The American owned, Japanese bike brand Fuji has loads of experience in producing high quality bikes, and the Gran Fondo 2.3 C is no exception. Founded in 1899, the brand is named after Mount Fuji, a symbol of strength and endurance to the Japanese people – qualities that are maintained in the Gran Fondo 2.3 C.
There is no mistaking this bike has been designed with all day comfort in mind – heck, it’s in the name. It's fitted with a sprinkling of cost-saving components, with the aim of keeping the price low without sacrificing too much in the way of performance.
Ride and handling: Smooth but lacking spirit
The Gran Fondo 2.3C rides serenely. The C5 high modulus carbon frame does a respectable job soaking up road buzz and smaller imperfections, while the cushy 25c Vittoria rubber and Oval 327 wheels take on the lion's share of that burden.
A cost saving carbon wrapped seatpost provides the perch. It looks nice, but its 31.6mm diameter doesn’t do to much to aid comfort.
Offest dropout add to the cushy ride, and bowed fork legs keep the front end from feeling like a wet noodle
Up front, offset dropouts add some vertical compliance, taking the edge off bigger hits to keep your hands comfy – again aided and abetted by the wide tyres and wheels. Despite the alloy bars and thin Oval-branded bar tape transmitting some vibration, we had no issues with numb hands.
Geometry on our size medium test bike was upright and relaxed, with the twitchy characteristics of a race ready frame being – as you'd expect – nowhere to be found. The 71.5 degree head angle places you comfortably between the wheels, making for stable, albeit somewhat boring handling. Like a luxury car with a V8 engine, the Gran Fondo moved when ordered to, but it naturally lacks the snap of sportier counterparts.
Having the front wheel further away from the rider certainly combats toe overlap in smaller bike sizes, but it also slows handling. For those of us riding size medium and below, the ride is will be slightly subdued – though there won’t be any scuffs on the toes of your shiny new kicks.
As the Gran Fondo 2.3 C gets larger though, the head angle gets steeper and the geometry becomes more aggressive. For riders taller than 175cm, the ride and handling of the Gran Fondo 2.3 will be a little faster and sharper – more inline with a race bike, but without the aggressively low position.
That's a *lot* of headtube
The addition of a tall 170mm head tube (medium frame size) makes for a relaxed position – so relaxed in fact, that achieving a level saddle and bars is no sweat for the Fuji. Even still, our tester who prefers a long and low position, was unable to achieve his preferred fit, even after flipping the stem and removing all the spacers.
Weighing in at 8.46kg (18.6lb), the Gran Fondo 2.3 C could stand to lose a pound or two – and you can definitely feel the weight when the road goes up, or when chasing your mates as they sprint for a city limits sign.
Frame and equipment: Smorgasbord of thrifty kit
Tail wag? Asymmetric chainstays say no!
At the back, long 415mm asymmetrical chainstays keep the rear end from wavering under power, though, generic dropouts take out a bit of form factor from the rear end. There's a rather run of the mill bridge linking the Gran Fondo 2.3 C's surprisingly thick seatstays.
Aesthetically the Gran Fondo was hit and miss among the BikeRadar team. While the frame features super clean internal cable routing (of which the included rubber frame protectors are a nice touch), the jack-o-lantern-esque paintjob and relatively pedestrian tube shapes failed to strike a chord with some of our testers.
As mentioned above, the Gran Fondo features a mixed bag of components in order to drive down costs – but we struggled to find fault. Much of the finishing kit comes from Oval Concepts, which is owned by the same parent company as Fuji but independent of the bike brand. Oval components are nothing to scoff at, and while they may save a little coin, we didn't detect any performance trade-off.
We often see brands mixing and matching different levels of Shimano and third-party drivetrains in an attempt to hit a price point. Fuji has spent its money wisely on a spec that mostly mixes Shimano Ultegra and 105 components.
It's not often we see Praxis Works chain rings come stock, but you won't hear us complaining
In among all that Shimano, we were a bit surprised to see Praxis Works chainrings. Praxis rings are commonly an aftermarket purchase, but nonetheless they are quick and rarely miss a shift, especially in combination with the Ultegra braze-on front derailleur. The forged Oval cranks, which appear eerily similar to crank models from other brands, are nothing to write home about but do a competent enough job. Generous 50/34T gearing at the front and 11-28T at the back make from some easy spinning low ratios.
Wide 25c tyres were no trouble for the Gran Fondo 2.3 C
We’re constantly impressed with Shimano’s 105 brakes for their consistent power and modulation. They do come with a slight weight penalty compared with pricier options, but that's nicely offset by their performance and low cost.
Contributing to the bike’s weight, the Oval 327 aero alloy clincher wheels are heavy at 1,977g, but are a quality and durable choice. Featuring smooth sealed bearing hubs, the rims are 20mm deep at the front and 24mm deep at the rear. An external width of 22mm enabled the high volume 25mm Vittoria Zaffiro Pro Slick tyres to spread quite flat over the rim, providing for good casing support and a offering a big helping hand toward the smooth ride quality
While the Oval kit mostly got nothing but praise, the R500 saddle caused our testers discomfort. It offers a thick and heavily padded top, but it was soft enough for us to sink into it, resulting in some numbness.
Just in case you'd mistaken it for a racer…
Despite being a low cost carbon bike, it seems Fuji has managed to avoid just about every cost saving mistake we commonly complain of. Our only real complaint with the Gran Fondo is with its weight; but you can only expect so much for this sort of outlay.
If you're looking for a crit racing, sprint munching machine from Fuji, we would suggest looking into the Transonic or Altimira. But if you’re looking to slow down and set new distance challenges for yourself, while on a budget, the Gran Fondo 2.3 C is a solid option in a market where the likes of the Giant Defy, Specialized Roubaix and Trek Domane have set super high standards for others to aim at.