Colnago may be steeped in Italian heritage, but it has been quick to embrace electronic drive trains and hydraulic road braking, making for some fascinating bikes. While we anticipated testing the new Colnago C60 and an upcoming disc version, Colnago graced us with a C59 Disc to help quench our thirst for tradition shrouded in technology. Colnago, like many brands these days, has embraced the road-disc revolution, and like other brands the C59 Disc is similar to the standard C59 but with more robust attention paid to the stays and forks to handle the added stress of a disc brake. Where Colnago takes a turn other manufacturers don’t is by offering a disc option on one of its high-end race bikes. Most other brands have stuck to adopting disc brakes on their endurance line, but Colnago was the first to come out with a production disc brake road bike and did so on its prize possession, the C59.
Our C59 Disc was a looker out of the box and came built with components we’ve wanted to get our hands on for a long-term test. Dressed with a full Shimano build, our C59 Disc was a perfect blend of Italian craftsmanship and Japanese precision. The C59 Disc frameset was painted in a surprising combination of military, matte greens with subtle Italian flag accents. It’s not the normal Colnago paint scheme we’ve grown accustomed to seeing, but we loved it, as did everyone on the group ride.
Controlling chain movement out back was Shimano’s new long-cage Ultegra Di2 rear derailleur that made reaching the 32- and 11-tooth cogs seamless. Up front, a Dura-Ace Di2 front derailleur guided the chain between standard 53/39 rings. Those are features most people already experience, but why we were excited about this bike was to experience the stopping power and control that can only come from disc brakes. For as long as we can remember, Shimano has set the bar for hydraulic disc brakes in the dirt. The modulation, power, and feel for its road system was as good as we expected.
The only area our C59 Disc was lacking out of the box was in the wheel department. Shimano is still working on developing a full line of disc-compatible road wheels, and should be available soon. For now it offers two choices, the RX31 and RX05, both underwhelming choices for this bike. Lucky for us, our friend and head marketing man at ENVE Composites helped us get outfitted with a set of that company’s SES 3.4 Disc Clinchers. It was a wheel set that changed the entire ride dynamic for the better.
To fully grasp the capabilities of disc-brake-equipped road bikes we pre-planned some of our favorite rides with long, 10-plus-mile descents. In addition, we planned to take the C59 Disc on a number of adventure rides that would be too harsh for your normal rim-brake-equipped bikes leading up to a monster “ride” called the Belgium Waffle Ride in North County, San Diego, known to be one of the toughest in the nation that pushes riders 135 miles with more than 10 miles of dirt climbs and descents. It was this ride that inspired us to test the C59 Disc to begin with, although repeated viewings of “Road Bike Party 2” on YouTube helped. While there is no way we were doing anything close to that on our C59 Disc, we knew the bike was the perfect platform to test ourselves on surfaces less than ideal for road bikes.
Our first ride impression was favorable. While the tube-and-lug carbon frameset wasn’t as responsive as some of the monocoque race bikes we’ve tested, that’s not always a bad thing. The C59 Disc offered a solid road feel that keeps the rider well aware of the road surface while still damping the chatter of more neglected pavement. After our first road rides, we decided to venture to the dirt and found that with a wide-tire choice and large-range cassette, doors were opening for routes for which we had only previously pulled out a ’cross or mountain bike.
The Shimano hydraulic disc brakes provided plenty of power with minimal effort and miles of modulation. The more braking a descent required the more positive feedback we got, and on longer technical descents where fatigue can set in we were able to fully enjoy the ride and focus on the road. Of course, road is an optimistic term for many of the surfaces the C59 unlocked for us. Not only does the bike’s compliant ride quality expand your horizons, but the seamless Di2 shifting and powerful confidence of the disc braking allow for fast descending down gravel and fire roads with no drama.
Another upside of a disc-brake-equipped bike is you no longer have to wonder if your current brake calipers will be able to handle the increased rim widths seen these days. Since HED came out with its wide Ardennes rim and began expanding our minds to wider rims offering better handling, limited brake-caliper adjustability has been a notorious headache. Now with disc brakes the governor has been lifted and we will see where this new potential can take us on both a tire and wheel front.
The C59 Disc is for more than just riders wanting a bike that combines beautiful Italian craftsmanship and heritage with the latest component technology. It’s for riders wanting to expand their bike’s capabilities exponentially.
From Issue 31. Buy it HERE.