The Fondriest SF2's frame is full of retro indulgences, including chromed head tube lugs, polished dropouts and a cast bottom bracket shell with a chrome-crowned fork, all done with care and attention. The frame's Columbus Spirit tubing is renowned for its high strength, resistance to corrosion and low (for steel) weight.
Maurizio Fondriest was famous for his success and style on a bike. After retiring in 1998, he formed his own company, but his eponymous brand’s retro-flavoured SF2 harks back to a time even earlier than that.
- HIGHS: Retro looks disguise a thoroughly modern ride
- LOWS: Low-spec wheels aren’t in keeping with the look or performance
- BUY IF… You want a highly capable sportive ride that’ll stand out from the crowds of carbon on the start line
For a bike with such historic appearance, the SF2 has surprisingly modern geometry and dimensions. We tested a large frame with a 154mm head tube, 99.6cm wheelbase and 56.5cm top tube. Combine these numbers with the 73-degree head and 73.5-degree seat angles and the result is a reasonably speedy setup.
The semi-aggressive ride position brings an urgency to proceeding, and the SF2 has a real willingness to go harder and quicker than it should be able to. With none of the flex you can get with slimmer steel offerings, the chassis has a pulse-like spring. Each push through the pedal stroke is rewarded with a metronomic reaction through the seat tube as the lively frame springs up to meet your efforts. The front feels planted and solid, enhanced by the Ritchey Classic handlebar and stem.
You can feel the weight on longer, more drawn-out climbs but if you reserve bigger efforts for descents and flats, and use the climbs to settle and relax into turning the pedals, then it’s a smooth and comfortable ride. Crest a rise before blasting into a descent and the frame smooths the road surface, allowing you to explore tyre grip. It’s strange to say, but the SF2 feels every bit as exciting as the latest pro-level carbon flyweights when you’re relying on handling, not watt-saving efficiencies.
Campagnolo's silver-finish Athena groupset provides plush shifting and great stopping power. The vintage look of the polished levers and chainset set the scene perfectly. The Fi'zi:k Ardea saddle isn't in keeping with the visual identity, but performs sufficiently.
The same can be said for the all-black Fulcrum Racing 7 wheels, and on a bike that costs more than £2,500 we’d expect something from a bit higher up the spec ladder, but they are among of the best budget wheelsets. A significant chunk of the SF2’s price is in the frameset, and the choice of wheel represents a price compromise. (It's worth noting that the UK price here is for the full build, while the US price is for the frame only.)
The SF2 is a bike created for big days out and long endurance rides – it’s for sportive riders. If you get beyond the ferrous tubes and around-9kg weight, you’ll find it just as rewarding as a modern carbon chassis.
This article was originally published in Cycling Plus magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.