review

Fondriest TF2 1.5 frame

7
£3,100.00

VERDICT:

7
10
Gem of a frame that's just the ticket for a racy ride; builds are overpriced though
Weight: 
8,350g

Fondriest's TF2 1.5 is a smart-handling, race-ready frame that's an excellent basis for a racing or fast sportive setup. Given the prices of the stock builds, and the crazy deals you can get on full groupsets at the moment, it's likely to appeal to riders looking for a self-build option.

Built from 50T Toray carbon, the TF2 1.5 is Fondriest's newest frame. Giving it a cursory once over you'd assume it was an aero frame: there's the elongated seatpost and recessed seat clamp; there's the cutout in the seatpost tucking the back wheel in; there's the generally big-tubed-and-flowy look.

Actually Fondriest don't make any specific claims for the TF2 1.5's aero-ness or otherwise. It's just a road frame in that regard. The medium frame weighs in at a claimed 950g which is light but not superlight, and it's matched with a 345g carbon fork and a 190g teardrop profile seatpost. You get all that, plus headset and seat clamp, for the £2,299 frameset price.

Our XL frame would weigh in at a bit more than that, of course, thanks to the extra length in the tubes. It has a 575mm effective top tube, and a stack-to-reach ratio of 1.47 which isn't super-racy, more like fast sportive. Having said that the smaller frames get progressively more aggressive, albeit gradually. You get classic 73°/73° angles in XL, with the head tube gradually getting slacker, and the seat tube steeper, as the sizes get smaller.

So if Fondriest don't claim any particular aero benefit, what do they claim? Well, on the website it's majoring on stiffness (5/5 on their scale) and also comfort (4/5) whereas aerodynamics is 3/5, as is the rather esoteric 'elasticity' which is something other than comfort, we're not quite sure what.

So, slinging a leg over the TF2 1.5 and pointing it at the open road you might expect it to be a super-stiff race bike with comfort and aerodynamics secondary. That wasn't quite my impression of it.

Certainly, it's stiff. Plenty stiff, in terms of power transfer, for anything I could throw at it. I've knocked out some fairly big loops on the TF2 1.5, and I've also raced it: in fact it took me to a second place in the Cat 4s up at our local circuit, Odd Down, and charging up the home straight in a full on race sprint, giving it absolutely everything I had, the bike was perfectly behaved, with no feeling of flex or vagueness at all. And I'm a big lad, even now I'm (sort of) down to race weight. So no issues there.

That stiffness is in spite of the fact that Fondriest eschew your wide bottom bracket standards and instead spec a standard 68mm threaded shell, like what we've all been using for years. In this build that means external Hollowtech II bearings and a 24mm axle on the chainset, although if you did want to go to a 30mm axle then there are external bearings from the likes of Praxis that allow you to do that. I'm a big fan of Hollowtech II and its many associates, because I find it a setup that's less prone to creaks and squeaks, and much easier to strip down with basic tools if it does start getting graunchy. Your mileage may vary there, but if you were about to discount the Fondriest on account of its bottom bracket area not being stiff enough... well, don't.

It's not an uncomfortable bike either. The big tube profiles and the elongated seatpost don't look as if they're going to give you any mercy, but while the ride is firm it's certainly not uncomfortable. In terms of comfort I've ridden better carbon bikes over the enormously variable tarmac of the South West, and I've ridden worse. Assuming you've got a saddle you like fitted (I got on okay with the Selle Italia SL on the stock build) and you've fitted some decent bar tape you'll be fine, assuming you're not expecting sofa levels of comfort. Swapping out the 23mm tyes for some 25s would add a bit of extra cushioning too. On rougher surfaces you'll get bounced around a bit but the TF2 1.5 copes very well with general road chatter.

This build isn't particularly light, at 8.35kg, but it hides the extra weight very well. The ride is crisp and direct, with the bike responding quickly and predictably to sudden changes in direction, even on my favourite 40mph+ test descent. It never feels vague, and the steering is lively without feeling twitchy. It's perfectly suited to the likes of crit racing where you need to hold your line in tight corners or dart into a gap, but cruising out on the open road it's well behaved and happy to spin out the miles.

If you put the hammer down to sprint up a roll in the road the TF2 1.5 jumps to attention. It's hard to define what makes a bike feel alive when you jump on the pedals but whatever it is, you get it with the Fondriest.

The Racing Quattro wheelset is capable and very stiff under power. Dave Arthur rated them when he tested them and I'd echo his comments: they feel well made and faster than their 1,787g weight would suggest.

Shimano 105 is our current go-to groupset in terms of bang for your buck. You get almost the same level as performance as the second-tier Ultegra groupset for not much more than half the price. Everything that really makes a difference – lever design, brake callipers, the chainset, the extra sprocket – has trickled down. The only real penalty is weight. As usual, the groupset performed near-flawlessly during testing and it's easy to use and simple to maintain.

I've already mentioned the saddle, and the Fondriest shallow drop bars and alloy stem didn't do anything to mark them out as either especially good or especially bad; they're solid if unremarkable kit.

