2013 marks a historic milestone for our Fratello model: its tenth birthday. Self-styled as the original super bike, it is a frameset that we couldn't be more proud of.
In 2002 the Pendio was a UK built frame using a mix of Reynolds 631 and 725 steel tubing. It wasn't an out-and-out tourer, but a niche frame for those who wanted to ride over a long distance at speed, commute, or take part in an audax on a spritelier steel frame.
By 2002 sales of the Pendio were significantly outstripping the rate at which they could be built in the UK. To meet demand, the Fratello was introduced to the range. The Fratello would be built in Italy and conform to the similar fast audax, lightweight tourer properties of the Pendio. Thus, it was given the name Fratello, which means brother in Italian.
The first batch of ten soon turned into forty, then one hundred within a year. From the very beginning, the Fratello garnered plaudits: "a classic looker that combines comfort and performance" was the verdict of Cycling Plus magazine in 2005.
Key to the frame's success is our determination to keep the material current by continually evolving and pushing what can be done with steel. The current frame has a tubing shape designed by Condor and drawn by Dedacciai. The down tube begins ovalised and becomes hexagonal towards the bottom bracket; the squarer shape makes the tube stronger at a point where the stress is greatest, without adding material unnecessarily. The result is tubing with the same torsional strength as Reynolds 853 at a more affordable price.
"In 2005, we approached Dedacciai, a steel tubing manufacturer, to help us further refine the Fratello, create our own tubing shapes based on the feedback from riders, make the frameset lighter, more comfortable, smoother and just as strong as the Reynolds tubing we'd started out with" explains Grant Young, Managing Director.
The introduction of a 1-1/8" head tube with integrated headset in 2006 was one element of the Fratello's frame design that bucked the trend among steel frames of the time. It was a technology consistently found on aluminium and carbon bikes, but not afforded to steel. A wider diameter head tube was stiffer, especially when climbing out of the saddle. Some tubing makers weren't as willing to evolve their steel tube sets and it meant that steel couldn't compete against aluminium for performance, making it less popular. Except, for Condor, it was still a key material and when this technology was applied to the frame, the handling quality was immediately on a par with aluminium frames of that design.
The larger diameter head tube provided an increased contact surface area to join the top and down tube, providing additional strength with only a minimal weight penalty. The internal headset also made it easier for riders to maintain their bikes; bearings can be popped into the head tube without needing specialist tools.
The Fratello has nearly always featured a carbon fork at the helm. More recent versions of the fork are Condor designed to be fitted in tandem with our deep drop brake, allowing users to fit a wider 28c tyre for tough winter conditions but also keep using their full mudguards. The use of our own deep drop brake ensures that the quality of braking is maintained no matter what groupset brand is chosen. The fork features a full carbon steerer to lighten the overall weight of the frame.
"Finally in 2008 we were able to bring to market a change in rear stays. After thorough testing over the previous seasons, unique curved rear seat stays were introduced to enhance comfort for the rider, without lost of feel."
The frame had a tough fight on its hands in the first five years of existence. Mid noughties mainstream opinion had branded all steel boring; an unadventurous technology compared with the space-age carbon and lighter aluminium frames. But riders soon realised that not all aluminium frames are particularly lightweight and if the frame was cheaply produced the ride quality suffered.
Selecting a suitable frame for a particular type of riding will always go down a storm. That's just what we did. The number of Fratello riders grew organically, based on reputation and the trust customers placed in our sales team to sell them a bike suitable for their needs.
From the early models to our current offering the bike has kept to its true identity and offers riders versatility when they can't or don't want to own a stable of bikes. In 2012 Cycling Plus agreed: "It'll easily tackle commuting, sportives, fast endurance riding and light touring during the summer without mudguards, commuting and training during the winter with. The frameset is available at £599.99, and it's easily good enough to deck out with some seriously spangly wallet emptying kit."
Whether it's in glorious burnt orange, elegant light blue or slate with subtle sparkles, there is no denying our most popular frame has held strong with Cycling Weekly calling it a frame for life in their 2010 Christmas issue: "You really can walk out with something that will outlive an army of Duracell bunnies", awarding their test bike 9/10.
There are many more years to come, so, happy birthday to our brother, the Fratello.