In this week’s Bikes of the Bunch we check out a 2013 Colnago Master X-Light 30th Anniversary edition. As the bike’s owner Ric Falconer explains, the build represents an attempt to fuse the old and the new into something fashionable yet functional.
Colnago is responsible for building some of the most recognisable frames in the pro peloton for more than 40 years. Names synonymous with cycling like Eddie Merckx (who set the World Hour Record in 1972 on a Colnago), to the Molteni and Mapei teams have all been associated with Colnago.
One athlete that had a strong association with the Italian brand was Guiseppe Saronni. Saronni’s 12-year career ended in 1989 and saw him win 193 races including the Giro d’Italia overall in 1979 and 1983 and 24 Giro stages in total. He also won the Tour de Suisse and a few of the classics: Milan-San Remo, the Giro di Lombardia and La Fleche Wallone.
In 1982 Saronni earned the nickname the “Goodwood Rifle-shot” after winning the world championships road race in Goodwood, England, outsprinting Greg Lemond. You can see the closing stages of that race here:
Colnago developed a paint scheme called ‘Saronni’ and has been building steel frames in Saronni red for decades, including Saronni’s race bikes and even Saronni branded frames built by Colnago. This proved the inspiration for my build.
I was keen for a steel bike and already a fan of Colnago so the obvious answer was a Master. In 2013 the Master was in its 30th year and celebrated by Colnago with the option of special Art Decor livery if requested, however I decided to build up a Sarroni-schemed frame.
I wanted to build the bike with modern components while staying true to some of the style and aesthetics of bikes from the era. I thought the red frame with black components would work aesthetically (and obviously Shimano wasn’t an option) so opted for a Campagnolo groupset matched with 3T carbon seatpost, handlebar and alloy stem with a Fizik seat.
For months I could see the bike in my head, all except for the wheels. I spent hours looking online at designs, reading blogs, contemplating gum walls, carbon rims and all combinations of factory and custom wheels. In the end I couldn’t get my head around something sympathetic to the frame while keeping with the black on red theme.
In the end I sought help from Dan at Shifter Bikes in Melbourne and thankfully he understood what I was trying to achieve. We ended up landing on black H+Son TB14 rims laced to White Industry T11 hubs and black bladed spokes. For me one of the critical components was the stainless steel nipples.
Traditionally you might run a polished hub, stainless spokes and rims matching the chrome forks etc., but in this instance, I think the stainless nipples bring the black wheels to the chrome and I’m especially happy with the low-profile box sectioned rim and high spoke count which carries form from ‘back in the day’. Another small detail is the radial lacing on the front carried to the non-drive side of the rear.
I purchased the frame from Total Rush in Richmond who also put it together for me. Once home I weighed in on my stand without pedals at roughly 8.1kg — not too bad for a steel frame. It is perfectly capable in a group on Beach Rd, but like me, perhaps a little sluggish in the sprint. But I never built this to get me first across the town line.
I find the traditional geometry aggressive enough and where the bike truly comes into its own is on those longer rides. The steel frame with and Precisa fork absorb the road well and the subtleness of a steel frame offers that comfort. It’s also perfectly capable on a fast descent and gets me up the hills happily.
Mind you, I get the most pleasure when riding on a sunny day and catching the colour of the bike in the sun light or the chrome glimmering on the forks. That’s what puts a smile on my face.