Fondriest TF2 1.0
Notice: This article appeared in the Bicycling Australia Jan-Feb 2010 issue alongside images of the Fondriest TF3 bike.
The Fondriest brand is named after the legendary Italian cyclist Maurizio Fondriest. I first remember hearing the name when he shot to prominence by winning the World Road championships in 1988 at the age of 23. While his performance on the day was exceptional, he was perhaps fortunate to have won.
After seven hours of racing he approached the finish line in the company of the local Belgium hero Claude Criquielion and Canadian Steve Bauer. As Bauer started the uphill sprint to the line with just 200m to go Criquielion was straight on the wheel while a small gap opened to Fondriest. What happened next was surreal. Bauer led the sprint from tight against the left barrier straight across to the right side of the road. Then with 100m to go he moved back to the centre. Criquielion saw his chance and began his move on the right of Bauer quickly coming alongside, when Bauer suddenly hooked him into the barriers. Criquielion, left with nowhere to go collided with a marshal and fell to the ground. Bauer hampered by the collision was slowed and Fondriest swung left to overtake the pair in spectacular fashion to take the win.
While this victory was a surprise, there was little doubt of Fondriest’s talent. During his 12 year professional career he won 69 races including Milan San Remo and was crowned the winner of the World Cup in 1991 and 1993.
As a rider he always looked exemplary on a bicycle, as if the machine was an extension of his body. His own personal professionalism and attention to detail has been reflected in his bike business, where each of the various models in the Fondriest range exudes quality and innovation.
The TF2 1.0 model tested here is a significant upgrade on the TF2 tested in Bicycling Australia issue #155. It features a light 950g frame and 345g fork (claimed) and comes decked out with Shimano Dura Ace. It’s targeted at the high performance end of the market, for those looking for every advantage. The first thing that struck me when looking at the frame was the incredibly large and square down tube. There is a lot of material there and yet the low weight of the frame is impressive.
Finished in ubiquitous red white and black colour scheme the finish and attention to detail is superb from all angles. The black sections of the frame are actually clear coat over the carbon weave and highlight one of the technical features of this frame, known as 4x4 twill. The way threads of carbon fibre are formed into fabric has certain characteristics to the resulting frame structure. The 4x4 twill fabric provides less stretch than traditional twill weaves and results in a stronger product.
Up front the seemingly backward raking fork is solidly joined to the differential headset incorporating a 1 1/8” top bearing and 1 ½” bottom bearing. The overall effect on the road is an incredibly stiff chassis. This is perhaps one of the stiffest bikes I’ve ever tested.
During out of the seat efforts every watt of energy goes into propelling you forward with absolutely no flex. On smooth tarmac with rolling hills this bike excels. It’s no slouch on long uphills either where the solid platform allows for no waste in power, whether you stay seated or climb standing.
One of the features highlighted in the brochure on this bike is the anti-shock seat stays that are designed slightly bowed so as to deaden vertical impacts on their way to the rider. In action the large down tube combined with the boxed chain stays doesn’t allow much chance of movement here. To be honest you could probably remove the seat stays entirely and this would still be stiffer than many bikes. This frame is a racing machine first and foremost, but it is not by any means an armchair ride. Think about it, you don’t see plush suspension on a F1 car either.
I tested the XS size frame and found this size to be close to spot on for me. I’d like to see a slightly shorter head tube length in this size, but a 17 degree stem would cater for that if required. With a relaxed 71.5 degree head angle that throws the front wheel further forward there’s no issue with your shoes overlapping the wheel but it also has the drawback of making the steering slower. A more relaxed head angle makes the front end want to lift higher when you turn the bars, so in affect it requires more force to change direction. The general balance of the bike is spot on and cornering either on the flat or fast descents was predictable and controlled. The TF2 1.0 is available in seven sizes which offers a great range of options.
Part of this frames aesthetic appeal is in the integrated cable system. These are usually the sorts of features that give bike mechanics sleepless nights, but on the Fondriest the design does seem to be very well executed. There’s a routing for the cable as it enters the frame and a clever access point under the bottom bracket that is sealed from the elements via a nicely designed rubber plug. Shifting during the test was smooth enough, although not as crisp as external cabling. In the long term the cables are at least kept clean around bottom bracket and this does promise more reliable shifting.
The seatpost is both oversized and ovalised. This option definitely offers more flexibility than an integrated seat mast that requires cutting, but with the design chosen you are limited to using the seatpost supplied. Still, fine adjustment of the seat was easy to accomplish. The integrated seat clamp is a clever feature that neatly does the job of clamping the post and adds to the clean lines of the frame.
I also liked the quality part selection found on this bike. I found the Selle Italia SL saddle to be very comfortable. Its shape is similar to the SLR model, but had more give that resulted in very little front to back movement. Despite the minimalist appearance it’s a seat you tend to sit in rather than on. It was good to see that the FSA bars were the correct width for a frame this size and I liked the short throw and shallow drop.
Finally, the wheels performed excellently. I’ve always found the Kysriums to be an excellent performer that require little to no attention. They may not be aero but they are light, stiff and strong and by far the easiest wheel to change a flat on.
Back in 1998 when a surprised 23 year old Fondriest crossed the line, arms raised, to take the World Title in astonishing circumstances, many believed he was just plain lucky. Fondriest’s distinguished career proved that victory was more than just luck and his ensuing dedication to the sport resulted in many more successes. So too with his bike business where similar hard work and attention to detail has helped to create this bike. The TF2 1.0 proved to be a surprisingly pleasing package.
The general finish and appearance of this bike is a real stand out. The Italian flair for making well designed, great looking products continues.
In a word, this bike is stiff. The geometry is nicely balanced and when the tarmac is smooth it is an inspiring combination, but when the roads are rough you do know about it. It’s a true performance machine that doesn’t compromise.
Value for Money
Good value for money for a quality brand and product that provides something a bit unique to stand out from the crowd.
A great racing machine for those looking for a very stiff frame that provides sure footed performance and unique great looks.