Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Condor Acciaio long-term review

Over half a year and several thousand kilometres since I bought it, the Acciaio frame-set is still here. That's not something to take for granted: the turnover in the shed can be brutal. More than that, though, it's still built up. And more than that, it's the bike I ride more than any other. So, what else to add to my early-days review?

I played with the setup more or less continuously until about a month ago. The basics have stayed the same: frame plus standard Condor full-carbon fork, Easton seatpost, Ritchey 110mm stem, Deda RHM02 bars, and mainly Ultegra groupset. The fiddling has been with the gearing: I started with a compact, switched to a (105) triple, switched back to the compact but with a 38-tooth inner ring, then switched back to the triple. 

The conclusion? I remain a fan of triples, and an out-and-out heckler of compacts. For me, the jump down from 50 to 34 on a compact is just too big. You shift the front derailleur, then have to crash down multiple gears at the back to get anything like a similar cadence. On a triple, especially a 110PCD triple (50-39-30), one change down at the front and one at the back is just about perfect.

The 30-tooth inner ring is little used, hence the experiment with a 50-38. I would have stuck with that, but the TA 38-tooth ring refused to shift smoothly, getting hung up on the downshift from the 50. So, back to the triple and its extra 100g or so. 

Contact points
I've tried various saddles, ending up with a Fizik Aliante. Fizik say this saddle is good for people who lack flexibility, but I'm actually quite flexible (at least by their simplistic can-you-touch-your-toes measure). The reason I prefer it is that when you want to extend your legs for a bit more power, you can slide back on to the rear of the saddle for a slightly higher, longer seating position.

I've also played about with the bars a bit. After a brief flirtation with some old Big Piegas, I've been using Deda's RHM02 bars. The jury's a bit out on these: the drop and curve are very comfortable, the forward bend (in the photo on the right) less so. A shallower radius would be more comfortable; this bend is so square it forces my hands further out than I'd like, making the bars feel wider than others of a similar size. On balance, I find the old FSA compacts, which were slightly narrower at the top than the drops, preferable.

Wheels can make or break a bike. I've used the lightweight Ksyrium SLs shown in the photo on the Acciaio, and also some nice-but-sturdy Harry Rowland 32-spoke wheels on Ambrosio hubs and Open Pro rims. The difference is marked, as you'd expect. With the SLs, the bike responds very readily to a press on the pedals, and accelerates quickly. The Rowlands give the bike a different character – not necessarily less enjoyable. It feels like a machine you can happily ride on cobbles and dirt roads, a real bruiser. Still, though, lightweight enough for fast riding.

We had to come to this in the end, didn't we? Depending on what bits it's wearing, the Acciaio (a size 55 frame) comes up at a bit under or a bit over 9kg: pretty heavy, relatively, for a bike that would cost about £2000 to build up to this spec from scratch (though about the same as a £1500 Specialized Roubaix). So, you could easily get something lighter for less. It just might not be as satisfying to ride or own.

It's possible to disguise a good frame using poor kit (especially wheels). It's also possible to make a so-so frame ride better with expensive equipment (especially wheels). I've built up and ridden the Acciaio frame with a range of middling and (in the case of the wheels) a-bit-better-than-middling kit, which has given me a good feel for its capabilities. I'd summarise it as a thoroughly modern version of an old-school steel frame. It's stiff enough to transfer power from your legs efficiently, is still comfortable on long rides (probably the most comfortable road bike I've owned), and is engaging to ride. (I'm trying really hard not to say "lively" here...)

Most of all, the Acciaio has a versatile nature that's welcome in an age of niches within niches. Build it light, drop the stem, and it feels close to a flat-stick race bike. Use more robust components, and you've got yourself a cobble basher. Strike the middle ground, and you have something that can do everything.

And it looks pretty, too.


  1. thanks your review. Im waiting my order same frame. Do u know ARAYA RC 540? I will make wheel with that araya rim.

  2. Glad the review was helpful. I'm afraid I don't know those rims, so can't comment on them. Enjoy your Acciaio!

  3. Some advice on the Acciaio. I've just picked up a second hand one that's in great condition kitted out with Campag Chrous and Vento wheels. I'm going to book myself into Condor for a fitting soon.

  4. Sorry meant to say "Some nice advice"

  5. Thanks, David. I still have mine, and still love it. Have never felt the need to replace the Accaiao.

    Semi-compact gearing finally provided the perfect solution to my gear fiddling: the bike's now kitted out with an Ultegra group set from a couple of years ago, 52/36 on the front, 11-25 on the back. Suits it perfectly.

    If you get a chance, try adding some high-thread-count tyres: I put Vittoria Corsas on mine and they feel amazing, like butter!