Colnago do not have a certain “Je Ne Sais Quoi” about them. First of all, they’re Italian rather than French, and more importantly, everyone knows damn well what that special something is about Colnago.
Maybe one or two companies would step forward and try to claim the pedigree or come close to suggesting they may have an advantage in the size of the trophy case in Cambiago. But could this tremendous pedigree possibly be a bad thing for the brand?
Lots of people can’t seem to see past Colnago’s history, reputation and a cost that holds a typical demographic (they’re not known as the rides of the wealthy strictly by mistake). While those things are generally correct, they’re certainly worth looking beyond.
Let’s say for a second you could look past the man who is virtually cycling’s Godfather (in the more noble and non Coppola / Scorsese sense). For a moment, forget that the polished persona Mr. Colnago is today does a reasonable job at hiding the fact that he’s been burned and bled and literally paid dues just to follow his passion. Let go for a moment that he worked his way up from very literally the very bottom. Allow the knowledge to slip your mind that many years passed with Ernesto working for peanuts (or for nothing at all) until his skills were simply known to be too good to ignore even in a cycling mad Country. Then, disregard if you can, that in the decades to follow, literally every race of import has been bested by the clover (several times over). Scrap all of it.
Judge Colnago simply by the product produced today, and it would be more than enough.
click the thumbnail above for the huge view
This story started more than a year ago when I got the first spec’s of what would be the EPS.
Speaking with the man who’s been at the front of the Colnago brand for North America for the past several years (Colnago America’s Soren Krebs) on the subject of my unfortunately having to pass on a fantastic event in Italy, the conversation turned to what I was thinking would be the ultimate for Colnago. To build something as dependable and silky smooth as the Paris-Roubaix stomping C40 but with the same (or better) stiffness as the Extreme Power. Then hit the weight spec of the Extreme C and just for the heck of it, toss in a little more up to date parting.
As I was spewing this all out to Soren, my thought was that I would either have to die and go to heaven or look to a custom carbon maker to get all of this combined.
Soren’s answer: “wait a few months before you kill yourself, I think we have something.”
Colnago’s top of the line bikes tend to form a bit of an eclipse that blocks a lot of people’s view to their broader range of bicycles.
While the company still produce a range back to classic Steel, Colnago’s gone through what could be considered a revolution over the past couple of years. They’ve updated standard models (waiting for trendy things to become standards) and have also introduced several bikes including more forward design elements like the new CX-1 and CLX.
Even their new Flight TT bike is a departure from what’s been a very traditional set of manufacturing and design features. This brings a Colnago twist, not only offering their standards, but adding the value that comes with taking SOME of their production to the far east. Unlike several companies who have moved virtually everything out of house, this is a simple addition to Colnago rather than a departure.
That said, the EPS is fully manufactured, from base material to finished product, in Italy (regardless of the bullshit speculation from internet chat room “experts”) and it’s the result of continued advance in Carbon manufacturing skills that are the result of Colnago’s more than 20 years producing carbon fiber bicycles (as well as a couple of decades making a few nice things in metal) combined with the continued partnership with composite tech masters ATR who bring “a little experience” to carbon fiber as well…
everyone knows about Colnago’s Ferrari ties, but there’s more…
What this partnership brings to the EPS is an even further enhanced use of carbon reinforced tube sets that, in typically reserved Colnago fashion, leave hidden some of the more advanced tube set manipulation in cycling.
The ribs (Colnago’s “3PRS” design) are a little different now than with past models (as in the Extreme Power review) and despite the fact that tubes look pretty simple from the outside, a lot can be done to control fiber in what seem to be plain round tube sets. Combine tube shape and position changes in reinforcement sections with a bit different manufacturing processes and Colnago have squeezed weight and added stiffness to the EPS.
It’s still Colnago’s traditional lugged structure but the down tube is now a full 44mm from the head tube to the bottom end and the top tube flares from 35mm at the seat lug out to 40 at the head tube (though it’s tough to see given the nature of the paint job).
The new head tube shape is definitely a new look for Colnago…
51mm at the top, flaring to 56 at the bottom, making for plenty of room to take in the large top and down tube while still looking fairly civilized, this is all set up to house the 1 1/8 “x 1 1/4″ inch bearings meaning the steer tube on the fork can be made larger and stiffer at the crown.
The main triangle tubes are fiber wound around metal mandrels (something in common with another fantastic bike we have on hand right now). But what Colnago don’t show or tell is what process is used to fill in the space that’s required to create the reinforcing ribs within the tube walls. Perfectly understandable as some of that same tech is used in more sensitive applications beyond cycling. ATR are not exactly big on other people getting the hang of making structures like the tubes on the EPS.
The rear end of the EPS is similar in fashion to the EP.
