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by Matt Wikstrom
June 11, 2015
Photography by Matt Wikstrom
Colnago and Ferrari have been collaborating for almost 30 years to develop and refine carbon road bikes. The V1-r is the latest iteration in this program, an aero road chassis that offers buyers a choice of rim or disc brakes. In this review, CTech editor Matt Wikstrom takes a closer look at the new disc-equipped option.
The Colnago-Ferrari partnership started in 1986 with a carbon bike simply called the “Concept” which featured hydraulic rim brakes and a gearbox instead of derailleurs. The bike never made it into production, but it served to acquaint the master framebuilder with the wonders of carbon fibre.
Every Colnago-Ferrari collaboration has utilised carbon fibre, like the C35 that was unveiled in 1989 and the C40 that followed five years later. Enzo Ferrari was convinced of carbon’s utility and his engineers shared their technology and experience with Colnago to develop the new frames.
Since 2000, Colnago has celebrated Ferrari with a series of limited edition bikes, all labelled “Colnago for Ferrari”. The initial release comprised two models, a road bike (CF1) and a mountain bike (CF2) followed by new models every 2-3 years. The bikes are normally painted Ferrari’s famous red, though the CF3 was an early exception. Colnago celebrated Ferrari’s 60th anniversary in 2007 with the release of the CF6, followed by more editions in 2008 and 2011, and most recently 2014, with the release of the CF10 road bike and CF12 MTB.
The V1-r represents yet another of the Colnago’s collaborations with Ferrari. Conceived as a high performance bike with weight and aerodynamics as major considerations, Ferrari helped with the selection of carbon fibre for the project. Two versions were developed for the marketplace, one with direct-mount rim brakes and another to suit disc brakes. Colnago is proud of the final result, claiming that it is “the best monocoque frame produced in Colnago’s sixty year history.”
While the V1-r was conceived as an aerodynamic race bike, Colnago paid close attention to the tube profiles and building materials to ensure the weight of the frameset was kept low. To this end, Kamm tail profiles are utilised throughout the frameset, which offer similar aerodynamics to conventional airfoils without the extra weight. At the same time, the truncated foil shapes minimise the bike’s susceptibility to crosswinds.
As mentioned above, Ferrari provided critical input on the selection of carbon fibre for the V1-r. Details on the type of carbon fibre are elusive, with Colnago only offering that it is the highest quality. The result is a lightweight frameset—a size 54s frame weighed 1,097g (including headset cups and bearing, seatpost clamp, derailleur hanger and bottom bracket cups), the forks 428g—and while it won’t threaten the featherweights, it represents Colnago’s lightest frameset yet.
Buyers have a choice of rim brakes or disc brakes for the V1-r. For the former, Colnago have elected to use Shimano’s direct mount caliper design, adopting a conventional position for the front brake, while the rear brake is located under the chainstays. As for the disc brake option, post mounts are provided front and rear to suit 140mm rotors.
The V1-r uses Colnago’s new bottom bracket design called ThreadFit82.5. Two oversized alloy cups thread into the frame to serve as the seats for BB86 bearings and can be easily replaced if damaged. In some ways, the system takes a step back when compared to other bottom bracket designs but Colnago argues that it ensures the longevity of the frame.
A tapered head tube serves the V1-r allowing an oversized 1.25-inch lower bearing to be used to improve the rigidity of the front end. The upper bearing is a standard 1.125-inch bearing and two caps are supplied with the frameset: one tall and the other slim.
Colnago is well known for its generous range of frame sizes. For the V1-r, there are seven sizes to choose from, all with a sloping top tube, as shown in the table below:
The geometry of the Vr-1 tends towards an aggressive fit. Interestingly, it is identical to two other Colnago race frames, namely the CLX and AC-R, and together, all three frames are manufactured in Taiwan.
The V1-r uses a proprietary seatpost that is equivalent to a 27.2mm seatpost. However it shares the same truncated foil profile as the seat tube, where the back of the tube has been flattened. A simple clamp is provided with the frame to secure the post, but it was barely adequate. I found the post kept slipping into the frame until I resorted to an excess of carbon paste, which in turn, made it difficult to adjust the saddle height in small increments.
The V1-r has frame fittings to suit both mechanical and electronic groupsets. All cables are routed through the frame along with the rear brake hose. Similarly, the front brake hose is routed through the fork leg. Fitting internal cables always increases the build time for any bike but at least the V1-r is threaded with plastic tubing that is removed once the cables are in place. Running the rear brake hose was a little more difficult however the oversized bottom bracket shell makes the job a little easier.
Normally, there is no need to discuss axle specifications for a road bike but this is changing with the introduction of disc brakes. This point is debated by bike engineers, but many say that oversized through-axles increase the rigidity of the forks and/or stays and provide greater resistance against the forces associated with disc braking. So while standard 100/130mm quick release axles are specified for the rim brake version of the Vr-1, the disc version uses a 15mm through-axle (with 100mm spacing) for the front wheel and a standard quick release axle for the rear (with 135mm spacing to suit a disc hub).
