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Verdict: 
Sublime smoothness and comfort from updated frame now with the luxury of disc brakes
Weight: 
10,062g
Condor Fratello Disc road bike
8 10

London-based Condor Cycles built their reputation, stretching back to 1948, on steel bikes, though they have very highly-regarded carbon and aluminium bikes too. The Fratello continues to be their best-selling model, despite the prevalence and increasing affordability of lighter materials, and for 2015 it has received the biggest update in its history, a new Columbus tubeset and the addition of a disc brake option.

Updated steel frame and new carbon fork

Steel might have been replaced by aluminium and carbon fibre in the affections of most cyclists in the last decade or so, but despite lighter and stiffer materials, steel has proved to have an enduring popularity. In fact, it's very much in fashion at the moment - you only need head to the popular Bespoked UK Handbuilt show to realise there's a healthy number of frame builders and brands, old and new, offering a steel choice for the increasing number of cyclists who want it.

For 2015 Condor have switched from Dedacciai tubing, which they've used for many years, to Columbus Spirit, with some specially profiled tubes. The new frame retains the same lines as the previous version, but they've taken some inspiration from the Super Acciaio, namely in the new squashed oval top tube. It looks delightful up close. The tubeset change has netted a small weight drop, down 125g to a claimed 1,900g for a size 55cm frame.

The big news is the addition of a disc braked Fratello, though there will still be a regular caliper rim brake version. For the disc version, Condor developed new dropouts and placed the brake caliper on the top of the chainstay. This is a smart decision as it provides maximum clearance for fitting mudguards and racks.

A new fork was required for the disc bike, and Condor have developed their own, a carbon fibre item with a straight 1 1/8in steerer tube. There is plenty of clearance for 28mm tyres and mudguards; remove the mudguards and you can go wider on the tyres if you really want to. It's a straight bladed fork, some people have commented that a slightly curved fork might be more aesthetically pleasing. I can't make up my mind if I like the straight blades.

Condor have routed the gear and brake cables along the down tube. The rear brake has a full run of outer housing, all neatly zip tied into place on its journey from the brake lever to the brake caliper. The guides are compatible with hydraulic hoses. The front brake cable is routed inside the fork leg, providing very clean lines and pleasing absence of zip ties.

Build - now with disc brakes

You can buy the frameset for £699 and build up the bike however you want, or choose from a number of builds, starting at £1,305 with SRAM Apex or Shimano Tiagra. Condor will be able to accommodate custom builds if you have a particular preference, and all bike purchases include a bike fit so you can be sure of getting the right fit.

The bike I rode was the one on display at the Cycle Show last year, where it was first shown to the world, and as such it's more of an example build to demonstrate the frame, actual full builds when the bike is available this spring may, and most likely will, differ a bit.

This one then was built up with a SRAM Rival mechanical groupset and TRP Hy/Rd disc brakes. These brakes are self-contained hydraulic calipers operated by a regular cable brake lever. That means they're easily fitted to a bike with conventional brake levers.

They provide good performance. There is noticeably more power than a good caliper rim brake, but they're not in the same league as a full hydraulic setup. The test bike had clearly been used before I got my hands on it, there was some drag in the rear brake, despite the full outer housing to keep the muck out. Unlike a full hydraulic system which needs little maintenance, the cables still need to be regularly serviced to keep them running nicely.

Are the disc brakes worthwhile? Riding roads covered in mud and water at this time of year: yes. Disc brakes, even these semi-hydraulic disc brakes, provide noticeably more stopping ability. While the difference is less pronounced in the dry, in the rain you really notice the improved braking.

It's not only about braking power, it's also about not grinding the rims away. Don't take my word for it, though. Steve Abraham, currently attempting to beat the record for the greatest distance ridden in a year, is using disc brakes because after testing a bike with rim brakes he said: "The pads only lasted a few days and by my reckoning I'd need new rims every 6-8 weeks."

There was also much less cleaning required because the aluminium rims hadn't deteriorated into the black paste that coats large parts of the fork and frame after a wet ride. They're quieter too, no scratching and grinding as the brake blocks flail desperately at the rims. I'm sounding like a convert aren't I? Let's move on.

