Colnago have been busy this year, first launching the latest C60 and then, in time for the Tour de France, the V1-r. This bike is a bit of a departure from everything that has come before from the Italian company, as it's been shaped in the wind tunnel. Yes, it's their first aero road bike. Most manufacturers want or need an aero bike in their range these days, especially one sponsoring a World Tour team as Colnago does.
The V1-r replaces the previous M10, Colnago's go-to race bike and make no mistake, the V1-r is a thoroughbred race bike. It was ridden by some members of the Europcar team at the Tour, including sprinter Bryan Coquard. While the C60 is itself no slouch, it feels more like a grand tourer compared to the sharpness and effervescent speed of the V1-r.
It begs to be ridden fast. That can be said of most top-end race bikes of course, but the V1-r feels really comfortable and settled at high speed compared to some bikes that can become a little twitchy and edgy. The V1-r has a wonderful balance and composure and can sometimes fool you into thinking you're not going that quickly when in fact you're travelling pretty damn fast along the road.
I spent a week testing the V1-r on our recent trip to Italy and spend a lot of time exploring the area's wonderful corners, curves and bends. Throwing the V1-r into them reveals a real triumph in the geometry, the handling and the stiffness of the frame and fork. Some bikes have to be muscled through the bends, the V1-r simply arcs through with no drama or fuss. That balanced handling and steering makes it alarmingly easy to push closer to the limits, but it just feels comfortable and calm in such situations.
Where it doesn't feel quite so calm is on rough roads, and there were plenty of those in Italy. Thankfully the V1-r was shipped to us with 25mm tyres. With them inflated to about 90psi, the V1-r still relays a lot of the road surface through the contact points. It's not an uncomfortable bike as such, but you have to accept the ride is going to give a few jarring thumps.
It whips up to speed with impressive ease. The claimed 835g frame weight and the no-expense-spared Campagnolo Record and Vision Metron 40 wheels brought it in under 7kg, which no doubt played its part in the feel. It doesn't have the electrifying acceleration of some race bikes like the Canyon Ultimate CF SLX or Alchemy Helios but it's no slouch. It just doesn't have the same startling pick up from lower speeds as those two bikes. It makes up for that initial lack of fizz with impressive ease of handling in high speed situations; once it's going very fast it handles better than those two. Clearly it's a bike happiest at speed.
This is Colnago's first aero road bike and it displays all the usual hallmarks of a road bike designed to carve efficiently through the air. Colnago have used NACA airfoils (airfoil shapes for aeroplane wings developed by the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics), with a truncated shape, much like the Kamm Tail profile that is used by quite a few bicycle manufacturers. They've used this profile of all the main tubes, and the fork blades are all-new too.
There's a new seat post which is 27.2mm in diameter but has the same D-shape profile as the seat tube. There's no integrated seat clamp, just a regular external clamp with the bolt behind the post. I had problems with the seatpost slipping on the first ride out, but some carbon paste soon remedied that. The seatpost, Colnago's own design, uses a single bolt to clamp the saddle in place and is easy to use and adjust.
Colnago don't offer any aero data to show how much the frame reduces drag and without a wind tunnel to test the frame ourselves, it's impossible to validate just how aero this aero frame is. It looks aero for sure, but how it compares to the Giant Propel, Scott Foil, Cervelo S5 or Specialized Venge is something that would extremely interesting to know. Releasing an aero product without any aero data is a bit silly really.
The down tube is massive and it flares hugely as it approaches the bottom bracket and here we find the ThreadFit system first seen on the C60. This uses replaceable sleeves that thread into the bottom bracket shell and accepts any current bottom bracket. It was developed was to try and eliminate the problems of creaking that can occur on press-fit bottom brackets. Colnago have used the extra width of the wider bottom bracket to oversize the down tube, seat tube and chainstays. As a result, the V1-r doesn't lack any stiffness.
The other really big departure for Colnago is to adopt the current trend for direct mount brakes, and to locate the rear brake under the chainstays. Colnago aren't alone, many manufacturers are doing the same with their latest bikes. Is it an improvement? That depends. It probably reduces drag and does provide a pair of clean and uncluttered seatstays, but adjusting the brake isn't as easy; you either have to stick the bike in a stand or turn it upside down. Not good.
Windwave, Colnago’s UK distributor, sell the frameset without brakes so it’s down to you to spec the brakes. There is some choice at the moment, and the bike was orginally supplied for review with TRP units. Their performance was lacklustre and disappointing, and took the shine of an otherwise stellar bike.
Hearing our complaints, Windwave took the bike away and replaced the brakes with Colnago’s own brakes, which weren’t available at the time of the test. The difference was massive. Instead of the previously underpowered and inconsistent braking feel with the TRP brakes, the Colnago items were much more powerful, with a lever feel immeasurably better.
You can only buy the V1-r as a frameset so to allow us to conduct a test, Colnago distributor Windwave kindly supplied a fully built bike. They spared no expense with the parts, slapping on a brand new Campagnolo Record 11-speed mechanical groupset along with Vision's excellent Metro 40 carbon clincher wheels with Continental Grand Prix 4000 S tyres. The frameset costs £2,999.95 but you're looking at something in the region of £7-8k for a build like this. That's a bucketload of money, but look at it, what a stunning bike. It's head-turner, even on hometurf.
