Eurobike 2012 - Colnago C59 Disc – First Ride

VecchioJo on a disc road bike, surely not.

by VecchioJo   August 29, 2012  

 

Disc-braked performance road bikes have created a lot of discussion as the Next Big Thing but all that chatter doesn’t seem to have translated into much actual product yet and merely resulted in what seems like a waiting game between bike and brake manufacturers neither wanting to make the leap before the other one does. Colnago, never afraid to try a bit of innovation and then go back to something that works, have decided to mix their DNA into the primordial soup and kick-start the performance road disc evolution with the C59 Disc.

There are obvious benefits to disc brakes on the road, the use of lighter rims since a braking surface can be discarded, with no rim wear, and probably most importantly consistently powerful braking, whatever the weather and rim choice. Minimal servicing is also a bonus. The downsides are weight, with a disc system being heavier than a caliper and the need to strengthen frames to deal with the extra strain discs put on a bike. Plus of course there’s the always entertaining argument as to whether you actually need discs to slow a road bike.

The exciting news is that the discs on the Colnago are fully hydraulic, no primitive cable discs or halfway-house disc converters here while waiting for the big boys to get their hydraulic road act together, and the gears are electronic as well for that full on future feel. The gears are based on an electronic Dura-Ace Di2 system, but it’s plugged into Formula levers which have all the hydraulic brake gubbins hidden inside the lever space freed up from where a mechanical gear shifting mechanism would go and connected to Colnago branded Formula calipers. Colnago have also designed their own wheels for the C59 Disc, the Artemis Disc with disc-specific hubs and full carbon rims.

The C59 Disc is based on the popular C59 chassis but Colnago have addressed the problem of the different forces disc brakes put on a frame by designing a completely new fork – chunkier and with the dropouts facing slightly forward to counteract the disc forces on the hub under braking load – and they’ve also beefed up the chain and seat stays. Unfortunately it shows. The C59 Disc is a solid platform. It has to be said that it’s veering towards the big-boned for a performance carbon frame and on the superficial basis of a quick ride out it feels unfortunately sturdy, lacking in either much spring or any subtle ride nuances.

The Di2 electronic shifting using the Formula levers isn’t the best. Ergonomically the smaller shifting paddle is positioned just fine, in the right place for efficient tapping, but the large lever extends a long way down requiring quite a finger stretch when on the hoods, resulting in a lot of mis-shifting as the finger often hits the recessed smaller button instead, even after you’ve got used to where things are. The shifting itself is a bit curate’s egg; it’s great in the front with that pleasing whirring noise, but shifting out back can be push perfect at times and then kinda clunky the next. Which is disappointing.

The brakes aren’t as stellar as you think they should be either, as good in the dry as a standard caliper but well bellow-par when compared to a hydraulic disc, with a nasty disc-brake grind too, doubtless they’ll come into their own as soon as it gets wet and gritty though, but as a comparison the TRP Parabox cable-to-disc converter that we played with on the Kinesis Pro6 last year had a significantly smoother feel and a sharper fingertip-only bite.

Sadly the Colnago C59 Disc isn’t quite the revelation or revolution it might be. It could be the future, just not quite yet…

 

www.colnago.com

25 user comments

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Looks like a vital step on the way to building great road bikes with disks, and I doff my cycling cap to Colnago for that. I also think it's beautiful, in its own slightly cuddly kind of way.

posted by kace19 [22 posts]
29th August 2012 - 11:43

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Discs are just too high maintenance!

The callipers are too complicated. The travel is so short that it's very easily clogged by road grime and corrosion.

I commuted on a disc equipped Genesis Croix de Fer, and I came to the conclusion that simpler and self maintainable is better.

Chucking new blocks on conventional brakes is easy. keeping them moving is easy. Not so with discs.

posted by Animal [33 posts]
29th August 2012 - 11:54

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Animal wrote:
Discs are just too high maintenance!

The callipers are too complicated. The travel is so short that it's very easily clogged by road grime and corrosion.

I commuted on a disc equipped Genesis Croix de Fer, and I came to the conclusion that simpler and self maintainable is better.

Chucking new blocks on conventional brakes is easy. keeping them moving is easy. Not so with discs.

