Colnago CLX: PEZ Giro Spec
The Colnago CLX was my first taste of the legendary Italian marque’s ride. Delivered in a mid-priced package, it’s a great all-round road bike. Pondering what I’d ride at this year’s Giro, this made a perfect platform for some serious component upgrades from Hed, Zipp, Easton, Zero Gravity, Tiso, Blackburn and more…
I took delivery of the shiny new Colnago CLX back at the Tour of California – and liked it from my first ride. It wasn’t the trickest, or best spec’d, or lightest bike I’ve ridden (by a long shot), but the package was solid, and from day one it felt great no matter what terrain I was riding.
Click the thumbnail at top for the BIG view.
Piazza Barberini in Roma makes a pretty nice photo studio.
The fact that it weighed just over 17 pounds was no big deal, but a guy in my fortunate position does get to ride a lot of sub-15 pound bikes, so my one idea for improvement was to shave some weight with some new spec. Read my original CLX review here.
Independent studies have failed to prove any correlation between test riding bikes on freshly paved roads under sunny Italian skies and on reviewer objectivity…
Given the moderate- but very functional and reasonably priced US$4700 stock build on the CLX – Campy Centaur, Campy Euros alu clinchers, FSA alu bars and stem, I knew shaving some grams would be easy to do… and a lot of fun.
Another fortunate part of this gig is our great relationships with so many cycling parts manufacturers – so it took only a few phone calls and emails to line up some much lighter gear for the rebuild:
• HED Ardennes Wheels
• ZIPP VUMA Quad cranks
• EASTON EC90 carbon bars and stem
• ZERO GRAVITY Negative G brakes
Plus some stuff just for fun like:
• TISO Gold bolt kit
• JAGWIRE cables – in gold
• VITTORIA Diamonte Pro tires
• BLACKBURN Carbon Cages
• HUDZ white brake lever covers
• ROCKET SCIENCE Dimpled Bottles
HED Ardennes Wheels MSRP: $995.00 – after an hour long hi-tech chit chat with HED’s Dino Edin, covering topics from the Gran Fondo Lelli he just rode in Italy, to deflection weighting on wheels, I surmised that the raison d’etre of the Ardennes wheels is to “provide a better platform for tire performance”.
HED’s Ardennes are made in clincher only – an all rounder to take all terrain in all conditions – whether climbing, descending or crits, rolling hills.
HED believes that is true, and with Steve Hed’s legendary wheel brain behind them, it’s also no surprise. What is surprising is that instead of these being deep dish, super-aero carbon skinned saucers, they appear (at first glance) to be simple low profile aluminum clinchers – not your typical HED wheel.
HED is so convinced 23mm is THE width for rims, their whole 2009 line will be 23’s.
But the real difference is the design – they’re 23mm wide. And although HED are not the first guys to offer 23mm wide rims, they do seem to be the most excited about it right now. That’s the same width as the most popular road tire – (you’re probably riding some right now). And according to HED, therein lies the key to these hoops – the wider rim does three things:
1. Creates a more continuous tire to rim surface that reduces airflow disruption as air transitions from tire to rim, thereby reducing overall drag created by the wheel.
2. The wider rim allows a wider contact patch for the tire at the road, which disperses the load over a wider area, creating less tire deflection where it contacts the road and results in lower rolling resistance,
See some interesting data on this at Schwalbetires.com.
3. That wider footprint also allows the tire to maintain its round shape more consistently under the various loads from cornering to side to side rocking, which lets the tire do the job it was designed to – grip the road, and roll better under those (and other) loads.
Weight has been reduced with the use of scandium in the alloy (which also increases rim strength), while the Sapim CX Ray bladed spokes (18 front, 24 rear) are both stiff and light. HED posts the wheel set weight at 1361 grams, which is pretty good in the clincher world. When I weighed completed wheels (tires, tubes, rim strips and skewers), these were 262 grams less than the stock Campy wheels – not bad.
Hubs are HED’s own design, with stainless steel bearings in sealed cartridges, and with the low profile Hed has made a standard feature. Cassettes can be swapped easily enough to go from Campy to Shimano clusters, but it does require a redish of the wheel.
So confident are HED of the future of the 23mm width, they’re entire line for 2009 will be 23mm…
The ride was stiffer than the Campag Euros wheels for sure, and while I admit to not discerning the ride quality difference as profoundly as HED’s website says I will, I surely noticed the lighter weight and its faster windup, and the overall stiffness of the set. The other point of note was brake setup – the wider rim means less space between rims and brake pads. This varies of course with brake brands, but the clearance of the Zero Gravity’s were a tad tight for my liking, resulting in less brake lever movement to engage than I prefer.
