What's Cool In Road Cycling

PEZ-Test: COLNAGO’s New E-1

The traditionalists at Colnago have had the design for a while, but being traditionalists, they waited to see if the world’s appetite for sloping top-tubed, raw carbon goodies was going to last. Then the Cambiago Kid decided that rather than chase the less is more, weight weenie crowd, he would use the shape in a way better suited to the other 98% of riders with meat on their bones. We get the latest from Colnago…

Being a tech guy can make you jaded after a while. Believe it or not, you do reach a point where the UPS guy shows up and you dread it, knowing that you’re gonna have to tear your bike apart to test another part, or spend a while fiddling with a piece of gear so that it fits just right, only to yank it a few weeks later.

Then again, there are a couple of folks that send us things that make us smile as soon as we see the name on the label. Doesn’t matter one damn bit what’s inside, because everything they have is something you want… Trialtir get that smile pretty much every time, especially when the box is big, as it means a new Colnago. In this case the latest E-1.

Click the Thumbnail above for the LARGE picture…

At a glance, it’s hard not to think that this is Colnago’s new top line carbon, but with Colnago doing a Ferrari edition now and again, as well as having versions of their President and a series of new C-50’s, the E-1 finds it’s place a rung or two down from the top. That is by design though, as they wanted to have a frame that would allow a few more people (erm, rich people…) to afford Colnago type Carbon. They also wanted a Bicycle that would be applicable for more than just Greyhound built racers. Enter the new E-1.

While other manufacturers have carried their design and manufacturing much further east than Cambiago Italy, Colnago remain true to turf, again working with ATR in bringing the new E-1 to life. Part of the cost of a Colnago is in the extensive design and development, and the relationship they enjoy with Milano Politecnico and ATR doesn’t come cheap. Some of you may recognize ATR as they are also the guys working with race bred outfits like Ferrari, Lamborghini, Renault, Maserati and Minardi. ATR also play on the fairly rapid two wheel front working with MV Agusta, Ducati and Aprilia. Something Colnago have in common with other ATR clients, is that none of these companies are famous for being anything near affordable. Colnago spend a lot of money making sure something is right and even more making sure it’s made well (honestly a couple of their Italian Motorized compatriots could do with taking a quality control lesson from the little bicycle guys…).

So with that tech base, Colnago came up with the E-1 as a bicycle that could give big power guys (and / or bigger guys in general) a Colnago that would perform properly for them. The E-1 has actually been ready for a couple of years, but only recently have frame makers decided to focus on a broader audience of people that didn’t run around with a gram scale in their pocket. So 2005 got the go for full sales of the E-1, and here’s what you get.

The front end of the bike is a monocoque triangle featuring a down tube that is large, but not overly so. It’s slightly shaped as a vertical oval at the head tube to maximize contact patch and minimize twist and it tapers down to a rounded curve, up into the seat tube. The seat tube itself gets a bit larger as it gets to the top and expands with a bit of a fin just as it meets the B stay lug. This almost reminds me of gusseted areas on mountain bikes, as it’s just some added material maybe to reinforce the B stay insert.

The third leg of the triangle is the top tube and it’s large at the head tube and smaller at the seat. Lots of manufacturers are realizing that less is more at the joint where the seat tube, top tube and chain stays come together, as not much flex goes on there (I can’t figure out why Orbea put so much material at that spot with the Orca and Onix, but they’re also nice rides…). There are stiffness concerns at the Head tube though, and that’s why the top run on the E-1 gets bigger as it moves to the front.

All that said, the focal point of this bike for me is really at the bottom bracket. The front triangle sits down in to a wide and very beefy bottom bracket shell and chain stay lug. This is absolutely beautiful to look at, as the lines and shapes come together here. Logic says that there is a joint underneath. But this is where the bike screams “Hand Laid Carbon Art”, as the lines created by the new large twill (bigger checker pattern) Carbon material used in the top layer of the composite make everything flow together superbly.

Some manufacturers simply paint over places where they join portions of their carbon frames, as they don’t make a very nice joint. Not so with the E-1, as clear coat tells no lies… Note the cable routing through the expanded portion of the bottom end. Colnago wanted this bike to be substantial and put the material where it was needed to do it.

The chain stays are very large and also feature a little bit of a wiggle (ribbed for your pleasure). That’s done to increase surface area for added stiffness and done with shaping (rather than just making them a bigger circle) so that it looks a bit nicer and takes up less room for heel clearance.

The new star Carbon fork for Colnago also features a little bit of a rib. Just a bit more stiffness in a way that still keeps a simple look in a fairly classic part that has never needed a visual upgrade.

