When Colnago teased the launch of a new platform, our first response was one of excitement. With 2018’s release of the coveted C64 fresh in our memories, we couldn’t wait to see what Mr Colnago had in store for us.
A bit of simple prior deduction ruled out both the Colnago C64 and the Colnago Concept as framesets for an upgrade. Both being relatively new to the market. Instead, we raised our eyebrows at the V2-R, Colnago’s monocoque marvel. It’s the choice of Dan Martin and the other riders of UAE Team Emirates when the races hit the mountains.
This platform and its previous Iteration, the Ferrari engineered V1-R, had enjoyed a wealth of success, including stage wins in the Tour de France and victory at Paris-Roubaix. So it was no mediocre act to follow. Where the V1 – and V2 for that matter – had gains to make was in weight and aerodynamics. Though those areas were deemed unimportant at their respective releases, in 2019 Colnago find themselves with competitors that are impossible to ignore.
That brings us comfortably to the present model year and a brand new super-bike. It is intended to not only disrupt the market, but to give classic Colnago fans some food for thought. Welcome, the Colnago V3RS and its little brother the V3R (which we will cover separately later on). Colnago are bringing both disc and rim iterations to market – purists, do not fear.
So let’s start at the top. Colnago, setting to build on an already successful platform, had a few improvements to make. With the stiffness and comfort of the previous iterations well regarded, as previously mentioned these would come largely in the areas of weight and aerodynamics. A monocoque design makes this easier to achieve than with their traditional lugged construction, as found on the C series. Full freedom of carbon construction is therefore opened up to the engineer, Davide Fumagalli who told Rouleur: “I was left to design the bike I wanted to ride.”
To address the elephant in the room: yes, it does look like a modern disc brake, aero climbing bike. The shape is reminiscent of the other successful releases you may have seen this year and last, and there has been a healthy injection of modernity to bring the bike up-to-date. But with some clever engineering, the V3RS manages to differentiate itself from its competitors. The end result gives Colnago fans a performance-driven bike, born from the experience and passion of one of Italy’s oldest bicycle manufacturers.
On the subject of engineering, the cockpit, for example, encompasses several ingenious features. Using contracting cups around the headset allows the V3RS to achieve considerable comfort at the front end, with a small amount of vertical flex, something that is particularly lacking in modern aero bikes with disc brakes.
The intricate assembly is a thing of beauty and its function is equally effective as our test-ride confirmed. The semi-integrated cockpit, featuring the SR9 stem, allows for the clean yet accessible cable routing via channels underneath. The cables are then completely hidden by passing them through the headtube and into the frame. Brands are now pulling back from the fully integrated systems seen a few years ago. Consumers are begging for increased usability and adjustability. The V3RS combines the best of both worlds, achieving that coveted hidden cable aesthetic with a fool-proof, lightweight system comprising of the SR9 stem and a comfortable flat-topped carbon handlebar.
The attention paid to the V3RS’ aerodynamic credentials is clear – though admittedly not mind-bending. Gone is the ‘hump’ concealing the seat clamp, replaced by a sleek wedge design topped with a rubber cap. Colnago spent considerable time developing and testing the system to reduce the weight and improve the function. This allows for greater modulation which means fewer of those scary moments when tightening the clamp. Also out is the original seatpost found on the previous models. In its place is the well-proven D-shaped post found on the C64. It’s a comfortable option and has the added bonus of the cut-off edge improving airflow over that area.
A subtle, elegant seat tube cut out cinches the wheels into the frame closely, allowing ample room for up to 30mm tyres – though we’ve got it on good authority that the V3RS can take up to 32mm. This will primarily improve comfort. Large tyres, particularly on the wide Campagnolo Bora WTO wheels, will balloon out and offer an increase in air volume and hence deformation under load. A well-proven concept with almost unanimous adoption from the industry.
The secondary effect is improved aerodynamics of the wheelsets themselves. Assuming the tyre profile – dictated by its size – and the external rim profile are suitably matched, you’re left with a wheel that’s much faster overall. Wheel tyre systems are nothing new, but with manufacturers working much more closely with the tyre brands, we’ll all benefit from a symbiotic system. All this clever engineering is largely made possible because of disc brakes, freeing up clearance especially on the forks.
Elsewhere the tubes have been slimmed down too. Partially this is to help achieve that impressive frame weight of 790 grams in a size 50 – for a disc frame, but also to improve airflow. Colnago doesn’t claim any specific watt savings, but I tend to find those metrics to be largely irrelevant for most riders anyway, so wouldn’t hold that against them. On the subject of weight – and this is not me fat-shaming other aero bikes – the V3RS is staggeringly light for a disc brake bike. Lead engineer Fumagalli’s personal ride comes in circa 6.7kg all-in.
This can easily be attributed to the slimmer frame and the brand-new fork, which has been lightened, optimised for the large tyre clearance and includes the threaded port for the thru axle. At a paltry 390g uncut in a middle-of-the-road size, big savings have been made here too.
The Colnago V3RS is never going to be the privateer’s choice (a disc frame will cost you a shade under £4,000), but with metrics putting it firmly in-line with or above its competition in the category, it could be the choice of the next generation of Colnago fans. Aesthetically, there is nothing to fault: the lines are clean, the colour highlights – which differ between the V3RS and the V3R – are tasteful and well placed. The front end is elegant and looks, well, fast. Somehow, despite all the modern additions, revisions and evolutions, the V3RS manages to retain that Colnago charm.
Mr Ernesto still has final sign-off on each and every new model, so perhaps that has some bearing. To get the approval of the legend himself ensures that the legacy of the great Italian brand remains steadfast. Even if bikes like the C64 are becoming the artisanal choice as opposed to a mainstream one.
The V3RS and V3R will be available as a frameset only, so we’ve got no full weights for a complete build. Needless to say, with a frame that svelte, featherweight builds are certainly possible. The launch bike, for example, was kitted out with Campagnolo Super Record and Lightweight Meilenstein wheels and came in under 6.7kg. Available in four colours, there’s something for everyone. Unfortunately though, even under heavy pressure from Rouleur, the V3RS will not be available under Colnago’s custom colour programme. There goes my dream of a bright pink version…
The geometry – while not drastically different from the V2-R – has been subtly altered to better cater to the bike’s racing focus. The bottom bracket has been dropped across all sizes by 2mm – party to balance the larger tyes – whilst the head tube is shorter, counteracted by a longer fork to encourage better front end stability. With neat spacers supporting the aforementioned SL9 stem, gone are the days when a slammed front end was the only option for pro-level aesthetics. That said, the bike is not hiding behind smoke and mirrors. The V3RS is a race-bike through and through and it doesn’t apologise for it. We can attest that the position offered by the frame, though on the racing side of things, is remarkably close to the C64. This is not the straw that will break the camels back.