Boasting a beautifully made Columbus steel frame with a stunning ride quality, the Condor Bivio Gravel is well suited to long adventures whatever the terrain. The comfort levels are impressive while the endurance-based geometry delivers a machine that is stable on loose surfaces, but with just enough 'edginess' that you can really have some fun.
The Bivio delivers everything I want from a gravel bike. I enjoy heading out over Salisbury Plain for a day of riding the gravel tracks and trails, so I want comfort, I want a smooth, neutral-handling bike for when the fatigue kicks in or the surface beneath is moving around a lot, but most importantly I want all of that to be able to change in a split second.
When I find a technical section, or just want to get the hammer down, I want the bike to deliver fun, performance and a racy edge to the proceedings. I want a 'gravel racer' that I can live with day to day.
One of the best bikes I've ridden that can do this is the Canyon Grail CF SL 8.0 SL that I tested back in 2018. Its carbon fibre frame and fork are over 1.2kg lighter than the Condor's, but other than that the characteristics are identical.
A steel frame, even a quality one like the Bivio's, is never going to compete on the scales against a top of the range carbon frame, but to be fair to the Condor it totally defies its 10.3kg weight thanks, in part, to the sensible ratios of the Shimano GRX groupset, but mostly because of the 'get up and go' way it ride – the Bivio Gravel is an absolute blast.
Give the pedals a kick and the Condor feels responsive, and while you still get that lovely smooth feel of the steel tubing, stiffness is very impressive.
The tube lengths give quite a racy position. This 55cm model comes with a 555mm effective top tube and 135mm head tube. That's quite a low front end on a bike of this type, but it's what I believe makes the Bivio fun yet reasonably predictable.
It's not such an aggressive position that you aren't relaxed when resting on the hoods for long stints in the saddle, but when you do want to get a lick on you can stretch yourself out, crouch down in the drops and really go for it.
Its slacker front end, long chainstays and associated wheelbase mean that while it is a placid machine on the tarmac, on the gravel it behaves like a race bike does on the road – if you get my drift.
The handling is precise without being twitchy. If you hit some loose gravel at speed in the middle of a corner there is so much feedback coming through that beautiful tubeset and full carbon fork that even though the bike is sliding sideways you know exactly where the tyres are heading and you can hold the slide until the grip comes back.
On one high speed gravel descent, I came around the bend to find two sharp edged potholes smack in the centre of my chosen line. They were way too close for me to scrub enough speed to take a tighter line, I was committed!
Bunny-hopping mid-bend was the only option, but nudging 40mph I knew I was going to land quite close to the outside of the corner and was probably going to run off into the rutted bank.
The Bivio landed and started to scrabble for grip, mostly from the rear tyre, but just felt completely unfazed – I could just keep the power on, counter-steering the handlebar to style it out.
I know a lot of this is down to the number of miles I ride and the handling skills I've learnt over the years, but when a bike feels this planted it allows you to just get on with it rather than having to fight a feisty front end, switching one issue into a series of others.
For the rest of the time when things are a little more relaxed the Bivio just cruises along. I did a couple of five-hour rides on the gravel tracks, one with just some stuff in my rear pockets, the other with a loaded up top tube and frame bag, and the Condor's manners were impeccable. It's a real cruiser when you want it to be. Just rolling the pedals for hour after hour, you can cover a surprising amount of distance without feeling as though you are putting in a huge effort, considering its weight.
The frame and the fork absorb a lot of tiny vibrations which reduces wrist and arm fatigue, and the Condor even responds well to a little dig on a short, sharp climb out of the saddle.
The whole bike just felt right. Switching between the drops, the hoods and the tops felt super-comfortable and I could spend a lot of time in the saddle without any form of lower back pain, and that was with quite a drop from seat to bar, too.
If you go down the route of speccing a complete bike from Condor's custom build options you can select component sizes like stem length, bar width and so on to really dial in your fit, which is a real bonus.
