Cipollini Bond Bike
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The Lowdown: Cipollini Bond
What would you give to test drive a Ferrari? What if someone offered to let you take it out not only for a quick spin but for an entire weekend?
Somewhat dumbfounded, I took him up on the offer.
Italian made Cipollini bikes have been on the market for about 3 years now. Like Ferraris, they are hard to come by and very expensive. And, again, like Ferrari, the brand has really capitalized on style, brashness, and flamboyance. The brand's namesake, Mario Cipollini, arguably the greatest sprinter of our time, was also notorious for being stylish, brash and flamboyant, among other things (having a cigarette during a race, being a bit of a ladies man, etc..). This said, how could a "no name" manufacturer come out of nowhere and produce a legitimately good -- if not great -- bike? Was this all marketing and hype?
Recent reviews have, indeed, proved that Cipollini bikes are more than flashy -- they are in fact, high strung, high performance machines.
The Bond, in particular, is so named because while the front end is molded in one piece, the rear end is "bonded" together in two additional pieces. Cipollini describes it as such: "BOND is the only monocoque frame made by Cipollini that is not a single piece construction. Boasting the revolutionary patented rear triangle construction system that Cipollini calls the Atomlink,™ this revolutionary construction system allows for the greatest reactivity and power transfers to the ground that a typical lugged frame construction lacks."
The Italian bike was set up with Italian parts including Campy Bora Ultra 2 carbon tubular wheels, 3T alloy cockpit, Campy Athena EPS gruppo and a minimalist 120 gram Selle Italia carbon saddle. With an exception of the saddle, these components weren't exactly the "top of the line", somewhat at odds with the exclusive and expensive nature of the frame. And the weight, over 16lbs, was a bit disappointing. The Campy rims are "only" 20mm wide, narrower than the current trend of 25mm or wider. The 3T cockpit was alloy (heavier) versus carbon. And Campy Athena falls behind Super Record, Record, and Chorus.
So how did it ride?
I dialed in the bike as best as I could but I still felt a bit out stretched; the stem could have been 5mm shorter. The rock hard seat felt tortuous at first, too. But then I set out on a ride.
Wow. Let me say that again. Wow.
The components turned out to be a revelation. The Athena EPS shifting was awesome. Far more intuitive than Ultegra Di-2 that I'd ridden before. The brake hoods felt great in the hands. The 3T alloy bar felt perfect and super comfortable in the drops. The wheels were ridiculously fast and silent. Even the seat didn't feel that uncomfortable once up to speed. It felt like the bike was much lighter as well.
This was by far the stiffest bike I had ever ridden. The wheels were stiff, the aero seat post was stiff, and the saddle had zero give. As a result, the ride was super lively; you could feel every bump in the road from the front end to the rear. The rear end felt slightly more active than the front; there was a subtle bucking sensation. This said, while you felt every ripple in the road, incredibly, I didn't feel like I was getting beat up and fatigued; I can't really explain why.
As I set off, there is a fun slight down hill section that goes about 1 mile. I found myself flying by other cyclists. Turns out I had my second fastest time ever on that segment; my PR had been set on my BMC triathlon bike with aero bars and aero wheels--how was this possible that I'd be able to approach a time on a road bike that was better fit for a Tri bike?
On to the climb.
I took the bike up legendary Old La Honda road. The frame was remarkable; there was simply no lateral play. However, not sure if it was because the stem was too long but I found it difficult to spin up the climb at a high cadence. The bike seemed to respond better to getting out of the saddle and keeping the power on. The result? While I haven't been climbing that much, I set a PR for the year with a 19:46 time.
Descending - rough roads.
I am an admitted terrible descender. Something happened when I had two kids and now I am extremely tentative going down hills. The next section was down hill and very bumpy. The bike was vibrating so much that I had to ride the brakes. It wasn't a good experience for me.
The next section was descending Highway 84; this is a favorite for speed demons because of the swooping turns and good pavement. Initially I was just flying down, grinning. But the super light wheels felt twitchy which forced me to back off.
Another flat section.
After the downhill there is a really cool section of road that has a slight down hill that lasts 1/2 mile. Though I tucked in behind some cars, I tied the time of my PR which was set on the BMC tri bike. Once again, how is this possible?
I haven't been this excited about a bike or bike parts in a long time. I couldn't stop thinking about how remarkable and different it was to ride this bike. How could a road bike approach the times of a triathlon bike? How could it be so responsive yet not beat you up? How could an upstart company produce something that was so impressive? These questions kept circling in my mind.
This said, like a Ferrari, one has to ask, "Could I live with it as a daily driver?". And, "can I afford it?".
Though I was tempted to go back to Matt and say "where do I sign?" I had to to be honest with myself. While the flats, smooth descents, and climbing were incredible, the rough descents aren't tolerable for me. This bike is too high-strung for me. And my wife would never let me buy it....
But this was the most exciting bike I've ridden in ages.
Many thanks to Matt at Red Lantern Cycles for this test ride!