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Colnago V4Rs Dura

Sep 30, 2023Sep 30, 2023

Is Pogačar’s bike the one you should covet?

This competition is now closed

By Ashley Quinlan

Published: May 29, 2023 at 9:00 am

If you measure a pro bike by the performances of the riders atop it, the Colnago V4Rs has quite the growing palmarès.

Ridden by UAE Team Emirates and (perhaps most pertinently) Tadej Pogačar, it has already chalked up a number of wins and podium spots in 2023.

Given the rate at which Pogačar is accumulating victories this season, it could turn out to be the ‘winningest’ bike of the WorldTour season come the year’s end.

The Colnago V4Rs is certainly a bike developed for competition, therefore, and it shows in the design. The geometry is unashamedly ‘pro’, and via its Prototipo intermediate predecessor, has seen design input from two-time Tour de France champion Pogačar and his teammates.

That growing caché, however, doesn’t automatically mean it should be a shoe-in for your next race bike.

A prohibitive price (even in today’s inflated market) is an obvious hurdle, but the aggressive race-bred geometry – while compellingly fun to ride – will mean the V4Rs may be too focused for many amateur riders.

That said, if you can afford it and the geometry is up your street, the V4Rs brings an addictively fast, entertaining and polished ride experience that secures it a place on our Performance Bike of the Year shortlist.

The Colnago V4Rs wasn’t intended to break the mould when it arrived in 2022, representing an evolution of the V3Rs frame that was ridden to two wins in the Grand Boucle and plenty more.

As ever, a balance of lightness, stiffness and speed is the name of the game.

A size-485 frame weighs a claimed 798g, with the fork adding a further 375g.

The frame is designed around CeramicSpeed’s SLT (Solid Lubrication Technology) headset, on top of which is mounted the brand’s CC01 integrated cockpit.

The CeramicSpeed bearings use a solid polymer lubrication, which is claimed to prevent dirt and water ingress and dramatically improve durability as a result.

This should, in theory, negate the need to ever disassemble the front end of the V4Rs to replace the headset (provided it’s been set up correctly, of course).

The CC01 integrated cockpit is relevant to the frameset, because it’s with this that the aero efficiency saving claims are based (plus, when you buy a V4Rs frameset, the headset is included).

Colnago claims the V4Rs is 3 per cent more aerodynamic than the V3Rs, which translates to 13.2 watts saved at 50kph.

Impressively, the new CC01 cockpit alone is said to be 16 per cent more aerodynamic than the V3Rs’ setup.

Although the Italian brand is coy on comparing it directly against its rivals, it’s been optimised for the very pro-level speed of 50kph, rather than speeds most amateur riders and racers commonly ride at.

Colnago says it has re-profiled the head tube to make it a touch more efficient, while fitting the new full-internal routing system. It now accommodates a rounded steerer, too (as opposed to a D-shape one).

This means, should you not like the integrated cockpit, it’s theoretically possible to use a standard, non-integrated stem and handlebar too.

The head tube is also said to be a little less rigid than the previous generation. That sounds counterintuitive, but Colnago reckons doing so (while maintaining bottom bracket stiffness as it was) should stabilise the handling further.

If Pogačar ever feels the need to attack on a descent, that might benefit him. More importantly for us amateur riders, that should take some harshness out of the front end and make the bike a little easier to ride for longer periods.

In a neat addition, like the Colnago C68 (which was designed partially alongside the V4Rs), you also get the pop-out Granite multi-tool under the stem cap.

At the rear triangle, Colnago has narrowed the seatstay design. On paper, this is to better protect it in the event of a crash in the pro peloton, but should you take a spill on your V4Rs, I daresay it won’t do any harm there either.

The brand says it has also rejigged the carbon layup in that area to boost tube flexibility, which should translate into a higher degree of compliance than before.

The chainstays are unremarkable in design (not necessarily a bad thing), proceeding back to the dropouts in a gentle flare.

The V4Rs frameset has clearance for nominally 32c tyres, putting it in the same ballpark as the most progressive race bikes.

At the centre of the bike lives a CeramicSpeed T47 threaded bottom bracket.

The V4Rs’ geometry is suitably aggressive for its main purpose – to win bike races at the highest level.

The head tube is a steep 73.1 degrees (on my tested size 570), while the seat tube is a nigh-equally steep 73 degrees.

Meanwhile, the chainstay length remains constant at 408mm throughout the size range, which all together enables the V4Rs to feel taut and direct, and very responsive to inputs.

The stack height is 612mm and the reach a lengthy 410mm.

Paired to a 120mm stem length and 90mm handlebar reach, the V4Rs as tested feels long and low at the front.

Colnago doesn’t size its bikes in the typical manner, so it was this final measurement that led me to ‘play safe’ and opt for a size 570 for testing – the largest size Colnago offers, and roughly equivalent to a nominally 59cm frame.

