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Interview with Neil Manning of Rapha Condor

Condor Director Neil Manning knows bikes. And this goes a long way when the bike manufacturer teams up with a cycling wear company and sets up their own cycling team that are active and succesful internationally.

UK Bicycle maker Condor has always supported cyclists and together with the styling cycling wear company Rapha, they launched the cycling team Rapha Condor in 2008 and since then have been competing in style in the UK, in Europe and as far as Australia and Canada.

RC speaks with Niel Manning exclusively for Bicycles Network Australia (BNA) to look at the bike side of running a racing team.

BNA: When did your interest in frame design and construction begin?

Neil: Our founder, Monty Young first started selling frames and bikes in Grays Inn Road back in 1948

I first got interested back at school in the early 80’s, I used to spend my time in local shops and frame builders Ron Cooper and T.J.Quick with whom I started working at 16.

BNA: Can you give us some background on yourself, what’s your background in cycling?

Neil: I have been riding bikes as long as I can remember and started riding properly down at Herne Hill track aged 11 with the Velo Club de Londres. Raced road and track for a good number of years before the appeal of making bikes took over.

BNA: When did your interest in frame design and construction begin?

Neil: I was always fascinated with frames and knew before I left school that I wanted to work in a bike shop building bikes and frames.

BNA: How did you become involved in the Rapha Condor Team?

Neil: Condor have been helping pro and amateur riders since the 40’s to the present day. The guys at Rapha were Condor customers before they started the company and we were pleased to be the first Rapha stockist. Their ideas have changed cycle clothing for ever and when Rapha and Condor customer Dominique Gabellini suggested the two brands merge to start a new team both companies it was the start of a great new venture.

BNA: How many frames do you provide the team in a season?

Neil: It can depend on the team’s make up of riders for a particular season and how many frames are destroyed in crashes. A typical season will the team receiving in the region of 40+ frames covering road, time trial and track.

BNA: How long does it take to design and build the Team Leggero?

Neil: We are constantly looking at the frames design and making modifications once we get feedback from the team, customers and the testing rig. The Leggero frames are made in small batches with approximately 10-15 frames made over a week period depending on how many are custom sized.

We will have a first prototype of next year’s version soon and Chris Newton will be testing track and time trial models over the coming months.

BNA: What’s the build process?

Neil: The frames are made from individual carbon tubes that are mitred to fit each other perfectly. They are then bonded and wrapped with varying layers of carbon depending on what is required for each joint. We have tailored some of the team’s frames for extra stiffness depending on the rider.

BNA: Tell us about the bike that the team will be riding throughout the year? Are they individually setup for each rider?

Neil: Each rider has their own preferred set-up that we work to. Some of the riders use standard stock sizes while others require custom frames. A lot of pro riders tend to like longer top tubes than the norm. The equipment on the bikes is standard throughout, Shimano Dura-Ace 7900, a variety of Dura-Ace wheels, Continental tyres, custom Fizik saddles and Deda stems and bars depending on rider preference with the most popular being the old fashioned shallow drop.

BNA: Do you communicate with the riders to test the position setup and gearing?

Neil: Most of the riders have a preferred set-up that they like to keep, but will help any of the younger riders who may need it. Gearing changes from race to race and is a personal preference to each rider. The standard set-up is 39/53 with 11-23 cassette with 12 or 11-25 fitted for hillier races.

BNA: Will you trying out the new Shimano Dura-Ace DI2 electronic shifting?

Neil: As soon as the Di2 is available for the team we will certainly be testing it out.

Thank you kindly for taking time to share your experience with us. We wish you and your team success in the current Canadian Tour de Beauce and up-and-coming races.

Website: Team Rapha Condor

has contributed this article to Bicycles Network Australia.
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