Based around the geometry of Condor's top-end Leggero race machine, the latest Italia RC is blessed with sweet handling and a frameset that doesn't hang about when you stomp on the pedals. Ask this thing to go and it will. You'll go far, too, as comfort isn't compromised in the quest for speed.
- Pros: Excellent handling, deep paint job, extremely comfortable
- Cons: Heavier frame than competitors
The Italia RC is yet another machine that showcases the fact that aluminium alloy doesn't have to be harsh or primitive.
Having stroked the top tube of many a Condor while doing the rounds at various bike shows, I've always wondered if the ride would back up the quality of the high lustre sheen of those deep paint jobs. I certainly wasn't disappointed when I finally got my hands on the Italia RC.
The first ride highlighted one thing before I'd even left the city limits: this is one very comfortable bike, more steel in feedback than typical aluminium, showing that those custom, triple butted tubes have been well specced and positioned.
The Italia RC soaks up those little road vibrations better than most of the alloy bikes I've ridden, and a lot of those have hardly been what you'd call harsh.
This comfort hasn't come at the cost of stiffness, either, as the Condor can certainly hold its own against many other race machines. Sprinting efforts or attacking short, sharp climbs don't highlight any flex in and around the bottom bracket area as far as I can tell, and even using the Condor on the turbo for a few intervals above FTP (functional threshold power) showed nothing.
The Bowman Palace:R that I reviewed back in May is my benchmark for race bikes, the only bike I have ever given top marks to, and the Italia RC gets pretty close across the board.
They share pretty much the same geometry, though the 55cm Condor has slightly steeper seat and head angles at 73.5 degrees compared to the 56cm Bowman's 73 degrees. Their top tubes and head tubes are within 5mm of each other, as are the stack and reach figures, or thereabouts.
When it comes to the actual ride, though, they're quite different, and most of that I put down to the extra 500g or so in the Italia's frameset. It just takes the responsive snappy edge off it. It's not necessarily a bad thing, and might well suit you – you may not race but still want a fast handling machine for the club runs or blasts around the lanes on a Sunday morning without worrying about being a few seconds quicker to the top of a climb or to the bottom of a technical descent.
The Palace:R was millimetre perfect through the bends and really flew when you pushed hard on the cranks; it's here that the Italia RC is just off the pace. The handling is still quick and the feedback through the frame and carbon fork can't be knocked, but the Italia doesn't quite change direction in the same snappy fashion.
It is balanced, though, and I could carve some lovely lines on it through quick corners, especially those I know well, with the comfort built into the frame keeping the bike composed over rough road surfaces.
It is a beautiful bike to ride, and if you want to cover a lot of miles at a fast pace and in relative comfort, the Condor is very much in that top flight of exceptional aluminium alloy-framed bikes.
Frame and fork
The Italia RC is handbuilt in Italy from Condor's own tube specification. As I've already mentioned, each tube is triple butted. This is where the tube walls vary in thickness, three in this case: thicker at the ends for strength before getting a little thinner as they head towards the centre, and then the middle part being the thinnest. This allows a little flex for comfort and reduces some weight, which obviously all adds to the quality of the ride.
Starting at the front, Condor has used a tapered head tube – 1 1/8in at the top and 1 1/2in at the bottom. No surprise there, as you'll be hard-pressed to find many bikes out there now with a straight steerer.
Pair this with the Deda Stream full carbon fibre fork (400g claimed) and what you get is that tight handling I mentioned above. The fork feels impressively stiff in all directions, even under heavy braking.
The down tube has a flattened profile rather than being truly round, which Condor says, 'Remains resistant to lateral forces as well as being vertically compliant.'
It also gives a larger weld area at the tapered head tube and bottom bracket shell for increased stiffness.
While we mention the bottom bracket area, many of you will be pleased to hear the Italia uses traditional threaded bottom bracket cups rather than press-fit.
Out the back we see the familiar design of chunky chainstays to resist pedalling forces and thinner seatstays to promote flex and therefore comfort.
It's a stunning looking frame in the flesh, even with this bike being part of Condor's well-used demo fleet. The paint has taken a few knocks which allows us to see just how thick it is.
Front and rear you can squeeze in 28mm tyres, which to be honest is as much as you're going to need on a bike of this ilk, and it worked just perfectly with the 25mm rubber supplied.
To finish things off you get internal cable routing for the rear brake to keep the top tube looking clean although both the gear cables run externally under the down tube like we see on a lot of aluminium bikes. Often the wall thicknesses can be a little too thin to risk drilling them like on the original Kinesis Aithien.
The frame weighs a claimed 1,600g (55cm) and is available as a frameset package for £799.99 which includes the fork, headset and headset spacers.
Just like buying a Ribble and many others, you can build your dream bike on Condor's website, choosing each component as you go, and the corresponding price will upgrade.
Our Campagnolo Potenza build with Zonda wheels, Vittoria Corsa G+ tyres and Fizik finishing kit comes in at £2,180.24. I'd say it offers a pretty decent level of value for money. You could possibly pick up parts cheaper yourself online with a bit of clicking about, but at least this price includes Condor building it for you.
I reviewed the Potenza groupset earlier last year and I was very impressed with its shifting and braking performance. Campagnolo has positioned this groupset at around Shimano Ultegra level, with the hope of seeing it specced as OE equipment on off-the-shelf bikes. It's different to Ultegra but works just as well; really, it comes down to whether you are a Shimano or Campag fan, I suppose.
The hoods are very comfortable for a full day's riding and it's good to see that Condor specifies a full groupset here rather than swapping out any parts.
Campagnolo provides the wheels too, in this case Zondas, and while we haven't ever reviewed them on road.cc I owned a pair for a fair few years and they stood up well to commuting and general riding on the summer bike.
