- Great looks and heritage branding
- Comfy rear end
- Snappy handling
- Buzzy front end
- Some may find it twitchy
Price as reviewed:
If you’ve ever been after a great race bike with the kudos of a historic British brand name on the down tube then at any point over the last 60 year then Condor would have been high on your list. While many other UK manufacturers have faded and young upstarts have arrived on the scene – I’m looking at you Chris Boardman – London-based Condor has been putting together fine race bikes both for the pros and the masses for over 60 years, a little like the Condor Potenza here.
The Potenza is one of its models for the latter coming in as the cheapest full carbon offering by the British marquee.
Condor Potenza Frame
The current Condor Potenza design has been in production for two years now but the bike actually started life as a Scandium aluminium model in the early 2000s but was dropped when Condor stepped up its move into carbon fiber.
The current version has benefitted from some trickle down from it’s more exotic, and over twice the price, sister bike the Leggero. The rear triangle is borrowed from an older version of the Leggero, the fork is an adaptation of the Leggero’s and the bike’s overall geometry is identical to its sister machine.
Potenza is Italian for “power” so it’s fitting that this bike sports a suitably chunky down tube to eradicate any flex back-to-front, which also looks like it’s probably fairly good at cutting through the wind – though Condor makes no specific claims on this. It also comes with a BSA bottom bracket, eschewing the vogue for proprietary standards in the pursuit of power gains while up front it uses a 1-1/8” to 1-½” headset to help keep things solid.
At a claimed weight of 1.5kg for the frame and fork combined it’s not the lightest bike but it’s respectable at this price.
You could pretend that what it looks like doesn’t matter, but if you’re thinking about buying a Condor rather than just plumping for one of the massive global brands that you can probably easily lay your hands on in your local shop, chances are you want it stand out on the start line or club run.
On that level the frame is certainly a winner with a very classy matt finish (I confess I’m a sucker for anything in matt grey) and a crisp green paint job – you can also get it in blue if green’s not your thing. The peacock in me certainly got a kick out of looking down from the saddle at the elegantly tapering top tube on more than one occasion.
You can choose whatever you want from Condor, which means you can even have your Condor Potenza with Campagnolo’s Potenza groupset if you want extra cool-points but our test rig came built with Shimano’s ever-popular Ultegra mechanical groupset with all the smooth shifting prowess it’s known for. It also has Mavic’s stalwart Ksyrium wheels and 25mm Yksion Elite tyres – all a good base from which to judge the frame.
The first impressions out on the road were that the bike was a bit on the twitchy side even with a 120mm stem the front wheel seemed uber-responsive and I had to adjust how I rode out of the saddle to stop it wandering on steep climbs.
However, after a few rides that responsiveness turned from being unnerving to inspiring. You can really throw the Condor Potenza into a turn knowing you can flick it round an unexpected pothole with the slightest of movements.
It’s not a bike to relax on though, if you let your attention drift the bumps in the road that can throw any bike’s front wheel off line can feel more pronounced on the Condor Potenza.
Despite this racy handling the rear of the bike is surprisingly comfortable taking the worst of the buzz out of Surrey’s neglected back lanes. The same can’t be said for the front though with the bars giving plenty of feedback. Although it isn’t as bad as similarly prices machines and I can’t say it’ll put me off buying the bike – even after three or so hours it wasn’t a huge problem.
If there was one downside to our test setup it was probably the wheels. Though the Kysriums are great solid wheels the whole package felt like it was screaming out for something a bit more sprightly to give the acceleration zip that would match the snappy handling, especially up hill. For just an extra £160 you can spec it with the Kysrium Elites, save a bit of weight, and very likely improve the overall feel of the bike.
This isn’t the cheapest way to get a mid-level carbon frameset, some can be had from more budget brands at a lot less. But it is on par with many of the big brands, for instance £1,350 will get you a Giant TCR Advanced Pro or with an extra £50 you can buy a Trek Emonda SL.
While the handling of the Potenza won’t be to everyone’s taste it is an exhilarating and engaging ride that makes you want to dive into corners and go as close to the limits as of traction as you dare. The rear end especially is comfortable enough for long rides when you fancy it but it really excels when you push the pace a bit and fling it round the back lanes. Uphill it was very capable with no discernable flex and felt light enough, though it won’t bring any shock to an experienced roadie if they give it the old one finger pick-up test.
Frame: Condor Potenza
Fork: Condor Potenza
Size range: 49, 52, 55, 58, 61
Groupset: Simano Ultegra 6800
Gear ratios: 50/34, 11-28
Wheels: Mavic Ksyrium
Tyres: Mavic Yksion Elite 25mm
Bar: Fizik Cyrano R5 Bull
Stem: Fizik Cyrano R3 120mm
Seatpost: Condor Strada Carbon
Saddle: Selle Italia SL