Wheel choice for disc-equipped bikes is increasing all the time. The Fratello was specced with Mavic's new Aksium Disc wheels. They're based on the regular wheels of the same name but have new hubs with a six-bolt disc mount and revised rims.

They're an entry-level wheelset with commendable performance and good robustness for riding along pothole strewn roads, but at 1965g they are far from light. They're plenty stiff enough and don't flex when giving the Fratello some welly on a fast road though. The front hub can be easily converted to a 15mm axle, providing an upgrade opportunity down the road.

On to the wheels are fitted a pair of 28mm Continental Gatorskin tyres. They're super reliable tyre sfor winter riding and though you can feel their weight when first getting the Fratello up to speed and through low speed turns, they zip along at a comfortable cruising speed quite happily. If you're new to 28mm tyres, it's worth experimenting with the tyre pressure, you can run them quite low with little adverse impact on the rolling resistance.

The test bike was finished with a Brooks Cambium seat, and really there's nothing I can add to John's glowing review of this saddle. Okay it doesn't look quite right on the blue Fratello, I'd go with one of the newer black Cambium saddles now available, but my god is it comfortable. A perfect choice for settling down into a 200km or longer Audax.

A carbon fibre 27.2m Condor seatpost provides a small measure of deflection. Up front was a perfectly fine Deda stem and handlebar - I changed the stem for a longer stem to achieve my ideal fit. This is a 55cm size frame, I'm 5ft 11in, and I found it a perfect fit, with enough length in the top tube for a comfortable stretch without being overstretched, and just the right head tube to promote a reasonably pointy position.

The ride - supreme comfort and smoothness, and no slouch

With the new carbon fork and the updated frame, the result is a bike that relays a bit more feedback from the road but feels more energetic and enthusiastic than before, without unduly sacrificing all-day comfort. Settle down into a relaxed tempo and the Fratello provides the easy pace and impressive comfort it always has done, but the new tubeset delivers a slightly more refined and crisp response than the older generation bike.

It doesn't always feel fast. The uncanny smoothness of the steel frame and the tyres, and the quietness of the whole bike, fools you into thinking you're not travelling especially quickly, when actually you are. It's as comfortable as an Audax or light touring bike needs to be, and it's perfectly suited to being a dedicated winter training bike.

It's easy to get hung up on weight in cycling, and you're reading the wrong review if you're after a lightweight climbing bike. At 10.6kg the Fratello is no featherweight, but this is a traditional Audax and light touring bike in looks, yet one that despite that weight, offers a rewarding and lively ride as a result of the updated tubeset and new fork. And it has proper mudguards and a proper comfy saddle: that all adds weight.

But at no point does the weight ever compromise the sheer pleasure of the ride. The Fratello isn't a bike designed to be slung around the road or to chase wheels on a fast club run, though it's not beyond its capabilities, as I found out the other weekend. Get it up to speed and it barrels along with that smooth capacity that steel bikes have; it just takes a bit more time to gather up that speed.

The Fratello Disc is about enjoying the ride, exploring new roads and going the long way home and staying out all day on the bike, just because you love cycling. It's not a bike for battling Strava segments or worrying about the fastest time from A to B; if that's your bag you've lots and lots of other options.

Add in the full-length mudguards for unparalleled protection from muck and water on the roads, and the rack mounts for adding some panniers for transporting a change of clothes to work in a pannier, or for more adventurous multi-day rides, and you have yourself an ideal do-everything year-round UK bike. The disc brakes are just the cherry on top of a well-iced cake.

If you want a pleasant and enjoyable riding experience and a bike that can be used for daily commuting, touring and the odd Audax, and even some sportives, the Fratello Disc is a fine choice. I'm in no hurry to give it back.

Verdict

Sublime smoothness and comfort from updated frame now with the luxury of disc brakes

road.cc test report

Make and model: Condor Fratello Disc

Size tested: 55

Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?

Condor says:

The original superbike is now even better. Our flagship steel frame is as popular as ever. Used as a commuter by some, fast tourer or winter trainer by others, its inherent versatility makes it ideal if you don't have space for a stable of bikes. The disc mounts are placed inside the rear triangle to ensure the bicycle can be used with pannier bags and mudguards. The 2015 model uses a lighter and smoother custom Columbus tubeset, using custom shaped Spirit tubing, the responsive triple butted steel, in our latest incarnation of the Fratello is lively and exciting to ride, whatever the weather.

Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?

Price includes frame, fork and headset only - images show example full builds

Frame: Custom Columbus Spirit developed with Condor triple-butted steel

Fork: Condor Pioggia carbon disc

Custom drawn and shaped tube sections used at the seat stays create a responsive frame that minimises rider fatigue and maintains ride quality

Colours: deep purple

Mudguard eyelets and rear rack mounts

Fits up to 28mm tyres

Internally mounted disc to allow use with panniers and rack

Reflective detail on rear stay for increased visability

Sizes: 46, 49, 52, 55, 58, 61cm

Rate the product for quality of construction:
 
9/10
Rate the product for performance:
 
9/10
Rate the product for durability:
 
9/10

Durability is one of the strengths of steel; it's bombproof.

Rate the product for weight, if applicable:
 
7/10

It's no lightweight but that isn't its remit, so the weight is about right for this sort of bike and the intended riding.

Rate the product for comfort, if applicable:
 
9/10

Superb all-day comfort. The big tyres and Brooks saddle contributed hugely to the smooth ride.

Rate the product for value:
 
7/10

There are better value builds - Charge for example offer the Plug with SRAM hydraulic disc brakes for £1399, and there's the Genesis Equilibrium Disc 20 with 105 and TRP Hy/Rd brakes for £1,499. Things to consider with Condor include the brand heritage and the fact a bike fit is included so ensure you get the bike fitting you just right with the correct length stem, width bars and the right saddle, for example.

Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose

As a super commuter, touring, sportive or Audax bike, the Fratello is the perfect choice. It'll look after you all day long in supreme comfort. You can do everything but race on it, and for many people that's the perfect bike.

Tell us what you particularly liked about the product

The comfort and smoothness, and the disc brakes.

Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product

The brake cables need regular servicing - a full hydraulic brake setup would be my personal preference.

Did you enjoy using the product? Yes.

Would you consider buying the product? Yes.

Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes.

Overall rating: 8/10

About the tester

Age: 31  Height: 180  Weight: 67

I usually ride:   My best bike is:

I've been riding for: 10-20 years  I ride: Every day  I would class myself as: Expert

I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo cross, commuting, touring, mtb,

 

David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.

22 comments

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Geordie Simon [25 posts] 3 years ago
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Nice paint job, not a bad looking bike but the cable run to the rear brake looks like an afterthought, not pretty at all.

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Speedystevie [8 posts] 3 years ago
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Smiley for steel ! We used to be good at it. Thumbs up for disc brakes too.

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Jonny_Trousers [277 posts] 3 years ago
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Not particularly relevant to this review, but I do think Shimano disc brakes are winning style wise. Their 140mm rotors look way nicer on a bike than the 160s that I assume this Fratello is wearing.

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CasperCCC [61 posts] 3 years ago
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Love my Fratello. Such a nice bike to ride. If it got nicked, I'd be lining up the disc version. Would make a pretty much perfect all-rounder.

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keepontriking [19 posts] 3 years ago
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Having seen Condor's excellent customer service and bike fitting in action twice recently* (firstly for an Acciaio and then a Fratello) this adds enormously to the value of this well designed and finished frame.
But being a Condor, and Italian built, it should really only ever be shod with Campagnolo  3

*Unfortunately not for me but for son.

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crikey [1251 posts] 3 years ago
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Quote:

full-length mudguards for unparalleled protection

Except the mudguards shown are well short of full length; you'll get wet feet from the front mudguard and anyone riding behind you will get sprayed.

Needs longer guards...

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mtbtomo [260 posts] 3 years ago
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My Shimano hydraulic discs are running on 160 rotors I think....

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mrmo [2096 posts] 3 years ago
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mtbtomo wrote:

My Shimano hydraulic discs are running on 160 rotors I think....

I have seen both used, not convinced that 140s are a good idea despite what Shimano might claim.

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Leodis [427 posts] 3 years ago
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Quite a high price when you think its not inc hydraulic discs. Lovely looking bike though.

