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Bike at bedtime: Colnago C59 Disc

Tonight a disc braked trailblazer scorches out of the vaults and stops on a sixpence…ish

Doesn't time fly, earlier this month the UCI announced that disc braked road bikes were no longer and experiment in the pro-peloton they were now legal. The news was met with barely a shrug.

Right on cue Peter Sagan won the Slovak national championships on his disc braked Specialized Venge. Disc braked road bikes? These days you can’t move for the bugger’s – in fact the most surprising thing about Sagan’s win was that as far as we can tell it was the first time a national road title has been won on a disc braked bike.

How very different things were when tonight’s bike at bedtime the Colnago C59 Disc burst in to the limelight at the 2012 Taipei Show. It was not the first disc braked road bike - American/Taiwanese outfit Culprit had the Croz Blade at least a year before and if you stretch the definition of road bike just a little Greg Lemond’s disc braked Poprad (how much did I want one of those) had launched  at least five years before the C59 made its bow. 

The C59 Disc though was the first such bike from one of cycling’s big brands an important machine not so much for how it performed but for what it signalled about the way the future of the road bike was going to unfold. It was also a welcome signal from one of Italy’s big names that despite what some people might think they could still cut it at bike technology’s cutting edge. 

To that end the C59 came equipped with hydraulic discs – Colnago taking the sensible view that if you’re going to make a disc braked road bike you might as well put proper disc brakes on it. The fly in the ointment being that at this point in 2012 SRAM and Shimano’s road disc offerings were still a year away, still it could have been worse they could have been waiting for Campag.

Colnago C59 Disc - Formula disc brake

Colnago got round the problem of there being no road specific hydraulic disc brakes by getting together with Formula to make some. The drivetrain was basically Shimano Dura Ace Di2 but plugged in to some Formula road levers which had been adapted for hydraulic braking by putting the master cylinder in to the bit of the hood that normally housed the mechanical shifting gubbins. Clever. Also because Di2 and disc brakes are a natural fit in terms of performance and the types of rider they are likely to appeal to. 

Colnago C59 Disc - front disc

Other changes over the rim braked C59 included a completely redesigned fork with the dropouts facing the other way – Colnago did a lot of research in to the possibility of wheel ejection, something that later led them to design the 15mm Hexlock thru-axle (maybe they should have gone 12mm but hey). The disc C59 also featured beefed up chainstays to help it cope with the extra braking forces generated by the Formula discs. 

Colnago C59 Disc - integrated hydaulic lever

All that extra strengthening plus the weight of the discs did have a downside, in our First ride review at Eurobike 2012 Vechiojo described the C59 as “big boned”. Don’t get us wrong it was certainly no lard bucket but there was undoubtedly a weight penalty to pay for any early adopters tempted to climb aboard. The other slight niggle – on Vechiojo test ride at least – was that the braking performance wasn’t much to write home about.

Oh well, Shimano would be along to sort that out soon enough. And on the plus side it looked undeniably cool thus negating minor niggles like braking performance and a little extra weight. 

Plus it can't have been that heavy as it co-starred with Martyn Ashton and chums in the now legendary Road Bike Party 2 (scroll down to watch for your viewing pleasure). They didn't seem to have too much trouble jumping it around the place in that it also proved its durability as no bikes were broken in the making of the film.

Colnago started their journey as a maker of high performance disc braked road bikes earlier than most and what thye learned with the C59 Disc contributed to making the C60 Disc a much better bike and the C64 Disc even better still. Those lessons weren’t restricted to the technical side of things either, the other big take away – and one not lost on the rest of the bike industry – was that while purists may have reacted with horror and disdain at the idea of a Colnago with disc brakes the people who bought Colnagos seemed to like them. A lot.

Tony has been editing cycling magazines and websites since 1997 starting out as production editor and then deputy editor of Total Bike, acting editor of Total Mountain Bike and then seven years as editor of Cycling Plus. He launched his first cycling website - the Cycling Plus Forum at the turn of the century. In 2006 he left C+ to head up the launch team for Bike Radar which he edited until 2008, when he co-launched the multi-award winning - which he continues to edit today. His favourite ride is his ‘commute’ - which he does most days inc weekends and he’s been cycle-commuting since 1994. His favourite bikes are titanium and have disc brakes.

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