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Check out the Colnago C40 Gold Limited Edition

Ridden to Paris-Roubaix victory in 1995, the C40 was one of the key bikes in the rise of carbon fibre – both in the pro peloton and beyond. Take a look at this very special version from 2000…

The Colnago C40 was a ground-breaker when it was launched in 1994, showing that carbon was a great material for bikes raced at the highest level – even in the toughest of conditions. It became the first carbon bike ridden to victory at Paris-Roubaix the following year, and was the model the Mapei team used to secure all three places on the podium in 1996. This C40 Gold – which we saw when visiting Colnago recently – is one of a limited series of just 400 that was produced in 2000.

2024 Colnago C40 Gold carbon frame

Carbon-fibre bikes have been ridden to every major race victory for years, but things were different back in the 1990s. Colnago had made several carbon bikes before the C40, but the material had yet to take over fully, and many people doubted its suitability for tough races like Paris-Roubaix. That all changed when Mapei’s Franco Ballerini won over the cobbles in 1995. In fact, the C40 was ridden to five Paris-Roubaix victories in six years.

> 10 ways that Paris-Roubaix bikes have changed over the past decade — comparing 2012 to 2023 bike tech 

Rather than being a monocoque produced in a mould, the C40 – C for ‘carbon’, 40 to denote Colnago’s 40th year in business – was made with tubes bonded into lugs. Most carbon-fibre bikes produced these days are monocoques, but Colnago still uses a lugged construction on its C68 road and gravel bikes.

2024 Colnago C40 Gold front end

Colnago made lugs of various angles and used different lengths of tubing to produce bikes in a huge number of frame sizes. Metal parts were still used for parts like the dropouts and the threaded sleeve for the bottom bracket, but the lugs and tubes were carbon fibre and Colnago claimed a frame weight of 1kg (size 54cm). There are far lighter bikes out there these days, of course, but the C40 was lower than anything else out there at the time.

2024 Colnago C40 Gold crankset

Company chief Ernesto Colnago is quoted as saying, “When we built the C40 we were the only ones to build carbon frames and all the mechanics and competitor technicians were saying that they would be too dangerous to use on cobbled roads, especially with the straight carbon forks. There was a company that wanted to fit suspension forks on the bicycle, but I wasn't going to have suspension forks on the C40. 

“The night before Paris- Roubaix I had Mr Squinzi, the Mapei boss, on the phone to me raising his concerns about using such a delicate-looking thing. I told him that we’d done all of the tests that we could on the frame and the fork and we were certain there would be no problem. I had to take personal responsibility for what was going to happen and I spent all night worrying about it, barely able to sleep. But when I heard that there were four Mapei riders in the break, I knew I could relax.”

2024 Colnago C40 Gold downtube

Naturally, no one is saying that Mapei riders won because of the Colnago C40 – we can all agree that there were a helluva lot of other factors influencing race results in the 1990s – but it was a key bike in the rise of carbon fibre, both in the pro peloton and beyond.

> Why wider tyres on road bikes are here to stay… and why they may get wider still 

In common with other bikes of the era, the C40 featured rim brakes, mechanical shifting, and external cable routing, and in 2000 Colnago released the C40 Gold pictured here, in a limited series of 400.

2024 Colnago C40 Gold headtube badge

Its decals and head badge were gold, while the bike was built up with a Campagnolo Record 10-speed groupset, 45mm-deep carbon wheels, a handlebar and stem from ITM, and a San Marco Gold saddle. Oh, and those Vittoria tubular tyres: they’re just 19mm wide. Ouch!

Check out loads more Bikes at Bedtime here. 

Mat has been in cycling media since 1996, on titles including BikeRadar, Total Bike, Total Mountain Bike, What Mountain Bike and Mountain Biking UK, and he has been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. Mat has been road.cc technical editor for over a decade, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. We send him off around the world to get all the news from launches and shows too. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer. Now over 50, he's riding road and gravel bikes most days for fun and fitness rather than training for competitions.

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5 comments

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festina | 2 weeks ago
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“When we built the C40 we were the only ones to build carbon frames" apart from Look, Time and Vitus/Alan. Even Trek and Specialized were building carbon frames late 90s.
And the C40 is not a 1kg frame weight, more like 1.4-1.5kg.
Don't get me wrong, it's a lovely bike, but it seems after a couple of decades peoples memories aren't accurate.

Avatar
john_smith replied to festina | 2 weeks ago
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Did the frames made by the other manufacturers you mention have carbon lugs? In 1994?

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Rendel Harris replied to john_smith | 2 weeks ago
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john_smith wrote:

Did the frames made by the other manufacturers you mention have carbon lugs? In 1994?

The Look KG 196 (1990 onwards) was a carbon monocoque frame and I think Vitus and Peugeot both had monocoque carbon frames on the market by '94.

Avatar
john_smith replied to Rendel Harris | 2 weeks ago
1 like

The KG 196 was certainly ahead of its time. At first glance you could think it was a modern bike.

Avatar
Dunnoeither | 2 weeks ago
4 likes

My Dad reached deep into His pockets to buy me a discounted Mapei coloured C40 frameset for the 1997 season. I set it up with a wild mix of Ultegra and Dura Ace Components and a borrowed C- Record crankset. I rode it Jalabert-style with a downtube shifter for the front derailleur and STI for the rear. I LOVED THIS THING! However in one of the first races that year some ignorant freak decided to ignore the race marshalls orders and drove his car onto the race course and into the front group I was leading at that moment. The full frontal impact bent the steel fork all the way back almost parallel to the down tube causing the front wheel to shave of the right shifter mount. Otherweise the frame stayed completely intact and the subsequent carbon fork upgrade made it one of my all time favourite bikes.

It was not meant to last though as in next spring the seat tube succumbed to the impact of my fat a®$€ when I hit a huge pothole while drafting my team car at 60km/h.

Ah the memories... thanks for the article!

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