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gmac101 [204 posts] 3 years ago
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If you are going to build a relatively expensive mudguard ready bike with a specially designed paint job why don't you design a set of custom fit 'guards as well, maybe even colour coordinated it would look so much better - they could even be long enough!

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Municipal Waste [256 posts] 3 years ago
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I used to have a Tempo which was lovely. Can't help but hate the graphics on this though, god-damn hipsters  45

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LondonDynaslow [265 posts] 3 years ago
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Municipal Waste wrote:

I used to have a Tempo which was lovely. Can't help but hate the graphics on this though, god-damn hipsters  45

It's nicer in real life but nothing like as pretty as the last Fratello, which made me stop dead in my tracks and start thinking of reasons why I needed one (I convinced myself...).

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1860 [35 posts] 3 years ago
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Love the bike, would love to have one. I tried to configure a disc version on the website but it doesn't get further than the wheel selection..

I would love to see a comparison with the Canyon Inflite AL 9.0 S, although with 1 kg difference and fully hydraulic brakes at roughly 700 € less, it seems to me that that's a tough one for the Condor, much as I like the bikes.

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Kadinkski [783 posts] 3 years ago
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1860 wrote:

Love the bike, would love to have one. I tried to configure a disc version on the website but it doesn't get further than the wheel selection..

I would love to see a comparison with the Canyon Inflite AL 9.0 S, although with 1 kg difference and fully hydraulic brakes at roughly 700 € less, it seems to me that that's a tough one for the Condor, much as I like the bikes.

Especially if they can't fix the wheel issue on their bike builder. I reported that to them a few days ago.

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1860 [35 posts] 3 years ago
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Kadinkski wrote:

Especially if they can't fix the wheel issue on their bike builder. I reported that to them a few days ago.

The non-disc version works on the bike builder, but really would like to see the disc version.... (plus full hydraulics) ... (plus 9kg total weight max) .... (minus 700€)....

ok getting carried away with the wishes

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gio71 [12 posts] 3 years ago
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@David, pardon the detail, but were there any issues with fork judder under braking, or toe overlap?

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matthewn5 [1190 posts] 3 years ago
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Front mudguard is too short. It should extend well down towards the contact point. Otherwise you get a steady spray of water on your bike's vitals (BB, chainset, front mech).

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Pitchpole [6 posts] 3 years ago
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The mudguard attachment is on the front of the forks. If it was on the back it would look better and have the mudguard lower by a couple of inches.

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WolfieSmith [1397 posts] 3 years ago
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On my third Condor. Steel, steel and now Ti. They're all fantastic. They've been using a Dedacciai site and staff for years and are now using Columbus for Ti too I believe. Always looking beyond cheap Chinese options. . I think the only carbon frame made in the Far East was their RCJLT TT frame.

My only criticism is that the colour schemes have been getting a bit twee in recent years but the entry level Italia is beautiful and there are few British brands where you can see Ed Clancy's team bike in the window and go in and buy it.

British at it's best.

Btw. The Design Museum are holding a frame building exhibition this spring. Condor and others will feature.

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Nick0 [185 posts] 3 years ago
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drmatthewhardy wrote:

Front mudguard is too short. It should extend well down towards the contact point. Otherwise you get a steady spray of water on your bike's vitals (BB, chainset, front mech).

Absolutely right Sir, and it's nowt to do with the mounting points.

The fashion for mudguards these days seems to be for them to be short, which means they're almost, but not entirely, useless! I wore out two chains in 3,000 miles riding in all weathers (I'm a specialist in Rule #9) before realising the chain was taking everything that got sprayed up from the front tyre!

I fitted a mudguard flap to the bottom of the front and have since covered 1,600 miles without any noticeable chain stretch at all.

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Tin Pony [73 posts] 3 years ago
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When brands are knocking bikes out with colour explosions going off left right and centre it's refreshing to see something with a subtle paint job. Let's hope the style translates to the substance.mpersonally I like steel and would buy one but what do I know.
http://www.tinpony.co.uk/news/

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menthel [11 posts] 2 years ago
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It will actually take 30mm strada bianca tyres under mudguards and they look awesome with the tan sidewalls. I love mine even more than the Italia that was killed in an accident that it replaced. Perfect commuting, light touring, long distance audax and gentle off roading bike.