Wilier is one of Italy’s oldest cycling brands, established in 1906, and intimately associated for most of its history with the highest levels of the sport.
The Cento1AIR is the latest addition to the Trieste brand’s range, and one arrived with UK importer, ATB Sales, just days before its public unveiling to the press at the Lotus F1 facility in Enstone, Oxfordshire yesterday. It is Wilier’s first aero road bike.
We found our way to the home of the cars driven by Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean, and narrowly avoided tripping over the front wing of a machine piloted to the F1 world championship by Fernando Alonso.
During our visit, we also cast an eye across Wilier’s more modestly priced GTR, the second new model introduced to its line up for model year 2014, learned that a disc-equipped incarnation of the Cento1SR race bike is due later this year, and snapped the 2014 incarnation of the flagship Zero7, one of the best bikes we’ve ever ridden. Check back tomorrow for more on these machines. Today we’ll focus on Cento1AIR.
Wilier has had most bases covered with a range including the Zero 7, the brand’s super lightweight climbing bike, and the Cento1SR, launched last year as the latest incarnation of its flagship race bike. Until now, however, it has been without an aero road bike. Enter the Cento1Air.
Built to a design brief intended to combine the handling qualities of the Cento1SR with the radical aerodynamics of the TwinBlade TT bike, the Cento1AIR certainly has a striking appearance. Viewed from the rear, the front triangle is almost completely concealed by the seattube, so slim are its CFD-influenced profiles.
Wilier had most bases covered with its Zero7 ultra-lightweight climbing bike and Cento1SR race bike, but until now lacked an aero road bike. Enter the Cento1AIR
The headtube’s leading edge is similarly slender, but the side profile retains much of the bulk of that found on the Cento1SR. Wilier set out their stall on handling and the lateral stiffness of the headtube is a significant factor. The lower bearing has the appearance of the 1.5” contact favoured by many manufacturers, but is the 1-1/4” unit deployed across the Wilier range (interestingly, Lapierre have also reverted to 1-1/4” on their redesigned flagship Xelius Ultimate).
The integration of fork crown and headtube is one of the most impressive features of the Cento1AIR, visually at least (we’ve yet to test one, but hope to soon). Turning the handlebars for a closer inspection of the fork’s trailing edge reveals two air channels: an echo of the giant voids between fork blade and wheel on the TwinBlade. It’s a continuation of the philosophy Wlilier applied to their TT bike: to reduce frontal area, but also to direct air flow in a bid to defeat turbulence and its inevitable consequence – drag.
Many aero road bikes incorporate the philosophy of German aerodynamicist, Professor Kamm (Trek’s Madone 7, for example), whose truncated aerofoils (smooth leading edge, flat trailing edge) abound on the Cento1AIR, most notably on the cutaway seattube, which arcs around the rear wheel. We’re assured that there’s sufficient clearance for a larger tyre than the narrow Mavic Yksion Powerlink rubber shown here. The very shallow seatstays are another result of a design realised with computational fluid dynamics, according to Wilier’s man at the launch.
Turning the handlebars for a closer inspection of the fork’s trailing edge reveals two air channels: an echo of the giant voids between fork blade and wheel on the TwinBlade
The Kamm philosophy extends as far as the custom made Ritchey seatpost. A word here on the mechanisms that secure it. The integrated seat clamp is neat enough, if no longer revolutionary (both Fondriest and Scott use a similar design). Internally, however, there’s a wedge that expands inside the seat tube, which along with the clamp, represents a belt and braces approach to the challenge of securing a flattened seat pin.
If the cable routings look familiar, that’s because they’re another feature previously deployed on the Cento1SR. The mounting plate at the top of the downtube can be removed for easy access when fitting new cables and replaced altogether with a blanking plate for those running electronic shifting. While on the topic, the downtube void through which cables are routed on mechanical systems will house internal batteries from Shimano and Campagnolo.
The close partnership between Wilier and FSA is evident on the Cento1AIR, in the bars and stem, for example, but nowhere more so than at the bottom bracket, where Wilier have deployed the 386 press fit unit developed for the Zero7 and subsequently used on the Cento1SR. It’s housed on the Cento1AIR in a substantial shell that rises to a squared-off junction of seattube and downtube. The 86mm standard is compatible with other chainsets (notably, Shimano), but only FSA’s 386EVO chainset pictured here utilises its capacity for a 30mm axle, apparently.
Wilier’s UK importer, ATB Sales, plans to import the Cento1AIR in three configurations (it will also be sold as a frameset). A Shimano Ultegra 6800, 11-speed mechanical configuration with Shimano RS21 aluminium clincher wheels will cost £3,750. An upscale offering with Shimano Ultegra 6870 11-speed Di2 will cost £4249. Finally, a Cento1AIR with Shimano Dura Ace 9000 mechanical shifting and Mavic Cosmic Carbone SLE wheels will cost £5499. Some of the last model have arrived in the UK already.