Colnago has launched the latest entry into its line-up of iconic C-series bikes, with the C68 sporting a new modular construction, but with the option of either a full-carbon design or with 3D-printed titanium lugs for a made-to-measure frame.
The C-series has been around since the radical C35 of 1989 and has seen eight iterations in the 33 years since. It’s the brand’s flagship model, sitting above the Colnago V3RS, used by Tadej Pogačar en-route to winning the Tour de France.
This all-new bike comes 68 years after Ernesto Colnago first started making his own frames and, like all of the previous C-series bikes, is handmade in Italy. Unlike previous models, however, the C68 will be available with completely custom geometry through the C68Ti model.
On top of that, Colnago has applied lessons learnt from the V3RS to the C68, with the same seatpost and some aero styling, plus the introduction of a new monocoque cockpit.
The road-focussed C68 launched here offers 30mm of tyre clearance but Colnago is also planning to introduce all-road and gravel versions, while rim brake fans will be catered for later this year.
Finally, Colnago is bringing C-series ownership into the 21st century with the inclusion of a blockchain vault for all of ‘your’ C68’s details – and even a 3D avatar NFT of any fully custom bikes, too.
As for prices, well, this is, unsurprisingly, in serious superbike territory, with the full-carbon frame priced at €5,650.00, the carbon/titanium frame costing €6,600 and complete bikes starting at €13,260.
The launch of the C68 also sees Colnago move, in part, to a direct-sales model, with customers able to buy the bike directly from the brand online in Europe and the UAE.
The new Colnago C68: what you need to know
- Handmade in Italy in full-carbon or carbon with custom 3D-printed titanium lugs
- New multi-piece modular construction
- 930g claimed frame weight (size 51, unpainted without hardware)
- The C68 won’t be raced at the Tour de France; Pogačar will still be aboard the V3RS
- New 310g CC.01 integrated bar/stem designed for the C68
- NFC tag installed on every bike for a full digital passport
- 3D NFT file also included with custom bikes
- Available to buy directly from Colnago
- Allroad, gravel and rim brake models to follow
Like its predecessor, the Colnago C64, the C68 is made from multiple individual pieces, but this time has a more modular construction. The V3RS has a more conventional monocoque construction, with a carbon lay-up in a mould.
Whereas Colnago used to build its C-series frames with separate lugs joining each of the individual tubes, the C68’s new design is primarily comprised of a top tube that runs into the upper part of the head tube, a down tube that includes the main part of the head tube, a seat tube that now incorporates the bottom bracket shell and the rear triangle.
While the previous C64 clearly had its lugged construction on show, externally the C68 bears a very close resemblance to the Tour-winning V3Rs.
Look closely and you can see a visible join at the top of the head tube and around the seatpost clamp area, where a lug joins the seat tube and top tube, though we couldn’t see any visible signs elsewhere in the rear triangle or around the bottom bracket.
Colnago says the C68 contains the same number of parts as the C64 but, from an aesthetic point of view, is similar to a monocoque.
The brand says it’s a bike that seeks to combine modern styling and performance with the benefits of a lugged construction. “The choice was dictated by the search for a modern look, but always remaining desirable to the traditional Colnago customer, thus widening the range of purchasing possibilities,” according to Colnago.
Colnago claims the advantages of the multi-piece frame construction are three-fold.
First, there’s better control of the carbon lamination because it uses smaller moulds and fewer carbon parts per component.
Secondly, the more open design of the frame parts also means the mould designs can use higher pressures on the inside compared to a monocoque, making for stronger elements.
Finally, it allows much more ‘tuning’ of the frame to meet a rider’s needs more closely.
Stiffer, more aero and with custom stack and reach
Colnago says the new C68 is stiffer and more aerodynamic than the C64.
The aero cues are obvious, with the C68 sporting a similar silhouette to many of the latest superbikes, but some of the stiffness gains are made beneath the surface.
That includes the new construction at the head tube which, as well as improving rigidity, allows Colnago to offer semi-custom stack and reach measurements on the full-carbon bike, beyond the stock sizes.
While Colnago has long offered small-scale customisation on C-series bikes, on the C64 that was limited to reach.
Here, Colnago can ‘slide’ the top tube up or down on the main head tube/down tube, bringing custom stack and reach options; something that couldn’t be done with the C64’s one-piece head tube, which incorporated the top tube and down tube lugs.
How does this work? The modular construction of the C68 has the lower head tube and down tube formed as a single piece. Then the top tube piece has a looped end that simply slides onto the head tube before bonding. This allow for lots of stack height adjustment, and both top tube and down tube can be custom lengths, taking care of the reach.
