We’re lucky to see plenty of eye-catching, high-end machines here at RoadCyclingUK but the Comtat Vertice is a real head-turner: hand-made in Italy and beautifully understated.
Comtat is a London-based brand which we first featured from the London Bike Show in February and the Vertice is the top-of-the-range model. It’s a made-to-measure, carbon fibre frame and we caught up with Comtat founder, Adam Roberts, before wheeling the Vertice away for review.
“I was a mad road cyclist,” says Roberts, who founded the brand in 2009. “Not a racer and not from the industry, but just a crazy roadie and I spent all my time buying bikes, bike bits, investigating everything.”
Comtat in 2009 was a very different proposition to the Comtat of today. Roberts started by sourcing open mould frames but, in 2011, performed a U-turn which saw him buck the industry trend to shift production to the Far East and instead re-launch the brand as a producer of handmade, made-to-measure Italian machines.
“While I was riding the original Comtat frames I also had a couple of made-to-measure bikes and I knew the difference, so for that reason I decided to move manufacturing to Italy. Essentially, I think the product is so much better.
“I can name pretty much every one of my customers because they stay in touch, they’re so into it. What they like about riding a Comtat is that at an event people always stop and ask ‘what’s that?’ and they get excited because it’s not something they necessarily see.”
Roberts currently sells approximately 30 to 35 Comtat bikes a year, with each machine handmade in an unnamed Italian factory (kept secret as it also builds for a number of other brands). The Vertice is one of two carbon fibre frames in the Comtat range and it sits above the Regale, which we photographed at the London Bike Show.
The Regale is described as offering a “lightweight, stiff but extremely smooth and comfortable ride”, made from 3K carbon tubing and with a ‘typical’ claimed frame weight of 950g, while the Vertice, which we have here, is made from a higher grade of 1K carbon tubing for a feathery claimed weight of approximately 820g. The Vertice is paired with a 330g fork with a 1-1/8″ to 1-1/5″ tapered steerer.
Both frames are made-to-measure to a custom geometry (Comtat do not offer ‘stock’ sizes) based on an extensive bike fit with Comtat’s Bruce Baird. Roberts is a firm believer in benefit of the perfect riding position over alternative technological ‘advancements’, whether that be an aero frame, lighter frame or a new width of bottom bracket.
“People don’t realise that while they may fit a ‘stock’ size, a slight alteration in the seattube angle or headtube angle can make a huge difference to how they feel on the bike,” he says.
“I’ve been in the same position on my bike for four-and-a-half years and I don’t think I’ll ever change from that exact position to the nearest millimetre. I have a certain seattube angle because I have a long femur and, while I ‘fit’ a stock bike, I can’t achieve the same position on a stock bike.
“I think it’s incredibly important, but until you try it and have a bike made for you, I don’t think you’ll ever experience. That’s my view on it. I think if you speak to a lot of people who have been fitted properly and had a bike made for them then they say they’ll never go back to a stock bike.”
Baird primarily uses the Retul bike fit system but is wary not to rely on the numbers produced by a computer when measuring a customer for a new frame and he believes the bike fit process is a combination of art and science.
“There’s a lot of trust in the bike fit room,” says Baird. “Sometimes it can just be a case of shutting off the Retul system, setting up the camera and having them [the customer] watch what they’re doing.
“Bike fitting is combination of the two [art and science]. You never know how the body is going to react. Having as much feedback from the rider as possible is important. If it’s not right in here [the bike fit room] then it’s definitely not going to feel right on the road. It’s definitely art and science. You can get a very bad fit by just running the numbers.”
With the bike fit completed, the frame is drafted on CAD software and sent to the factory, where it takes approximately six to eight weeks to arrive back in London. The Vertice a tube-to-tube frame, whereby each tube is cut and the joints wrapped in sheets of carbon fibre, and that allows the builder to tweak the frame according to the rider’s weight, though Comtat is not a ‘fully custom’ frame, whereby the layup of each tube is constructed according to the rider’s requirements, whether that’s stiffness, weight or comfort.
“Because the tubes are hand-wrapped the customer weight will always go to the frame builder, so to a certain degree that’s going to be taken into consideration,” says Roberts. “If a rider is 65kg then the frame builder’s not going to be wrapping the bottom bracket forever because the rider will never have enough power to push through it.
“With the Vertice it’s taken into account a little more [than the Regale] because it’s a higher grade of bike, it’s made from 1k carbon and it’s lighter tubing so the weight of the rider becomes more important. In terms of whether the tubes are custom made for each customer? No they’re not, they’re cut and wrapped, so the customisation comes in the wrapping.”
Riders can specify their choice of bottom bracket, and whether they want an integrated or regular seatpost, as well as internal or external cable routing, which can be routed for electronic, mechanical or both. Customisation also comes in the colour, with Comtat offering the Vertice in one of 11 paint finishes. Each frame is also numbered – ours is number one and the number is reset to zero every year.
Our bike is, of course, a ‘stock’ frame – and so not custom – normally found in Comtat’s Shoreditch showroom, where custom bikes from Casati, Chesini and Prodigiosa are also sold, alongside machines from recognised brands like LOOK and Trek.
As a result, the exact geometry of our machine is arbitrary other than, well, it’s the right size for this reviewer, with a 56cm toptube and short 14.5cm headtube.
Roberts guides each customer through the process of selecting components for their machine – handlebar and saddle choice, to name two components, are vital for the correct fit, he says – and each bike is built and serviced on-site in London. Roberts says approximately 95 per cent of Comtat frames are dressed in Campagnolo – he admits he is something of a Campag snob, particularly as far as Italian bikes are concerned – with the other five per cent wearing Shimano components.
Our bike is equipped with a complete Campagnolo Record groupset (with ‘semi-compact’ 52-36t chainrings), Deda SuperZero seatpost, Deda SuperLeggero handlebar and stem, Mavic R-SYS SLR wheels wrapped in the French firm’s Yksion Pro Griplink and Powerlink front/rear tyres, a Fizik Arione saddle and Fizik handlebar tape (both the saddle and handlebar tape are colour matched to the frame). That makes for a complete weight of 6.64kg as pictured (with two carbon fibre Comtat bottle cages) – so very light.
The frameset itself will set you back £3,399.99 and you can use the online ‘Comtat Creator’ to put together and price up your own build.
Price: from £3,399.99 (frameset only)