I switched to Fondriest RP3 1.6 from an eight-thousand-dollar, Dura Ace equipped race weapon. My first thought: Are you sure you want to spend four hours on this bike?
Like any racer, former or current, I know what snobbery is. I go to Cycling Snobs Anonymous meetings every fortnight, I try to do the right thing, I try to deal with the problem. It’s not easy though. It bites back from time to time. So when I looked at the RP3, painted in elegant matt black with orange decals, I did what every cyclist does before swinging a leg over an unknown two-wheel animal — I lifted it up. It’s more of a ritual than anything else, there’s nothing scientific about this test, but it always gives you some kind of a reference point — is this a bike or a K-Mart clunker? I’m not a weight weenie but I still vote for political candidates who promise reduction in bike weights all the same. Light road bikes feel right. Don’t get me wrong.
Anyway, this thing was light when I lifted it. Not carbon-light but light enough to win my respect before I rode it. It’s under 10 kilos if you’re curious. My first racing bike was 12 and I thought it was light. OK, this was almost 40 years ago, but I hope you get the point — light is good, and under 10 kilos is light for a bike that wasn’t made for professional racing.
Fondriest RP3 1.6: An honest bike for honest cycling
As I said, RP3 is not a racing machine. It wasn’t meant to be, it doesn’t pretend to be and it doesn’t want to be one. It was designed by a bunch of Italians to enjoy a simple pleasure of pushing the pedals and going places without bleeding your retirement fund. At around A$1,000 from some dealers, Fondriest RP3 is a deal of a road bike you won’t find anywhere else in this country. I checked. Giant Defy 3 for 100 bucks more is the closest rival. I mean, c’mon, do I need to spell it out?
Let’s talk the specs. The frame is an aluminium double butted construction. In English it means the frame tubes are thicker where you need thickness and thinner where you don’t. Some people like to throw two paragraphs of engineering gibberish at you at this point, but I won’t because a) I don’t care, and b) I don’t understand any of it and I guess you don’t either. Let’s move on to the rest.
The fork is made from carbon. Standard these days. It saves a bit of weight. Some people believe, or even insist, it makes the ride smoother too — it doesn’t. If you want a smooth ride, get wider tires and lower the pressure.
Fondriest RP3 is equipped with Shimano 9-speed Sora shifting components, Tektro brakes and Fondriest finishing kit. These are good quality, reliable bits and pieces.
The bikes comes with a pair of decent wheels too: 32-hole Shimano old-school hubs laced to solid Alexrims rims. You look after these guys and they’ll look after you for years and years. Nice touch.
Fondriest RP3: The Ride
So, back to the beginning: How did the four-hour ride go? Better than expected, that’s how.
I started with two ascends of the colossal mount Coot-tha, all two kilometres and 9% of it. It’s not Zoncolan, but it’s a climb even though the Euro snobs say it’s not. The Fondriest came with a 12-25 cassette paired to 50/34 Lasco crankset. Even if you’re out of shape, a 34×25 should get you over most climbs in Australia. The Sora shifting was typical Shimano business — it shifts away anywhere you tell it to. Out of the saddle, under pressure, yes it rumbled at me like an angry dog, but shifted anyway. Then again, if you want to do what racers do — changing gears with your weight and power on the pedals — you need to spend two grand on a Dura Ace groupset. As it was meant to be with Sora, you’ll shift going uphill without problems if you use your head as well as your hands.
Last time I rode up Coot-tha I was on a six-something kilo carbon bling and I would be lying if I said I didn’t feel the difference — I did. But did it bother me? Not at all. I wasn’t on a rush anywhere, I was tapping away on 34×21 humming a Bob Marley tune. The sun was out, the road was smooth and the bike quiet. What else a 50-year-old can ask for?
On the way down, I gave the RP3 a bit of a rough time — a couple of sharp, sweeping I-need-all-the-road-I-can-get shots through the corners and one late-brake, scary move I haven’t done in a while. The Fondriest passed the test. I would get nicer tires though, those Vittoria Zaffiros the bike came with are too hard.
Then I headed Springfield way and spent the next three hours riding this thing. Just riding. And here’s what I thought — great bike, people, you have made a nice, no-nonsense bike, whoever you are. So thanks and I hope to see more of these on Australian roads.
Where to Buy
Check for your nearest Fondriest dealer to get a bargain.