If you want fully custom geometry, you’ll need to opt for the 3D-printed titanium lugs, but, as we’ve just covered, there’s some scope for a refined fit with the carbon bike, as well as the stock geometry across seven sizes.
3D-printed titanium lugs for custom geometry
The all-carbon C68 is already one exclusive machine, but Colnago is offering an even more exclusive and limited option with the C68Ti.
While the full-carbon C68 is the ‘standard’ option, there’s the opportunity to upgrade to 3D-printed titanium lugs for a fully custom, made-to-measure bike.
The 3D-printed parts are designed by Colnago to achieve a customer’s unique geometry requirements and precisely manufactured, according to the brand, by a fellow Italian company usually found working in the medical sector.
Front and rear
While the front end looks visually quite similar to the V3RS, there’s a new integrated handlebar and stem, which we’ll come on to, and a new, lighter fork with a regular round steerer, rather than the more complex D shape of the V3RS.
The C68’s head tube design allows for internal routing without intruding on the standard 1-1/8in round fork steerer.
The oversized and elongated steerer cap also integrates a 10-function multi-tool (on the smallest sizes this is reduced to a four-function tool). If you are of the weight-weenie persuasion, you can remove the tool and replace it with the dedicated expander and spacers that are included with the bike.
The new bike also adopts CeramicSpeed’s Solid Lubrication Technology (SLT) for the bike’s headset.
The headset comprises of two identical bearings with the balls set within a solid lubrication system. That effectively (and in theory) means a maintenance-free system that Colnago and CeramicSpeed back up with a lifetime warranty.
At the back, the frame shares the same D-shaped carbon post as the V3RS. The seat tube allows for the removal of the front derailleur mount should you want to run the C68 with a single-chainring 1x drivetrain.
All told, Colnago claims the C68 has a “significant” aero advantage over the C64, and it’s apparently a little more aerodynamic in wind tunnel testing than even the V3RS. That advantage over Pogačar’s bike, Colnago says, comes mainly from the handlebar.
However, there are no immediate plans for Colnago’s teams to ride the bike in racing, even with this small aero advantage.
As for the weight, Colnago is quoting 930g for a size 51 carbon frame, unpainted and with none of the metal parts (for example, the dropout hanger).
The V3RS is said to be around 120g lighter for its ‘system’ weight (frame/fork/post).
Goodbye Threadfit 82.5, hello T47
The C68 uses the T47 bottom bracket standard, incorporated with the seat tube.
Colnago first introduced a threaded oversized bottom-bracket system eight years ago with the C60. Named Threadfit 82.5, it featured an 82.5mm-wide threaded shell with a 45mm diameter.
This, in turn, would accept a sleeve with a threaded outside diameter and a smooth inner diameter. This shell would then take any standard BB86.5 press-fit bottom bracket. True threaded bottom brackets for the proprietary standard were also offered from CeramicSpeed at the time of the launch of the C64.
As we noted when the C64 was launched, it seemed odd Colnago was persevering with its own bottom bracket standard just as T47 – which is a system almost identical to Threadfit 82.5 – was gaining hold.
Well, four years on, Colnago has now switched to T47, so it’s goodnight and goodbye to Threadfit 82.5.
Colnago C68 stock geometry
In terms of the stock geometry, Colnago has historically offered myriad sizes on its bikes, so it may come as something of a surprise to see the C68 geometry offering ‘just’ seven standard sizes (the V3RS comes in eight sizes, for example, and the legendary Colnago Master a huge 17 sizes).
New CC.01 integrated cockpit
The new CC.01 handlebar and stem combination is a dedicated system for the C68. Unlike most integrated cockpits, where the constituent parts are typically bonded together, the CC.01 is a single monocoque construction.
Colnago claims this saves weight and improves rigidity through the structure. The CC.01 has a claimed weight of 310g for a 110mm stem length and 410mm bar width.
Colnago is offering 16 sizing combinations, consisting of four bar widths (370/390/410/430mm) and seven effective stem lengths (80/90/100/110/120/130/140mm).
The shape isn’t your average road bike handlebar either, with a longer-than-average 85mm reach and 122mm drop. The drops have 2cm of flair to them, too, so a 410mm-wide bar at the hoods is 430mm at the base of the drop.
Colnago says the wider drops allow for greater control when descending, with the increase in reach allowing for a longer riding position. Despite the flared drops, the reduced hood width still allows for a narrower, more aerodynamic position when riding upright.
Just behind the hoods, the bar flattens noticeably and is broader than average. This, Colnago claims, improves comfort for your palms when riding on the hoods.
Underneath the stem, you’ll find a single-bolt mounting point for Colnago’s dedicated computer mount, which comes in two lengths, with inserts compatible with Garmin Edge, Wahoo, Hammerhead and Bryton head units, as well as a GoPro-style bayonet mount.