Bearings are sealed ceramic, and the cranks come in lengths of 170, 172.5, 175, 180mm.
• ZIPP VUMA Quad crankset – MSRP: US$890.00 + $360.00 ceramic bearings
Here’s the item I was most excited about testing after last year’s Interbike, the ZIPP Vuma Quad is billed as the crank with the best stiffness to weight ratio anywhere, and since they’re offered in both 53/39 and 50/34 compact versions – I was even more jazzed – since high end compact cranks are still a somewhat limited offering from some big name manufacturers.
Most noticeably, the VUMA Quads feature a 4-bolt chainring, which not only serves to reduce weight, but also allows for a deep 2-inch width of the crank arm profile. That makes for a stiffer crank arm, but also eliminates access for a 5th chainring bolt.
The crank arms are a carbon outer casing around a foam inner core, with aluminum inserts for the pedals, and at the drive side bottom bracket junction. Bonded into the non-drive arm is a 30mm aluminum spindle which increases stiffness while reducing weight over traditional sized spindles.
Like everything Zipp does, these are made at home in the USA, and they report it takes 45 minutes to layup one crank arm, and that weight tolerances are within 2 grams across all final production models.
The Vuma Quads weigh in near 580 grams – saving about 105 grams off the Centaur cranks that came stock. Performance has been great – they work exactly like I expect, with no surprises, no creaks, groans wiggles or funny fits.
PS – That’s not my cigarette butt…
• EASTON EC90 SLX3 Carbon Bars and EA90 Stem $250 $90.00
Handlebars have a huge impact on bike fit and ride comfort, so I’m most interested in bar shape when trying new steer sticks. The EC90 SLX3 Carbon Bars is new for 2008 and is a shorter reach, short drop full carbon handlebar that weighs in at only 195 grams. The drops feature an ‘ergo-pro’ curve that mixes an ergo-curve and a more classic euro-pro semi-circular curve.
Coupled with the 130mm drop, it’s a nice combo that offers up a variety of comfy and easy to reach hand positions. The flats are long and straight – no funky bends of curves here – just lots of space to hold onto when grinding out a long climb. The transition from flat to top is a tight curve, and the tops transition to the drops fairly quickly – resulting in a short reach to the hoods (75mm), which I like. Easton says they’ve even designed the top of the drop specifically to allow a smoother transition to the hoods of all three most popular brake levers – SRAM, Shimano and Campy. I can attest the Campy levers mount up and transition very nicely.
There are no channels for cables, so I ran mine front and back, which created a wider platform to grab along the flats and tops.
They’re made from Easton’s Carbon Nanotube Technology (CNT) – which Eastons reports evenly dispurses nanotube structures through the matrix, resulting in a stronger, lighter handlebar. As carbon bars go, I found these stiff enough to handle hard sprints with no noticeable flex, and anyone who likes a traditionally shaped bar should find these feel great too.
The bars feature roughened sections were the stem and levers clamp on.
The EA90 stem is 100% forged aluminum, weighing in at 125grams. Easton shipped me the 0є rise, but it also comes in a +/-10є version. Bar clamping is via Easton’s 4-bolt Top-Lock™ design, which intends full clamping of the top of the face-plate against the stem body, then tightening the bottom two bolts down to desired tightness, creating a more continual pressure ‘hoop’ grip around the bars, versus the often ill advised ‘vice grip’.
• ZERO GRAVITY Negative G Ti Brakes ($400)
Zero Gravity sent over a set of their beefy looking new Negative G brakes that weigh only 230 grams for the set (include Swissstop pads). These were designed to fill consumer requests for a lightweight brake that had a feel more like Shimano, and although they appear to have a lot more material than the original Zero G’s, the more powerful feel comes mainly from newly engineered and machined aluminum arms, plus a newly designed ‘Powercam’.
The brakes are designed to work best with standard width rims, and I ran into clearance problems between the HED 23mm Ardennes and the Swissstop yellow pads so I swapped them out for thinner pads for the fix.
The brakes are designed to ‘float’ right in the center position, so once they‘re aligned over the wheel, you should never have to use the 15mm centering wrench, or tweak ‘em with your hands like we do with most other brands. The caveat is that brake cable housing needs to be an exact length, because if it’s too long or too short, it’ll push the pads off-center.
Toe-in was a little tricky due to some machining inaccuracies, but Zero G is standing by to send new parts if any are needed.
I like the feel of these better than the original Zero G’s, and I could easily tell the difference in braking power, so the new design does its job here.
