Review: Fondriest TF3 1.2 Road Bike w/ Ursus Hybrida Alloy Wheels
Fondriest is not yet a household name here in United States, but they’ve caught my eye for a while. The frames are curvy, color schemes nice and they look F-A-S-T.
They’re imported by Albabici, and after checking out their list, I requested the TF3 1.2 model. Albabici also imports a few other Italian brands, so our test bike had a mixed up build to showcase a few of their other items. These included the new Ursus Hybrida alloy wheels and a Selle SMP saddle. They also decked it out withVittoria Diamante tires, Ultegra Di2 and Ritchey stem and carbon handlebar.
The TF3 frame is carbon monocoque with a carbon tensile strength of 50 tons and a raw frame weight just under 1,000 grams. It boasts carbon dropouts for the fork and frame, a tapered head-tube (1-1/8 top, 1-1/2 bottom), internal cable routing for digital/mechanical drivetrains and brakes, a semi-integrated seat clamp for aesthetics and aerodynamics, an aero seat post, and their Reflex fork with an inverted curve. The latter makes it look different from almost anything else out there. Put it all together and, in my opinion, you have a very sharp looking bike with beautiful lines that’ll help you stand out in the paceline.
So, it looks good, but how does it ride…
FRAME DETAILS & WEIGHTS
From a distance, the Fondriest TF3′s lines follow a nice curve along the top half, continuing down the fork thanks to its inverted curve. The downtube and chainstays are straight, but not without their own elements of shapeliness.
Once you get closer, you notice that almost every section of every tube has some shaping to it. Creases, angles and curves abound, which lend to the bike’s overall eye appeal and stiffness. The outer layer of carbon is UD and covered with a matte finish that unfortunately hides the fiber orientation.
Note the ridge along the top of the top- and downtubes. UCI approved, for your pleasure. Shift cable ports are swappable for either mechanical or Di2 systems.
The seat collar is shaped inline with the top tube and flows into the seatstays.
The seat tube and post are the only bits that seem to have any aero shaping, both in form and thanks to the cut out for the rear wheel.
Note the slight shaping of the underside of the chainstay’s outside edge as it heads backwards. The upward angle combines with the flat central sections to give them quite a bit of shape that’s easily lost if you’re not really ogling the frame.
We’re kind of pleased to see the bike use a standard outboard bearing bottom bracket. Downtube flows well into the chainstays. We’d like to see dedicated battery mounts for Di2/EPS rather than the water bottle extension…using a zip tie to keep it from rattling seems like a real shame on a bike like this.
Chainstays are tight at 404mm to 410mm depending on frame size.
Full carbon dropouts are claimed, but looked to us like there were metal inserts to keep things from wearing down over time.
The aero seatpost uses a top facing knob coupled with a rear clamp bolt to capture the saddle.
The Selle SMP saddles, like the bike, stand out for their shape and curves. My hunch is you either love them or hate them, and personally it wasn’t my favorite. For hours in the saddle, the Selle SMP would not be my perch of choice. For me it created a small bit of discomfort on the inner creases of my legs. It felt like the framework creating the outer edge of the saddle and allowing for the center cut-out was too acute and firm. It did not have the more gentle sloping and rounded edges that I am accustomed to. (And yes, it was adjusted to the appropriate angles for riding, it’s shown fresh out of the box in the photos above, before fitting the bike, so the angle is incorrect)
The complete bike weight came in at 7.6kg (16lb 12oz). Claimed weight for a medium frame is 990g, seatpost is 240g and fork is 370g. All claimed weights are for raw (presumably unpainted) parts. Not the lightest in the world, but Fondriest says they wanted to balance light weight with stiffness, strength and ride quality.
Frame retail is $1,950 and it’s available in six sizes.
