The Fondriest TF2 Limited Edition has an unmistakably Italian flair: from the name on the downtube to the frame’s bold and distinctive look. It’s a racing thoroughbred, slightly let down by a weighty wheelset in this build.
The TF2 sits second in Fondriest’s range but, with a £2,100 price tag for the frameset, there’s little mid-range about it, and it performs as such.
The frame bears the name of 1988 world champion Maurizio Fondriest, who founded the company in 1998 after a career which also saw him win his country’s biggest one-day race, Milan-San Remo, and two stages of Italy’s Grand Tour, the Giro d’Italia.
The Italian-inspired paint scheme of our test machine is restricted to just 100 frames, justifying the “limited edition” tag. The number of each frame is stamped underneath the bottom bracket and ours is number four of 100. The paintjob combines the naked carbon weave of the Italian tricolore, with the national flag on the toptube and flashes of green, white and red throughout.
The Limited Edition model has also been designed specifically for electronic groupsets (ours came with Shimano Ultegra Di2, which provided the fast and accurate shifting we’ve come to expect from Shimano’s second-from-top electronic group) but, that aside, the frame is the same as a stock TF2, which in itself is available in 13 colour options.
While the super-light TFZero, which has a raw claimed frame weight of 798g, tops the range, Fondriest himself is most fond of the TF2. It’s the bike he rides and one he told RoadCyclingUK he is particularly proud of.
The frame’s distinctive design has certainly split opinion since it’s been with us. Many love the TF2’s huge, box-section tube profiles, enormous bottom bracket junction (one Fondriest rightly describe as “monolithic”) and, on this Limited Edition model, the glossy carbon finish – others less so. Whatever side of the fence you sit on, the frame design makes no secret about the TF2’s raison d’être.
It’s a remarkably stiff frame. Those oversized tube profiles and equally aggressive chainstays ensure all energy goes towards propelling the bike forward – and it goes forward fast. There is little or no flex in the frame but that doesn’t translate to a bone-shattering ride. It’s no armchair ride, sure, but we found the frame to have more than enough compliance to remain comfortable on rides of up to 100 miles and the frame offers enough feedback to feel connected to the road.
Maurizio Fondriest continues to have a strong hand in the day-to-day running of the company – from product development to testing – and the TF2’s Reflex fork is his own design, as is the integrated seat clamp. The reverse sweep of the fork is designed to offer precise, stable handling and we certainly found that to be the case during our time with the TF2. It tracks smoothly through corners and reacts quickly and accurately to sharp changes in direction.
Fondriest describes the geometry as his own, and one developed over many years as a professional cyclist. Our medium sample has a 55cm toptube, a 145mm headtube, 73 and 74 degree head and seattube angles and a 986mm wheelbase, which makes it low, relatively long and suitably aggressive to match the frame’s persona.
Any negatives? The proprietary seatpost has an aero profile which can make it difficult, but not impossible, to attach lights, although perhaps less of a concern on a bike of this ilk.
Also, while the TF2’s claimed frame weight falls under the one kilo mark (however, it should be noted the stated claimed weight is for a raw, unpainted frame), it’s not especially light by modern standards, particularly when matched up against similarly priced competition. It’s fair to say, however, that the TFZero is the Fondriest machine designed with weight at the top of the design agenda and the TF2’s tube profiles (and resultant stiff ride) mean there is a lot of material in the frame.
Our test machine was also supplied with a wheelset which didn’t bring out the best in the frame. The wheels are essentially rebadged Shimano RS80 C50 hoops, which are entry-level deep-section wheels with an aluminium braking track and a 50mm-deep carbon rim.
On the flat they are excellent once up to speed but the wheels come with a claimed weight of approximately 1,800g and that extra rotating mass is keenly felt on climbs, whether it be a long drag or a steeper ascent. We swapped the wheels out for a set of relatively lightweight but inexpensive Pro-Lite Bracciano’s – our benchmark wheelset for this kind of test – and that added a whole lot more zip to the bike when heading uphill.
However, Fondriest’s UK distributor, Impact Cycle Trading, tell us the TF2 is available in a range of builds through their dealer network, as well as frameset only for £2,100 – and, crucially, the frame is excellent. Super-stiff, with excellent handling and a fast, aggressive personality which befits Fondriest’s racing heritage.