Ridden and reviewed by William Rees
Condor Cycles offers its Fratello model as an “all round super bike” to be used as commuter, fast tourer, audax bike or winter trainer. It’s been a popular model since its release many years ago and several of my friends ride one particularly as a winter bike. I needed a new winter training and light touring bike so is the Fratello the right one for me?
Condor has been building bikes in central London for over 60 years and has earned a solid reputation among London’s regular riders. Their glossy and well stocked shop in Holborn has also attracted the modern generation of City-suited L’Etape du Tour riders keen to get themselves over the Alps with no expense spared. Condor even have their own racing team: Condor Rapha Sharp.
The shop will sell you a complete bike or just the frame and forks. I wanted to put it together myself with my own choice of components and was prepared to shop around for the parts.
The 2011 Fratello comes in a choice of three colours: slate, orange, and midnight blue; and in seven sizes: from 46cm to 64cm. The frame is built with Dedacciai SAT 14.5 triple-butted steel and is fitted with mudguard eyelets and rear rack mounts and weighs, they say, 1900g for the 55cm size. The fork is condor’s own branded Poggia carbon. There’s no weight given for the fork but it’s probably around 700g.
Choosing a frame size and selecting the components
One of the staff at the shop put me on the fitting jig and, after getting me to shuffle around and peddle for a few minutes, suggested either the 58cm or 61cm frame. I said I would prefer the 58cm frame and after checking the published geometry of the frameset I decided to ask for a 120mm stem to be fitted.
From Condor I purchased the frameset with 40mm of headset spacers and I chose a pair of 44cm Deda RHM 02 handlebars and a Deda Zero 1 stem. The headset is fitted and included in the price.
From a variety of London shops I bought a pair of 10 speed Campagnolo Veloce ergo levers, a medium cage rear mech, a 13-29 cassette, a Centaur front mech and a KMC DX10 chain. For a crankset and bottom bracket I went for an Sram Apex 50-34. I chose Shimano’s basic but reliable R450 dual pivot calliper deep drop brakes and M520 SPD pedals.
For wheels I got a pair of Fulcrum’s bargain basement Racing 7s. I fitted them with a pair of Michelin’s Krylion Carbon 23mm tyres and Aircomp Ultra Light tubes; my usual tyre and tube combination for winter riding.
I finished off the build with a classic Flite Titanium saddle, SKS P35 mudguards, a Blackburn rear rack and Cateye lights front and rear. I wrapped the bars with Deda tape after adding an extra strip of bar tape on the flat section of the bars and on the upper face of the dropped section for added comfort.
Assembling the bike was very easy. The threads on the bottom bracket and eyelets were very clean and well finished. The bottom bracket shell was nicely faced off ready to receive the outboard bearing cups and there was no trace of excessive paint. Same for the seat tube, all finished very neatly. I had to buy a tool for the bottom bracket bearings and a star-shaped torx wrench to fit the Ergo levers which used to require an Allen key.
The complete bike including mudguards and rear rack weighed around 11kg. By contrast my Pinarello Stelvio (steel frame and carbon forks) weighs about 9.5kg.
Looks-wise the Condor is impressive. The welds are neat and the alignment of the rear triangle and front forks looks good. The frame construction is excellent. The down tube is an attractive tear drop shape and oversize. I particularly like the curved seat stays. The rear triangle of the bike looks very nice and has separate eyelets for the mudguards and rack. The hidden headset looks neat and the cartridge bearings feel very smooth and free.
The paintwork is very good. I took a tumble on one test ride and slightly scratched the paintwork. But it is tough enough not to chip and the scratch came out with a bit of a polish.
I rode the bike on training rides on wet and dry roads for four weeks over the end of December and beginning of January. I also used it to carry luggage in two small panniers. Fairly typical winter use.
The Fratello gives a very comfortable ride. The rear triangle feels stiff yet cushions the bumps in the road. The handlebars also feel comfortable and the aero profile of the top section help spread out pressure on the palms of the hands. After a 75 kilometre ride I had no complaints about comfort.
The front end and steering did feel a little light and twitchy at times. I found myself straying from a straight line sometimes and when climbing a steep hill seated there was a tendency for the bike to wander across the road unless I was paying close attention and looking ahead. But when standing up on the pedals I immediately felt a lot more in control. Ascending a 15 percent gradient on a wet country lane out of the saddle the bike felt balanced and comfortable. I didn’t detect any flex in the frame and the steering felt a lot more positive.
