London-based Condor, established in 1948, have an impressive range of steel frames starting at £550.
The standard Dedacciai tubed Acciaio with a carbon fork costs £750 (frameset) and is more likely to appeal to weekenders than racers, while the Italian-built Super Acciaio (£1199.99 frameset) is a steel version of the £2000 Leggero carbon frameset used by the Rapha Condor Sharp team.
Highs: Amazingly precise handling but still surprisingly comfortable
Lows: A lot of riders will fret about the weight burden over carbon options
Buy if: You want a race-ready bike with the all-day ride appeal of steel
So, is there any point in mimicking a carbon frame in steel? Cynics may scoff, but a tapered steerer, big section ovalised down/top tubes and BB30 bottom bracket create a stiffness that has much in common with fat aluminium or carbon frames.
That’s a good thing in terms of maintaining maximum drive power and precise tracking through the bends, but this triple butted Dedacciai steel frame mutes the edges of shock in ways that only steel or titanium frames can.
More remarkably, when you look at the way the main triangle is beefed up, the ride still exhibits the sprightly, slightly springy reflexes that characterise all the best steel frames. Weighing 1.83kg (exactly 4lb), it’s light too.
Skinny, laterally ovalised seatstays probably help keep the back end comfortable over rough roads at the same time as conspiring with oversized chainstays to keep everything tight and direct when power-climbing and sprinting.
A suitably racy geometry (74-degree seat and head angles) with a fat-bladed, short raked Deda Nero Supremacy carbon fork keeps high- and low-speed handling very precise but confidently stable rather than nervy. There’s just enough room to fit 25mm tyres, increasingly popular among pro racers as well as mere mortals.
The colour scheme is gunmetal grey and white, the TIG-welded joins are tidy to the point of being almost invisible, and we really like the Condor and Italian flag tags on the top tube and left chainstay. The gear hanger is replaceable and you can choose any kit you want.
There’s no getting away from the fact that the Super Acciaio frame weighs 700g more than the Leggero carbon equivalent, but it does give a saving of £800. All our testers preferred the quieter, smoother feel of the Super Acciaio to carbon offerings they’ve tested recently.
Condor super acciaio: Dave Caudery/Future Publishing
This article was originally published in Cycling Plus magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.