With a claimed weight of just under 1,600g they aren't superlight, and an upgrade would obviously offset the frame weight, but on the whole they are a good option if you ride in varying conditions and terrains.
Since they came on the market, Vittoria's Corsa G+ tyres have caused quite a stir with their excellent levels of grip and low rolling resistance, and even though the ones on the demo bike are pretty much at the end of their life they still performed amazingly well.
The Fizik Aliante saddle and Cyrano bar and stem are all top quality items and carry on the Italian theme of the whole bike. The cockpit is stiff enough for even the most spirited of accelerations, and with the compact bar having minimal drop, virtually anyone can make use of the various hand positions.
How does the Condor compare with others on the market? As a frameset it's more expensive than the already-mentioned Palace:R, which is £695 for the frameset. As I said, the geometry is virtually the same, they both use triple butted alloy tubing and in a lot of respects they are very similar beasts. The Palace: R is lighter and faster too, so if you want a point and shoot race bike then I'd say that's the one to go for.
Kinesis has the new Aithein Evo out too. We haven't got our hands on one yet, but a look at the figures suggests it's a very similar beast to the Condor, but again a little lighter and cheaper.
We can't compare aluminium race bikes without mentioning Cannondale, and its latest CAAD12 is very highly respected. David tested the disc brake Dura-Ace version and gave it a stunning four and a half stars. A CAAD12 frameset will set you back about £800 online, which puts it squarely in line with the Condor.
The choice you make is going to come down to personal preference and exactly what you want from the bike depending on the type of riding you do. If you want a fast aluminium race bike with excellent manners then the Italia RC definitely warrants consideration, and certainly deserves its place at the top table.
An excellent balance of race bike handling and comfort topped off with a stunning paint job
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Condor Italia RC
Size tested: 55cm
About the bike
State the frame and fork material and method of construction. List the components used to build up the bike.
Frame: Condor Italia RC
Groupset: Campagnolo Potenza 11-speed
Wheels: Campagnolo Zonda C17
Tyres: Vittoria Corsa G+ with Graphene
Saddle: Fizik Aliante R7 Manganese
Seatpost: Condor Strada Carbon
Stem: Fizik Cyrano R3 Alloy Stem
Handlebar: Fizik Cyrano R5 Alloy
Handlebar Tape: Fizik Superlight
Tell us what the bike is for
Condor says, "Borrowing geometry cues from the race-winning carbon Leggero, the Italia RC is designed for riders who want to compete, train and go fast on their bikes. Constructed from state-of-the-art 7000 series aluminium, our triple-butted frameset is stiff and superbly light. Remodelled with a tapered head tube and new smoother, lighter tubing, the Italia RC is ready to take you to the podium."
The Italia RC is a quick bike with a very comfortable road feel.
Frame and fork
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
Neat and tidy welding with a deep paint job to finish things off.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
For the frame the Italia RC uses triple butted 7003 series aluminium alloy tubing, and the fork is full carbon fibre with a tapered steerer.
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
This is a race bike with steep angles and a low-slung front end.
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
Our 55cm has a stack of 560mm and a reach of 395mm which gives it very similar figures to the likes of Bowman's Pilgrim:R and Kinesis' Aithein Evo.
Riding the bike
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
Yes, Condor has achieved a good compromise between comfort and stiffness.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
Stiffness felt impressive throughout the frame and fork.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
With reasonably light wheels and components to complement the frameset, the Italia does feel efficient, although it is heavier than its main competitors.
Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so
How would you describe the steering? Was it lively Nicely weighted and balanced.
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
The Italia is a very capable machine in the bends and at high speed, giving you plenty of feedback and confidence.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?
The Condor had a pretty firm setup with the Fizik Aliante saddle and Fizik alloy bar and stem combination, but the ride never felt harsh. The Italia's frame did a good job of soaking that up.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's stiffness? would you recommend any changes?
The alloy bar and stem provided plenty of stiffness.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's efficiency? would you recommend any changes?
The Zonda wheels aren't massively heavy but any weight you could scrub here would make the Italia feel a little more responsive.
Tell us some more about the drivetrain. Anything you particularly did or didn't like? Any components which didn't work well together?
Campagnolo's Potenza is a great groupset to see on a bike at this price point. The shifting is solid and stiffness from the crank is impressive.
Wheels and tyres
Tell us some more about the wheels.Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the wheels? If so
Campagnolo's Zondas are a well-respected mid-range wheelset that offers a sensible balance of weight and durability.
Tell us some more about the tyres. Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the tyres? If so
The Vittoria Corsa G+ tyres are excellent performers with low rolling resistance and plenty of grip.
Tell us some more about the controls. Any particularly good or bad components? How would the controls work for larger or smaller riders?
Fizik's finishing kit is well designed and finished for the money.
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes
Would you consider buying the bike? Yes
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
Condor's Italia RC has a great balance between a race bike's characteristics and a comfortable ride, making for a very pleasurable machine to live with. Its frameset weight just takes the shine off its performance at the business end compared to the likes of Bowman's Palace:R, but it's still very good so I'm awarding it an 8 overall.
About the tester
I usually ride: This month's test bike My best bike is: Kinesis Aithein
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, club rides, sportives, fixed/singlespeed
With 20 years of road cycling and over 150,000 miles in his legs it's safe to say Stu is happiest when on the bike whatever the weather. Since writing his first review for road.cc back in 2009 he has also had a career in engineering including 3D-CAD design and product development, so has a real passion for all of the latest technology coming through in the industry but is also a sucker for a classic steel frame, skinny tyres, rim brakes and a damn good paintjob.
His fascination with gravel bikes is getting out of control too!