Cyclocross

Bike Review: Donnelly C//C Force Carbon Cyclocross Bike – Cyclocross Magazine

Donnelly got its start as Clement Tire when Donn Kellogg licensed the brand. During that period, the storied Italian brand got a new life with new tire designs built on the old. When the name license expired, the connection with Clement became less important with the new products outshining the old. Donnelly Cycling was born.

Development of product has gone beyond the excellent tire range to include two bikes. One for cyclocross racing, the other for gravel.

Donnelly released the two bikes in the summer of 2018. We profiled Jamey Driscoll’s G//C gravel bike at the Dirty Kanza in 2018, and we looked at Lance Haidet’s C//C cyclocross bike after his win at RenoCross last fall.

While we were watching the C//C make its first appearances on the U.S. cyclocross scene last fall, we also received a bike from Donnelly for our own ’cross testing. Find out how the Amy D Blue C//C Force handles the mud and ruts in our long-term review of the carbon cyclocross bike from the Colorado company.

Donnelly C//C Force Cyclocross Bike. © C. Lee / Cyclocross Magazine

The Frame

The Donnelly C//C is a high modulus carbon fiber frameset with a monocoque construction method. Our review sample is a size L, which has a 56cm effective top tube and a 55cm seat tube.

The frame angles are classic cyclocross race bike parameters of 72-degree head tube and 73-degree seat tube. The frameset has a 601mm front center with 42.5cm chainstays and a 64mm bottom bracket drop. These measurements yield a 101.8mm wheelbase. The stack is 583mm and the reach is 381mm.

The all-carbon fork has a tapered steering tube with a 45mm offset. The calculated trail with a 33mm cyclocross tire is 66mm.

The frame has 12mm thru-axle compatibility with 100mm front and 142mm rear spacing. The brake mounts are direct, or flat mounts with a 140mm rotor minimum.

The C//C Force comes with flat mount SRAM Force HRD calipers and bolt-on 12mm thru-axles. Donnelly C//C Force Cyclocross Bike. © C. Lee / Cyclocross Magazine

All control lines are internal, running through the down tube and then through the bottom of the bottom bracket. The rear derailleur cable enters the down tube with a cable stop at its entrance, so the cable runs naked through the frame until its exit at the back of the chainstay. The bottom bracket is Pressfit BB86 with a Shell ID of 41mm and a Shell width of 86.5mm.

Cables are routed internally through both the fork and frame for a clean look. Donnelly C//C Force Cyclocross Bike. © C. Lee / Cyclocross Magazine

Provisions for either a mechanical or electronic front derailleur are present, and there are twin bottle cage mounts, one on the down tube, the other on the seat tube. There are neither fender or rack mounts.

Although the C//C comes in 1x setups, there is a mount for either a mechanical or electronic front derailleur. Donnelly C//C Force Cyclocross Bike. © C. Lee / Cyclocross Magazine

Claimed maximum tire clearance is 40mm, which we feel is accurate.

The C//C has clearance for tires up to 40mm wide. The MXPs on our bike measured to 36mm on the stock wheels. Donnelly C//C Force Cyclocross Bike. © C. Lee / Cyclocross Magazine

The Donnelly C//C comes in either Amy D Blue or black. A portion of all proceeds from bikes and framesets purchased with the Amy D Blue colorway go to support the Amy D Foundation. Our Force model came in the baby blue colorway with somewhat subdued Donnelly graphics in dark blue giving the bike a pleasing appearance.

Graphics on the Amy D Blue frameset are a subtle dark blue for a nice look. Donnelly C//C Force Cyclocross Bike. © C. Lee / Cyclocross Magazine

We verified a frame weight of about 1,100g, and the fork weighs 540g.

The Build

Our review bike was an Amy D Blue C//C Force model. It came with SRAM Force 1 hydraulic shift/brake levers with a SRAM Force 1 medium cage rear derailleur that pairs with an 11-32t cassette. The crankset was an FSA SL-K carbon 4-arm model with a 42-tooth wide-narrow MegaTooth single ring.