The Colnago CC.01 bar is designed for wireless and wired electronic groupsets, as well as internal cable routing, but is still compatible with external routing and rim brakes. It’s also backwards compatible with the C64 and V3RS.
If one-piece bars aren’t your thing, the C68 can use Deda’s Superbox stem and any 31.8mm-diameter handlebar. It’s also compatible with Deda’s Alanera integrated bar.
Road, allroad and gravel
The C-series has historically been Colnago’s classic road bike design, but the brand will also broaden the C68 out into a wider range of bikes.
While the initial launch only includes the C68 in road disc guise, a rim brake model will follow in autumn 2022.
Colnago can’t ignore the appetite for multi-terrain riding either, with an all-road version coming around the same time, upping tyre clearance from 30mm to 35mm, and a fully-fledged gravel edition planned for the winter, this time with clearance for 45mm tyres.
Blockchains and NFTs
Blockchain technology and NFTs (non-fungible tokens) aren’t something you usually expect to find on a newly launched bike, but Colnago is attempting to push the C68 into the future beyond the physical product.
A blockchain is usually found in the security of cryptocurrencies, as a system of recording information that makes it nigh-on impossible (or at least very difficult) to change, hack or interfere with. Think of it like a virtual ledger held in a virtual safety deposit box.
An NFC (near field communication) tag is installed on the C68 when it’s manufactured, and is completely unique to the frame. It records all of the original specifications and can’t be modified or rewritten, thanks to the blockchain.
The Colnago app allows access to the bike’s ‘digital passport’. This enables the owner to have the information of the bicycle (or bicycles) within reach of the app at any time, collated within the dedicated ‘vault’. In simple terms, that means you’ll never lose your receipt or warranty information for your €10,000+ bike(s).
The digital information includes authenticity of the bike and frame, a certificate of ownership and a certificate of the technical specifications, as well as unique multi-media content (for example, video content of the bike being made), technical drawings and custom specification information where relevant.
It also effectively offers a diary of ownership (a service history, if you will) and proves the provenance of the bike (Italian brands, as a rule, are very wary of counterfeit bikes).
If the worst happens and someone steals your pride and joy then you can set it as stolen through the app and that information will be allocated to the bike’s blockchain record until you change it. Any attempt to resell the bike will highlight it as stolen.
It’s not something many of us would have thought about when buying a second-hand bike, despite most people being wary of buying a used motorbike or car without proper paperwork and a decent service history.
This should have a positive effect on resale values, because it will serve as proof that the bike has been well maintained and is truly authentic, and the ‘owner’ is truly the owner. The blockchain information can be passed on to subsequent owners.
Finally, if you have a full-custom C68 (with titanium lugs) or a bike designed through the Colnago app or website, you’ll also get a 3D NFT file of the bike associated with the blockchain information.
Colnago says it is already fitting the NFC tags to its pro riders’ WorldTour bikes, and the bike’s blockchain history will be updated with any significant wins.
While Colnago will continue to supply local bike shops, the brand is moving to an ‘omnichannel’ model that will allow customers to buy directly through its app and website (initially in Europe and the UAE).
Colnago says the ordering process will allow full customisation of parts and finishing kit. From this, you can download an augmented reality image of the bike with the unique QR code generated by the web page.
Colnago’s Manolo Bertocchi tells us this move to online ordering “will allow for far more customisation of parts and specifications for the C-series rider”.
On ordering, you can choose to either have the bike sent to your local Colnago dealer for final preparation before collection, or you can (for an upcharge) opt for Colnago’s ‘white glove’ service.
With this, your custom C68 will be hand delivered by a Colnago representative in a custom C68 Scicon bike case and with Castelli C68 Colnago kit. The bike will then be set up and prepared for you at home.
Colnago C68 prices
- C68 carbon frame kit – €5,650
- C68 carbon/titanium frame kit – €6,600
- colour configurator upcharge – €1,200
Complete bikes – carbon
- Colnago C68 SRAM Red eTap AXS 12-speed, Zipp 303 Firecrest – €13,260
- Colnago C68 Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 12-speed, Shimano Dura-Ace C50 – €14,065
- Colnago C68 Campagnolo Super Record EPS 12-speed, Campagnolo Bora Ultra WTO 45 – €15,770
Complete bikes – carbon/titanium
- Colnago C68Ti SRAM Red eTap AXS 12-speed, Zipp 303 Firecrest – €14,205
- Colnago C68Ti Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 12-speed, Shimano Dura-Ace C50 – €15,225
- Colnago C68Ti Campagnolo Super Record EPS 12-speed, Campagnolo Bora Ultra WTO 45 – €16,780