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Condor Fratello review

RC


Condor’s tradition has been built on steel. Their Reynolds’ tubed racing frames of twenty years ago were always at the pinnacle of racing design. Well things are slowly coming full circle (their Acciaio is a full-on lightweight steel racer) as they always believed it would. Now their range is built from Dedacciai tubes, but the design principles remain the same. Steel is a magic material for bikes, it adds soul to the ride, and no, it’s not just hype. This test was an interesting comparison after riding the Kinesis T and the Squadra I wanted to see if a steel ‘trainer’ from the Gray’s Inn workshop could impress…


Frame
The Fratello is billed as an Audax bike, however it takes design influences from race bikes (sloping top tube and racey geometry) touring bikes (rack mounts) and commuter bikes (comfort orientated). It’s proved popular with Condor customers because it fills the gaps between touring/commuter bike and Audax mile eater, and it’s steel.

Why steel? well it’s resillient and inexpensive for starters. It’s easy to work with and still provides the best weight/price/comfort ratio in the bike building world. Dedacciai are an Italian company that produce a whole range of bike parts and tubes. Their approach to steel and aluminium tubesets have, in a short space of time, revolutionised the bike building world. Condor have taken advantage of their influence and used Italian builders to produce the Fratello, yet they are quick to point out that their style and design approach is firmly based in the UK, hence bikes like this one and their ‘street-savvy’ fixed wheel bikes.

Using a rack on the Fratello is no trouble. There is a separate set of eyes on the dropouts so for those who prefer their touring a little ‘racier’ the Fratello will be a perfect option and commuting with pannier bags will be no problem.

But my preferences for steel bikes goes a little further – I think it adds a certain finesse to a bike – the sleek, subtle lines of the Fratello are a perfect backdrop for Campagnolo components, the Vento wheels and the black bar/stem combo. OK it’s a bit retro but aside from the looks there is a distinct feeling of comfort and well-being on a steel bike that aluminium rarely provides. I know it sounds a bit sentimental – steel just feels right.



Front end
ITM’s Spider fork is a 1″ training blade with mudguard clearance and a steel steerer. An upright headtube means the steering is quick and although pedal overlap is tight, the rake allows for softening the road ahead. A set of mudguards is something you learn to appreciate, yes they look a little dated and ‘touriste’ but the benefits of a dry bum and cosy feet far outweight any aesthetic issues.


Wheels
Campagnolo Vento’s offered the only harsh element to the ride. They are however built around fully serviceable parts and didn’t show any signs of wear during a particularly messy test period (crap weather and commuter routes riddled with pot-holes). The Rubino tyres are light and lively, but a set of Continental’s or Michelin’s would offer a little more winter protection.

So Condor’s tradition of building excellent wheels should be taken advantage of. I’d prefer a set of 32 hole on Veloce hubs for their longevity and comfortable ride. OK they won’t look as flash but will offer a little more comfort and longevity. I swapped the Ventos over for a set of standard road wheels and the whole thing made a lot more sense.


Out on the road – The Ride
Although the 52cm came up a little small for me, with some adjustment to the bars (the mechanic had left plenty of available fork stack) it was easily sorted. OK so it’s a steel bike and it’s not that light either – so I was expecting a little lethargy, perhaps a bit of a tank. Far from it. The Deda LTP down tubes are shaped to add some sideways sturdiness and the return from the pedals is instant. Sure, the Fratello isn’t the lightest bike but it was surprisingly nippy, it’s small frame and sloping design meant it tucks under you which adds to the manoeuvrability of the bike – it corners and descends like it’s racing Squadra stablemate. The slope is a mere 3cm which does add height to the front end and compactness to the overall fit – perfect for long distances when you don’t want too much bar/saddle height difference.

