better hold and a weight saving of around 15g. Colnago has also moved from a round seatpost to a flat backed design, as used in its V2-R aero bike, noting that this increases vertical compliance over the C60’s 31.6mm post.
It says that its new recessed bottle cage bolts on the down tube help with aerodynamics too, by reducing the distance between the cage and the frame.
Other changes include asymmetric chainstays, with a wider section to the non-driveside stay. There’s also a redesigned head tube lug with an angular cut-out and, Colnago says, extra stiffness. This is mirrored in a recessed area in the fork, which has also been redesigned from the C60 to make it more rigid and save around 40g.
There’s a new internal rib in the steerer tube for extra strength, which means that there’s no need for an expander inside. The headset design is borrowed from the Colnago Concept, with polymer upper cups designed to help adsorb road vibrations.
The bottom bracket lug has also been redesigned. It continues to use Colnago’s ThreadFit standard, but a collaboration with bearing specialist CeramicSpeed has improved the bearings used in the wide bottom bracket shell. This includes cable guides moulded into the bottom of the lug, although these aren’t used in the Super Record EPS build which we’ve tested. You also get full-carbon dropouts front and rear.
The C64 that we have been testing is equipped with Campagnolo Super Record EPS and Campagnolo Bora Ultra carbon clinchers. With all the other finishing kit Colnago branded, it makes for an all-Italian theme.
The full build is a special order from Colnago in Italy and is offered with Shimano or SRAM mechanical groupsets too. If you’re not prepared to wait to ride your C64, you can buy the frameset from UK stock and have it built up by your retailer.
Campag’s top-spec groupset gives you the shifting quality you’d expect, with sharp, pin-point accurate gear changes front and rear. I’m a fan of Campagnolo’s shifters’ ergonomics. They’re very comfortable to ride on the hoods and the inboard shifter levers are easy to reach. They have a positive click, which means that you are sure when you’ve made a shift and you can shift multiple sprockets by holding them down.
Unlike Dura-Ace R9100, where the junction box can be hidden in the frame or bar end, the EPS junction box sits under the stem. It’s neatly done, with a smart rubber coupler rather than zip ties, but does now look a bit regressive.
The stem itself is all-carbon, Colnago branded and chunky, while the bars are aero carbon with internal cable routing. The bars are held in the stem by an expanding clamp, which means that there are no bolts visible at the front.
Later in 2018, Colnago will offer the disc brake bike with fully integrated cabling, where the cables and hoses pass through the cavity in the stem and the fork steerer into the interstices of the frame. As with the Wilier Cento10 NDR, this should provide a really neat-looking cockpit. Price for this option is to be announced.
Somewhat surprisingly for a thoroughbred race machine, as used by the UAE-Team Emirates WorldTour team, the test C64 comes with a compact 50/34 chainset. Coupled to the 11-29 cassette this gives plenty of low gear range.
It’s maybe a reflection of the C64’s target demographic, but it would be nice to have one’s athletic ability flattered by at least a 52/36 semicompact; it’s an option you can specify if you go for the full Colnago build.
The top-of-the-range 50mm deep Campagnolo Bora Ultra wheelset rolls on carbon-fibre hubs with Campag’s CULT ceramic bearings. The quoted weight for the clincher version fitted is 1,435 grams, making it light for an all-rounder carbon clincher wheelset.
Campagnolo has updated the Bora Ultra for 2018 with a new 24mm wide rim to handle wider tyres, as well as its new AC3 braking track. Standing for All Conditions Carbon Control, this improves wet weather braking capability to a point where you can be confident of stopping quickly whatever the conditions.
The rear wheel comes with 21 spokes in Campagnolo’s distinctive G3 clustered spoke pattern, which it claims improves power transfer and rigidity, while the front has 18 radial spokes. I did find I could induce a bit of rear brake rub if I had the brake pads set up too close to the rim, though.
Like the V2-R aero bike, the C64 has clearance for 28mm tyres. It uses direct mount Campagnolo brakes, although there’s still a bridge between the seatstays to ensure rigidity and braking effectiveness. The disc-brake C64 has even more clearance.
The test bike’s tyres are Vittoria Corsa 25mm. Although these don’t make use of the full 28mm clearance, they are grippy and fast.
I get on well with the Prologo Scratch 2 saddle – here with Colnago co-branding. It’s the CPC Airing version on Tirox rails. The CPC bit consists of tiny, grippy cooling tower-shaped cones, which hold the fabric of your shorts to help stop you slipping around, even when it’s wet or you have worked up a sweat. They also help absorb vibrations. In the Airing version, these are positioned to increase airflow between the saddle and your rear end. Prologo claims that they give you a massage as you ride, too.
Riding the Colnago C64
You can feel the responsiveness of the C64 frame the moment you set out. Its bottom bracket feels taut and you soon build up momentum and find yourself riding near the top of the gear range.
That responsiveness extends to the steering. Not edgy, it nevertheless means that you can point the C64 where you plan to ride and be confident that it will follow your line. You do feel UK road surfaces through the seat tube and saddle though, despite the notch built into the seatpost’s rear surface to add extra compliance.
But the broad tops to the carbon bar and the thick (Colnago branded) bar tape soak up front-end vibration well and keep the hands very comfortable. It’s not too much of a stretch to the drops either, so your hands are well positioned to reach Campagnolo’s up-shifter buttons.
Both in the wet and dry, the C64’s braking and the Vittoria tyres’ grip are confidence-inspiring, encouraging you to push just that bit harder on descents and fast corners.
But for a pro-level superbike, the C64 really doesn’t shake you about much and is well mannered enough to ride all day without discomfort or any handling edginess to tire you. You have to make a conscious effort to shift your weight around on the Prologo saddle, but it’s a comfortable perch with well-positioned padding.
The C64 frameset costs £4,099.95 in one of the four standard colours. Go for one of the two Art Décor colour schemes and you can add £400 onto that, while the disc brake versions cost £4,599.95 and £4,999.95 respectively. Go for the Super Record EPS spec we’ve tested and you’re looking at £10,299.95 for the complete bike.
That’s a lot of money. But Colnago has a cult following thanks to its racing heritage and the C64 represents the pinnacle of its lugged frame construction. It’s beautifully made and has some useful updates on the C60, which bring the frame way up to date.
And if you’re paying that much for a frameset, why not deck it out with Campagnolo’s finest too? You’ll end up with an Italian-made dream bike that’s comparable in price to range-topping bikes from the likes of Pinarello, Scott and Specialized.
Yes, you could buy two or three very decent bikes for the same money, but you wouldn’t get the satisfaction of riding the top bike from a storied brand.
The C64 adds modern features to the C60 frameset while retaining the older bike’s ride quality and handmade Italian construction. Offering a disc-brake version means that you can choose the option that best suits your riding style and ambitions. There’s absolutely nothing to quibble with, and that goes for the full build tested here. Power transfer and performance are what you’d expect from Colnago’s superbike, although they are bought at the expense of some transmission of road imperfections to the saddle.