Posted by: Ian | September 25, 2011

A Condor Fratello for Zoe

A few years ago Zoe got into her cycling, riding out quite frequently with me at weekends and ultimately riding to Cornwall with me along NCR 3 over several days. More recently, Zoe hasn’t really been riding and her old bike is being used by her Aunt Adi. So for her sixteenth birthday last month I got her a new one.

The decision about what to get was surprisingly easy. Zoe borrowed Emily’s Scott CR1 Contessa for a few weeks and liked it a lot. However, we didn’t want to get a bike that could easily be totalled by one accident so that ruled out carbon. Although there are aluminium bikes that get great reviews, from my experience the ride can be relatively harsh, especially after a long time on the road, so we ruled Al bikes out too. There’s nothing to dislike about the qualities of a titanium bike and we did look at the Engima range fairly seriously. The issues here were (a) cost – even the cheaper ones are expensive – and (b) excitement – there’s a little bit of a thrill deficit when you look at them. It wasn’t so hard to rule out C, Al and Ti when we had steel left to fall back on. A good steel bike can give a great ride, has excellent durability, can look fantastic and needn’t be too pricey. There are plenty to choose from but given how much I love riding my Condor Tempo, the geared version of the same bike – the Condor Fratello – was the bike to beat. Equally importantly, Zoe was very keen on the look of it, especially in orange.

To confirm our choice, Zoe came to London with me over summer and we went to the Condor shop on Gray’s Inn Road to see a Fratello in the steel and, since Zoe liked it, have a fitting. One of the guys there spent a long time with Zoe on the jig to ensure that we chose the right size frame and to determine what stem length and seat height would be optimal. This (free) service alone is pretty much enough to justify buying a Condor and puts many bike shops to shame.

The frameset cost £600 and was the only single major outlay. We were very fortunate to be given Emily’s original Scott Contessa, which was written off during her fall in the Exmoor Beast a couple of years ago. From this we salvaged the Ultegra groupset. It looked as if the rear derailleur, which took a big bang when Emily rolled off, might need to be replaced but luckily it still worked. Because the Fratello mounts the brakes sufficiently high to allow clearance for mudguards, which we wanted, the Ultegra callipers needed to be replaced with a longer reach model. The ones I chose were a Condor brand, which did the job nicely and matched the bike well.

I used a pair of Mavic Equipe wheels that came with my Felt – even though I’ve upgraded them on the Felt, they’re an ideal match for the Fratello, having good quality and performance and requiring very little maintenance.

The most significant components that I needed to buy were the bars and stem. Zoe likes the shape (and look) of my 3T Ergonova bars that I have on both the Felt and the Astraeus and so I bought the Pro Alloy version of these for the Fratello. I have a seatpost that I could have re-used but chose instead to get a Condor Uno post, which does a good job, was, as I recall, under £30, and looks nice on the bike. We used the simple flat pedals that Emily had left on the Scott, seeing no reason to buy anything different. For tyres, I chose Conti Gator Hardshells. I’ve been riding these on the front of the Tempo for several months and have been very impressed with the level of performance given the outstanding puncture resistance. I selected 23 mm for the front and 25 mm for the rear.

I had originally intended to assemble it all myself. When it came to it, though, it made more sense to get it done more quickly and to a higher standard by Brian at Bicycle Chain in Taunton. He did a great job and also fitted Zoe for a new woman-specific Bontrager saddle, which she finds very comfortable, rather than re-using one of my cast-offs.

Here’s how it looks in finished form:

We think it looks absolutely great and everything’s come together to make an outstanding bike. It’s also been very satisfying to re-use the groupset and other parts that have been sitting around for a while.  The ultimate test, though, is how it rides: Zoe likes it a lot and looks nice and natural in the saddle…

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