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head to head: Condor Italia £999

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29th January 2011   Words: Simon Smythe   Photos: Christopher Catchpole


If there really is a north-south divide in this test, it’s fascinating that each bike appears to live up to its regional stereotype. The Dolan is an honest, plain-talking, no-nonsense bike, and if it ate lunch it would probably produce foil-wrapped dripping sandwiches and a flask of tea.

The Italia, from London firm Condor, has a flamboyantly shaped frame, arty graphics, pretensions to Continental sophistication, and at lunchtime it would probably go out to the deli and get prosciutto, provolone, sun-dried tomatoes, olives and artichoke hearts on toasted ciabatta washed down with an espresso.

But stereotyping is usually imagined or oversimplified, so let’s see if we can find out what’s really going on behind the Condor’s posh looks. In fact, it’s a frame made from the same type of aluminium alloy as the Dolan, but Condor’s frames are made in Italy — hence the name and the higher price (£499 frame and fork).

For the 2011 Italia, Condor has gone for a swooping, flattened top tube whose arc continues in the chainstays, paired with a manipulated, oversized down tube and seat tube. The rear brake cable routes internally through the top tube, which gives it a clean look.

Italian connection
The wheels are made for Condor by Italian track component specialist Miche, and the rest of the components are also Italian (Deda, San Marco) with Condor’s name on them.

As with the Dolan, mudguards come with the Condor and our test bike had Condor’s own aluminium set (at a £10 supplement), which make a change from standard issue SKS.

On the subject of mudguards, Condor has built in clearance that requires long-reach brake calipers, and own-branded versions are fitted as Apex is only available in standard 49mm (ish) drop — surely an oversight by SRAM? However, Condor has fitted the cheaper non-series SRAM S100 2.2 chainset and splined BB instead of the Apex one with external cups that Dolan has specced. If you wanted to get original Apex parts, you would pay an extra £45.

Gentler ride
The Condor’s ride is more forgiving than the Dolan’s due in part to the head tube being a full 4.5cm taller at 17.5cm. The larger front triangle is not as stiff as the Dolan’s and although it would take a Princess and the Pea level of sensitivity to feel it in isolation, there is more flex in the splined axle system than the external GXP cups of the Apex groupset.

Perhaps there’s something in this stereotyping after all — the Dolan seems to be the northern hardman and the Condor the southern softie. But we’re not arm-wrestling, we’re riding bikes, and a gentler experience on board the Condor is not necessarily to be scoffed at, especially if it is to be used as a commuter bike.

One thing worth pointing out about the flattened top tube is that if you bring your knees inwards at the top of the pedal stroke you may clip them against the wide, flat top tube — we found this happening, so it is essential to test ride an Italia before buying it.

Comfort Value Handling Wow Factor Build Quality OVERALL
19 16 17 20 20 90%

ONE UP ONE DOWN

Luxury option: Condor Fratello £600
This is the frame-only price because Condor will build its popular steel bike up to the customer’s specification, as ever including a free fitting session to establish stem length, bar width and crank length. Condor calls it an
“all-round super bike”.

Cheaper option: Condor Potenza £450
The price again is for frame and fork only — the rest is up to you. The Potenza is made of double-butted Dedacciai steel and has track geometry and horizontal track ends, but with a front brake fitted it makes a perfect town fixie. Condor will build it with a riser bar instead of drops if that’s how you like to ride. Basically, the possibilities are endless.

head to head: Apex Twins introduction
head to head: Condor Italia £999
head to head: Dolan Preffisio £895
head to head: Apex Twins verdict

This article first appeared in the January 2011 issue of Cycling Active magazine.