In an age when the quality of competition bicycles is so good, I tend to take a with a large pinch of salt the view of anyone who answers the question as to the origins of their machine with; “I couldn’t find what I wanted so I thought I’d build it myself”.
It conjures up, after all, images of some of the more misguided offerings from the kit car industry, or those men who stripped down a perfectly good MGB and built some monsterous carbuncle they termed a ‘special’.
And yet, this is exactly what Craig Middleton of Onix Bikes said to me when I asked him that very question.
I am therefore more than surprised to have to be consuming large slices of my own hat, for the Onix Azzuro is a sweet, sharp handling and immensely stiff racing frame with no quarter given to the sportive brigade.
Constructed as a monocoque from 12k weave Toray T1000 carbon, the Azzuro is well finished in a modern and yet understated two-tone which, built up with Campag Centaur as the test mule groupset, a pair of Zonda wheels and Michelin ProRace 3 rubber, makes a refreshing change from obtrusive graphics or the modish ‘retro’ look. Full build kits start at £1650.
It’s not a small bicycle, by which I mean that on our 58cm test frame the top tube measures a whopping 59cm, centre to centre. I came back 10mm on my usual stem length and could in fact have come back 5mm more but such a long frame allied to a 73 degree fork and seat tube makes for a super stable ride…and you need it. Neither is it superlight but, at a claimed1450g including fork, the Azzuro is well within the carbon monocoque ball park.
I’ve been lucky enough to ride most of the race bikes in the current peloton and the Azzuro is up there with the stiffest. This a no compromise bike but I don’t mind that. Many of the global big guns in bike manufacture rushed to the clarion call of stiff carbon frames only to find that they had to dial out much of the feedback such frames bombard you with so they could sell ‘comfortable’ bikes.
The Azzuro floods you with feedback, no doubt aided by the well-known characteristics of the Zonda wheelset. It tracks beautifully and steers from both the front and with leg pressure with equal ease. You feel the road but even over cobbles I never found the Azzuro a handful, although getting that front end set up right is crucial.
To provide such a stiff steed, Onix have built the Azzuro with a substantial downtube and what they term ‘unsymetrical’ chainstays. On the driveside the stay is oval in the vertical plane whilst on the non-drive stay the central section is ovalised in the horizontal plane. Middleton claims that the stress tests on the prototype revealed that this configuration greatly enhanced the stiffness of the bottom bracket area and it certainly is stiff and very good to ride.
It’s not perfect, there are small details that Onix plan to deal with in the next generation of Azzuro, such as the position of the rear cable run stops. Riders with a toe-out/heel-in style of pedaling or very big feet may find the chainstay layout a challenge, but for the money this is a serious contender if you’re looking for a new race frameset.
Personally I am relishing the chance to try out the 2011 Azzuro with a range of wheel and tyres and we understand the new generation of frames are undergoing testing with a former pro classics winner. Now that’s going to be interesting.
Onix Azzuro frame and fork £1100
Sizes: 50, 52, 54, 56, 58cm
Onix HP Carbon Monocoque with full carbon fork
Unsymetrical Chainstay Technology
31.6cm seat post
British threaded bottom bracket shell
Frame and fork weight: 1450g