Wilier’s first fully aero road bike, the Cento1AIR, was unveiled last month and is the latest machine to roll through the door at RoadCyclingUK HQ.
It’s a machine we first saw in the flesh at the dealer and press show of Wilier’s UK distributor, ATB Sales, who have sent us this Shimano Ultegra-equipped model for review.
The Cento1AIR is, as the name suggests, an aero version of the existing Cento1. Instead of creating an all-new aero bike, the Trieste-based brand has sought to combine the ride characteristics of the Cento1SR with the aerodynamics of the Twinblade time trial frame. That’s no bad thing – we described the Cento1SR as “one of the best all-rounders we have ridden” when we reviewed it last year.
The Cento1AIR is characterised tube profiles which, when viewed from the front, are super-slim in order to reduce the frontal area exposed to the wind, and, when viewed from the side, are oversized to offer the rigidity associated with the Cento1SR. We ran through the Cento1AIR’s key technical features, including the integrated fork/headtube, Kammtail-inspired tube profiles and proprietary seatpost, in our first look. Here we will take a look at the spec and offer some initial ride impressions.
To start with the spec, our large sample is based around Shimano’s new-for-2014 Ultegra 6800 11-speed groupset. It’s our first chance to ride the new groupset, first unveiled in April and now making its way on to model year 2014 bikes. It’s worth noting, however, that our machine comes with an FSA 386 crankset (with compact 50-34t chainrings) and FSA brakes, rather than those from the Ultegra line-up.
Meanwhile, the Shimano RS21 aluminium clincher wheels were introduced last year as a new addition to Shimano’s entry-level wheel range, with a claimed weight of 1,850g for the set. This is our first experience of the wheels but it’s fair to say we expect an early upgrade to bring out the best in the aero frame.
Otherwise, our machine comes with Vittoria Rubino Pro tyres, Wilier-branded finishing kit from FSA – a result of the close relationship between the two Italian manufacturers – and a Selle San Marco Concor saddle, which also comes in custom Wilier livery. Overall weight is 7.73kg on the RCUK scales.
Our spec, which comes with a £3,750 price tag, is one of three being brought into the UK by ATB Sales, alongside an Ultegra 6870 11-speed Di2 machine for £4,249 and a top-of-the-range Shimano Dura-Ace 9000 model with Mavic Cosmic Carbone SLE wheels for £5,499.
Swing a leg over the Wilier Cento1AIR and it’s obvious from almost the first pedal stroke that little of the stiffness of the Cento1SR has been lost by reshaping the frame’s tube profiles – it’s an incredible rigid ride. The huge downtube/BB junction, which houses an FSA BB386 EVO bottom bracket, goes some way to explaining that. That rigidity, however, means the frame transmits a significant amount of road buzz through to the rider.
While the Cento1AIR does not trouble the UCI’s weight limit in this build – and aero bikes often sacrifice super-low weight for, well, aerodynamics – our build felt sprightly on our three initial test rides, and quick to respond to pressure on the pedals. We’re looking forward to seeing how it performs up hill, where the frame’s design is, perhaps, less at home, and with a lighter wheelset in place.
Handling is as you’d expect – light, fast and responsive. It can sometimes take a little while to adjust to a new machine’s manners when switching from test bike to test bike but the Cento1AIR has been well behaved thus far.
We took our machine for a blast around London’s Richmond Park, where it set a new record for a hot lap. An indication of the Cento1AIR’s aero capabilities? Maybe, but there are too many external factors to consider – weather, wind, traffic and fitness – for this to be considered a remotely scientific test.
That ride took place at dusk and we struggled to fit a rear light to the Cento1AIR’s heavily aero-profiled seatpost and instead attached a Knog Boomer Wearable to the rear pockets of a jersey. The seatpost also won’t accept a saddlebag with a traditional velcro attachment. However, to flag both issues up as flaws is to probably miss the Cento1AIR’s raison d’être.
Which is? First impressions suggest the Wilier Cento1AIR is a machine to be ridden fast. The design certainly points to that and our experience to date backs that up. We’ve only logged approximately 100 miles on our test machine and it needs to prove itself over long days in the saddle and on more varied – and challenging – terrain. We’ll let you know how we get on.