Contact points
Condor finishing touches are neat and not just there as money savers – their Aheadset is a sealed cartridge and the saddle is made by San Marco. OK I didn’t like it, but the ‘ensemble’ look adds a touch of class. The Piega bars and Deda logo stem aren’t too bad for an ‘Ergo’ set up and a cheap one at that. The bars aren’t too extreme in the bend, so you can actually reach the brake levers OK, although I’d prefer a shallower drop for longer distances.

Components
Campagnolo Veloce 10 speed is a firm broadside at Shimano’s Ultegra 10. But it’s a couple of hundred quid cheaper and far more accomplished in the braking department. Centaur 10 would be a slight step up in quality and a better match for the Fratello’s frame quality – you’d still have some change left that you wouldn’t have from the Ultegra deal too. This type of bike really warrants a triple group or a compact drive set up if you are considering the Etape or a trip to the Pyrennes – So the Fratello perhaps deserved something a little better.

SRAM’s PC89R hollow pin chain is billed as a 9 speed chain but it drifts across the 10 sprockets perefctly, and we didn’t have to re-adjust or fettle the gears once. The Campagnolo group isn’t super light but does have the familiar solid feel to it and during the two month test period provided no glitches. The brakes are spot-on and the pads lasted particularly well in the shitty January weather.

Comparison
So how does this compare with the (much cheaper) Kinesis T? It’s certainly a different animal, the Kinesis has a low front end and long top tube so suits the club racer who wants a bike to echo their racing bike, but for winter use. However the Fratello is the kind of bike you’ll want to keep in use all year round – it has ride all day comfort which will be perfect for the Audax riders out there, compare it to the Squadra and you have similar geometry with a longer rear end, built for comfort. The Fratello is a lot more lively than the ‘T’ too, which belies it’s weight and appearance. The complete group approach means less time in the workstand and the parts are easily and cheaply replaced – Veloce will be tough enough to last a few nasty winters before it needs replacing.

Conclusion
OK so I like steel bikes. And seeing as this bike arrived in the middle of winter and it had mudguards, it was welcomed with open arms. Yet the Fratello offers a little more than just winter comfort; it’s a well behaved bike over all terrains, through London streets and Surrey hills the Fratello soaked up everything I could throw at it, without a squeak or a niggle. Condor have built a bit more than a winter training bike – It would be equally at home as a touring bike, an ‘Etaper’ or an all day Audax, you could strip the mudguards off it and ride a race too, but only if you have to. Attention to detail throughout the specification with no compromises gives it well earned top test points – teamed up with the comfortable and strong frame with the added magic of a steel ride. Nice.



RCUK VERDICT



Good:
Rides ‘light’ and excellent build quality for a budget bike



Bad:
A tad heavy – perhaps a little too retro for some tastes


Specification
Frame sizes: 46, 48, 50, 52, 55, 58 & 61cm (c/c) (compact)
Size tested: 52 (53.7 cm top tube)
Frame tubing: Dedacciai SAT 14.5 double butted steel
Fork: ITM spider 1″ steerer with mudguard eyes
Headset: Condor sealed cartridge
Crankarms: Campagnolo Veloce with 172.5mm cranks
Chainrings: 53/39T
B/B: Campagnolo Veloce
Pedals: none
Chain: SRAM 10 speed

Freewheel: Campagnolo 10 speed 12-25
F/D: Campagnolo Veloce 10 speed
R/D: Campagnolo Veloce 10 speed
Shifters: Campagnolo Veloce 10 speed
Handlebar: Deda Piega 42cm
Stem: Deda logo 10cm
Tape: Condor cork stuff
Brakes: Campagnolo Veloce
Wheels: Campagnolo Vento
Tyres: Vittoria Rubino 700x23c

Saddle: Condor San Marco
Seatpost: Deda Metal stick
Colour: Blue with silver seat tube panel (or red with silver panel)
Weight: 23.2lbs less pedals
Price: Complete bike as shown £1049.99 (Veloce 10spd) Frame and fork £499.99

Contact: Condor – 020 7269 6820

www.condorcycles.com

Fratello page

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