Condorâ€™s Squadra cuts quite a fine pose in its resplendent cream paint as I pedal it through Londonâ€™s streets and head down into the hills of Kent for a test ride. Though carbon may be the de facto choice for most, the Squadra proves there’s still a valid place for aluminium for the discerning cyclist seeking something a little different, something I was to discover during my time on this bike.
Underneath the paint lives a Dedacciai EM2 Scandium frame beefed up with a Dedacciai Drive carbon fibre rear triangle. Itâ€™s all well put together, with smooth clean welds and the decision to paint the carbon stays rather than leave them exposed, the usual choice by bike manufacturers, is a nice move and lends the frame a classy look.
Both the downtube and top tube are subtly curved, with a diamond shaped top tube onto the underside of which Condor applies some understated decals. Thereâ€™s a slight hump on the top side of the downtube, and the chainstays are vertically quite tall and profiled with decals to match those on the top tube. The front of the frame is propped up with a Deda Nero Forza 5 carbon fork.
Condor will supply various build options, but for the purposes of this test they built a full Campagnolo Centaur 10-speed groupset, with carbon crank arms and the newly redesigned Ergopower shifters. Far more ergonomic than last year’s design, they get a taller â€˜knobâ€™ bit which provides more to hold on and makes climbing out of the saddle easier, and a new rubber which is much more tactile too, with dual-densities making them extremely comfortable.
Elsewhere on the bike, Mavic Ksyrium Equipe wheels wrapped in Continental Grand Prix tyres were admirably reliable throughout, and provide a good balance of weight and sprightliness for the price. As for finishing kit, thereâ€™s a aluminium Deda stem and handlebar combo and a Condor carbon seatpost topped of with a Fizik Aliante saddle. Itâ€™s a solid spec for the money and all worked splendidly during our test rides.
Itâ€™s s shame that aluminium is almost universally overlooked in favour of carbon framesets. Itâ€™s not often that aluminium test bikes arrive at the RCUK office and it was a pleasant change to take the Squadra for a good spin. It’s most refreshing. Sure, thereâ€™s some weight penalty over an equivalent carbon model (Condor quote a frame weight of 1.4kg), but unless youâ€™re counting grammes youâ€™ll hardly notice it on the road.
The Squadra felt impressively sure-footed with a nice planted nature at all times, the extra little weight no doubt contributing. The addition of the carbon rear triangle gives the frame a noticeable sharpness when you turn on the cranks, with a nice smooth transfer of power through the frame. Many people think that alumninium frames can’t be comfortable, but that just isn’t true as I found out.
The frame delivers a smooth and well-balanced ride on rough pot-holed roads. It’s a bike that seems at home on fast rides, with a sprightly nature. A race around Surrey proved its racing credentials and would make a perfect bike for somebody hoping to add the odd race race to their plans this year.
OK, the Condor does seem more expensive on paper than some of its rivals, but you canâ€™t measure the bikes performance simply by the price tag, and in this respect the Squadra is a top choice. Thereâ€™s a lot of heritage at Condor, with the London-based bike shop having been building its own brand bicycles for some 60 years, so they know a thing or two about building a decent bike. And that shows in the Squadra.
Scandium-aluminium is a rare frame material these days but is highly regarded and as I discovered with the Squadra, when it is this well put together is a serious alternative to carbon.