Test Lab Colnago CLX 3.0
Colnago have for many years produced bikes that have been heralded as being the best of their era, bikes that are capable of winning tours and one-day classics. They are the type of bikes that are lusted after by weekend warriors and aficionados alike. A few years ago I was lucky enough to get my hands on a lightly used C40 frame, a frame from the mid 2000s that was, as with many Colnagos, said to be about the best frame of its time. I bought it to see if the often talked about, seemingly mythical quality, know as ‘Italian handling’ actually existed. I can honestly say I wasn’t disappointed. The lugged carbon frame of the C40 combined with the seemingly simplistic Star Carbon fork, combined to give a ride that is still to this day among the best I have experienced. In fact the C40 is the bike I ride before I hop on each and every test bike, as it gives me a great benchmark as to what a good bike should be. Colnago also seem to do something that seems to come naturally to Italians, making a high-tech piece of equipment look fantastically stylish.
Upon receiving the new Colnago CLX3.0, one thing was very evident, Colnago still make magnificent looking bikes. Often modern bikes can look like no thought has been given to style. On the CLX3.0 however, a shaped seat post, huge headtube and large chain stays aren’t allowed to detract from the overall aesthetic. The test bike came equipped with a Shimano Ultegra drivetrain, Shimano RS30 wheels, Deda bars and stem, a Colnago-branded Prologo saddle and some Colnago-branded brake callipers. The dark charcoal of the Shimano’s workhorse Ultegra components sits wonderfully against the crisp white and deep red of the CLX’s metallic-flecked frame. It is testament to the quality and precision of the Ultegra components that, upon realising that all the cables for brakes and gears had been released for packaging and transport and needed to be readjusted prior to use, even a ham-fisted mechanic like myself was able to have the bike tuned and running inside five minutes, and it continued to be reliable throughout the test.
The CLX3.0 is all new for 2012. The frame has been updated with a tapered steerer and new fork, the rear brake cable is now internally routed and the chainstays have reverted to a large rectangular section. The front triangle of the bike is a monocoque construction with the tubes bearing the trademark Colnago cross section, which roughly replicates the Colnago cloverleaf. This shape not only adds complexity to the layup but also stiffness to the tubes. It also is a clear indicator that while these frames may be made in Asia, they are certainly not a generic frame with Colnago stickers applied. The sloping top tube is slightly curved adding to the beautiful lines of this frame and the subtle curve of the wishbone seat stays continues the theme. The rear triangle is bonded to the monocoque front section via a large lug that is the entire width of the bottom bracket and a great departure from the much smaller lugs on older Colnago carbon frames.
Setting up the CLX3.0 was a bit tricky due to the somewhat unusual choice of components. For a 54cm frame it came equipped with 170mm cranks and a 130mm stem which you wouldn’t generally consider to be standard issue. But after a bit of fiddling all was good and I was ready to go. It must be noted at this point that the CLX3.0 is a bit heavier than you might imagine. Colnago have never been a company to design a bike down to a weight but at a touch over 8.5kgs I must admit to feeling like it should have been a bit lighter. I think a lot of that penalty is borne by the wheels, the RS30s while being a robust and reliable training wheel, probably aren’t in the same league as the frame or the running gear and I would endeavour to haggle with your bike shop for an upgrade if possible.