It's all good then? Well, not everything. The price for this Shimano 105 build, with Fulcrum Racing Quattro wheels, is £3099. You can have the frame for £2,299, a full 105 groupset goes online for less than £300, and the wheels are £200. That leaves you over £500 for bars, stem and saddle. Put another way, given the £3099 budget you could spec full Ultegra if you're happy enough putting the bike together yourself.

That's a quirk of UK pricing that we've seen with other manufacturers, the Genesis Volare being a notable example. It's not manufacturers trying to grab a bigger slice: the simple fact is that you can have the groupset as a consumer for the same or less than it's costing them. Happy days for the tool-savvy consumer but it does make smaller brands with less buying power seem a bit overpriced. As a frameset it's better value, although even then you'll need to weigh up the fact that something like Canyon's Giro-winning Ultimate CF SLX frameset will cost you £700 less.

The Fondriest definitely makes more sense if you're planning a self build or upgrading your existing frame. I'd have no hesitation in recommending it as a racing platform: the bike handles exquisitely and it's great fun to ride. As an overall package I have to mark it down for value but the frame is a gem and a great starting point for a race build if you want something a bit different, and strict budgetary requirements aren't your main concern.

Verdict

Gem of a frame that's just the ticket for a racy ride; builds are overpriced though

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road.cc test report

Make and model: Fondriest TF2 1.5

Size tested: 58

About the bike

State the frame and fork material and method of construction. List the components used to build up the bike.

Frame/fork: Toray T50 carbon

Transmission: full Shimano 105 groupset

Wheels: Fulcrum Racing Quattro

Tyres: Michelin Lithion 23mm

Saddle: Selle Italia SL

Bars and stem: Fondriest alloy

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?

Fondriest don't make any specific claims about the TF2 1.5, my feeling is that it's best suited for fast riding and racing

Frame and fork

Overall rating for frame and fork
 
9/10

Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?

Very nicely made and finish is extremely tidy.

Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?

Toray 50T carbon.

Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?

73°/73°, 185mm head tube, 584mm stack, 396mm reach

How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?

It's an XL (they go up to XXL) and fitted me (1.89m) very well.

Riding the bike

Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.

It's a firm ride but very responsive and not uncomfortable.

Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?

The bike is very stiff at the bottom bracket and very direct elsewhere.

How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?

It's an exceptionally efficient feeling bike under power.

Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so, was it a problem?

No issues with overlap.

How would you describe the steering? Was it lively, neutral or unresponsive? Lively but not twitchy.

Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?

It responds really well to rider input and feels very direct.

Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?

You could fit plusher bar tape or 25mm tyres if you wanted a slightly smoother ride, but it was fine as specced.

Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's stiffness? would you recommend any changes?

No issues.

Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's efficiency? would you recommend any changes?

No issues.

Rate the bike for efficiency of power transfer:
 
9/10
Rate the bike for acceleration:
 
8/10
Rate the bike for sprinting:
 
8/10
Rate the bike for high speed stability:
 
9/10
Rate the bike for cruising speed stability:
 
9/10
Rate the bike for low speed stability:
 
7/10
Rate the bike for flat cornering:
 
9/10
Rate the bike for cornering on descents:
 
8/10
Rate the bike for climbing:
 
7/10

The drivetrain

Rate the drivetrain for performance:
 
9/10
Rate the drivetrain for durability:
 
8/10
Rate the drivetrain for weight:
 
6/10
Rate the drivetrain for value:
 
7/10

105 is brilliant kit but I'd expect a higher level of transmission for the money.

Wheels and tyres

Rate the wheels and tyres for performance:
 
8/10
Rate the wheels and tyres for durability:
 
8/10
Rate the wheels and tyres for weight:
 
6/10
Rate the wheels and tyres for comfort:
 
6/10
Rate the wheels and tyres for value:
 
7/10

Controls

Rate the controls for performance:
 
7/10
Rate the controls for durability:
 
8/10
Rate the controls for weight:
 
6/10
Rate the controls for comfort:
 
7/10
Rate the controls for value:
 
7/10

Your summary

Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes.

Would you consider buying the bike? Maybe as a frame-only option.

Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes providing they weren't looking for the best value frameset.

Rate the bike overall for performance:
 
9/10
Rate the bike overall for value:
 
6/10

Anything further to say about the bike in conclusion?

The frame is the highlight of the bike and the spec is solid, with 105 giving great shifting and transmission and the wheels are better than their weight would suggest. As a package, though, it's overpriced. The frame on its own would be a better investment

Overall rating: 7/10

About the tester

Age: 42  Height: 189cm  Weight: 91kg

I usually ride: whatever I'm testing...  My best bike is: Kinesis Tripster ATR

I've been riding for: Over 20 years  I ride: Every day  I would class myself as: Experienced

I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, commuting, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mtb, Mountain Bike Bog Snorkelling, track

 

Dave is a founding father of road.cc, having previously worked on Cycling Plus and What Mountain Bike magazines back in the day. He also writes about e-bikes for our sister publication ebiketips. He's won three mountain bike bog snorkelling World Championships, and races at the back of the third cats.

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