Condor has worked with Columbus to create a triple-butted, custom drawn tubeset from its Spirit range – one of its top-end steel alloys that has wall thicknesses down as low as 0.38mm to reduce weight while still offering excellent stiffness levels.
Aesthetically it's a real mix of narrow tube profiles normally associated with a steel tubing, for the top tube and seatstays, while the down tube, seat tube and chainstays are more chunky affairs, looking more like those found on an aluminium alloy frameset.
I think it works really well, and the 44m diameter head tube ensures a clean flow into the full carbon fibre fork, which needs to be oversized to deal with the rigours of off-road conditions and the forces of the disc brakes.
The frames are handmade in Italy and the finish is stunning, with exceptionally neat welds throughout. I am a big fan of the matt olive green and orange colourway too, although not everybody was when they first set eyes on the Bivio. It did grow on most of them, though.
It's a hardwearing coating, too. I could hear the chink of large and small stones attacking the down tube on fast gravel sections, but not one has left a mark on the paint job.
Weight-wise, Condor claims a 55cm fully painted frame comes in at 2,100g, and 450g for the fork.
For the front half of the frame Condor has gone with internal cable/hose/wire routing to give a clean look, and like a lot of frames we see, the Bivio uses ports to suit whatever groupset you are running, whether mechanical or electronic.
Routing for the rear mech is internal through the chainstay but the hydraulic hose for the rear brake calliper exits at the bottom bracket. This isn't uncommon on a steel frame as the narrow tubing and thin walls don't lend themselves well to being drilled for the hose to enter and exit.
I was pleased to see that the Bivio is specced with a threadless bottom bracket. A combination of dust/grit and rain can be a nightmare for some press-fit BBs, causing them to creak as the elements can enter into the small gaps between bearing cups and frame. No such issue here.
It's thru-axle front and rear, as you'd expect, to keep everything tight when the brakes are applied, and the callipers are fitted flat-mount for a smooth and clean look.
On this 2020 model tyre clearance has been increased to 42mm if you are using a 700C wheel size, or up to 47mm if you want to go down the 650B route.
There are plenty of mounts included, too, for full mudguards and a rear rack, so you could also run the Bivio as a wide tyred commuter.
Condor offers the Bivio Gravel in six sizes from a 46cm up to a 61cm. It's available as a frameset only option, which is what we are testing here, and that'll set you back £1,399.99. That includes the frame, fork, headset and seatpost clamp, which in the grand scheme of things isn't a bad price for a quality steel frameset.
If you aren't confident enough or don't want the hassle of building the frame and components up yourself, you can use the bike builder on Condor's website. Various builds are available, from Shimano Sora right through to Campagnolo Record and SRAM eTap options.
We received our Bivio from Condor in the first few weeks of lockdown in the UK, so rather than being able to spec our own build, Condor sent us out its demo model which was equipped with Shimano's GRX 815 Di2 2x groupset, a mixture of Deda Zero and Condor finishing kit, plus a Selle Italia saddle.
Also included was a set of Condor's own wheels which are handbuilt in its London store and priced at £400. These are wrapped in the very good Continental Terra Speed gravel tyres.
This gives a build price of £3,700 which, when you read the section about value, below, you'll see isn't actually that steep for this type of bike.
To put things into context with other off-the-peg builds, I created a few builds based around a pair of Mavic Aksium wheels and similar finishing kit to what we have on our demo model when it comes to bar, stem, seatpost and saddle.
For a Shimano Tiagra Hydro build you'd be looking in the region of £2,400; with Shimano GRX 600 it comes in around £2,600; and if you want to add a bit of Italian flair to match the frame then a Campagnolo Potenza Hydro build would set you back £2,860.
The gravel and adventure genre sees a fair few frames built from steel, so finding top quality competition to compare the Condor against isn't difficult.
Mason's Italian built ISO scored top marks from our sister site off-road.cc and while it is a little more adventure-focused than the Condor, it shares a similar quality and attention to detail.
