Cipollini Bond frameset - review - Road Cycling UK

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Cipollini Bond frameset – review

Fast and flamboyant, just like Mario Cipollini

It’s bold, it’s brash and it’s really rather rapid. The Cipollini Bond has the Italian’s name on the downtube and more than a few aspects of Super Mario written in its DNA. And like the rider, the Bond will be divisive, but there’s a lot to like in what is an incredibly stiff, responsive frame.

Cipollini Bikes was launched in 2010, two years after its founder’s (second) retirement from the pro peloton, and has become almost as well known for some of the most jaw-dropping advertising campaigns you’ll ever see.

The video (or, rather, feature film) which accompanied the launch of the Bond in 2013 trumps them all: helicopters, speedboats, motorbikes and Mario Cipollini dressed as James Bond. Say no more. But what would one expect from one of the sports biggest characters? Subtlety would be completely off brand.

As a rider, Mario Cipollini was fast: he won the World Road Race Championships in 2002 and still holds the record for the most number of stage wins at the Giro d’Italia with 42 victories. Sprinting was Cipo’s raison d’etre, so it was no surprise that the Bond is most at home at speed.

Mario Cipollini retired from the pro peloton in 2008 and his bikes are a direct representation of the Italian as a rider: fast and flamboyant

Atomlink

The Bond’s key feature is the ‘Atomlink’ construction; the reason why Mario is dressed as Bond in the bike’s promo film – to protect the secret behind Atomlink from copycats. In reality, Cipollini have patented the Atomlink concept and it’s a smart design.

It’s not a one-piece construction like other Cipollini frames, but instead the front triangle comes in a single piece, the seatstays then come in a second wishbone-shaped piece and the chainstays join the party in two more individual pieces. It’s a modular system whereby the huge, oversized chainstays are bonded to the bottom bracket (the frame, made in Italy, gets its name from that building process, rather than from the Ian Fleming character one might assume given the ostentatious ads). It’s all in the name of stiffness over a traditional lugged carbon construction.

  • Specification

  • Price: £2,300 (frameset), £2,700 (camo paint), £2,800 (custom paint)
  • Weight: 1050g (M)
  • Sizes: XS-XL
  • Size tested: L/56cm
  • Website: Cipollini Bikes

That Atomlink design means the chainstays form the sides of the bottom bracket shell. It’s boxy, it’s certainly not dainty, but nothing about the Bond (or Mario Cipollini for that matter) is. It’s there for speed.

Other features of the frame include a seattube cutout to reduce aerodynamic drag, and it also houses an aerodynamic carbon seat post, which in turn, holds the battery for the Shimano Ultegra Di2 groupset specced on our bike.

For the Bond, a medium-sized, unpainted frame is claimed to weigh 1,050g – there are certainly lighter frames out there, least not for £2,300, but, in fairness, Cipollini haven’t designed the Bond with low weight as the primary goal.

Fast and flamboyant

How does it feel on the road? One of the first things that’s immediately noticeable about the Bond is its stiffness. Sure, how many times have you read that in a review? But honestly, it’s by far and away the stiffest bike I’ve ever swung a leg over.

When you turn the power on, absolutely nothing is wasted before it reaches the pedals, drivetrain and, in turn, the wheels. The Bond is absolutely rock-solid. The Bond has a straight, deep bladed T700 E UTS carbon fork (the same standard of Toray carbon fibre used for the rest of the frame). The fork is equally stiff, and when you open up a sprint, the Bond is unyielding.

Cipollini Bond frameset - review (Pic: George Scott/Factory Media)
Cipollini Bond frameset - review (Pic: George Scott/Factory Media)
Cipollini Bond frameset - review (Pic: George Scott/Factory Media)

You’d expect that level of stiffness to come at the detriment of comfort, but Cipollini have struck a pretty good balance with the Bond, even with a build skewed for speed rather than the sedate. We’re not saying that the Bond is the go-to bike for an audax, but there are certainly harsher rides out there.

The geometry is fairly racy, as you’d expect. Cipollini offer five sizes (XS to XL) and our L frame has a 560mm toptube and 152mm headtube. The handling, however, took a little time to get to grips with. The fork, paired with possibly the stiffest chassis available, should mean the bike corners impeccably but it feels a little nervous. As you’d expect from a bike bearing the name of one of the sport’s fastest riders, the Bond’s handling is quick under hand, but the Bond feels more comfortable at speed in a straight line. It’s the only downside to the frame we uncovered while riding, but once we’d become accustomed to the Bond’s lively personality, we began to better appreciate its fully involving ride.

Custom spec

Cipollini sell the Bond as a frameset only, which means you can build it up yourself, or your local Cipo dealer can do that for you. However, let’s quickly run over the spec of our test bike.

The frame is now capable of running internal cabling for both electronic and mechanical groupsets, and our bike came kitted out with a Shimano Ultegra Di2 groupset. Regular readers will know we’ve always been fans of Shimano’s second-from-top groupset, in mechanical and Di2 versions, and it continues to perform impeccably. Di2 may not suit everyone but it provides fast, accurate, consistent shifting.

Our build also came with a set of 60mm-deep Fast Forward F6R full carbon clinchers with stealthy all black graphics and shod with a set of 23mm Challenge Criterium tyres. The wheels proved an ideal fit for the build. At 1,645g, they’re not particularly light, but what they give away on the scales they make up for in speed. A Ritchey Curve handlebar and stem combo and Selle San Marco Concor Carbon FX saddle completes the build.

A note, finally, on the price. The Bond frameset costs £2,300 as standard, but there’s a £400 upcharge for the camo finish of our test bike, taking things up to £2,700. Cipollini also offer a custom paint option – My Cipo – for £2,800.

Cipollini sell the Bond as a frameset for £2,300, though the camo paintjob will set you back £2,700

Conclusion

When Mario ‘The Lion King’ Cipollini was in his pomp he divided opinion. And even in retirement, he still manages it. Television presenter Gary Imlach quipped at the 1997 Tour de France how the Italian sprinter was “leading the race on time, points, publicity and fines.” None of those were by accident. He had the legs as well as the marketing nous; the same goes for his bike brand.

The Bond stands out, especially with this fluoro and camouflage paint job, and it has the performance to back up the flamboyancy. It’s fast – possibly one of the quickest road bikes we’ve tested – and it’s certain to turn a few heads. Like Cipo, it won’t be for everyone, but riders who want a fast, eye-catching ride will love it.

Pros

  • It’s fast (and still relatively comfortable)
  • It’s a statement
  • It’s likely to cause a stir at the café
  • It’s likely to be the only Bond at the above café

Cons

  • That flamboyance will cost you
  • Handling takes a bit of getting used to

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