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The Condor Fratello Disc Thru-Axle frameset manages to keep hold of that traditional look and feel of a winter/fast audax/commuter/year-round mile-muncher bike while having been adapted to the demands of the modern roadie. The steel frame and carbon fork pairing give an exceptional ride quality and you get some impressive tyre clearances with mudguards. It's an absolute looker too.
The Fratello has been in Condor's catalogue for over a decade with rim brakes, and while that model is still available – as is the post-mount disc option – this latest thru-axle version brings everything bang up to date.
While many of the big manufacturers are equipping their gravel and adventure bikes with mounts to take mudguards and a rack, to create a 'jack-of-all-trades', if you don't really stray away from the tarmac or race then the Fratello is really all the bike you are going to need.
At its heart is a custom drawn Columbus Spirit triple-butted steel frame and the ride quality is excellent. You can pump your tyres up hard, have a firm saddle, a stiff, narrow handlebar, and whatever you want to throw in its way, the quality of the steel tubing will override it.
The frame is actually on the firm side, but the way it just seems to absorb the majority of road buzz without any feeling of harshness whatsoever means it is a very pleasant place to be.
Condor's designers seem to have nailed any compromises should you want to do a load of different styles of riding, too. It's stiff enough and fun if you want to get out for a spirited blast of an hour or so, but should you want to stay out much longer you get that comfort without the bike ever feeling soft or like you are sacrificing performance.
The geometry means the Fratello is no slouch either. The Condor has very similar measurements to an endurance style bike, with a stack to reach ratio of just under 1.55, which means your overall position isn't too aggressive. But the front end does have a 73.5-degree head angle paired to a fork offset of 45mm, which is sportier than most bikes of its ilk. This makes the Fratello fun in the bends; it's a sweet-handling machine.
It's probably still the way now, but back in the mid-noughties when I was racing, it was best to have your winter/training/commuting bike set up pretty much to the same position of your race bike. That way, when you climbed on your race machine everything felt totally normal, just a lot lighter.
That is exactly what the Condor allows you to do. It rides like a race bike, but it's a bit heavier, and can take full mudguards with 32mm tyres.
The added weight actually gives the Condor a very confident feel on the road – it doesn't skip about on broken tarmac and you can really chuck it down a technical descent. There is loads of feedback coming through from the tyres, and you can really let the bike go into the corners.
Our test model came fitted with a set of Mavic Ksyrium wheels but I swapped them out for some Hunt 48 Limitless Aeros and slammed the stem for a couple of rides. That shed some weight and got me into a much lower position at the front, and to say it completely transformed the bike would be an understatement.
I was riding this thing like a loon, racing hard into bends and using as much of the road as possible before powering out the other side. The steering is on the fun side of neutral, which means it has the speed there to get you into and back out of trouble quickly without ever really becoming a handful.
This easy-to-live-with handling makes it well mannered when you aren't trying to smash every KOM going, and long-distance rides are a pleasure.
The steering also means it's easy to control in poor weather. I ventured out a few times in the wet, once in the first rain we'd had in weeks, which had made the roads greasy and pretty treacherous. The Fratello was sliding about a bit in the bends but it never felt nervous or twitchy, which is exactly what you want if you are going to be pressing this bike into winter trainer, year-round commuter service.
The only slight downside to the weight is that it blunts the acceleration a touch and takes the edge off climbing. With the Hunt wheels fitted, the Fratello came in at around 9.3kg including pedals, so it's not exactly a heavyweight, and while it can be noticeable on really steep climbs it is still a responsive machine when the road starts to head skyward.
As I mentioned earlier, the Fratello uses Columbus Spirit tubing which has been custom drawn to Condor's spec. Some are triple-butted, which means the tube walls have three different thicknesses along their length. This is a way of altering the ride feel by promoting flex in the middle of the tube for comfort while having more material at either end where strength is needed at the welding area.
Speaking of welds, the Fratello frames are handmade in Italy and the finish quality is absolutely stunning, really highlighted by the beautiful paint job. I'm a big fan of this Stone Blue but there are others available too, like Agate Grey and Black on Black.
Those white decals and the logos are all reflective, which is a neat little detail.
Condor has kept a traditional look to the frame by keeping a straight-through 1 1/8in head tube, whereas most bikes these days, including steel ones, tend to go tapered to not only improve stiffness but also to increase the weld area for a large diameter down tube.
Condor hasn't needed to do this as it has kept the majority of the tubes quite slender without sacrificing overall stiffness.
The bottom bracket has remained 'old school' too, with a threaded setup for external bearing cups.
When it comes to running cables and hoses around the frame, the Fratello has been future-proofed. The rear brake hose goes internally through the down tube until it reaches the bottom bracket, but the gear cables are run externally.
They are positioned underneath the down tube, directed by an alloy cable guide which is bolted into the underside of the frame. If you were to use an electronic system and didn't need it, you can just remove it and you aren't left with any redundant bosses for a nice clean look.
The carbon fork runs the brake hose internally and Condor has also thought to offer a port on the right leg for a dynamo light cable – clever thinking.