For context, a Cannondale SuperSix Evo in a size 58cm has a 595mm stack and a 395mm reach, while the largest 61cm frame has a 625mm stack and 403mm reach.

In the event, I was able to flip the seatpost clamp and pull the saddle forward on its rails to bring a close-to-optimum race bike fit, but it flags that Colnago’s sizing is different from typical.

The V4Rs – perhaps unsurprisingly – can only be bought in complete builds with ‘premium’-level electronic groupsets.

Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 R9200, Ultegra Di2 R8100, SRAM Red eTap AXS, Force eTap AXS or Campagnolo Super Record EPS, as well as a frameset kit including headset, proprietary seatpost and thru-axles, are your options (with some wider spec variants in the mix).

Dura-Ace Di2 is, at the time of writing, the crème de la crème of the groupset world, with standard-setting shifting and braking performance, at the lightest weight Shimano can currently muster.

It bears remembering that UAE Team Emirates opted to switch to Shimano for the 2023 season, away from Campagnolo.

It also doesn’t list the Japanese brand as an official sponsor or partner of the team on its website, suggesting it may even be paying for the privilege of using Shimano drivetrains (though presumably not at consumer prices).

Ultegra might offer almost everything Dura-Ace does for less money (and is therefore BikeRadar’s current favourite, pound-for-pound), but the V4Rs is about offering the best of the best – so here we are.

There’s no power meter attached to my test bike, although you can specify one for an added cost, according to Colnago.

The bike rolls on Shimano’s Dura-Ace C50 wheelset, which is the Japanese brand’s latest top-level offering.

I’ve ridden this wheelset aboard the Scott Foil RC Pro, and was largely impressed by its strong all-round performance then. That remains the case.

The rim design doesn’t push the boundaries in any way (21mm internal, 28mm external), but a 1,461g total claimed weight for a 50mm-deep rim is competitive. The wheelset feels quite stable all-round and is, importantly, fast enough to do justice to the bike without flattering it unduly.

28c Pirelli P-Zero Race clincher tyres adorn the rims. One might prefer tubeless tyres to be supplied instead, so that switching doesn’t involve investing in more rubber, but the P-Zero Race model is among the best clincher tyres available today.

It delivers excellent grip and suppleness, and is (more or less) on a par with other leading clincher tyres, such as the Continental GP5000 and Vittoria Corsa G2.0.

The aforementioned CC01 handlebar features a 120mm stem length on my size-570 test bike, combined with a 42cm-wide bar. The reach of the handlebar itself is also quite long, pushing the distance to the controls even further away.

You get the sense that Colnago has set up the V4Rs so that riders (in time-honoured pro style) can squeeze onto a smaller frame, yet get the reach they need by using a long stem and aggressively shaped handlebar.

The good news is you can spec your chosen sizes should you need to at point of purchase. Colnago offers the bar with 90-130mm stem lengths in 10mm steps, and 39-43cm widths (measured centre to centre at the hoods).

The frame accepts Colnago’s proprietary D-shaped carbon seatpost with a 15mm setback – though you can also opt for a 30mm setback or in-line model, according to the brand.

This plays home to a Prologo Scratch M5 CPC perch, one of my favourite saddles for aggressive race bikes. The grippy texture zones help to anchor you in position when you’re forward over the cranks, while the shape offers (for me, at least) plenty of support.

I would hope for carbon rails on a bike of this price. There’s also no cutaway here, but because I don’t generally suffer with excess perineal pressure, that wasn’t a problem. Of course, choosing a bike saddle is fairly subjective.

As specced, my V4Rs test bike tipped the scales at 7.24kg, and to purchase it you’ll need to part with €12,630.

This positions the V4Rs amongst the most expensive road bikes available today (there are two other models available, which cost near €15,000), such as the Specialized S-Works Tarmac SL7, Pinarello Dogma F and Trek Émonda SLR, which cost £13,950, £12,500 and £12,000, respectively, for similarly specced builds

Value is relative, but it’s a stretch to call the V4Rs competitively priced in any guise.

There is an Ultegra R8100 Di2-equipped model for either €8,550 or €7,520, but in each case you’re taking a significant downgrade on paper with the specced Fulcrum Racing Wind 400 or Racing 600 rolling stock.

Compared to some of the other bikes that have made our 2023 Bike of the Year shortlist, that remains expensive.

A Basso Diamante with its good Microtech wheelset costs £8,199, while Cannondale’s SuperSix Evo Hi-Mod 2 (at £8,250) is just £51 dearer with its excellent HollowGram hoops.

A Canyon Ultimate CF SLX 8 Di2 with Ultegra Di2 will set you back £6,199, while even a CFR-spec bike with Dura-Ace Di2 and a power meter costs £9,999 (the most directly comparable build costs £8,099).

Still, though, Colnago has never pitched itself as a value-focused brand, and its extensive heritage will justify that added expense for some.