Had hydro discs on the mtb for some time now and having
ridden through some less than pleasant conditions I've
never had any real grief from them re: maint or setup.
the old cable version (bb5 and bb7) on the other hand !
Give me hydraulic every time Smile

Still nice looking frame and fork - except those levers !
shame my wallet can never stretch to Colnago levels Smile

still on the 3rd switch-back of Bwlch !

posted by therevokid [585 posts]
29th August 2012 - 12:04

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This is a bit confusing. You say the system is fully hydraulic at the top of the article, but then say they aren't as good as a hydraulic disc later on?

Are you basically saying "despite being hydraulic these are no better than a good caliper setup"?

posted by thereandbackagain [151 posts]
29th August 2012 - 12:06

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Disc brakes and Shimano on a Colnago...WHY? WHY? WHY? Angry

posted by iamelectron [93 posts]
29th August 2012 - 12:31

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Animal wrote:
Discs are just too high maintenance!

The callipers are too complicated. The travel is so short that it's very easily clogged by road grime and corrosion.

I commuted on a disc equipped Genesis Croix de Fer, and I came to the conclusion that simpler and self maintainable is better.

Chucking new blocks on conventional brakes is easy. keeping them moving is easy. Not so with discs.

Not really, your experience probably has a lot to with the fact that they are cable actuated brakes. The vast majority of mountain bikers in the UK, or anywhere else for that matter, will not give up their hydraulic disc brakes. Their performance in mud is simply not under any doubt what-so-ever. The clearance is much smaller, true, but the rotor should act like a knife and cut out the mud. And since they are so much more powerful, the mud should be scraped off every time you brake.

As for maintenance, it's just another skill to learn really. It's true that some brakes require a syringe or other less common tools, but plenty of them can be bled with nothing more than the fluid, an allen key and a 7mm spanner. And if bled properly they require maintenance a lot less often than anything with cables.

posted by Shanghaied [38 posts]
29th August 2012 - 12:57

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Don't forget the most important (FACT!) reason for wanting discs: no horrible brake sludge over everything all winter long.

Bez's picture

posted by Bez [336 posts]
29th August 2012 - 13:00

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Animal wrote:
Discs are just too high maintenance!

Chucking new blocks on conventional brakes is easy. keeping them moving is easy. Not so with discs.

If you say so. I've used BB7s for years and find them easier to change pads on than any other type of brake I've ever used. And IME "keeping them moving" requires doing precisely nothing.

IME discs, BB7s at least, are about as low maintenance as you can get. YMMV, it seems.

Bez's picture

posted by Bez [336 posts]
29th August 2012 - 13:03

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I have no problems with my disc (BB7) equipped Croix de Fer for training and commuting. Cleaning is easy, quick, and much less messy than traditional braking systems.

Just wish I had the cash to upgrade the standard hubs!

Another skill to learn, or to transfer from your MTB stable.

Big Grin

posted by CarbonBreaker [73 posts]
29th August 2012 - 15:18

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thereandbackagain wrote:
This is a bit confusing. You say the system is fully hydraulic at the top of the article, but then say they aren't as good as a hydraulic disc later on?

Are you basically saying "despite being hydraulic these are no better than a good caliper setup"?

yes they are hydraulic, no they don't work very well, hydraulic brakes don't all work the same, different makes work and feel different and some are better than others

posted by VecchioJo [721 posts]
29th August 2012 - 16:32

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I commuted on a disc equipped Genesis Croix de Fer, and I came to the conclusion that simpler and self maintainable is better.

Chucking new blocks on conventional brakes is easy. keeping them moving is easy. Not so with discs.
Yeah so true I mean my MTBS have disks and I wouldn't dare to ride them in the wet and the grim and lets face it, servicing is such a PITA I need a F1 sized team of mechanics to do it...