Large (tall) section chain stays with a lateral bulge that helps with side flex stability…
And the seat stays are a straight set, growing up from the drops and into the wishbone rear end.
The seat tube is a straight 35mm section bottom to top.
And it houses a thankfully standard 31.6mm seat post. This one is 3T’s VERY nice Doric LTD version, capped with Prologo’s presto-chango multi color option “Choice” saddle (Choice tops, bases and back plates come in a variety of colors and the padding is a really nice density).
Ah, and I left out a picture of the fork blades… Again, the Steer tube bumps up it’s cross section (size) to the 1.25 inch bottom race, but the legs remain similar to the EP, which isn’t a bad thing. Also large by Colnago standards and like the seat stays, featuring a plump lateral bulge to better eliminate side flex. The fork is the best performer at weight that Colnago have ever produced.
Each one of the EPS frames is built by hand, inserting the tubes into the lugs using a fixing jig to make sure everything is set / aligned properly. That’s similar to the way that the best custom frames are made. Then the whole thing (frame, jig and all) gets its own free standing private oven to bake solid.
Then everything is finished (again by hand) from prep all the way through paint.
What comes out is (and has been for decades) one of cycling’s best finishes.
Which I promptly stripped on arrival in preparation for celebrating the 8th World Championship for a certain other Italian two wheeled legend. Valentino Rossi.
The process starts with taking a look at the bike itself and deciding how you can take the style off of a motorcycle when it has several times the surface area (flat by the way)…
Then trying to get the same visual feel on to extremely small tubes while remembering they’re round…
What it takes is a basic sketch (several tries…)
With just a sketch and a few referal photo’s, Xtreme Air Brush Designs takes my pathetic excuse for a design and turns it into something special…
For a bike like this there are loads of stages including the insane step of getting rid of this exceptional finish…
The first is a prep (careful media blasting), but the big detail that you might miss is that everything you see here is actually paint on this bike, painstakingly masked off then reverse masked…
chain stays get logos
Layer upon layer is added to build up what most companies would do with a sticker kit… Even the world champ stripes are done one by one…
Note here that this is the yellow stripe on the “8″ ball on the wishbone and also note that the little white section on the seat tube. This is the small “46″ inside the clover and is hand trimmed and ready for that little bit of yellow…
The whole thing then gets a couple of clear coats and hand rubbed… The results are exactly what I wanted, but Xtreme Air Brush could have easily made this to a theme of your choosing… It’s not cheap, but it does make a bike a true one of a kind.
[Aside to those who harp about tribute replica's, this is my own personal thing. Not for sale by Colnago (they had nothing at all to do with my choice), not a limited edition by Pez. I'm simply a fan of MotoGP and wanted my own pedal replica]
After she landed with a new fresh skin, I added a fantastic mix of Italian treats…
You’ve seen the 3T post above and we added their Limited level Bar and Stem as well. Bike Mine take care of this kit in the USA and while it’s hard to find, it’s worth the hunt for weight and stiffness.
We of course had to go with Campy Super Record 11 levers. I mean, no way can a Colnago with a Fiat Logo and Tricolor flag get anything else… But this is less a Campy Group than you might think.
We strung the whole thing up to Nokon Cables.
Oh and for you build geeks, you have to trim the end off the lead-in cable on Nokon to insert it in the new smaller opening in the Campy 11 levers but it fits and works perfectly…
Campy did you really have to make the holes this way?
The drive train is not exactly standard from the levers back.
Tiso’s 11 speed kit pretty much did the deal…
The rear Derailleur works great.
And their new ceramic pulleys are the slickest spinning units I have ever held in my hand, spinning quickly and freely with a touch. The blue was also a great touch on this build as well but you can get em in other colors (and they’re compatible with other manufacturers derailleurs).
We also used Tiso up front.
And in fact we used their 11 speed cassette as well…
Still not yet on the market is KMC CHAIN’S 11 speed SL.
This came in prototype form for use in a combination of builds (both aftermarket and standard Campy gear) and performed very well on all combinations. It’s also installed using a standard chain tool! And You’ve seen their excellent shifting 10 speed SL chains on several of our builds in the past… In fact I’ve used their product for motor sport as well and everything has been very good.
Finishing off the non-Campy Campy drive train are Zipp’s Vuma Quad Ceramic cranks.
Silly stiffness, very low weight and when combining these bearings with the slick chain and Tiso pulleys, this is the lowest drag drive train I have ever used.
Another part for the build that doesn’t exactly grow on trees are Ciamillo Cycling’s very latest Gravitas Brakes.
These are Ti reinforced, solid carbon brakes from the same place that virtually created the aftermarket road brake category with Zero Gravity brakes. The Gravitas are actually one of several new brake designs from a guy who may at this minute be submerged some place in his own Mini-Sub design…
Also born in the USA are the very latest Zipp ZedTech version 404′s.