Colnago have also tweaked their stem choice (ITM I think?) to include a feature I first noticed in a Ritchie design picture. They put a bit of a twist to the steering tube clamping area of the stem so that the crushing load is spread around a larger area instead of pinching together in a straight up-and-down line. It helps not to pinch a part that is frequently over stressed (the steering tube). Small detail true, but nice to see little improvements…

The focus of the new E-1 is admittedly a bit out of my element. I am not a all-power guy and/or a larger rider in general. That said, I have been on just about every high end bike around (yep, some you haven’t read about here, like Fondriest’s big guy carbon…) and will at least give you a thought or two, based on what I hear from a lot of guys that really are “BIG” (power or weight) and have been on the other bikes that I have… They tell me what they feel and I relate it to what I do, and with enough effort, I can usually get bikes to the point where they move or flex in a way similar to when a large guy rides. It sometimes means stomping around a bit, or trying to up the G-force in corners (which can be slightly “exciting” on an expensive loaner…) but it works to a large degree…

Is this bike stiff? Yep. So much so that Colnago have built themselves a whole new animal ride wise.

There is some high frequency (road buzz) vibration damping, but this bike rides a whole lot more like the BMC SLT01 than it does the new C-50, meaning I feel the bigger bumps. But remember that heavier riders will get a more compliant ride from this than I will at 148 lbs (proved buy letting a 190 lb rider have it for a couple of hours to give me a second opinion). The benefit though is that, paired with a stiff wheel set, bigger guys and power guys will not complain about too much flex. The stiffness is comparable even to stiff Aluminum, but without the same road buzz and in a way sweet looking package.

Something that lots of folks don’t think about enough is that heavier riders will find that they gain quite a bit when riding a more solid bike like the E-1 than when they foolishly go for frames that are usually less than a pound lighter. The extra few grams that you gain in weight are more than worth it in stiffness, but most manufacturers have nothing to sell but “lighter is better”. That gets beat into riders brains so much that Big guys make bad buying choices… Damn shame.

Carbon will also absorb vibration better when you change the lay up in particular points. That’s the case with the E-1. It’s not as buttery smooth as their C-40 or 50, but it doesn’t try to be either. It’s in the gap between the harsher feel of Aluminum and the ride of the C-50 (which is probably what riding down the road having your butt held by Gretha Cavazonni must feel like…).

Add the use of newer resins and types of fiber matt, toss in ATR’s experts at making carbon stabilizer parts for Formula one cars, and presto. You have a carbon bike as twist resistant as most Aluminum. And don’t forget that Carbon has a fatigue life that is way way way higher than Aluminum (Carbon basically has no fatigue life, where Aluminum can be as poor as a single season). Big size, big power guys will not only benefit from a little better ride quality, but that stiff responsive carbon frame will be around way longer than an Aluminum one will.

What you get with the E-1 is exactly what they were going for, a high end carbon bike, very well suited to the pressures of larger and more powerful riders than some of the fly weight stuff out there. To the big (within reason) riders that email me asking what frame to buy, go ahead and put this one on the list. Crit guys without budget constraints could also add the E-1 to the list, as the power meets the road on the E-1 in a more ruthless way than Colnago’s past, and certainly more so than in a lot of today’s Carbon.

All to be expected when guys have an understanding about how to design a bike as Ernesto does…

Take a visit to Colnago’s site, and make sure you have a look HERE! I must have been stuck in the Champions Geometry section of their site for hours looking at the names and the frames. Click on any of Colnago’s Clients on the left… It’s just amazing.

About 2600 years ago, Confucius said something that translates roughly to “study the past to define the future”. If that holds true (and it always has), the future for Colnago looks better than for most others. Interesting too, that Colnago seems to be a classic proof of Chinese Philosophy, yet they are one of only a few companies that don’t build source their carbon bikes from China…

Not that some of the bikes coming from the far-east are not extremely nice (there are some superb products being made there), but Colnago simply pay more for Italian R&D, Italian Design and especially Italian production. That’s why a Colnago that is not their top of the line will set you back some place close to $3400 dollars (before build kit)… Not everyone can afford a Colnago, but if you fall in the target of this bikes design focus, there are not even a hand full of choices that look this sweet and have this pedigree.

Where To Get One
TRIALTIR-USA.com distribute Colnago Bicycles in North America. With net scams galore and because Trialtir are the service and warranty center, you are absolutely stupid if you try and save a couple of bucks by not getting yours through an approved Trialtir Colnago Dealer… Check em out, and stop buy CBIKE.com as a great place to start your Colnago search!

Note: if you have other experiences with gear, or something to add, drop us a line. We don’t claim to know everything (we just imply it at times). Give us a pat on the back if you like the reviews, or a slap in the head if you feel the need!

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