Misconceptions hein Wink

posted by juan [11 posts]
29th August 2012 - 17:51

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iamelectron wrote:
Disc brakes and Shimano on a Colnago...WHY? WHY? WHY? Angry

Because it's a brave new world and Campag are still in the1970's.The japs rule in the world of electronics.Wake up and face facts.You would not buy an Italian Computer/tv so think on.Face it Shimamo have cycle disc brakes sorted already because of m.t.b's and DI2 is just the best.With such a cutting edge bike you could not fit retro/tracter parts could you?look at Campags rear mech.It looks like a agricultural part from the farm.

big mick

posted by big mick [165 posts]
29th August 2012 - 19:18

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Hats off to colnago for a big push with the C59 disc , it will surely inspire other manufacturers both mainstream and bespoke to offer a new riding experience for us all to try. It will be good to hear how it compares to a top end C59 non disc on a technical climb and descent.....and also compare weights. I can't see maintenance being a problem and if your spending C59 cash then you would probably enjoy the work or pay for it to be done..... Somebody needs to work on those levers though....

NM Rpm90.com

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posted by Equipe Rpm90 [7 posts]
29th August 2012 - 20:49

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"... primitive cable discs ..."

Could you stop this advertising/sales talk, please?

Avid BB7s mechanicals may be simple but certainly not primitive and when PROPERLY adjusted and with the right cables braking performance will be similar to hydraulic system.
On a mountain bike it's a smooth one finger operation and fit and forget performance. They don't need as some ill-informed individuals imply "constant adjustment" and after initial bed-in/adjustment cables don't "stretch" any more.

I respect honest UNBIASED opinions from people who have actually spend a significant amount of time on both BB7s and hydraulic systems in order to evaluate their performance.
Unfortunately most of people "opinions" are simply based only on experience with some badly adjusted OEM or Tektro calipers combined with standard outer casing. Oh, and don't assume that a brake is correctly adjusted just because a shop mechanic has done it for you.

As everyone working in busy workshop will tell you hydraulic brakes have their drawbacks and most randomly picked bikes will have some minor issues with sticky pistons, rotor rub etc...

P.S. Small (140mm?) rotors may look sexy on a shop floor and be adequate for racers and skinny journos with racing background but they won't be large enough for most of "normal" people, at least not at the front.

I don't follow trends. Trends follow me.

posted by BBB [164 posts]
29th August 2012 - 21:01

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edited...

posted by mattsavage [13 posts]
29th August 2012 - 21:45

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VecchioJo wrote:
thereandbackagain wrote:
This is a bit confusing. You say the system is fully hydraulic at the top of the article, but then say they aren't as good as a hydraulic disc later on?

Are you basically saying "despite being hydraulic these are no better than a good caliper setup"?

yes they are hydraulic, no they don't work very well, hydraulic brakes don't all work the same, different makes work and feel different and some are better than others

Before making that comment, you should have asked if the pads and rotors were broken properly and reported how. If the first contact is a 2000', brake dragging descent from some inexperienced journalist, then no, they're not going to work well after that. But if the techs took 15 minutes to properly bed them in using short term medium pressure, on and off again, and a squeeze bottle of water, then I'd bet they'd work well. Every Formula brake I've ever owned has worked perfectly, great modulation and great power with little effort, when set up properly.

posted by mattsavage [13 posts]
29th August 2012 - 21:47

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Cannot understand some of the comments on here saying disc brakes are higher maintenance, maybe the fore runners of the disc brake system ie cable operated ones may not have had the benefit of hindsight and or customer feedback, but I have a hydraulic system which works is very low maintenance and changing the pads was a doodle.

FATBEGGARONABIKE's picture

posted by FATBEGGARONABIKE [481 posts]
30th August 2012 - 9:59

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I've been using open pro ceramic rims on my winter bike for many years. No brake grime/sludge, no worn out rims (my last pair lasted 10 years) and great braking.
A new pair of Dura Ace calipers gives you single finger braking even at high speeds and is more than powerful enough to have you over the bars if you arn't careful!

Disk brakes on the road..... A solution looking for a problem!

posted by Glossies [29 posts]
30th August 2012 - 10:43

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Glossies wrote:
I've been using open pro ceramic rims on my winter bike for many years. No brake grime/sludge, no worn out rims (my last pair lasted 10 years) and great braking.
A new pair of Dura Ace calipers gives you single finger braking even at high speeds and is more than powerful enough to have you over the bars if you arn't careful!

Disk brakes on the road..... A solution looking for a problem!

Haven't mavic stopped producing the ceramic open pro now, though? If you know of anywhere to get them, I'm keen to get hold of a set...