This is the first time I've ridden the new Campagnolo groupset and the main thing to note is that it feels almost identical to the previous version of Record, but there are some subtle differences in the shifting performance. It's a little more direct and clean in the way the chain moves from one sprocket to the next.
The chainset is also brand new with 4-arm spider and only one bolt-circle diameter option that will accept 53/39, 52/36 or 50/34 rings. As for the claimed stiffness increase with the new design chainset, without riding a previous generation chainset alongside it, it's tricky to say with any certainty that the stiffness increase can be detected. It didn't want for stiffness though when I was climbing out of the saddle or sprinting against our Italian tour guide.
This was also my first time with Vision's Metron carbon stem and matching Metron 4D carbon handlebar. The bar has what Vision calls an 'Aero-Ergo' central section, with a rise from the stem clamp and a 10 degree forward bend. It looks odd, but is surprisingly comfortable whether in the drops or on the hoods. The bars flare out at the hoods and effectively push them further out in front of the bike extending the reach. The stem is the same as the FSA K-Force stem I reviewed earlier this year.
The Colnago branded Selle Italia Nekkar saddle was comfortable despite never having used it before with the central cutout reducing designed to reduce pressure on your precious bits.
All that kit produced a complete weight of 6.95kg (15.32lb).
The V1-r is a fantastically quick and composed bike that ravages twisty mountain roads and rails through open sweeping bends. It doesn't have the same electrifying turn of speed of some other top-end race bikes, but there is a great appeal in the way the V1-r holds onto speed and feels balanced and stable when you push up against the limits. It's this handling performance that really stands the V1-r out from the competition.
Caution needs to be taken when speccing brakes. My experience with direct-mount brakes so far has been a bit hot and cold. The TRP brakes first fitted to the test bike were appalling, but thankfully the Colnago branded brakes were a dramatic improvement. Choose carefully and you'll be fine. Hopefully there'll be more direct-mount brake caliper choice soon, becuase there needs to be if it's to be a standard that is going to stick around.
Oh, all those words and I haven't mentioned the aesthetics. Looks are a subjective matter of course, but over in Italy the locals were all over the V1-r and that Ferrari sticker received nothing but thumbs up approvals. It's undeniably a handsome looking bike and very modern compared to some of the more traditional-looking bikes that have come out of Colnago in past years. For what it's worth, I think it's one of the better looking bikes in its class.
Beautifully fast and responsive-handling aero road bike with stunning looks
Update: This review was amended since first published following the change of brake calipers to the supplied test bike.
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Make and model: Colnago Colnago V1-r frameset
Size tested: 52
State the frame and fork material and method of construction. List the components used to build up the bike.
The V1-r is the new frame from Colnago designed for cyclists who are particular about their bike's weight-to-performance ratio. It is made with the highest quality carbon fiber, selected in cooperation with Ferrari, which is why is we use the Cavallino logo on each frame. The frame is monocoque, with aerodynamic shaped tube sections, and full-carbon rear dropouts.
The V1-r is the best monocoque frame produced in Colnago's sixty year history.
Tell us what the bike is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about the bike?
All of the V1-R's tubes, including the fork blades and the seat stays, have a special shape optimized in the wind tunnel to make the V1 even faster.
The V1-R's fork is also a new concept, designed and structured to support the integrated front brake body.
One of the most striking features of the V1-R is the adoption of a new standard for the braking system.
CARBON FRAME DROPOUTS
Another major innovation found on the V1-R is represented by the use of carbon fiber monocoque dropouts and an internal replaceable derailleur hanger.
For the maximum integration and aerodynamics, we offer the new V1-R with a special, dedicated seatpost.
To increase the rigidity of this portion of the frame, without increasing the thickness of the tube walls and, consequently, frame weight, the V1-r uses tubes with larger sections.
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
Fantastic build quality with carbon rear dropouts but aluminium fork dropouts to improve durability - it is a race bike and needs to withstand being put on car roof racks.
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
Noticeably sharper and more responsive than the C60 but has some similarity in high speed balance.
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
The 52 sloping was the perfect fit, I just needed to fit a longer stem.
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
It's not the most comfortable bike to ride and the frame stiffness does relay a fair few impacts and judders to your hands and bum, but in terms of fit it was comfortable.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
Oh yes, you can feel the stiffness when you lean the bike over into corners, and it's stiff when pedalling hard or sprinting.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
Yes, very much so.
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
Really nice handling, docile at lower speeds but comes alive at higher speeds. Yet at high speed it feels easy to ride and isn't at all twitchy.
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes a lot.
Would you consider buying the bike? Without trying other direct mount brakes first, probably not.
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? With these brakes it's hard to recommend.
Anything further to say about the bike in conclusion?
Brakes aside, the V1-r was a lot of fun to ride and provides great speed, handling, balance and responsiveness compared to the C60.
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.