Condor Potenza ridden and rated
Tested by: Vern Pitt |Miles ridden: 467 Weight 7.5kg | Size tested: 52
If you’ve ever been after a great racing bike with the kudos of a historic British brand name on the down tube at any point over the last 60 years then Condor would have been high on your list. The Potenza comes in as the cheapest full carbon offering by the British marque.
The current Potenza design has been in production for two years now but the bike actually started life as a Scandium aluminium model in the early 2000s and was dropped when Condor stepped up its move into carbon-fibre.
The current version has benefited from some trickle-down from its more exotic sister bike the Leggero. The rear triangle is borrowed from an older version of the Leggero, the fork is an adaptation of the Leggero’s and the bike’s overall geometry is identical.
Potenza is Italian for power so it’s fitting that this bike sports a suitably chunky down tube to eradicate any flex back-to-front, which also looks like it’s probably fairly good at cutting through the wind. It also comes with a BSA bottom bracket, eschewing the vogue for proprietary standards in the pursuit of power gains, while up front it uses a tapered headset to help keep things solid.
At a claimed weight of 1.5kg for the frame and fork (size 55cm) it’s not the lightest but it’s respectable.
You could pretend that what it looks like doesn’t matter, but if you’re thinking about buying a Condor rather than just plumping for one of the massive global brands that you can probably easily lay your hands on in your local shop, chances are you want it to stand out on the start line or club run.
On that level the frame is certainly a winner, with a very classy matt finish (I confess I’m a sucker for anything in matt grey) and a crisp green paint job — you can also get it in blue if green’s not your thing. The peacock in me certainly got a kick out of looking down from the saddle at the elegantly tapering top tube on more than one occasion.
You can choose whatever you want from Condor, which means you can even have your Potenza with Campagnolo’s Potenza groupset if you want extra-cool points, but our test rig came built with Shimano’s ever-popular Ultegra mechanical groupset
with all the smooth shifting prowess it’s known for. It also has Mavic’s stalwart Ksyrium wheels and 25mm Yksion Elite tyres — all a good base from which to judge the frame.
The first impressions out on the road were that the bike was a bit on the twitchy side: even with a 120mm stem the front wheel seemed über-responsive and I had to adjust how I rode out of the saddle to stop it wandering on steep climbs.
However, after a few rides that responsiveness turned from being unnerving to inspiring. You can really throw the Potenza into a turn knowing you can flick it round an unexpected pothole with the slightest of movements.
It’s not a bike to relax on though: if you let your attention drift, the bumps in the road that can throw any bike’s front wheel off line can feel more pronounced on the Condor Potenza. Despite this racy handling, the rear of the bike is surprisingly comfortable, taking the worst of the buzz out of Surrey’s neglected back lanes. The same can’t be said for the front though, with the bars giving plenty of feedback. However, even after three or so hours it wasn’t a huge problem. If there was one downside to our test set-up it was probably the wheels. Though the Ksyriums are great, solid wheels the whole package felt like it was screaming out for something a bit more sprightly to give the acceleration zip that would match the snappy handling, especially uphill. For just an extra £160 you can spec it with the Ksyrium Elites, save a bit of weight, and very likely improve the overall feel of the bike.
This isn’t the cheapest way to get a mid-level carbon frameset; some can be had from more budget brands at a lot less. But it is on par with many of the big brands: for instance £1,350 will get you a Giant TCR Advanced Pro or with an extra £50 you can buy a Trek Emonda SL.
Italian flair fused with British heritage
Ultegra adds an extra layer of class