Loads of features here that stand out, from hubs…
To Zipp’s custom logo option that allows folks to mix, match and create their own decals from a crazillion different color combos. try it out here….
And capping it off was a pleasure. Handlebra is pretty much the nicest top grain leather bar tape available right now. Great grip and feel and less money than you would think. And making the bar end caps just required a few nights of sipping enjoyment…
Right, so the parts list is 2 steps beyond top shelf, and the whole thing is colored in the paint scheme of a guy that nobody on the planet doesn’t regard as the fastest man on two wheels… Since nobody will ever live up to this level of kit, I can relax and just get on with riding the bike.
The short version here is that this is the best bike Colnago have ever made.
In case you might lack the perspective to appreciate the depth of the statement, now’s the time to bring back to mind exactly what company we’re talking about… Being the best “Colnago” is no small compliment.
Having rolled round on everything else they sell, I pretty much can’t find a problem with the EPS. Some would say that the price point means you’ll see far more of these under “unworthy” guys like me, instead of skinny, starved 20 something racers that are more likely to use the EPS to its fullest. But that’s just a stupid thing to say.
The people that can typically afford one says nothing at all about the exceptional combination of performance and comfort that the bike brings…
The great thing about a bike like this is that the increased stiffness, stability at speed, durability (compared to some paper thin tube jobs), and poise under pressure mean it would suit that same 20 something full out racer just fine. There’s a similar lack of bottom end flex on the EPS as several of the bikes that make big stiffness claims. It’s pretty damn direct in power application.
What catches me out though is that this bike feels really light in my hands (I guess no surprise given its 13 pounds…), but doesn’t give you the road buzz penalty that generally comes with a bike that’s this easy to toss around beneath you.
Think back to the top pictures and remember those reinforcing ribs… They are positioned specifically for adding stiffness without a comfort penalty. And it works…
I think the ride is the big kicker… For the people that can afford it, it’s nice to have great performance on tap, but not get stuck with the ride quality of lesser bikes.
Colnago’s geometry also leans toward the smooth side of things. The standard for bikes this light and stiff is not just to be a bit rougher, but a bit twitchy too. This one isn’t at all twitchy. No surprises wait for you when it comes to the handling of the EPS…
And finding your proper fit (which is critical to handling) is easier on the EPS (and a few other Colnago’s) than anyone else’s stock offering.
Here’s a stat for fans of high end Italian and/or performance focused… The EPS comes in more sizes than the Pinarello Prince, Willier Cento Uno and Cervelo S3 combined.
OK, so I have to fudge a bit to put that number up…
Actually, the Colnago comes in 22 sizes, which is the same as the bikes above (combined). I say “more” because Colnago will do custom geometry for you and deliver it in an estimated 10 weeks.
Something else to consider is that there are a set of sloping bikes within the 22 sizes. That makes for a couple of different geometry sets as well…
It’s the handbuilt nature of the EPS and other Colnago’s that allow for this crazy size range. Creating 22 molds and then having production runs of each (especially when you don’t own the production) just isn’t viable, which is why you don’t see many people doing what Colnago do…
Fit and finish (before we completely removed it) was / is very good.
While I did have to get a little paint out of the threads of the custom job, I have also now built a stock EPS, and it needed nothing but to have the parts screwed on. I miss Colnago’s older paint schemes (what I wouldn’t do for a EPS in the old GEO!), and think they should get back to that, but the new are executed really well.
If having a bike that’s the best balance of performance and ride quality that Colnago have ever made seems like something that suits you, ring up your retailer… I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.
Frankly I’m struggling and failing at naming a production bicycle that I think has a better balance of performance and comfort. Of course things change fast in cycling… The product offerings are getting better and better every year. But Colnago have really done a great job with the EPS.
Trying to tally up a price here would be a little misleading given the custom paint scheme and build kit. A couple of things are not in full production yet and I honestly don’t want to scare myself out of flogging this bike because it’s just so damn much fun to hammer like hell, and follow it up by a smooth easy spin back to the house. With that, I’ll stick to frame, fork and seat post pricing.
Colnago now handle their own distribution and service via Colnago America and that’s brought down pricing as well as added availability. Last year this bike would have cost you $6500 US and only two colors were available standard. Other colors were a $500 up charge. Now all frame and fork colors are available and a seat post included for $5,500.
There are lots of more or less expensive bikes to have. The list of better bikes is considerably shorter…
Thanks for looking. We’re happy to bring you lots of large pictures instead of making you click a bunch of extra pages. We would rather make things convenient and entertaining for you than artificially inflate our page views…
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