Velo City: Bicycle Culture and City Life

Only Saronni: Tamas’ Colnago Master X-Light

Colnago Master X-Light with custom paint

Hungary’s Tamás Medgyes very generously took the time to describe his path to becoming the custodian of this incredible Colnago Master X-Light and, while it may be lengthy, it’s a true discourse on the passion of the Colnagista:

My journey to the Colnago Master X-Light followed a path familiar to many. I wanted to build up my top bike, and even though I admired carbon race machines, it was steel and titanium bikes that really spoke to me. What might be less common in my way to steel is that I don’t have a personal history of riding classic road bikes in the era of their acme, thus my appreciation does not stem from nostalgia.

I had bikes before, but growing up behind Hungary’s iron curtain limited my access to Colnagos or Pinarellos so I hadn’t even heard of them. By the time I got into cycling, you could get anything from anywhere in the world, so I started with carbon bikes.

It was after a decade of riding Treks, Wiliers and other upper-midrange bikes that the beauty of high-end steel and titanium frames struck me, so I wanted one to explore their proverbial riding qualities and enjoy their apparent aesthetic supremacy.

Colnago Master X-Light with custom paint

I ordered my Colnago Master X-Light frameset through an official dealer in Northern Italy and mixed pleasure with my business by picking it up there myself a few months later. When I arrived in Lazise on the shores of Lake Garda, the frameset had been on display in the window of the dealership for a few weeks and it was luring customers into the shop.

In fact, the owners said that if I wouldn’t take it they would happily keep it. Well, take it I did and tried, to the best of my abilities, to turn it into a road racing machine. Why the Colnago Master? Well, like Ernesto says: “I respect all the manufacturers but they’ve all copied Colnago”.

OK, that may be a tad over the top, but the Master is possibly the only frameset by any of the big manufacturers still entirely hand-made in Italy and, with Ernesto around, Colnago is still a family business (compare this to the LVMH-owned Pinarello). Chrome plating, lugs, even the tubing is Italian, although it is my understanding that the DT15V tubes no longer come from Columbus, but instead are sourced from another Milanese manufacturer. Nevertheless, the star shape tubes are one-of-a-kind, the lugs are a masterful in-house job, and the paint job is second to none.

Colnago Master X-Light with custom paint

I know many people attribute the beauty of steel bikes, particularly those with lugged tubing to them being traditional and, for this reason, some even frown upon mixing cutting-edge components, let alone carbon parts with old-fashioned frames. But on this, I beg to differ. I think carbon and steel match perfectly, and, if mixed proportionately, their harmony evokes the best of both worlds.

All in all, I opted for the chromium, molybdenum, and vanadium-alloyed Master X-Light made-to-measure because I wanted a fantastic ride, not a vintage showpiece. With this in mind, the Campagnolo Super Record 11sp groupset was a no-brainer for this frame. I am not your “right frame, wrong groupset” guy: I’ll approve Dura-Ace on a Zero.6 or SRAM eTap on a Dogma but from this point of view anything but the Super Record on this bike is a compromise.

This is the last version before the four-arm cranks came out (save the 2014 RS line) and although I can live with those on my other bikes, I like how the flamboyant crankset harmonizes with the arty lugs on the Master. Needless to say, the Super Record is a capable groupset, I’d be hard-pressed to find any fault in it.

Colnago Master X-Light with custom paint

Initially, the bike was mounted with a pair of Bullet Ultra Cult 50 wheels, stripped of decals, and it looked terrific, but the Bullets’ ride was irreconcilable with the frame’s characteristics. So, when clincher Ultras came out I ditched the Bullets.

The Boras have a good reputation for a reason: responsiveness and speed make them stand out of the bunch. The freewheel sound is gorgeous, musical, refined, and the set is just vivid, it makes you want to test its limits.

I’d remove the decals though; however, the letters are under the final coating so removing them is not an option. I’ll praise the day when companies offer true no-logo versions of their products. There are so many possibilities for a good design besides putting company names and redundant product information on your stuff. I have a Wilier GTR that has Wilier and/or GTR displayed a whopping 12 times on the frameset.

It may be just me but if I really want to spend big buck on something I saw, I’ll be happy to find out about the manufacturer or the product on less obvious hints. Otherwise, these wheels are just perfect: the 35’s don’t overwhelm the slim tubes visually, and they have proven to be a wonderful all-around set.

Only Saronni: Tamas' Colnago Master X-Light

The seatpost, seat, stem, handlebar, and tape are Fizik. There is a full set (save the seat) of these components for this bike from Deda, and it works with those too, but when Fizik came out with the Cyrano 00 I swapped them. Right now, Fizik just strikes a chord with me. I dig their design, their quality, and they take custom orders, so the seat was matched to the frame and the handlebar tape.

The pedals are Time Xpresso 12. They are strong, extremely light, spin good, and they clip in and out very reassuringly. Some complain about their sharp outer edge being dangerous, and they might be, but luckily, I’ve never had any issues with them.

Colnago Master X-Light with custom paint

The Colnago site lists three art deco variations as standard Master colors, and people seem to go crazy about the air-brush paint job on those, but you can get your frame custom painted, so I asked for the less flashy, but equally sexy Saronni red. I think the white seat and tape is a nice touch and harmonize with the white decals, as well as the red frame.

I have bikes for an array of purposes, including carbon road bikes, café racers, and single speeds, and the Colnago Master X-Light is really my Sunday bike. But there’s a Sunday every week so it’s not kept in the room or anything, and it certainly does not shy away when a gentlemanly race is about to develop on the club ride.

Colnago Master X-Light with custom paint

Do I have plans for other bikes in the future? Absolutely. Beautiful titanium frames are built by talented craftsmen from Lithuania to the UK and to the USA, and since the idea of a small production frame delights me, my guess is one of these days I’ll start my research into those.

Being able to get in touch with the actual builder of my frame and having a chance to make my built truly one of a kind is definitely a plus for me. And if the big players won’t do that anymore, and I’m going to have to commission up-and-coming independent frame-builders to get it done, then so be it.

Until then, the Colnago Master X-Light rides wonderfully, shines in the sun and makes me happy. I hope you like it too. The photos were taken at the Franciscan Church and Monastery of Our Lady of the Snow in Szeged, Hungary.

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Colnago Master X-Light with custom paint