Friday 3 June 2016

Condor Bicycle Moment

If you are a regular reader you are undoubtedly aware that I have been giving serious thought to buying a road bike. There are many companies to choose from but the London based Condor have always held a place in my affections, perhaps more so recently.

My late father owned a Condor and there is an old and tatty photo somewhere of him, perhaps in the 1950's standing outside their shop - which I don't think was its current location but I could be wrong - proudly holding his new bicycle.

Yesterday was the day I had set aside to go to Condor Cycles. Before this I had arranged to meet David at Hyde Park Corner who was buying the rear wheel that I had taken off my Titanium Orange Brompton. After chewing the fat for a short while - as David was on his way to work - I walked to the home of Condor Cycles on, Gray's Inn Road.

The walk was enjoyable and I was conscious of the huge numbers of cyclists out and about on their way to work. Soon I arrived at the shop as getting there not long after its 08:00 opening time, I more or less had there place to myself.

Going downstairs I had a look at all the lovely bicycles and wondered whether I was doing the right thing? I looked specifically for their 'Fratello Disc' bicycle. This particular bike I have coveted from afar for several months. In fact a couple of very nice chaps based in London each owning this bicycle contacted me a few weeks ago to arrange a meet up at Richmond Park so that I could have a test run on one of theirs. Going round very familiar territory on this bike I was struck at how much easier it was to maintain a higher speed but not work as hard. Equally hill climbing was easier too and I wondered how it was that I have been able to take the scalps of many a roadie on my Brompton in the past? Against this I wouldn't stand much of a chance.

Racked up were a few of the bikes I was interested in. They only come in two stock colours - Paris Green and Deep Purple. Taking it off the rack I weighed it up. The Fratello Disc is not an ultra light carbon number but Condor's flagship steel frame. It is a bit of a Jack of all trades and happy commuting, fast tourer, audaxing or even the odd sportive. I estimated that it was lighter than my Titanium Orange Brompton, but not by a huge amount.

The Paris Green Condor Fratello Disc

I was soon greeted by Angel who was to guide me through the whole process. I had come to place an order rather than just look. A test run was offered so after leaving ID and credit card with the shop staff, the saddle adjusted and tyres pumped, I was out onto Gray's Inn Road with one of their bikes.

The only test bike in my size available that was close to the one I was interested in was the standard Fratello which does not have disc brakes. I had intended to literally go up the road and back but these plans were dashed as I found myself enjoying the whole experience. The bike was great and it felt really comfortable. The gear selection took a little getting used to however I was much the same with my Brompton. After a few minutes I got it and was enjoying the rapid gear choices.

The test bicycle

Coming back in the shop with a big smile on my face we went downstairs for the fitting. If you buy a bike from Condor the bike fitting is included in the price. This was great as it was very comprehensive to say the least.

Like a good tailor, Angel had already surmised that I needed a 58cm frame after a quick glance at me the second he set eyes on me.  Having brought my SPD shoes I put them on and was taken over to the fitting jig where all sorts of measurements were taken. These are the main ones:

  • Saddle height and position
  • Cleat position
  • Handlebar stem length
  • Stack height and reach
  • Bar width

Once the measurements were taken we sat down and Angel went through every conceivable option, explaining each one. He was very good at his job and from my admission that I had only ever owned a Brompton and a mountain bike 25 years ago, made sure I understood everything before moving on to the next component. This took about an hour but the time went by in a flash.

Things ground to a halt when colour was mentioned. I actually liked both stock colours but there was the option of orange. I deliberated over this for a few moments. There is a reason why orange is of significance and a concluded that I didn't want this bike to be orange. In truth I just liked the Paris Green colour too much.

It was all done. With my deposit paid I was informed that my Condor bicycle would hopefully be ready for collection in about 6 weeks - perhaps earlier.

Fitting jig

I hear many of you saying that I should have gone for a carbon bike or a different brand or another Brompton. Well, for me this is the right choice. I have written that I doubt if I will buy another Brompton - I do own two after all. This will mark a new chapter in my cycling journey. I won't be going any further. I wont't be cycling with different people - I  will be doing so with the same lovely people I have cycled with for the past five years. If there are any differences it is the possibility of going further in a shorter span of time. Being able to maintain slightly higher average speeds. Perhaps most importantly, doing all this with a little more comfort and less strain being placed on my body. (The change to ascend hills faster than I can on my Brompton does appeal naturally).

I have to say I am rather pleased at my purchase and certain that collecting this bicycle will be a gleeful moment.  For me, this is the right bicycle at the right time and although I will not use it all every day, it will be fun when it comes out to play. I can't wait!


  1. Looks like great service, the tubular frame looks very olde worlde

  2. great purchase, but should be orange??? the speed of your brompton is mainly limited by thos slow rolling maraton tyres. the standard tyres are really very good, roll is comparable to racer bikes, and have kevlar puncture protecion. also I would get a bigger chainwheel. next thing is tighter gearing, achieved by a standard hub instead of the wide range, but you then loose lighter gears and need an even bigger chainwheel than 54. these days that is easy to achieve, the brommie takes up to 62 without any customization, and up to 72 if you use the s1e hook on the front fork instead of the standard hook next to the hub. i have a 69t on my 2sp.