After a couple of weeks I swapped the 120mm stem for a 130mm one, shifted the saddle forward by 5mm and lowered the handlebars 5mm by removing a headset spacer. With more of my body weight on the bars the Fratello handled a lot better. The steering was less light and climbing seated was improved with more weight on the front wheel. I also felt more comfortable being stretched out more.
Descending at speed the bike felt very positive even over wet, muck-strewn winter roads.
There is a bit of toe overlap on the front wheel (even without mudguards) which I’m not happy about. I knocked the front mudguard with my shoe on several occasions during testing.
The toe overlap is probably due partly to the short top tube (it is 57cm centre to centre) and perhaps a relatively steep head tube (73.5 degrees). It is not a problem on my Pinarello which also has a 57cm top tube and has the same length cranks. When I questioned Condor about this they didn’t express much surprise. Though one of the staff suggested I had my cleats set too far back. I do have them set behind the ball of my foot but that’s where they feel most comfortable. Many riders are not bothered by toe overlap while some are.
I’d not tried factory built wheels before, but I was quite impressed with Fulcrum’s Racing 7s. They look nice, the bearings felt smooth and they come complete with rim tape. The wheels have a combination of straight and standard spokes: 24 on the back and 16 on the front. The rear I had to re-true a bit as it was more than a millimetre out but I was able to use my usual spoke wrench as standard spoke nipples are fitted. Spokes are very tight front and rear. Fulcrum do a spare spokes kit. As winter training wheels they should be fine. I’ll build up some heavier ones for touring when I get around to it.
I very much like the new shape of Campagnolo’s ergo levers. Very comfy and they go well with the Deda bars. Easy to change gear on the drops or the hoods and they fill my hands nicely. It takes a bit of getting used to the gear changing as I’m accustomed to the heavier feel of the older 9 speed ergo levers with their more positive clicks and the ability to up- and down-shift several cogs at a time. Shifting to a lower gear by using the right hand finger lever I sometimes over shot the cog I wanted and at other times didn’t shift far enough to engage it. But I’ve worn out a few pairs of 9 speed levers and I’ll be happy if these last longer.
The Sram Apex compact chainset looks good, is well made and worked well with Campag’s Centaur front mech. There was no detectable flex in the chainset and bottom bracket; no annoying rub on the front mech cage when sprinting hard in a big gear (unlike my previous winter bike).
The seat tube has an internal diameter of 27.2mm enabling me to re-use a spare Campagnolo Chorus cro-mo steel and alloy seat pin. The Flite Titanium saddle is my usual choice which I’m loath to change.
Riding the bike fast and hard was a pleasure and it immediately responded to sudden changes in direction and speed as I’d expect with such a race-like front end. It is particularly solid on descents at high speed and when riding hard out of the saddle. While comfortable to ride, the frame is stiff and flexed very little no matter how hard I sprinted or stamped on the pedals, even with luggage on the rear rack. The harder and faster I rode the bike the better it handled.
As a bike for riding on winter training runs the Fratello really excels. It’ll serve you better than a strictly racing bike with clip on mudguards. With clearance for tyres up to 28mm and full guards it combines solid handling and comfort. Carrying luggage the bike feels stable and works well as a light tourer. Tough paintwork and excellent build quality makes the Fratello difficult to beat.
But its toe overlap and fast reacting front end makes it less suitable for longer audax rides and commuting. Several times I touched the front wheel with my shoe when negotiating busy road junctions; something I’d rather not be bothered with when cold and tired after a long day riding or weaving in and out of London’s heavy traffic. I’d like to try the same size bike but with a 20mm longer top tube and use a shorter handlebar stem. A longer top tube may tame some of its lively front end without compromising its other characteristics.
The Fratello feels lively and a pleasure to ride and I can see it serving me well in all weathers at home and for trips to France and Belgium for many years to come.
Total bike weight without lights, seatpack and pump, but including rear rack and mudguards: 11kg. Rider weight: 75kg; height: 6 feet 1 inch (186cms); shoe sizes used: 45/46; frame size as tested: 58cm centre of BB to top of seat tube; handlebars: 44cms end to end; stem length: 130mm; crank length: 175mm; saddle height: 775mm centre of BB to top of saddle.