With the Giro d’Italia back on home soil today for a summit finish on Mount Etna, we’ve got a touch of pink for you for today’s Bike At Bedtime – and fittingly, on a bike from one of Il Bel Paese’s most fabled brands, Colnago.
The bike itself is a bit of a blast from the past, dating from 2008, the same year road.cc was founded, and having been in storage for a few years for reasons I’ll explain below, it’s now back on the road and is as much a blast to ride as it was before.
I have a soft spot for all things Italian after first visiting the country in 1990 and that of course extends to cycling – I’ve spoken on the road.cc Podcast about how Milan-San Remo is my favourite one-day race, and over the coming fortnight I’m looking forward to seeing a couple of Giro stages in person.
And that goes for bikes, too. So when I was looking for my first drop-bar road bike back in 2008 with a budget of just over £1,000, obviously it was Italian brands I gravitated towards and I was close to splashing out on an entry-level Bianchi when I stumbled across the website of Primera Sports in Bournemouth – and found a heavily discounted Colnago Arte that just came in at the top of my price range and was in my size. After reading a couple of reviews, I didn’t have to think twice before placing my order.
At the time, the Arte was the second model up in Colnago’s road range, above the Primavera, both representing a short-lived strategy of the Cambiago-based company to make its bikes more accessible to a wider audience, with cheaper price points made possible due to producing both of those frames in the Far East.
I got a lot of bike for my money – a frame that mixes 6000 series aluminium alloy with pleasantly arced carbon fibre rear seatstays and chainstays, as well as straight carbon fibre forks.
Carbon fibre also features on the cranks and seatpost, which as with other components including the stem and bars were supplied by FSA, while most of the groupset is Shimano Ultegra in a very striking anodised smoky grey colour.
As supplied, the finishing kit was completed with a Prologo C-Lock SYS saddle – apparently allowing the cover to be swapped over for a different one, although quite how that worked in practice seems unclear – plus Mavic Askium wheels with straight spokes and Vittorio Rubino Pro tyres in white, the whole package making for a very pleasing aesthetic.
After a few years (and a couple of crashes) the bartape was looking tired and scuffed, and I was in need of new tyres – so when in 2013 Vittoria brought limited edition Rubino Pros in Giro pink, I couldn’t resist getting hold of a pair, plus some Fizik bartape in the closest colour match I could find. The overall aesthetic might not be to everyone’s taste, but I love it.
A couple of touches added by your truly are a Rapha saddle roll to hold a multitool, spare inner tubes and tyre levers, pleasingly fastened with a track toestrap, and stickers on either fork, one from The Times’ Cities Fit For Cycling campaign launched in 2011, the other from a similar initiative, Salva I Ciclisti (Save The Cyclists) launched by La Gazzetta dello Sport shortly afterwards.
As with any new road bike purchase, pedals are of course a personal choice and I decided to go with a pair of Crank Brothers Quattro, the road product the US-based mountain bike firm briefly had.
Why? Well, they’re based around the company’s iconic Eggbeater design, which is what I had on my Giant FCR flat bar road bike that the Colnago was destined to replace.
I’d arrived at Primera for 10am and after a helpful member of staff measured me up to make some final adjustments to the bike set-up, I repaired to a café over the road for breakfast while they made the necessary adjustments. An hour or so later, I was proudly wheeling my new bike out of the shop.
Now, as any of my colleagues on the road.cc team will tell you, I’m not the kind of person able to impart wisdom on bike tech issues, but here is a bit of advice I can confidently share, backed experience – NEVER attempt to ride a new bike with brand new shoes, cleats and pedals when you are somewhere exposed and the wind is gusting off the English Channel at 50mph.
First attempted turn of the cranks and I was sprawled on my backside, luckily the only damage being to my pride and not the bike, which I sensibly decided to walk back to Bournemouth station – happily, once back in Oxford, with no wind to contend with and a relatively traffic-free route home, I was able to finally hop on and from the word go it was lot of fun to ride.
Over the next few years, I’d develop loops out of Wolvercote, then Woodstock once I’d moved there, and finally Chipping Norton, and I absolutely loved riding that bike around the countryside west and north of Oxford.
Then I moved to Cambridge, splitting that with visits to London, and with a small dog in tow (and luggage too more often than not) my riding went from going out a couple of times a week on the Colnago to ferrying my miniature schnauzer around on my Elephant Bike, and the road bike went into storage.
With the first lockdown in 2020 resulting in me moving full-time to London and into the flat of my (Italian) partner, there it stayed until last month when I finally managed to get organised enough to move my stuff here, where it joins the old Raleigh singlespeed conversion I use for my daily trips.
Last Saturday, waking up at what for me is an unusually early time and with the sun shining, I took the Colnago out for a long overdue spin, through Gunnersbury Park and Brentford to Syon Park then along the river to Richmond and, after a coffee stop, back home via Kew, and I loved every single second of it.
It won’t replace my singlespeed workhorse – no way am I leaving it outside a supermarket for 15 minutes, let alone a football ground for a couple of hours – but it’s lovely to have it back, and it’s definitely going to be less neglected from now on than it has been these past few years.
And – as you can see from the pictures – that will start with giving it a much-needed clean, but given I’ll have to do that on the balcony, perhaps when my partner isn’t around.
Simon joined road.cc as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.