It'll set you back £1,595 for the frameset, which is the same as a Shand Stooshie, another very good steel gravel bike.
You can't get the Enigma Endeavour as a frameset only, but the build we tested came in at £3,699; it's the same as the build we have on the Condor but with a mechanical GRX 800 groupset instead of the Di2, though it did include a £225 Hope upgrade kit.
The toughest opposition probably comes from the Fairlight Secan, a very well received bike which is available as a frameset for £1,199. A GRX Di2 build comes in around £3,499.
Overall, the Bivio Gravel is an absolutely beautiful frameset, especially in the way it rides. Yes, compared with lightweight carbon and aluminium machines it is giving away a chunk of weight, but in the real world you're only going to notice that on the steepest of climbs. Its sublime ride easily cancels that out.
Top-quality handbuilt steel frame that mixes impeccable handling, comfort and fun in one excellent package
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Condor Bivio Gravel Thru-axle frameset
Size tested: 55cm
Tell us what the frameset is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about the bike?
Condor says, 'The Bivio Gravel was born for adventures across land, desert, and ice. Cruise over Tarmac-free roads or adapt it to be your 'do anything' commuter. Built from triple-butted, custom-formed Columbus Spirit tubing, the Bivio Gravel provides no-hassle, smooth riding, mile after mile.
'The Bivio-Gravel features our tried and tested adventure geometry, similar to our endurance road bike geometry, so you can cover distances quickly or just cruise around exploring. We tuned the head angle and wheelbase to give you stable handling over twisty roots and rocks. For 2020, we have increased the tyre clearance to 42mm for 700c wheels and 47mm when running 650b. If you plan to tackle mud, snow or ice, the Bivio Gravel won't restrict your tyre choice.
'On the frame you'll find mounts for racks and guards, plus everything you need for day-in-day out riding and the ultimate trip - whether it's a weekend of shredding, bikepacking, or gravel racing.'
This is a very capable frameset that is a joy to ride whether you are taking the scenic route or out for a quick blast.
State the frame and fork material and method of construction
The frame is handmade in Italy from custom drawn, triple-butted Columbus Spirit steel alloy while the fork is a full carbon fibre construction.
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
Excellent quality from the welds through to the paint job.
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
It is based on Condor's endurance road range but the front end has been slackened off a touch, a 72.5 degree head angle for instance to give more controllable handling off-road.
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
The 55cm model has a stack of 564mm and a reach of 381mm. It is a bit lower at the front than many gravel/adventure bikes of this size but that does give it a slightly racier ride.
Riding the bike
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
Yes, the ride quality is very good thanks to the triple-butting of the steel tubes.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
Stiffness is impressive. The down tube and bottom bracket area is quite large for a steel frame which gives you a good platform to eke out every bit of power.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
Even with this pretty much top-end build it isn't a light bike against carbon and aluminium rivals, but the way it rides manages to hide that.
Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so was it a problem?
How would you describe the steering? Was it lively neutral or unresponsive? The lively side of neutral on the gravel.
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
It is a really good balance. Neutral enough not to be a handful on technical sections or when you're tired and tapping out the miles, but quick enough that you can still have some fun.
How did the build components work with the frame? Was there anything you would have changed?
Shimano's GRX Di2 is a brilliant groupset and really worked well with the frameset. The rest of the kit certainly did its job and the Condor wheels took a lot of abuse and stayed true throughout a punishing test period.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
On the whole the Condor competes well for a handbuilt steel frame against the likes of Mason, Shand and Enigma. The Fairlight Secan is very competitively priced though.
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
The Condor Bivio Gravel is exceptionally good. It's a fun, comfortable and capable gravel machine that also works on the road. It's expensive but good value compared with rival offerings, and it has a sublime ride. All in, that makes it a 9.
About the tester
I usually ride: This month's test bike My best bike is: B'Twin Ultra CF draped in the latest bling test components
I've been riding for: Over 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!