Few brands are more capable than Colnago of reducing otherwise apparently perfectly sensible cyclists to gibbering wrecks.
Given the company’s rich racing heritage and its reputation for innovation and uncompromised quality, it’s hardly surprising that many weekend warriors’ dream bike shortlists would include Colnago’s name. The bike that appears on such lists, more often than not, tends to be one of Colnago’s iconic C-series tube-and-lug designs from the last 20 years, the latest iteration of which, the C60, has been hailed as one of the finest frames in the world. But it speaks volumes for the depth of Colnago’s capabilities that even some of its lesser-known framesets have won Grand Tour stages – and one of these is the now-discontinued M-10, as owned by this issue’s proud bike lover, Paul Lowe, a former news and war photographer who now runs a masters programme in photo-journalism and documentary photography at the London College of Communication.
Paul’s late-blooming interest in cycling will sound familiar to many Simpson readers. Indifferent to bikes in his youth, Paul was in his mid-40s before he discovered the joys of the sport. Now 52, it’s fair to say that Paul’s life has been transformed by it. He describes how it all started: “A few years ago my mum was quite ill. She lives in a nice village on the edge of the Pennines and I found myself visiting her quite often so I decided to buy a mountain bike as a way of getting fit when I was up there. I bought myself quite a nice full-suspension bike and rather naively thought I’d just be able to ride wherever I wanted. I quickly realised that I was quite likely to kill myself if I didn’t learn how to ride it properly so I went off and did a couple of courses. I really enjoyed it and got quite into it. “Then I discovered a little group of photographers who are also cyclists, including my friend Simon Norfolk, who started road cycling five or six years ago. I borrowed one of his bikes – a
Bianchi – and went for a ride with him. I was immediately hooked and went out and bought myself a Bianchi Sempre Pro.”
Then came one of those life-changing fateful moments, as Paul explains: “My wife Amra told me I was getting a bit fat, not realizing the Pandora’s box she was opening. I immediately went from recreational rider to someone who took it much more seriously. I bought a second mountain bike and then realized I needed a second road bike too. My fiftieth was coming up so I started thinking about dream bikes…”
Paul did his research and decided he wanted a high-end race frame. He says: “A mate had a Colnago Master, which was gorgeous, and he talked a lot about how well it handled. Then a Colnago M10 frameset came up for half price and I went for it. “It’s not purist Colnago I suppose, because it’s a monocoque frame, but Colnago himself said that when he built a monocoque it would be a Colnago monocoque, so it’s definitely not bog standard. Anyway, purist or not, I think it’s a beautiful bike.” Paul kept a lid on costs by shopping around for components, buying a mix of new and second hand parts from eBay and other sources. His bike now sports an original Colnago seatpost, Campagnolo Record groupset, a Rotor 3D crankset, FSA stem and bars and Campag Neutron wheels. The bike was built for him by Rohan Dubash, also known as Doctor D, a famously meticulous mechanic based in Sutton, Surrey. Paul says: “I really enjoyed watching Rohan do the build. He’s very accurate about the way he does things so every little detail is spot on – down to the bar-end finish, where he put
a tiny strip of red tape and then the black tape around it so the finish tied in with the Record groupset.
“What I’ve ended up with is a Tour de France level bike that might not be the lightest in the world but it handles really well – it’s so stiff and solid and the cornering and descending are just so good. I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily made me faster but my god it feels good to ride!”
Becoming a racer
It wasn’t just the hardware Paul was improving during this period – he was also working hard to transform himself into a serious competitor. He says: “I’m quite a geek when it comes to the training side of things so I went to see ex-pro turned coach Dave Lloyd. I was only with him for a day but I learned so much.
“I started doing sportives and bought myself a power meter, which gave me a real boost in understanding the different zones, how to ride in them, how to pace myself and so on. Then I worked with training plans from Tony Williams at Flamme Rouge, who was also fantastic.” Paul has now completed the Dragon Ride and the Etape Cymru twice. He’s even gone completely off-piste and tried his hand at triathlons, completing the Wimbleball half ironman, comprising a 1.9km swim, 90km bike ride, and 21km run. He’s also kept up with the mountain biking and it was in this sport that he scored his first racing success, in the Bosnian cross-country race season. He says: “I was at the younger end of the ‘old masters’ category. Rather to my surprise, I won every race and ended up with the overall season title. I hadn’t won anything outright since the egg and spoon races at school so that was fun.” But the victory he’s most proud of was his first road race win in May last year, in the Bosnian city of Mostar. He says: “It was a 70km race and there were about 50 riders in our group. The speeds were high to start with – 50kmh plus – and then there was a crash right in front of me. I managed to avoid the carnage by half swerving, half bunny hopping. But the crash split the field and I managed to bridge the gap to join a lead group of quite strong young lads. We all worked together pretty well and then I soloed in to win the race from the last climb. That was such a great feeling!”