The C//C Force build has a SRAM Force 1 rear derailleur for 1x cyclocross racing. Donnelly C//C Force Cyclocross Bike. © C. Lee / Cyclocross Magazine

FSA also provides the Energy aluminum bar and stem, as well as the SL-K SB0 2-bolt seatpost. The saddle is a Selle Italia X1X-Cross with steel rails. The brakes are SRAM Force.

The C//C Force comes with an FSA Energy cockpit. Donnelly C//C Force Cyclocross Bike. © C. Lee / Cyclocross Magazine

The bike includes the durable Donnelly Ushuaia aluminum wheelset with 28 double-butted (2.0/1.8/2.0mm) spokes laced 2x to asymmetric rims. The rim asymmetry improves the bracing angle of the side that usually has more dish. That is the rotor side of the front wheel and the sprocket side of the rear wheel.

The nipples are external for easy maintenance, and the rim itself is tubeless ready with a 23mm internal width, hookless sidewall and a small lip on the bead shelf for better retention of the bead when the tire is deflated or subject to large lateral force. The Ushuaia wheels have a claimed weight of 1,620 grams.

In an unsurprising choice, tires are 33mm tubeless-ready Donnelly MXP cyclocross tires that measure a hair over 36mm when mounted on the Ushuaia wheels. The hubs have IS 6-bolt rotor mounting with SRAM 140mm rounded Centerline rotors in place.

Not surprisingly, the C//C comes with Donnelly MXPs on Donnelly Ushuaia alloy tubeless clinchers. Donnelly C//C Force Cyclocross Bike. © C. Lee / Cyclocross Magazine

The full build weighs in just under 18.5 pounds with wheels and tubes in the tires, but it only weighs 10.3 pounds without the wheels.

The Ride

The Donnelly  C//C sits high, with a short wheelbase and trail compared to many current ’cross and gravel bikes. Even before knowing that, especially after recently riding so many gravel bikes that are long and low, this bike felt racy.

Designed for cyclocross racing, the bike is immediately fun on and off-road with fast and nimble handling. The Donnelly C//C excels through tight courses, trees and chicanes, and it offers acceleration on demand in sprints, up ride-ups and out of corners.

Donnelly C//C Force Cyclocross Bike. © C. Lee / Cyclocross Magazine

During my review period, I primarily rode the C//C with the stock wheels and tubes installed with the tires. I ran the tires at around 25 psi front and rear (I weigh about 150 pounds). Removing the tubes will save about 150 grams after the addition of 57 grams (2 fluid ounces) of sealant. With the reduced rotating weight, greater pinch resistance and more supple ride, setting up the Donnelly Ushuaia wheels without tubes makes easy sense.

The bottom bracket drop is about a half-centimeter higher than we commonly see in ’cross bikes these days, which offers the slight advantage of pedal-though on off-cambers, over steep crests and over rough undulating terrain. The potential disadvantage is the higher remount and less stability through fast turns. These are all handling subtleties that a tuned and experienced rider notices, especially if you ride a lot of different bikes as bike testers do.

The full build weight of 18.4 pounds is not super-light, but the bike feels sprightly regardless. The front end is stiff but not jarring or harsh. The same is true for the rear end. The bike is stable over the bumpy track and reminds me a lot of the Fuji Altamira CX 1.1 we reviewed earlier this year. The curb weight of the Fuji is a pound less, but the weight of the similarly equipped bikes without wheels is equal. That means the Ushuaia wheelset is the anchor.

The build has traditional race gearing with a 1.3 low-gear ratio (35 gear-inches) from the 42/32 (a common low double-ring racing setup is 36/28=1.28). On the high end, the 42×11 has a ratio of 3.8 or 103 gear-inches, while a traditional 46×11 high on a double chainset will yield a 4.2 ratio or 113 gear-inches.