The majority of through-axles are fashioned after huge bolts that thread into the opposite dropout, however V1-r disc forks use Manitou’s Hex Lock system. The Hex Lock axle locks into the dropout via a twist mount so the axle can be released with just a quarter-turn. It makes wheel removal quick and easy. However, the axle must be oriented precisely (in order to engage the twist mount) when installing the wheel, which takes some time and patience to master.
There is a choice of four finishes for the V1-r frameset: gloss white; raw carbon with red details; raw carbon with black details; and raw carbon with white details. Each version sports Ferrari’s famous prancing horse on the top tube in a scheme that is clean and subdued. The design complements the simple, elegant lines of the frameset making for a very classy bike. Buyers looking for more Ferrari may find extra appeal in the limited edition CF10 road bike that is built with the V1-r frameset with a red or yellow finish.
For this review, Colnago’s Australian distributor, FRF Sports, supplied a size 54s V1-r disc frameset which was built up with a SRAM Red 22 hydraulic disc groupset supplied by Monza Imports. Assembling the parts for a typical road bike is normally quite simple but buyers venturing into the road disc market should be warned: the number of products is much smaller and there is more variety in so-called standards, making for a range of incompatibilities.
In this instance, Colnago’s decision to specify a 15mm through-axle for the front wheel was difficult to match with a factory-built wheelset. I’m sure this will change over the next year or so, but for now, early adopters are likely to be better served by a custom wheelbuilder.
In this instance, Steve Varga at Curve Cycling was keen to tackle the job and then went one further by aiming to keep the weight as low as possible. Hence, he mated a Tune King Kong disc hubset with Curve’s 24mm carbon clinchers and came up with a wheelset that weighed 1,310g sans rim tape, skewers and disc rotors.
There were no other special requirements other than making sure the wheels were fitted with six-bolt disc rotors (as dictated by the hubs) that were 140mm in diameter (as dictated by the frameset). The final weight for the bike was 6.75kg sans pedals and bottle cages.
The V1-r retails for $5,999 for the disc version and $5,599 for the rim brake version. A headset, seatpost, seatpost clamp and chain-catcher is included with the frameset. For more information, see FRF Sports and Colnago.
A bike that wears a Ferrari badge is likely to create some fairly big expectations — speed, style, innovation, attention to detail, and a large measure of excitement — yet the V1-r manages to wear the prancing horse quite well. In short, buyers can expect a dedicated race bike that is really at its best when it’s going fast.
The V1-r takes off quick. The low weight combines well with the stiffness of the chassis. To describe the bike as responsive is a good start but it is also eager, even aggressive, in its desire to move. Every time I kicked, the V1-r leapt forwards with absolute ease, regardless of whether I was sprinting for the lights or climbing in the hills.
Every aero frame invites a measure of scepticism. Consumers want to see wind tunnel data but then dismiss the results if they don’t come from an independent authority. Colnago relied on a wind tunnel during the design phase for the V1-r but they don’t make any claims about the efficiency of the bike. I don’t have any data either, but once I started travelling over 35km/hr, the V1-r had an uncanny knack of gaining some extra momentum, as if it was gliding or skating over the surface of the road.
The bike was at its most exciting on smooth roads where I was able to savour my speed. The V1-r managed rougher surfaces quite well, but I found the vibrations started to get tedious on stretches of road where the chipseal was cracking to pieces. Overall, the V1-r is not an ideal choice for all-day riding—that’s the kind of work best left to Colnago’s C60 — but buyers won’t be punished by the bike either unless they have a penchant for cobbles.
The handling and steering is as good as it gets with the V1-r. Precise, well-balanced and confident, I never had to fight with the bike or compromise on the lines I could take through a corner. Perfect for racing, perfect for a bike that likes to go fast, perfect for a bike that wears Ferrari’s famous badge.
Curve’s carbon clinchers were a fine match for the V1-r. While I will go into more detail in a separate review, the low weight of the 24mm rims added to the bike’s prowess in the hills. At the same time, the stiffness of the rims suited the rest of the bike, making for a versatile wheelset that worked well, regardless of the terrain.
Of course, an aero bike really demands deeper rims to further improve the efficiency of the bike, but the styling of the V1-r doesn’t insist on them like other designs. Ultimately, it’s a matter for the buyer to decide, where the promise of extra efficiency needs to be assessed against the added demands of the wheels (which may be stiffer and/or more susceptible to crosswinds).
As for the disc brakes and SRAM’s hydraulic groupset, that will also be the subject of a separate review. There were no shortcomings though, the braking combined well with the mechanical shifting to match the performance of the frameset.
Colnago was one of the first manufacturers to commit to disc brakes for its road bikes, and there is no indication they are going to abandon the new format. Indeed, with the UCI recently announcing that they will begin trialling disc brakes at events in August and September, it now seems certain that road bikes will become disc-equipped for competition.
The V1-r offers a lot more than the novelty of disc brakes. The weight, responsiveness, steering and handling all combine beautifully, even synergistically, to yield a well-tuned race bike that would rev with menace if it had an engine.
The asking price is high, but aside from a slightly demanding seatpost and clamp combination, there’s enough to justify the expense for those who have the money. That buyers can choose between rim and disc brakes is an attractive option, as is the variety of finishes. However, I suspect the appeal of the V1-r will ultimately rest with Ferrari’s badge: cool or uncool?