The Colnago CLX is a monocoque carbon frame made in Taiwan and comes from a factory with some of the most experienced craftsmen. It is billed as "Colnago quality, but not the typical Colnago price." The CLX frame retails for about half of the premiere C50 model (lugged carbon, made in Italy).
When Colnago first announced that they would be making frames sourced from Taiwan, it was a great source of debate on several websites, even our own RoadBikeReview Colnago forum. As a long time Colnago fan and owner (my own personal road bike is a Master X Light in Mapei colors) I have to admit that I was a bit disappointed to hear that my favorite brand was going to building bikes out of Asia. A big reason that I bought my Colnago in the first place, was because I wanted something steel, something Italian, and something that fit my style of riding. I am one of those riders that couldn't bear the thought of putting Shimano parts on my Italian bike, even though I loved my Dura-Ace. So, I was a bit saddened when I first heard the news.
It's been almost two years now since those first announcements came and many things have changed. The main thing that has changed for me, is the fact that I have had the chance to put several rides in on the CLX, and in doing so, have regained an appreciation for carbon bikes, for Colnago, and maybe even for cycling in general.
(for the record, the CLX I tested was a 48cm Ultegra SL equipped bike, in 2008 red paint scheme.)
As I pulled the CLX out of the box, the first thing that we all noticed was the (typically Colnago) beautiful paintwork. I know from first hand experience that Colnago paint is beautiful but not always the most durable. But the CLX had a very nice clearcoat finish that looked very durable. The black with red and white highlights was not my first choice (the yellow and black scheme was my first choice, but it was not available stateside and is currently no longer available), but I was not dissappointed in the red. The fit and finish were typical Colnago quality, so that put my mind at ease right away. On our office scale, the complete bike weighed 17.7 lbs without pedals. Not bad, but not as light as I was hoping for, for a carbon bike. But the CLX is not meant to be the lightest bike out there. I was more interested in how it would ride.
From the Manufacturer:
"After a fantastic introduction, CLX, Colnago's entry level carbon fiber model is back for 2009. Ernesto Colnago created the CLX as an affordable, yet high performance Colnago with an innovative frame design. CLX has a monocoque front triangle, designed and created in Cambiago, Italy as a project of Colnago Lab."
- External Reinforcing Ribs
The CLX front triangle has two special external reinforcing ribs along the top and down tubes and bottom bracket and uses a variable carbon lay-up, where extra strength is in the head tube and bottom bracket to provide additional rigidity under stress.
- Arc Shaped Chain Stays
CLX features distinctive, arc-shaped rear chain stays for better braking performance and comfort, and rear chain stays in Colnago's distinctive leaf shape section.
- All New Monocoque Carbon Fork
An all new monocoque 1" 1/8 CLX carbon fiber fork and Colnago AERO Carbon seat post that matches the aero section down also grace Colnago's new CLX.
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Colnago CLX Ultegra SL Specs:
- Frameset: Colnago CLX
- Fork: Colnago CLX
- Brakes: Shimano Ultegra
- Shifters: Shimano Ultegra
- Crank: FSA Team Issue Carbon
- Front Deraileur: Shimano Ultegra
- Rear Deraileur: Shimano Ultegra
- Cassette: Shimano Ultegra
- Chain: Shimano Ultegra
- Headset: Colnago
- Stem: FSA OS 99
- Handlebar: FSA Carbon Pro Wing
- Seatpost: Colnago Carbon Aero
- Saddle: Prologo - Colnago branding
- Wheels: Mavic Aksium Race
- Tires: Vittoria Diamante Pro Kevlar Carbon
- Weight: 17.7 lbs. (weighed on RoadBikeReview office scale, no pedals)
On the Ultegra SL bike that I rode, standout parts include the Colnago fork that was a key factor in the responsive handling of the bike and the Vittoria Diamonte Pro tires that instilled confidence on every corner and downhill. The extra hand positions that the FSA Carbon Pro Wing handlebar provide are welcomed on longer rides. And for a race saddle, the Colnago branded Prologo saddle was definitely more comfortable than it looked like it was going to be.
The one spec that I would fault at this price point is the Mavic Aksium wheels. While there is nothing wrong with the product itself, they are a bit heavy and they are a level below the rest of the bike.
CLX Geometry Table:
The sloping top tube geometry fits a bit different from other sloping top tube designs, even those coming from the same factory. The main difference being that on the CLX, the amount of slope for the top tube is not as severe as other frames. From the saddle, it feels a bit "bigger" than say a Giant TCR (I owned and rode a TCR 0 for two years.)
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How Does The Colnago CLX Ride?
The Colnago CLX provides very responsive, confidence inspiring handling, without being twitchy (thanks to the combination of the geometry and solid fork). It is comfortable enough to take on a century and capable enough to race, if that's what you are in to. The ride is very smooth and compliant, but never flexy. I am not a big masher anyway, but there is not a hint of flex anywhere on this bike, this bike is solid. And it is an efficient climber that responds to every pedal stroke. I wouldn't say that it feels like it "leaps forward" when you stand up, like a lighter bike might, but it is no slouch.
On extended downhills, the CLX continues the Colnago tradition of confidence inspiring feel and connectedness to the road. Turn in action is very light and stable, but if you do make a mistake or need to alter your line, the CLX transitions easily. When in full on attack mode on the downhills, you will appreciate the excellent geometry, stable fork, and Vittoria tires.
- stiff but not harsh monocoque carbon frame
- solid carbon fork
- well thought out geometry
- Vittoria tires
- Prologo saddle suprisingly comfortable
- not light
- not cheap
- Mavic Aksium wheels (upgrade these you'll also take care of the "not light" issue)
Final Thoughts On The Colnago CLX
Does it matter that my favorite Italian manufacturer is now making frames in Taiwan? Not to this reviewer, not one bit. Given the times and economy, it actually makes sense. The level of expertise in crafting carbon frames in Taiwan is so high, that there really is little (if any) concession being made.
It may be easy for keyboard quarterbacks to criticize the mindset and business acumen of a company such as Colnago for making frames in Taiwan. And I understand many of their points and issues, as I use to believe many of those same things. However, for anyone who would be quick to knock the CLX based just on where it's made, I would say one thing: "Ride one".
As stated above, the bike is not the lightest carbon frame out there, but it is not meant to be.
It is not the cheapest carbon frame out there, but it is not meant to be.
It IS meant to be one solid ride, with Italian heritage and quality. And if you do some homework, you can find deals well below MSRP that address the price issue.
For many people, the CLX may be purchased with the thought of joining the tribe of 'nags, then eventually upgrade to a "born in Italy" frame. But as awesome as the CLX rides, you may find yourself riding this bike for a bit longer than you originally may intend.
More CLX info on the Colnago website here: https://www.colnago.com/clxENG.html
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