    1. The orange in this particular bike just didn't look that good to me. On a Brompton of course but this bike no. Besides I wanted something totally different that would allow me to purchase lots Rapha items that are in dark colours :)

    2. I have just been through the same process as you- a Brompton/touring bike owner going in to purchase a new Fratello Disc at Condor- (and served by Angel). I was really surprised to learn that a 55cm frame was the correct frameset for me. At 6'1 with a 32in inside leg I have always had larger frames than this. I'd be interested to hear how tall you are. However you have to trust those who know best in this instance! I also had a test ride on a Disc version in the 55cm and I didn't want to come back. Happy countdown! (The 10 week wait started last week).

    3. Hello Gareth. I'm about the same height as you or there about. Probably have a 33in inside leg. Anyway it's only 3cm on the frame size.

      As I wrote I had a test run on the non disc version - 58cm frame - and loved it.

      Did you go for a custom colour? Mine will hopefully be with me in 6. Greatly looking forward to it!!

    4. Also Gareth, were you lucky like me to get the very expensive disc brake option for 139.99? They had a special when ordering a new Fratello Disc.

  3. the height of the frame is really not that important, as any brommie owner can acknowledge. it should be low enough to give a comfy standover, and low enough so that you can get your handlebars down where you want them. a higher frame means a heavier more unstable frame with greater risk of high-speed wobble.
    but it is the length of the frame that makes a difference. a short frame may give a niftier turning radius at low speeds, but out on the road the relationship is inverted. small changes in frame length means great changes in stem length. a few cm shorter frame with corresponding longer stem means a more stable bike.
    this is easy to try out on an m-stem brompton. angle the bars forward a bit, and get a more stable sensation!

  4. Hi. I did go for a custom colour- hence the extended lead time. I went with a mint green (not unlike my Turkish Green Brompton) for both the frame and the fork. They also gave the option of having this in the classic decals of the non-disc version. I'd be interested to hear the spec brakes on offer for 139.99 as no offer was mentioned when I placed the order. I ended up going with theTRP Spyre for 129.99.
    My build-up went as follows:
    55cm Fratello Frameset/Shimano 105 groupset/Spyre brakes/50-34T chainsset/11-32T sprocket/42cm Condor Strada handlebars/100mm Condor Strada Stem/Fizik Supelight Tacky handleabar grip/Specialized Avatar Gel Saddle/Mavic Aksium Wheelset/SKS Mudguards...
    Also looking to spec a rear rack when the option paralysis wears off. I wanted to go with a B17 saddle but the rails were not long enough to put the seat back the required distance. I was tempted by the C17 though.
    This is my first road bike too.

    1. I think I got lucky with regards the brakes as the offer was brand new and just started.

      I went for the same groupset as you but with the 11-28T rear cassette - my legs like hills.

      Same stem as you but also went for Condor handlebars and bar tape as I liked the Condor branding. Had these in black.

      I took liked the C17 but really liked the Fizik I tried on the test bike. Managed to get this half price on eBay over the weekend, so pleased.

      Don't overly care about going uber fast on this but I sure that I can do so if I wished. Definitely more for comfort over distances.

      At this rate we should start our own club!

    2. I'll look forward to the photos! I've only ever used hub gears (Rolloff and SA) before so I'm expecting a bit of a learning curve. Not sure if you an LCC member but it may be worth asking if Condor offer a 10% discount on new bikes. If so that would be a decent saving. What spec were the brakes you got an offer on?

  5. Yaay! I've been following you for a few years and you were influential in my deciding to purchase my beloved Brompton M3L. Although I've come to Bromptons from other bikes and know I've found "the" bike for me, I can see with you a need to take things a bit further with the cycling and your new Condor bike reminds me of a top notch thoroughbred racehorse - cool or what!? I wish you many, many happy days with your beautiful new bike. Keep up with the blog, mate, always an interesting read!

    1. Many thanks. The blog may well be coming to an end at some point. I might still do it as an online dairy for me - which is what it is - but not publish anything publicly. We'll have to see.

  6. your condor stirred a lot of interest! saw you were in for an 11-28 cassette. you might wish to change that, as the 11 gives considerable friction, and doesnt add any speed to a bike.

    if you are running fast at the 12, then try to increase speed by moving the chain to 11 more or less nothing will happen, increased friction will rather slow you down.

    this is easy to asses, just lift the bike up an run through the gears, see what happens when you reach the 11.

    a better solution is a 12-28, and a bigger chainwheel.

    11 also wears itself and the chain quickly, not that its gets much use!

  7. Many thanks Kais. I may call upon you for your superior knowledge in the future.

    The 105 11 speed cassette comes in a 12-25 so I much prefer the mid offering of 11-28.

    One question you might be abel to ask. The Brompton chains come with a super link . Do any chains fir this Shimano groupset have a similar super link so that you wouldn't have to split/join the chain?

  8. kmc makes reusable missing links compatible with shimano chains, so that you dont have to use a new rivet everytime you break the chain.

    you are not limited to use the 105 cassette; ultegra or dura-ace will also fit. if its a 10sp, sram road or mtb cassettes are compatible. this is also the case with 11sp, and here even campa will do:)

    if you foresee wishing a greater range as age takes its toll on the knees, you might consider a future-safe long-cage derailleur. see that the bike on the first photo is likely to have one.


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