The new Colnago C64 is every bit as sublime as its predecessor but with a raft of refinements that bring enhanced stiffness, comfort and clearance for wider tyres. It isn't so much a revolution as an evolution, and it's the best C series yet, and one of a tiny handful of bikes still made in Italy.
- Pros: Responsive, comfortable, light, superb handling
- Cons: Big price tag
You can read more detail about all the changes to the new C64 in my first look article and accompanying video, from a very windy Lanzarote, where the new bike was launched in early 2018.
Since Colnago's UK distributor Windwave only sells framesets, this review is concerned with the performance of the frame and won't focus on the components as a typical bike review would. Right, let's dive in...
Ride and handling
One question I get asked all the time in this line of work is which is the best road bike I've ever tested. It's a really hard question to answer, of course, because there are so many good bikes available right now, but there's one that always springs to mind: the Colnago C60. Well, now it's the new C64.
Smooth, fast, light, surefooted, fun... the C64 is one of the nicest bikes I've had the pleasure to review. There's no disputing its bank account-emptying price tag but should you be fortunate to be able to afford it, you won't regret it.
The C64 is a bike that better than most offers the right balance of stiffness, handling and comfort. There's really no area where it feels at all compromised. It's a really well-engineered bike with outstanding handling and ride characteristics.
There's nothing groundbreaking or radical about the redesign of the C64, the result of two years of development, but taking the same incremental approach favoured by the likes of Volkswagen and Apple, Colnago has retained all the good qualities of the previous models while improving a number of areas. These changes combine to create a bike that is more responsive, alert and direct than the outgoing C60. An already very good bike just got a tiny bit better.
There's more immediacy in the way it translates your inputs into movements on the road. The increased stiffness manifests itself when jumping on the pedals to cover an attack, sprinting for the finish line or surging up a steep gradient. It's sharper and more focused, and feels faster as a result.
The handling is as delightful as ever, if a touch less nimble than a Specialized Tarmac or Trek Emonda because of the slighter longer wheelbase and more relaxed head angle. Instead, it has a calm and measured feel that makes it easy to ride fast, arguably more so than the aforementioned race bikes. It never feels skittish or nervous no matter how fast you're travelling or how rough the road surface.
Comfort was always a strength of the C60. It has an uncanny ability to balance its low weight and high stiffness with unswerving composure on rough roads. It feels like it floats over badly surfaced roads and dispenses with cracks and holes as if it was an endurance bike on fat tyres. The ability to fit 28mm tyres – up from 25 for the previous model – is a huge bonus if you want the ride as smooth as possible.
I haven't raced the C64, but based on my experience in the local chain gang (which is as close to a race as you get without pinning on a number) it is no slouch. It perhaps doesn't have the outright power transfer stiffness and it definitely doesn't have the aerodynamics of some other bikes, but it never felt compromised and it certainly didn't hold me back. Quite the opposite: it felt fast and responsive but with the smoothness to deal with rubbish roads.
Quality and attention to detail mark out the new C64. It's handmade carbon at its best, and while some commenters might bemoan the traditional appearance of the tube and lug construction, personally I'm a fan – it's a nod to old race bikes and it's a manufacturing process Colnago has been refining and perfecting over the last 30 years.
When it's done as well as this, the construction technique produces a wonderful ride that is a match for any other top-end carbon bikes on the market right now that are more simply popped out of moulds (okay, I know it's not quite as simple as that).
The biggest change to the previous C60 is the new seat tube, which has the lugs for the top tube and seatstays moulded into it, creating a stiffer frame and saving a chunk of weight (Colnago claims 800-850g for a frame; the weight given at the top is for the full build).
This new seat tube also accepts the same aero shaped post as found on the V2-r, which offers improved aerodynamics and increased vibration damping because it is able to flex a bit more.
The head tube lug has been revamped too, with extra width and an angular cutout to increase the front end stiffness to benefit the handling. It also incorporates a road buzz-killing polymer top spacer from the Concept aero bike that acts as a sort of suspension headset. We're not talking a big range of movement, just a small amount to damp vibrations.
The fork also receives a stiffness-enhancing cutout, which mirrors the appearance of the head tube lug nicely, and the steerer tube has a full-length internal rib which boosts stiffness and eliminates an expander plug as the top cap screws directly into this rib.
There's the same ThreadFit 82.5 bottom bracket as first debuted on the C60, but the lug it's fitted around has been redesigned to save weight. The cable guide is now also moulded as part of the lug, which not only saves weight but creates a smooth curve for the gear cable.
Behind the bottom bracket are a pair of asymmetric chainstays, the non-drive side being a much larger profile to create as stiff a frame as possible (as shown in the pic below, from the launch).
The dropouts, front and rear, are now made from carbon fibre which sheds a little more weight.
As previously mentioned, there's now clearance for 28mm wide tyres, a welcome move with the trend for wider tyres now well established. Brakes switch to the newer direct mount type as well.
It might not have the aerodynamics, the low weight, the massive stiffness, the buzzwords or the integration of bigger rivals, but I like that Colnago has stayed true to its roots and avoided the temptation to outsource the manufacturing of this classic and iconic frame.
It's undeniably expensive, but you are paying for a frame that is handmade in Italy, from a company with a deep and prestigious history in the sport, and for many people that counts for a lot. Yes, a Specialized Tarmac SL6 frameset is 'only' £3250 but that's made in Taiwan...
The tube and lugged frame construction probably has as many detractors as it does fans. Personally, I love the way Colnago has refined the design of a bike that traces its DNA back to the 1990s and the original C40, and every C series bike I've ever ridden has offered a deeply impressive ride performance.
In summary, it's clear the new C64 retains the same great handling and stability of the original, with the same tried-and-tested geometry that I think works very well in all situations, yet it feels just a little more nimble and direct in the way it reacts to inputs. It's a little more lively when you want to push the bike through fun corners or chase faster wheels.
Superb handling with improved stiffness and comfort, the new C64 continues the legacy in fine form
road.cc test report
Make and model: Colnago C64 frameset
Size tested: 52cm
Tell us what the frameset is for
The C64 frame is full and made in Italy and is the result of more than 2 years of research, It represents the continuity of the history of a company that has collected successes and innovations for more than 60 years.
Colnago C64 Frameset is completely handmade in Italy with revolutionary tubes (larger, lighter, more durable). The Colnago C64 is the fruit of more than two years of research and development but has evolved from an almost immeasurable history of cycling innovation and success – one which began in 1954. The C64's tubes and lugs are made of the finest carbon fibre, making it a unique frame that cannot be compared to anything else currently on the market. In the C64's design lies Ernesto Colnago's knowledge and experience, gained from a lifelong pursuit of cycling perfection.
The C64 dual use frameset (accommodating either traditional cable gearing or electronic transmission) celebrates Colnago's 64th year and features various updates to the popular C60 frame making it lighter, stiffer and even more responsive to its predecessor. Made from unidirectional (UD) carbon fibre the C64 frame includes a redesigned downtube with increased stiffness and a profile that reduces drag while a new integrated seat post clamp adds an aesthetic quality as well as increasing clamping force which eliminates the potential for the seat post to slip in the frame. This beautiful frame is complimented by a new Colnago fork featuring an external and internal rib on the crown and in the steer tube to further enhance stiffness and steering precision.
State the frame and fork material and method of construction
UD carbon construction
New redesigned carbon fork
28mm tyre clearance
Handmade in Italy
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
Extremely good finish and attention to detail. A good job, too, considering the mighty price tag.
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
More relaxed and longer than some other high-end carbon race bikes, which provides stable and relaxed handling.
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
I found the fit about perfect.
Riding the bike
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
Very comfortable, a hallmark of the Colnago C series.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
Evidently stiff at the front and bottom bracket for direct handling and optimum power transfer.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so
How would you describe the steering? Was it lively Relaxed.
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
Relaxed and easy handling makes the C64 comfortable and easy to ride at speed.
How did the build components work with the frame? Was there anything you would have changed?
The wheels didn't offer the most satisfying braking performance, especially compared to hydraulic disc brakes which I'm now very used to.
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes
Would you consider buying the bike? If I had the money!
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? If they had the money!
Use this box to explain your overall score
An epic price tag, there's little point talking about value for money here – though it IS handmade in Italy – but if you can afford it the C64 offers a truly outstanding ride quality and a bucketload of heritage and prestige.
About the tester
I usually ride: My best bike is:
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: road racing, time trialling, cyclo-cross, commuting, touring, mountain biking
David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.