Unless you’re investing in a Brompton, keeping and maintaining bikes presents significant storage issues before you even begin to factor in the patience and understanding of non-riding partners, family and friends. Negotiating a hallway blocked by a lateral stack of wet, oily machines may strain the most amicable of relationships.
So why not simply have one bike? One bike but with a split personality? Commuter during the week before guards and rack are removed for a weekend of road or trail.
According to Condor when describing their Fratello, ‘Its inherent versatility makes it ideal if you don’t have space for a stable of bikes’. As they’ve been designing, manufacturing and retailing their own bikes since 1948, I think it’s fair to assert that they’re qualified to make this claim and the reason behind my picking up the phone to book a test ride.
Walking to the Condor store along Gray’s Inn Road, it’s interesting to note that the company has maintained a retail presence on this busy London thoroughfare for approaching 70 years. You can dispense an awful lot of cycling wisdom in that amount of time. And it’s this approach to customer satisfaction that continues under the direction of Grant Young, son of the original founder Monty.
My bike, resplendent in a glossy deep purple coat of paint, was waiting in the basement showroom. After a quick check on saddle height and the fitting of my preferred pedals, I was wheeling the Fratello out of the store for my test ride. For a customer not familiar with cycling in the capital, an aspect of the purchasing process that might prove rather daunting.
A non-native may only know London by its main thoroughfares; plotting a route on their planned itinerary by the joined ‘dots’ of the landmarks they are visiting. Venture a little beyond these vehicular arteries and another London is waiting to be discovered. A city of quiet back streets, narrow pathways, cobbled lanes and canal towpaths.
And it was as I threaded my way through these quieter byways that I considered the provenance of my ride. With the frame manufactured and painted in Italy, the build continues back in the UK to the specifications decided on by the customer following their initial consultation. This is a bike designed and built to fit the individual; to satisfy personal preferences and riding needs. This particular version had wheels and groupset from Campagnolo with deep mudguards fitted to the provided mounting points and an option for a rear rack. If you’ve ever struggled to fix temporary guards using the supplied elastic bands, then these fixed points are a distinct advantage when it comes to all year round riding.
The Fratello was quick to accelerate, easy to maneuver and rode sublimely – the steel frame dulling all but the harshest vibrations caused by surface imperfections. Complemented by quality components and flattering looks that certainly turned heads, I could easily picture the rack removed before a long day in the saddle on a weekend club ride. Or adding a front bar pack for a bikepacking adventure. And that’s the key to the Fratello’s success – it’s versatility. This is a purchase that could seriously be considered for ‘one bike’ ownership.
Potential customers may be put off by the price; the ‘higher end’ build pictured here would set you back a fraction over £2000. But I might suggest that they’re possibly missing the point. Included in the price tag of your Condor Fratello is the ‘experience’ of ordering a bike with a unique specification and fit. Included is the time spent in discussion with the friendly and helpful sales consultants as they guide you through the customisation process; each step reflected in the detailed measurements recorded on your build sheet. And that’s before you factor in the 68 years of heritage that are included in every purchase.
The time I spent exploring the back streets of Bloomsbury and Clerkenwell on the Fratello was so enjoyable, I can perfectly understand why they’d discreetly asked for my credit card before I left the store. I was sorely tempted to simply keep on riding.
Photography by @openautograph