Every cyclist knows two things about Colnagos. First, every bike comes with Italian tradition and Eddy Merckx-heritage fitted as standard. And second, they offer a silky ride. Well, we don’t really think the whole history thing necessarily makes much difference to ride quality but the carbon fibre CLX is certainly a smooth operator.
After defiantly holding out for ages, Colnago finally succumbed to the lure of the Far East and started out-sourcing some of their bikes a few years back and the CLX, like the vast majority of bikes out there, is made in Taiwan. Let’s not get snobby about this, the quality is none the worse for that.
The monocoque front triangle is a variable carbon lay-up with extra material used to provide stiffness in the chunky bottom bracket and the deep head tube, while external reinforcing ribs give the top tube and down tube Colnago’s distinctive bulging profiles, reminiscent of the brand’s clover-leaf logo - Colanago also reckon that this shape adds aero optimisation to the tubes too. The lugged back end is made up of curved wishbone seatstays and beefy chainstays that feature more carbon reinforcing for extra stiffness and to boost braking performance.
Weighing in at 8.4kg (18.6lb), the CLX is light but not superlight and the acceleration isn’t startling for a three grand bike. Don’t get us wrong, it doesn’t hang about by any means and the chunky bottom bracket junction holds things solid when you turn up the power – it’s just that it isn’t electrifying off the mark in the way that a bike a couple of pounds lighter can be.
It’s a similar story on the hills. The Colnago will respond well when you decide it’s hammer time and jump out of the saddle – it’s certainly no slouch – but some other contenders at this price are just a bit hungrier to reach the top first.
Lighter wheels would definitely help here... so it’s good news that rather than the FSA 220EUs that came fitted on our test model, you’ll get an upgrade to RD440 EUs. Our 220s run smoothly on sealed cartridge bearings and don’t flex much when you get out of the saddle and throw things about a bit. There’s no elbow in the front spokes or on the rear drive side and that’s cool as far as we’re concerned because, whatever the manufacturers tell you, that’s where we find that spokes most often fail.
What might bug you, though, is that the nipples are hidden inside the rim for improved aerodynamics, and the same is true of the 440s. Great, we’re all for reducing drag… but if you get a slight wobble you have to take the tyre off to adjust the spoke tension.
Anyway, where were we? Ah yes, the CLX climbs well, even if it doesn’t quite set the slopes alight – and your version will probably climb better. Where it really scores, as we said up top, is in its smoothness. We don’t like to resort to cycling clichés but this Colnago is one comfortable, stable machine, and the longer you ride it the more you’ll appreciate that.
One cycling cliché we won’t sign up to is that straight-bladed forks are harsh – they’re not. The Colnago’s CLX full-carbon number deals with road chatter just fine, and the same is true of the carbon frame, so the fact that all the Tarmac is knackered after the icy winter doesn’t mean your fillings will be shaken loose – whatever the road condition, you’re left feeling unshaken in the saddle. Speaking of which, we got on really well with the titanium-railed Prologo perch which has just the right degree of give for long-ride comfort. The FSA Wing Pro Compact alloy bars are good too, the shallow drop meaning that you’ll find yourself using the bottom section way more often than usual.
The Colnago holds its line well without the need for constant readjustment through the bends and the fork is pin-point accurate on downhill sweepers. In terms of its behaviour and temperament, we’ve got no worries at all.
We do feel, though, that you’re paying a premium for the Colnago name… which explains why it’s emblazoned along the down tube, the head tube and the top tube. And the seat tube. Oh, and on the chainstays and the fork. And the seatpost collar. And a few times on the saddle. The ‘Colnago’ count reaches 16 (yes, we counted ‘em). And why not? If you’ve got it, flaunt it.
But this is a £3,000 bike and it’s fitted with Campagnolo’s fourth tier Centaur groupset components, albeit with FSA’s impressive SLK Pro crankset (as opposed to the Team Issue version fitted to our test bike) and an FSA Energy front mech. Centaur is good stuff. You flick up and down the 10-spd block effortlessly and the brakes have plenty of power and modulation. No doubt about it: it’s quality kit. But for three grand you can be forgiven for wanting the lightweight sophistication of equipment that’s a little more high-end. Yes, we know bikes are getting more expnesive, but even so…
If a Campag set-up doesn't float your boat, the CLX is also available in a Shimano 105 build for £2,449.95 and an Ultegra build for £2,8995.95.
What you get here is a classy, smooth-riding road machine that eats up the miles without fuss. And it is a Colnago – which could be a definite plus for you. It’s just that, to us, it lacks that extra something… that spark… that buy-me-ness… that makes you willing to part with £3,000.
road.cc test report
Make and model: Colnago CLX Centaur
Size tested: 56cm
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?
The CLX is Colnago’s entry-level carbon fibre frame, designed as an affordable, high-performance road bike.
Colnago's idea of entry-level is much higher than that of most other manufacturers, both in terms of quality and price.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
The front triangle is a monocoque construction with the stays slotting into lugs behind the bottom bracket and the seat tube/top tube junction. There's a distinct step where these separate parts meet, a lot like you see on many alloy bikes with carbon back ends.
Colnago reckon the arc-shaped rear seatstays improve comfort and braking. We're not convinced they do that, although this bike performs well on both those scores.
It's neat and tidy - no worries on that front at all. Attractive styling and a great finish too.
Our test period has been limited to three weeks so it's impossible to judge - but so far so good.
It's pretty light though not super-light. The built-up version will come with lighter wheels than the set fitted to our test rig, which should inject some extra speed while accelerating and climbing.
Very stable and we loved the long-ride comfort.
It's not ridiculously expensive - but it's not an absolute bargain either.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Impressive. And will be even better with lighter wheels.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The comfort and all-round ride quality. And, let's be honest, there's a bit of bike snobbery in all of us and the Colnago name does add extra cred.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
There's nothing that makes you think: I want to change that right now.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes, a lot, especially thanks to the smoothness.
Would you consider buying the product? I wouldn't because although it performs well across the board, it isn't spectacular in any particular department, although it is very comfortable
Would you recommend the product to a friend? If they were after a comfortable Colnago… possibly not if they wanted that extra performance edge
About the tester
Age: 37 Height: 1.82m Weight: 69Kg
I usually ride: Specialized Tarmac Pro My best bike is: Van Nicholas Aeolus
I've been riding for: 22 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: Time trials, sportives, triathlons, occasional crit races, training, commuting
Mat has worked for loads of bike magazines over the past 20 years, and been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. He's been road.cc technical editor for seven years, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. We send him off around the world to get all the news from launches and shows too. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a past winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer.