Beautiful Bicycle - Ryan's Colnago Carbitubo
Our latest beautiful bicycle is something a bit different. Rather than a recent build or new bike to highlight, this one is a bit of a throwback. This Colnago Carbitubo belongs to Ryan, one of the shop owners of Contender Bicycles. It might look like a standard 80’s or 90’s road bike with lugs, but hear us out: this one is all kinds of wacky. Not only is it one of the first production carbon fiber bikes made, but the downtube consists of two individual tubes. Told you it was wacky.
First, a bit of background on the Carbitubo. The Carbitubo was first released in 1988 at a time when carbon fiber bikes were a novelty reserved for pro racers. Production was costly still, and at the time, only Vitus was putting much effort into producing carbon bikes. And so Colnago’s release of the Carbitubo was heralded as the next halo bike of sorts. Colnago had the racing background to prove the bike’s mettle (or carbon if you prefer), but it was the technology behind it and an exciting tie-in to Ferrari that makes this such an interesting bike.
Let’s start with the obvious first: why the two downtubes? After all, few bikes today have any type of tube arrangement like that, as tubes with larger diameters in the cycling world tend to mean a stiffer structure. Colnago’s idea here was that the two tubes side by side would be the ideal balance pedaling stiffness while still offering some level of riding compliance akin to a steel bike of the time. Of course, this adds a whole lot of complexity to a frame construction - especially with lugs - but the Carbitubo was to be a race bike without compromise. Colnago wanted the best performance, and so they made it happen.
Despite the carbon construction, the Carbitubo looks remarkably similar to steel bikes of the time. Carbon frames of today are often made in what’s called a monocoque construction, where the carbon is bonded together to form a bike frame. Here, Colnago put everything together using aluminum lugs, or joints that connected tubes together. This allowed Colnago to have some sort of artistic tie-in to the ornately-painted Arabesque frames of the time, while still delineating that there was something different going on here. Aluminum lugs were the technology to have at the time - Vitus used aluminum lugs as well - and so tube shapes were somewhat limited. Limited tube shaping options meant that despite the then-exotic construction, a vintage bike aficionado might think this was a steel bike from a distance.
Not everything on the Carbitubo is carbon. Fork construction was still expensive to do in carbon, and Vitus paired a majority of their carbon bikes at the time with aluminum forks. Aluminum forks tended to be lightweight, but the nature of the material meant they were chattery, stiff, and unforgiving. As a result, Colnago paired the frame to a straight blade steel fork they were using at the time with their other bikes. Heavier, yes, but still plenty stiff and communicative without sacrificing ride smoothness.
Many Colnagos of the time were paired to Shimano Dura-Ace groupsets. This one is no exception, featuring Shimano Dura-Ace 7400 and an 8-speed cassette. This is one of the first examples of shifting integrated into the brake levers, allowing for maximum control and the ability to switch gears while keeping both hands on the bars. Dura-Ace is also perhaps one of the most elegant-looking groupsets ever, substituting mirror polishes, ornate engravings, and aluminum construction for the aggressive shaping and carbon fiber many groupsets have today. Overall, an excellent match to the Carbitubo frame.
The rest of the build is just as one might’ve built this bike in the time period. Mavic GEL 280 were outrageously light at 280g average, lighter than most any carbon rim today. The ceramic-coated rims improved braking in wet conditions but importantly looked really cool as they swapped a machined finish for a gunmetal look. Paired to the Veloflex tubular tires found here, the wheels are shockingly light despite the (comparatively) high spoke count.
The matching Dura-Ace hubs are a nice touch as well, a great way to complement the Dura-Ace SPD pedals, and Dura-Ace headset. The exception to the rule here is the Cinelli Grammo titanium stem, a beauty in its own right. Also on tap is the ITM Forma SL ergo drop bars, which probably aren’t the best handlebars, but are certainly of the period.
As for the Ferrari tie-in? No idea honestly, and the internet doesn't seem to have an answer too. Colnago has had a relationship with Ferrari for quite a while, even leading to recent collaborations with the storied Italian Brand. In this case, it was either lending some carbon expertise, or maybe some marketing at work. Good with us.
Here’s the rest of the build:
|Frame||Colnago Carbitubo - 53cm|
|Fork||Colnago Precisa steel straight-blade|
|Headset||Shimano Dura-Ace HP-7400|
|Groupset||Shimano Dura-Ace 7400|
|Wheelset||Mavic GEL280 rims, Shimano Dura-Ace HB-7403 hubs, Wheelsmith Spokes|
|Handlebar||3T Forma SL Ergopower - 42cm|
|Stem||Cinelli Grammo Ti - 110mm|
|Seatpost||alloy - 26.4mm|
|Saddle||Selle Italia SLR Ti|
|Tires||Veloflex Corsa Race Tubular - 700 x 23mm|
|Handlebar Tape||Ciclovation Advanced Leather Touch|
|Pedals||Shimano Dura-Ace PD-7410 SPD|
Have any questions about Colnago bikes, or want to build one of your own? Contact us and we can get you started.
Words by Alvin Holbrook. Images by Carter Hall.