The Colnago V4Rs is unerringly poised, and (I would assume) every inch the race bike a rider such as Pogačar needs it to be.

The handling is direct, with minimal manipulation of the bars and your weight needed to effect a confident turn. Despite my test bike being on the large side of the spectrum that I can ride, it demonstrated real sharpness.

Often, larger bikes can feel slightly cumbersome (while smaller frames can feel relatively twitchy), but there’s not a hint of it here. This bodes well if, like me, you can fit between sizes and effectively have a choice.

The long total reach to the back of the shifters and in the drops has a similar effect to that you might have if you fitted a longer stem to your bike – the steering remains sharp, but is layered with control that breeds trust.

On descents especially, I could confidently arc the bike into a turn (trusting the grip offered by the excellent Pirelli tyres), driving hard to the apex.

I’m by no means an expert descender – I don’t spend enough time in the mountains to practise the craft, sadly – but the V4Rs provided me with the confidence to push my limits.

It’s also a consummate climber. The bottom bracket area laps up power when seated, while getting out the saddle results in immediate acceleration.

The rear of the bike is also very taut, feeding the sense of acceleration and speed of response each time you put the effort in. In particular, I found explosive efforts over sudden rises in the road highly satisfying.

Despite all this stiffness, the V4Rs still manages to pack in good levels of compliance too.

Much of comfort is down to your choice of tyre and wheelset (I, for example, swapped over to a wide-rim ENVE SES 4.5 wheelset fitted with 28c Continental GP5000 S TR tubeless tyres for a brief comparison run, and enjoyed noticeable improvements). Yet, even in the standard Shimano/Pirelli setup, it made quite easy work of the typically poor British roads I tested it on.

The seatpost and seatstays especially seem adept at smoothing out road buzz, while Colnago has got the stiffness-comfort balance at the front end spot-on.

The CC01 handlebar shape is comfortable to grasp, yet firm, but my arms and upper body never felt too shaken.

On broken roads, it can feel a little firm all-round compared to a squishy endurance road bike – but it’s worth remembering the V4Rs is designed to excel on continental climbs and the smooth tarmac of Europe and (ostensibly) race circuits. In those settings, it’s at home.

Of course, the bike features that aggressive geometry, complete with a long and low front end.

While not as extreme-feeling as the Basso Diamante, the V4Rs remains very aggressive at the front.

While it packs in a good balance of compliance, that can’t mitigate against a mismatch between rider needs and ride position.

I would have preferred if Colnago supplied a few spacers with the bike to raise the low front end, and take some of the acuteness out of my hip angle.

As ever with race bikes that are designed with pros first and customers second in mind, that’s the compromise to weigh up.

As ever, weighing up the merits of a race bike is more complicated than simply looking at the headlines the bike (or at least, the rider of that bike) generates through the season.

Regardless, the V4Rs is a devilishly fast and enjoyable race bike, and it performs exactly as advertised.

It handles brilliantly, is very reactive, yet equally composed and surprisingly compliant.

There’s no getting around the fact that it’s very expensive, and while there are certainly bikes around that can compete with it for less money, there are plenty of other WorldTour-spec bikes that will set you back a similar amount.

The Colnago brand will undoubtedly play a role in attracting some customers, but that can’t be the only measure of a bike’s appeal.

Objectively speaking, it’s hard to position the V4Rs as a clear-cut smart buy for many keen amateur racers and keen sportive enthusiasts.

That being said, if the aggressive geometry is what you want and you can afford it, the V4Rs is one of the best race bikes money can buy today.

Each bike is set up as close as possible to the tester’s bike fit specifications, followed by a short, local shakedown to verify initial fit.

After this, longer separate rides are undertaken, punctuated by occasional side-of-the-road fettling (if necessary) to optimise the fit and desired ride behaviour.

Once set, a series of standalone and back-to-back rides are undertaken with each bike gradually dropping out of the running until the winner is left.

The bikes are measured in line with BikeRadar and Cycling Plus’ scoring criteria, considering overall performance in a variety of suitable situations, as well as comfort, handling, fit, specification and value for money.

Thanks to our sponsors, Lazer, FACOM tools and Band Of Climbers for their support in making Bike of the Year happen.

Senior technical editor

Ashley Quinlan is a senior technical editor for BikeRadar, covering all things road and gravel. A trained journalist, he has been working in and around the bike industry for almost a decade, and riding for much longer. He’s written for, eBikeTips, RoadCyclingUK and Triathlon Plus magazine, covering the latest news and product launches, and writing in-depth reviews, group tests, buyer’s guides… and more. He’s also worked in PR for some of the industry’s biggest brands. A roadie at heart (who often casts an interested gaze at gravel and XC mountain biking), Ash has been told that he’s best used as windbreak thanks to his 188cm, 80-plus kilogram build. Despite this, he loves spending time in the mountains scaling cols and is a repeat finisher of the Étape du Tour.