Now the Real Bling…
I liked the simple and clean black and white paint scheme of the stock CLX, but a seriously upgraded version of this bike should have a least a little bling don’t you think? I settled on gold accents to set the bike apart just that tiny bit more…
• TISO Gold Bolt Kit: – US$185.95
PEZ-Fans have seen Tiso’s aftermarket bolt kits turn up on more than a few bikes over the years, and with good reason – they’re one of the few companies who actually do this stuff well.
TISO’s standard complete bolt kit for Campy or Shimano comes with rear derailleur pulleys, pulley bolts, Crankarm dust cap, chainring bolts, rear derailleur pivot bolt, front and rear derailleur cable anchor bolts, and front derailleur clamp bolt.
For some reason the TISO head office in Italy only sends one set of bottle cage bolts, but Cycling Innovations will send the required 2 sets for all thirsty North American orders.
The bits are made from 7075 Aluminum and save a claimed 47 grams over standard steel bolts.
• CyclingInnovations.com and Booth 664 at Interbike.
• JAGWIRE ‘SWITCH’ Brake & Derailleur Cables
Jagwire is one of our favorite aftermarket accessory makers, and as their lines of colored cables and doo-dads grows, we just find more space on our bikes for ‘em. As guys who are serious enough about their aftermarket cables to put their own name on ‘em, it was a no brainer as to who’d come through with the golden cables I wanted for this project.
The Switch series braided cable kits are spec’d for SRAM and Shimano on both road and mountain bikes, but worked just fine on this Campy equipped Colnago.
The Derailleur cables are 4.5mm LEX housing w/ L3 liner, and plenty long at 1800mm in the package. The cables are slick stainless and double ended, plus a bunch of small parts including 7 sealed ferrules, 6 cable donuts, 1 raincoat boot, and 2 cable tips completes the set.
The brake housing is 5mm CGX low-compression w/ L3 liner, 3000mm long, and complete with all you need to complete the job.
• VITTORIA Diamonte Pro tires – US $55.00 each
Thanks to the guys at BikeMine for the new set of redesigned Diamonte Pro skins from Vittoria, the famed Italian brand that needs no introduction. Tread pattern is a smooth center bead with thousands of tiny knobs making an all-road conditions sticky surface on either side for cornering grip. Given I was off to Italy in May, there’s no point in taking straight slicks – you just can’t count on the weather. The 220 threads per inch casing should be supple enough for almost everyone. They’re rated between 100 – 145 psi, and although they’re not the fastest tire I’ve ridden, they performed just fine for me at my normal 105-110.
• BLACKBURN Carbon Cages – US$44.99, Lifetime warranty
Carbon cages are no brainer these days (for me anyway), and one thing I’ve learned is that matching the sheen and weave of the finish to my bike is a key to looking good. Blackburn offers both gloss and matte versions of their lean clean design, but I like the function even better. Unlike other cages that contain fiber glass layers or filler, these are 100% carbon fiber, making them stronger – and lighter. The shape holds bottles snug enough for mtb use (just ask the Luna Chix pro mtb team & Bissell on the road side), but easy enough for access in a variety of frame sizes.
Blackburn tells me the bottle cradle at the bottom is the weakest point on most cages, so theirs is designed to be even stronger at this point. Mine weighed in at 31 grams… nothing to improve on here.
• HUDZ Enhancement Brake Hoods – $34.95 Retail
Seems like only yesterday we were stuck of a world of black lever covers, when in fact it was actually just last year… When I saw these babies at Interbike ’07, I grabbed as many as I could mooch off Hudz’ Lance Johnson.
They’re offered for SRAM, Shimano, and Campy, and things have evolved somewhat in 2008, with a veritable rainbow of colors now offered inclusing sparky names like: Bastogne Blue, Bordeaux Gold, Brugge Black, Eroica Celeste, Ghent Grey, Lombardia Orange, Paris Pink, Roubaix Red, San Remo Green, Vlaanderen Yellow, and Wallonne White. Pale blue and light purple are coming at Interbike.
Hudz are big into philanthropy, and every color benefits a different charity – so get some color in your hands at your fave shop, online retailer or at GrabTheHudz.com
• Rocket Science Dimpled Water Bottles – $9.95 Retail
Aero shaped bottles have been around for a while, but most have been TT specific in odd shapes that just aren’t conducive to regular road riding, or too small to wet more than your whistle. Enter Rocket Science Sports and their dimpled water bottle – a full sized 21 oz. bevvie holder with golf ball-style dimples around the entire exterior surface.
Their website reports they’ve been into the windtunnel and in fact these create 16% less drag that smooth surfaced bottles. Those dimples also provide grip when unscrewing the wide mouthed lid, better grip to hold the bottle in the cage, and the nipple offers lots of flow.
Get ‘em online at RocketScienceSports.com.
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