I tested the bike for several months – probably a good month longer than Albabici would have liked – allowing me to put considerable miles on it. I always enjoy having a bike for a couple of months because it really enables me to get to know it. We can form a relationship, stare at each other from across the room, share highs and lows, and trash talk one another when feeling feisty. Being that I live in a studio apartment of less than 400 square feet, my bikes and I get cozy. Over the several months with the TF3 1.2, we became friends.
It’s also good that I had it for a while because from the very beginning I was a little biased because I was excited about its arrival and in my mind I knew I was going to like the way it looked. After all, that’s one of the reasons I wanted to test it. I wanted to see if sexiness translated into a quality, fun to ride and fast bike. Good looks rank pretty darn high on my list, but so does having a machine that can perform and provide an amiable riding experience.
When assembling the bike, just moving things and unscrewing or tightening the bits and pieces gave the impression that the bike was solid. Whether it was the tightening of the seat clamp or clinching the rear wheel in the dropouts, none of the details seemed like afterthoughts. Every one seems to have been paid as much attention as another. Parts and pieces were sturdy and resilient; something I feel conveys quality and devotion to detail. Scanning over the bike, the eye doesn’t get derailed on an oddity or question mark, it just flows.
On the road the bike feels connected. Like it belongs. It was easy to get used to how it rode. The Di2 shifting was crisp and predictable. The mechanical ergonomics just made sense, nothing tricky or overly complex; shift, brake, pedal, turn – all straight forward. The parts on my test bike were devoid of nonsense or fluff, just quality product that should hold up well with no unnecessary tinkering. Other than charging the Di2 battery, lubing the chain and pumping up the tires, I did virtually no maintenance on the bike. Ursus’ wheels, though a tad heavy (1565 gram) for my taste, were bullet proof. They stayed true and had a consistent and reliable braking surface. I was tempted to swap them for something lighter and more aero a couple of times but, always retaliated in thought with “Why? The Ursus wheels get the job done and I can count on them every time.”
I managed to ride the TF3 1.2 in many different environments from the flatter central part of North Carolina to the much more mountainous western part. The TF3 1.2 has proved to be a great all around bike with a pleasing mix of comfort and stiffness. It’s a race bike with some Gran Fondo forgiveness. It absorbs bumps well enough to be comfortable over choppy terrain and for several hours in the saddle.
The bike was not twitchy and held a line extremely well. On straight, flat road, very little effort had to be exerted to maintain trajectory. Power transmitted efficiently from pedal stroke to ground. Maintaining group ride speeds seemed to come easily. Where I felt it lacked a little was in the initial lightning pop with the first couple of hard hammers out of the saddle. It would get up to speed, but lacked the snap of some lighter bikes (or lighter wheels). The frame is stiff enough, so shedding a little weight would likely help the bike really scream when the gun fired.
On flat roads, the bike hums along. In Greensboro, NC, (where I live) this is perfect because that’s most of what we ride. However, on trips to Asheville and Burnsville, NC, I really got to dissect how the bike does on steeps. Hills are my favorite, I love going up and I love going down. In my mind, a bike is king when it floats up mountains and crushes souls on the way down.
The well rounded performance showed up in the mountains, too. The bike climbs well in and out of the saddle. I like the way it ascended and was generally impressed given its weight and aero attributes. It wouldn’t be my first choice for a race in the mountains, but I’d have no hesitations training on it there. On the way down, the TF3 1.2 rips. I had no reservations pushing it to the edge of my riding ability. It was me, not the bike, deciding not to go faster. And while I may have wanted a lighter set of wheels going up, the Ursus’ sturdy handling and confident braking were much appreciated.
Overall, the Fondriest was a convincing candidate for just about any type of normal riding. Personally, I’d want to stay on nicer roads and cap chamois time at 3 to 5 hours. Rougher roads or all day riders may want something a little different. My hunch is most folks could own it as their only road bike and be content. That it carries a bit of exclusivity (at least in the US) and looks so darn good is a bonus. I’m bummed that my mornings waking up with a sexy Italian in my room have come to an end. For now, anyway.