Rolling to the start line on the Colnago Cross Prestige is like having a REALLY good looking friend – you can enjoy the admiring glances but you know they aren’t directed at you. This stunning Italian race bike will help you fly through cyclo-cross season, if you can bear to get it muddy.
We had expected an improvement in handling precision on the Prestige – given that Colnago have moved to a monocoque front triangle from the lugged construction of its feted predecessor, the C50-cross – and we weren’t disappointed. The selection of high modulus carbon fibre pre-preg and meticulous manufacturing and design process really shone through when we stepped on the gas.
This bike was made for Sven “King Cross” Nys and it's at speeds that the great man makes look easy that it really shines. The Prestige will carve sweeping turns and provide a quiet confidence that you don’t need to brake or even stop pedalling for the next one.
The high bottom bracket means you won’t clip a pedal either. However, in slow, technical sections the extra height exaggerates weight shifts to an extent which we found difficult to adjust to. This is the one area where we never quite felt happy in the Colnago’s company. If your local courses are tight, twisty and slow look towards something with a lower bottom bracket and maybe a little more forgiveness.
The Prestige offers startlingly fast acceleration, so whether you’re jumping out of a corner or sprinting for position coming into the next one the rock solid chassis transmits all the power you can offer it. The large polygonal cross sections used throughout the front triangle aren’t dramatically shaped but are ruthlessly efficient at banishing unwanted deflection nonetheless.
The fork too is designed to minimise flex, with widely spaced legs to improve wheel tracking and a broad leading-edge moulded into otherwise slender fork blades to help resist side loading. From the full-width bottom bracket lug which connects them to the monocoque front triangle to the neatly machined replaceable dropouts, the chainstays morph from a deep rectangular profile to a compact square profile, the end result of which is the race ready ride we enjoyed so much.
Stiffness comes at the expense of comfort, though. In much the same way that some Ferraris have boot space, the Prestige can accept two bottle cages, but the frame is so unforgiving you wouldn’t want to be on it long enough to need them.
This bike was obviously designed for use with the very low pressures that tubular tyres make possible. Rough turns with much more than 28psi in the tyres sent the Prestige skittering toward the course tapes where more compliant frames found a little grip. Keep tyres soft and not only does the Prestige hold your chosen line exceptionally, but that stiffness means you know precisely how far your tyres are sliding and whether or not they’re going to stop – essential on slimy December mornings.
Drop-offs feel poised thanks to the high front end which helps keep rider weight back and the rear wheel gripping when gassing it up steep banks. Intricate root dodging manoeuvres and seat-of-your-skinsuit overtaking feel great on the Colnago thanks to the super-stiff front end and shorter, higher position the geometry encourages.
Shouldering the bike was easy thanks to the low total weight but bringing the bike back to earth was aided by a unique touch added to the Prestige frame. A slim arch, reminiscent of a flying buttress, has been added running between the seat tube and underside of the top tube. Sceptics may view it as a gimmick but this novel design feature genuinely does help guide the bike cleanly off the shoulder, working especially well for those who grip the down tube to shoulder the bike.
Colnago have created a professional quality tool for riding fast flowing courses where speed and clinical precision are prerequisites. The designers who styled this frame have recognised that the muscular proportions and impeccable cosmetic finish of the carbon fibre requires only subtle accentuation.
At £1,799 for frame and fork it’ll be only the well heeled or well supported racer who can afford the Prestige though, especially considering that you’ll be needing two if you don’t want to be disappointed every time you make a bike change.