As for whether they match the benefit of a disc brake, I'm not sure. You still need a braking surface on the rim, which adds weight, dictates parallel surfaces and which does (eventually, albeit slowly) wear out. With no need for a braking surface, the weight can be moved from the rim (at the outside) to the caliper/disc (close to the hub) making the wheels feel sprightlier, and rims can be made of lighter materials (like carbon) without the downsides of using rim brakes on those materials.

It's not that the rim brake is rubbish, or ill suited. Just that a good disc brake solution COULD be better. Not necessarily better, but could be...

posted by step-hent [638 posts]
30th August 2012 - 11:05

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ppf. Can't believe what I am reading,don't any of you ride motocycles or drive a CAR? What brakes do they have? how many times a year do the brakes require attention? Hmmm.... shall we say a Maximum of ONCE! disc's are better than rim brakes in most cases. (All my road bikes have calipers,however,all my mtb's and commuters have mechanical or hydraulic discs.) They are vastly superior to calipers.
Personally,they will be a step forward for road bikes. they will become better looking,performing,lighter and more intergrated as they evolve. I cannot wait to get a disc braked road bike!!!!

peasantpigfarmer

posted by peasantpigfarmer [46 posts]
30th August 2012 - 11:09

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I haven't used my ceramic-rimmed bike for a while but I'm pretty sure it still makes sludge. Less, perhaps, but still some.

Bez's picture

posted by Bez [336 posts]
30th August 2012 - 12:29

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mattsavage wrote:
Every Formula brake I've ever owned has worked perfectly, great modulation and great power with little effort, when set up properly.

you haven't used one running on a Colnago C59 from a master cylinder in a prototype road lever though, right? Just checking.

Dave Atkinson's picture

posted by Dave Atkinson [7032 posts]
30th August 2012 - 13:11

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Use Swissstop Greens and you won't get the sludge either

posted by Huw Watkins [41 posts]
30th August 2012 - 13:21

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mattsavage wrote:
VecchioJo wrote:
thereandbackagain wrote:
This is a bit confusing. You say the system is fully hydraulic at the top of the article, but then say they aren't as good as a hydraulic disc later on?

Are you basically saying "despite being hydraulic these are no better than a good caliper setup"?

yes they are hydraulic, no they don't work very well, hydraulic brakes don't all work the same, different makes work and feel different and some are better than others

Before making that comment, you should have asked if the pads and rotors were broken properly and reported how. If the first contact is a 2000', brake dragging descent from some inexperienced journalist, then no, they're not going to work well after that. But if the techs took 15 minutes to properly bed them in using short term medium pressure, on and off again, and a squeeze bottle of water, then I'd bet they'd work well. Every Formula brake I've ever owned has worked perfectly, great modulation and great power with little effort, when set up properly.

sadly there wasn't time for that, i'd have hoped that a manufacturer showcasing a new bike, actually more than that, a potentially new groundbreaking bike, would have the brakes set up perfectly to put their performance in the best possible light, you might have thought that.
that said, we got to test the bike towards the end of the day where the bike had been lent out to any number of inexperienced journalists so lord knows what had happened to the brakes as they were tested over the gently rolling hills of southern Germany, though i guess it was the kind of treatment that any bike gets on a day to day basis, so actually maybe a true indication of their performance in the real world rather than be fettled by trained mechanics after each time they were used.

from my experience of using most every hydraulic disc brake this century they felt poor, which is why i said it.

posted by VecchioJo [721 posts]
30th August 2012 - 14:01

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I've seen the Formula levers get a dodgy write-up elsewhere to, shame as it clouds the picture on how good hydraulic discs could be on the road.
Utter rubbish they're high maintenance and prone to clogging - they've been on MTBs for years and only need bleeding every couple of years IME and mine have never stopped working or clogged up in the mud (and they're easily cleaned with a blast from a hose after).
I wouldn't say cabe discs have had their day though, especially as Shimano have prototype ones doing the rounds. They'll be enough for a lot of people and even when cost isn't an issue a lot of people who do touring etc. will want cables for their out-in-the-field serviceability.
It's a bit worrying they seem to have ruined the ride characteristics of the C59 as well, not seen that aspect come up before but certainly something to watch out for.

posted by fuzzywuzzy [58 posts]
30th August 2012 - 16:04

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