The words “I’ve got bike envy!” were the first thing this tester heard when he stopped for provisions during the 80-mile test ride. Well, it would have been 80, but I was so busy concentrating on the bike and going as fast as I could that I forgot such fripperies as following the large red signs… and so took a couple of lengthy detours.
Never mind – a near-100-mile day in the hills of southwest England, much of it in heavy rain, put this bike well and truly through its paces. It did mean the descents, on unfamiliar greasy, gritty and gravelly roads, were taken more gingerly than usual, saving higher-speed descending for another day. This at least proved that the Shimano 105 brake and Ambrosio rim pairing works in all conditions.
Highs: Super-stylish looks, good quality kit and decent levels of long-distance comfort
Lows: The weight is a little heavier than we’d have liked and the wheels are quite modest
Buy if: You want a bike with panache that stands out from the crowd
You can’t miss this Fondriest, which is just about the brightest red we’ve ever seen. It’s a well-thought-out road bike with an aero look to it, though we should point out that Fondriest makes no aerodynamic claims about its wind-cheating prowess, in spite of a blunt teardrop-shaped seatpost and cutaway for the rear wheel.
Big is beautiful when it comes to the fondriest’s tubing: Immediate Media
Big is beautiful when it comes to the Fondriest’s tubing
The huge ‘Monolithic’ bottom bracket shell at the base of the squared-off down tube is also slightly misleading, as it houses a standard Shimano Hollowtech cartridge bottom bracket. But there’s no sensation of softness through the TF2’s somewhat aggressive, racy frame. The chainstays, wheelbase and head tube are short, the frame angles are on the steep side, and it comes with the UCI seal of approval.
The Fondriest’s race-readiness might give the impression that a more leisurely century on it will leave you battered and bruised. It won’t. The aero-ish carbon seatpost is comfortable, and we liked the Selle Italia SL saddle, complete with cutaway.
The slim top tube and slightly arced seatstays probably help to take off any potential harshness too. You could fit wider rubber than the very good 23mm Michelin Lithion items it comes with, but for such an overtly racy ride the comfort is more than adequate.
Shimano 105 worked as well as ever, and there are other models with higher-spec Shimano builds and different wheels than the Ambrosios on our test bike. You could also buy the frameset (from 1 September) and kit it out yourself.
A damp day out in the mendip hills gave us ample chance to test the brakes on descents:
A damp day out in the Mendip hills gave us ample chance to test the brakes on descents
Fondriest may not have the economies of scale enjoyed by many brands, so you might expect to pay well over the odds compared with the big-name manufacturers. But the price is reasonable.
We’d like a little less weight, the Fondriest coming in 700g heavier than the similarly priced Cinelli Saetta Radical Plus we tested alongside it. And as the Fondriest has a claimed sub-kilogram frame, a big chunk of that difference comes down to the rolling stock. Lighter wheels would definitely make more of the frame’s taut and aggressive nature, as well as helping you accelerate and climb more quickly.
But this is a bike you buy with your heart as well as your head, one to leave your club pals green – or bright red – with bike envy.
In the US, $3,199 will get you the frame, fork, seat post and headset.