Fondriest TF3 1.2 Ultegra - RCUK Review June 2012

Weighty, but zippy carbon steed that met the challenge of crit racing handsomely...

The Fondriest TF3 1.2 Ultegra came to us in May, during our month of content inspired by the Giro d’Italia.

Having taken a ‘first look’ at the machine about four weeks ago, we put some miles on it to discover if its performance matched its striking good looks. We weren’t entirely sure what to expect. For a carbon framed, Ultegra-equipped bike, we were surprised by its weight. The TF3 1.2 Ultegra tipped our scales at just over 8.5kg.
Surprisingly, this wasn’t the disadvantage we’d expected. Much of the heft lies in the FRace rolling stock, a wheelset comprised of carbon shrouds attached to alloy rims (Fondriest claim a weight of 980 grams for the unidirectional, monocoque frame, and 370 grams for the fork). Once up to speed, the wheelset proved a boon, allowing the Fondriest to hold its pace.

We found the ride firm as opposed to super stiff. The Fondriest doesn’t offer the same responsiveness we’ve found in other bikes at this price point, although that lends itself to a more comfortable ride which rolls well over the vagaries of the British roads.

Despite the lack of acceleration, we decided to give the TF3 1.2 a run out in a local criterium, shrugging aside a creeping sense of trepidation at the prospect of attacking a notoriously fast circuit race on a largely unknown machine with brakes cabled ‘Euro’ style. Lifting it from the van reminded us again of its surprising heft, further dampening our spirits.

Our fears, however, proved to be largely groundless. It felt sprightly, largely thanks to the stiffness of the boxy bottom bracket, though, as mentioned, lacked the acceleration of many of the machines we’ve tested this year (Boardman’s SLR 9.2 and the Mercx EMX-1, for example). The carbon-alloy wheelset rolled well, and once up to speed, contributed to the Fondriest’s zippy feel. The geometry inspired the confidence to lean further into sharp turns and encouraged later braking, despite the cabling. Riding with brakes cabled the ‘other’ way can be a dicey affair, but the overall handling qualities of the TF3 1.2 quickly overcame any residual fears.

Impressed by its capabilities over a stern but short test, we hopped back on it a few days later to confirm our findings in a less demanding scenario, and concluded that the Fondriest TF3 1.2 was an excellent ‘jack of all trades’, one able to hammer round a crit, handle long training loops with riding buddies, and offer the comfort of a machine we’d be happy to ride on a long sportive.

The Fondirest TF3 1.2 comes in a range of specifications, thanks in part to its ability to accommodate mechanical and electrical cables. The model we tested, with the FRace wheelset and mechanical Ultegra groupset, retails at £3,500. Variations include an Ultegra Di2 groupset and Shimano R501 wheelset for £3825, or Campagnolo Athena, Fulcrum 7 wheelset for £2650.

It is available in three colours (black and green, grey and red, and the red and white of our test model) and six sizes (XS to XXL).

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