Colnago Primavera £999.95

Sub-£1,000 Colnago

BikeRadar score 4/5

When it comes to Italian legends, Colnago’s bike building is up there with Nero’s fiddling and Dino Zoff’s goalkeeping. If you want your own slice of the classic brand, the Primavera is the cheapest complete bike in the range. Like any other bike with ‘Colnago’ emblazoned on its frame, it has competition in its blood.

While most brands have become obsessed with offering carbon as far down the price ranges as possible, the Colnago Primavera is unapologetically aluminium, and none the worse for it. This is a bike that continues the brand’s tradition of combining smooth stability with race-bred performance. However, its nine-speed Tiagra transmission, while sound, isn’t as good as the opposition’s.

Ride & handling: Smooth, stable and precise, the Primavera is a well-mannered bike to ride, and it’s reasonably light too

If you’re expecting the aluminium-framed Colnago to be harsh compared to the carbon opposition, think again. The Primavera is actually a smooth ride. The longer you’re out, the more you appreciate the fact that the straight carbon-bladed fork isolates you well from road vibration and there’s just enough movement there to cushion the blow when you hit an unavoidable pothole. The taut rear end topped with FSA’s oversized alloy seatpost is a little less yielding but none of our riders complained of any discomfort, even on our longest rides.

It’s a well balanced, stable machine as well, never twitchy, so you can just get on with applying the power without the need for constant minor adjustments. With a 165mm head tube on our 54cm model (equivalent to a 58cm standard frame; check Colnago’s website for sizing details) and an external headset, the riding position is a midway option between the extremes, and 25mm of spacers offer you ample scope to tweak the setup. 

Through the corners, the fork provides precise steering while the Shimano R500 wheels stay reasonably flex-free. The Primavera isn’t ever going to challenge the super lightweights in the hills but it’s still an eager climber and there’s little energy-leaching flex when you get up on the pedals. The alloy FSA cockpit stands firm too. When it came to descending, the stable front end gave us plenty of confidence, although the Shimano Tiagra brakes didn’t fill us with the same level of assurance. 

Chassis: Very well made aluminium alloy frame with some high-class details and a super-accurate straight-bladed fork

Frst things first: this bike isn’t built by some little Italian craftsman in some little Italian workshop. It’s made in Taiwan. Not that that’s a bad thing – there’s more bike building expertise in Taiwan than anywhere else on the planet – but just so you’re not under any illusions.

It looks like Colnago have been very careful in their outsourcing. The build quality here is excellent, from the smooth, tidy welds to the first-rate paintjob – from our experience Colnago always do good paintwork rather than the flaky stuff that falls off in sheets when a stone pings up off the road.

The frame is built to a compact design using variable butted 6000 series aluminium alloy, which is getting rarer at this price. We know there are plenty of people who think a £1,000 road bike has to be carbon these days and that aluminium is oh-so-last-year, but aluminium certainly still has its place.

The Primavera looks fairly conservative, but take a closer look and you see that the down tube, for example, is what Colnago calls ‘star section’ – though it’s more like a bulging cross. It’s triple-butted and rib-reinforced and extends across two-thirds of the bottom bracket shell. T

he chainstays are in Colnago’s distinctive clover leaf section, and the carbon-bladed straight fork has little clover leaf indentations up by the crown – classy little features rather than in-your-face shouty ones.

Equipment: Shimano Tiagra components and R500 wheels work fine but they’re a compromise on a £1,000 bike

The groupset is Shimano Tiagra and the R500 wheels are the same level – a step down from the 105 components found on many competitors' bikes at this price-point. Don’t get us wrong, they’re okay, but they’re a definite downgrade on the opposition … and that’s the heart of it. You are getting lesser components here. What only you can decide is whether that’s worth it to ride a Colnago frame.

The Tiagra groupset is nine-speed rather than the 10-speed setup of its rivals, and it’s the get-out-of-jail 27-tooth sprocket that’s sacrificed. You might miss it, you might not; you could always swap the cassette if it’s an issue.

Our rear wheel came out of the box with a slight wobble but any decent bike shop will put that right before letting it out the door and, being Shimano, the bearings run smooth and are pretty well sealed. Vittoria’s supple Rubino Pro tyres offer plenty of grip whatever the weather and are quick-rolling too.

The same frame is available in a 105 spec complete with Mavic Aksium wheels for £1,300 and a Shimano Ultegra-equipped Arte version for £1,800.

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