There are mounts for full length mudguards and Condor has left the seatstay and chainstay bridges in situ to allow for a standard fitment. A rear rack is also catered for.
At the front, the positioning of the disc and calliper means Condor has sat the mudguard eyelets further up the inside of the fork legs. A lot of brands do this so it's not a big deal, but it means you will have to fettle the mudguard stays a bit to get them to fit – should you fit them yourself after you've bought the bike (Condor will fit them for you if you want).
Tyre clearance is pretty impressive for this style of bike, 32mm front and rear with full guards fitted.
When it comes to weight, a painted 55cm frame tips the scales at 1,960g with the fork at 415g. Available sizes are 46cm through to 64cm.
We have one of Condor's demo fleet bikes here on test, and it comes with a mechanical Shimano Ultegra R8000 groupset with hydraulic discs, Mavic Ksyrium Elite UST wheels, Deda/Condor finishing kit and a Selle Italia saddle.
Condor doesn't really do 'off the peg', so you can by the Fratello Disc as a frameset only and build it up yourself or use Condor's online bike builder to create the spec list of your dreams and/or budget.
There's a massive selection of components to choose from and you can build your frame around a Shimano Sora groupset or go to the other end of the spectrum with one of SRAM's top-end eTap systems.
Condor is also keen to get everything set up spot on for you, so a bike fitting is included with all new bike or frame purchases.
The Fratello Disc Thru Axle frameset – which includes frame, fork, headset, seat clamp and headset spacers – will set you back £1,199.99; you can add a Condor Strada Carbon Seatpost for an extra £39.99.
That's competitive when you take into account the tubing used and the overall quality of the workmanship seen throughout the frameset.
It's the same price as one of my favourite bikes of all time, the Fairlight Strael 2.0. It uses a mixture of 853/725/631 Reynolds steel tubing in the frame and comes with a full carbon fork. The Condor actually wins out on tyre clearance, as the Strael can take 28mm with guards and 30mm without but it's pretty close. The Strael 2.0 is a beautiful bike to ride and I'd say the Condor Fratello Disc is right up there with it.
Mason's Resolution steel frame is handmade in Italy and again I can see a lot of similarities in ride quality between it and the Condor. The Resolution is beautifully finished and shows a high level of attention to detail, although you do pay for it as a frameset costs £1,595.
I love the way Condor has achieved the style of what is a traditional looking all-year-round road bike while bringing it bang up to date to accept things like wider tyres and the inclusion of flat mounts and thru-axles.
More importantly, though, it has delivered a bike that is just so much fun to ride – it is truly a stunning machine at an affordable price.
Beautifully crafted frameset that delivers an awesome ride feel along with the stunning looks
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Condor Fratello Disc Thru Axle frameset
Size tested: 56cm
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, "A sporty all-rounder, the Fratello has been our number one frame for over a decade. Our new disc version features 12mm thru-axles at the front and rear, and flat mount disc brake mounts. In its creation, we focused on bringing a dynamic ride quality to the frame so you can get up to speed quickly through town as well as clocking new KOMs on long rides.
'The Fratello is the king of versatility, making it the go-to frame if you don't have space for a stable of bikes but want lightweight performance and the unique comfort of steel. Our new 12mm thru-axles stiffen the frame, creating a responsive feel when you accelerate or climb out of the saddle.
'We build the Fratello with lightweight, custom-shaped Columbus Spirit tubing. This responsive triple-butted steel is lively and exciting to ride, whatever the weather."
The Fratello Disc is a very versatile road machine that delivers a brilliant ride quality.
State the frame and fork material and method of construction
Frame: Custom Columbus Spirit triple-butted steel
Fork: Condor Pioggia Disc Thru-Axle full carbon monocoque
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
The overall finish of the frame and fork is exceptional, everything from the welds through to the paint and all of the other small details.
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
The Fratello's geometry is similar to that of a lot of endurance bikes, in terms of the length of the head and top tubes. The front end is a little more aggressive than most, though, which gives a fun, sporty ride feel to it.
Full geometry charts are available on Condor's website.
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
This 55cm model has a reach of 381mm and a stack of 558mm, which is pretty typical for a bike of this type and size.
Riding the bike
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
Very comfortable indeed. The steel tubing delivers a sublime ride feel.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
Stiffness levels are exactly where they need to be for a bike of this style.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
Steel frames aren't the lightest compared with aluminium or carbon fibre, which means the Fratello Disc isn't quite as lively off the line. Acceleration and therefore efficiency isn't really affected once you are moving, though.
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.
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
It handles very well. It's mostly neutral, which means you can ride it hard without the steering feeling twitchy in the bends, but there is enough speed in the steering that it'll tackle technical descents without too much hassle.
How did the build components work with the frame? Was there anything you would have changed?
The Shimano Ultegra build and Mavic wheels works very well with the frameset. I didn't get on too well with the Selle Italia saddle, but that's a personal thing.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
The Fratello is well priced for the overall quality. It matches that of the Strael 2.0 and comes in around £350 cheaper than Mason's Resolution.
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes
Would you consider buying the bike? Definitely
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
An absolutely beautiful frameset both in the way it looks and the way it performs. Condor's attention to detail really ups the game too.
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!