The C//C comes stock with an FSA SL-K carbon crank and 42t MegaTooth single ring. The frame comes with a provision for a front derailleur. Donnelly C//C Force Cyclocross Bike. © C. Lee / Cyclocross Magazine

The claimed 700c x 40mm clearance on the C//C frameset makes the bike ready for both UCI races and ’crossers who pump up their cyclocross volume a bit. The stock 33mm MXPs measured 36mm wide on the 23mm internal Ushuaia wheels and fit fine. There was room for more tire, but be aware that if you are planning on running the stock wheels when pre-race width measurements are enforced, it is definitely worth measuring your tires before race day.

The 28-spoke Ushuaia wheelset with asymmetric rims was durable and took hard hits without a dent or lack of trueness, but 1,600 grams is heavier than I like for a race wheelset for a rider of my weight. If you race tubulars or go with a lightweight clincher set, you could easily save 200 grams of important rotating weight and drop the bike into the sub-18-pound range.

For the final test ride I put a pair of race tubular wheels aboard and immediately shed just about a pound. The already spirited ride just kicked up another notch with unbridled acceleration and responsiveness. The bike felt light and responded to any input telepathically. I could not help but smile as I set my mind towards race season.

The Ushuaia is a good starter wheelset since it is durable and holds tires for gravel and low-pressure cyclocross riding. The lack of a bead hook means it is not a good choice for high-pressure, narrow road tires, however.

The geometry, 40mm tire clearance and lack of mounts for fenders or rack help define the Donnelly C//C a bike built specifically for cyclocross racing and not as a do-it-all adventure/gravel bike that can also be called into race duty.

It’s not that the C//C could not perform in a gravel race or a day-long adventure ride. Cyclocross bikes served that purpose until the recent outpouring of all-road bikes that span the spectrum of design from wide-tire road bikes to drop-bar mountain bikes. The Donnelly C//C is simply most at home on a true cyclocross course.

The seatstays are bridgeless to help with mud clearance. Donnelly C//C Force Cyclocross Bike. © C. Lee / Cyclocross Magazine

The Verdict

With its first foray into making bikes, Donnelly has built a race-oriented bike that is well-suited to the rigors of cyclocross. Handling is light and nimble, and the bike responds well to quick accelerations. The Force 1 build provides a ’cross-oriented 1x drivetrain that makes the bike ready to take straight to the cyclocross course.

At $4,000 for the top-end Force 1 build, the C//C is a relatively affordable compared to its carbon peers. The only drawback of the bike hitting that price point is the somewhat heavy Ushuaia alloy tubeless clinchers. Swap in a set of tubulars or a lightweight set of tubeless clinchers and the C//C is ready for racing all the way up to the highest levels of the sport.

For riders on a bit more of a budget, Donnelly also offers the C//C in a $3,000 Rival 1 model, and if you want to build the bike up yourself, the frameset is available for $2,000.

For more on the Donnelly C//C cyclocross bike, see the specs and photo gallery below.

Donnelly C//C Cyclocross Bike Specs

MSRP: $4,000, as tested
Weight: 18.4 pounds, no pedals; 10.3 pounds, no pedals or wheels
Frame: Donnelly hi-modulus carbon fiber, monocoque construction
Fork: Donnelly carbon fiber with tapered carbon steerer (1 ⅛” -1 ½”)
Shift/Brake Levers: SRAM Force 1 HRD, 11-speed
Brakes: SRAM Force 1 HRD
Rotors: SRAM Centerline, 140mm front, 140mm rear
Crankset: FSA SL-K, 4-arm spider
Chain Ring: FSA, MegaTooth narrow-wide, 42t
Rear Derailleur: SRAM Force 1
Cassette: SRAM PG-1170, 11-32t
Chain: SRAM PG-1130
Wheels: Donnelly Ushuaia alloy tubeless clinchers, 23mm internal width
Tires: Donnelly MXP tubeless-ready, 700c x 33mm
Cockpit: FSA Energy, alloy, 100mm stem, 44cm handlebar
Seatpost: FSA SL-K SB0, 2-bolt clamp
Saddle: Selle Italia X1X-Cross, steel rails
Country of Origin: Taiwan
Warranty: Limited lifetime frame and fork (original owner)
More Info: donnellycycling.com

Donnelly C//C Cyclocross Bike Photo Gallery