The orange and blue Holdsworth livery is a true British classic – the firm started building bikes way back in 1933. Holdsworth’s most iconic era was in the 1970’s with the Holdsworth-Campagnolo professional team, at the time the dominant force in British road racing.
Since British online specialist Planet X took control of the brand it's produced fantastic recreations of the classic Professional and Italia frames. The Corsa celebrates Holdsworth’s heritage, but wraps vintage livery around a cutting edge steel frame.
The frame is built around Columbus steel and is testament to the frame builder’s art, with super smooth Tig welds throughout the oversized and shaped steel tubes. Up front it’s mated to a 300g full carbon fork also from Columbus. Its geometry owes much more to this century than the last, featuring an aggressive stance, with a 178mm head tube on this 57cm bike, and a 55.5cm top tube.
That means when you get on board, the Holdsworth handles like a modern race bike. The shorter wheelbase and aggressive angles make for a true point-and-shoot responses – it’s nimble, sharp to turn in and fantastically responsive.
It has the character of a top class steel frame too, with the oversized tubes making it feel much stiffer than other retro machines such as the Creme Echo Tange and Raleigh Ti Replica we tested alongside it. Clever design touches – the horizontally ovalised top tube, for instance – have meant it has retained the spring and life you get from a quality steel, though. Over rough surfaces it dulls vibration rather than eliminating it.
Surefooted and agile on the climbs, lively on the descents, this is a seriously enjoyable ride
Just like its 70s stablemate, this Holdsworth is finished with a full complement of Campagnolo for the drivetrain. But very unlike the 70s, here it’s the carbon-infused Chorus 11 speed group. The 53/39 and 11-25 pairing sets the Corsa out as very much the racers tool – though with the bke weighing just 7.5kg, the tall gearing didn’t pose as much of a problem on the hills as we’d feared.
The nimble yet stable chassis feels great on the climbs, and when the road heads downwards its an absolute blast. Campagnolo also provides the wheels, in the form of the traditionally handbuilt but anything but traditional design of the Shamals.
The 26mm deep front rim is matched to a 30mm deep rear. Campag claims that means the front wheel is lighter to keep the front end more responsive, while the deeper rear is stiffer for better power transfer. The exaggerated spoke design (called G3) is obvious at the rear with the right side of the wheel having twice as many spokes as the left. The front is a more traditional radial design with minimal spoking. The large hub flanges add a bit more beef to the construction and on the road you certainly feel that solidity and absolute lack of flex adding to the Corsa’s positive and direct handling feel.
In terms of value, the Holdsworth (like most things that come out of the Planet X stable) is absolutely loaded with it. Campagnolo Chorus is a stunning groupset, and an expensive one at that, and its shifting is snappy and positive.
The brakes work beautifully with the alloy Shamals and elsewhere it’s a combination of Selcof’s excellent CNCed stem and lovely laid-back carbon seat post. The Selcof alloy bar is well shaped, though quite slender and a little stiffer than we’d like. The 25mm Continental tyres are among the best around. What we are getting at is that Planet X hasn't been making spec compromises here – meaning this is a veritable bargain.
The Corsa is a modern retro bike in both design and ride quality. If that’s what you’re looking for in your retro kicks we’d highly recommend it. Think of the Holdsworth as a state of the art steel race bike wearing a vintage suit and you’ll be on the right track.