Carbon Bike Test - Wilier Le Roi
We're in the final straight now (at last). Heads down and gunning for the line… You'll have to wait one more day for the final judgement though. Check back tomorrow for the final analysis…
Wilier Le Roi
Not heard of Wilier? Well it all started in 1906 in a small workshop along the banks of the river Brenta near Trieste. Earning a reputation for quality and craftsmanship from their early use of chromium and nickel-plating, their business grew steadily over the years despite the disruption of two World Wars. These days Wilier operates out of a modern purpose built facility in Rossano Veneto. They produce around 13,000 bikes a year and serve 250 dealers across Italy.
The first Wilier ‘pro team’ was established just after the end of WWII and gained it's first major victory winning the Tour of Italy in 1948. International successes followed in 1949 and 1950 competing in the Tour of Flanders and the Tour de France. From those early days Wilier have recognised the importance of working with world-class professional riders and teams to enable them to ring the last drop of performance and reliability out of their frames. For Pantani fans out there Wilier has symbolic meaning as it was the last bike he rode in a bike race.
Wilier bikes are big news in Italy but have been a rare sight on UK roads. Marco Pantani's endorsement has meant a lot to the Italian bike-buying nation. He boosted Wilier in a similar way to the sales success that he rekindled in Bianchi. Wilier will be a much more regular sight as they now have a good distributor for the UK market. The range is also wide and there are several price points along the way to this one at the top of the tree.
|The detailing is excellent|
Frame and Fork
The "Le Roi" frame features their latest development MMS – Multi Monocoque System, a revolutionary procedure that uses monocoque technology in every tube, thus: "allowing a reduction in weight to a previously unachievable 950 grams, while maintaining superior ride characteristics over lugged and regular monocoque frames. A pretty big claim.
Elsewhere, Wilier's differential headset uses both 1 1/8" and 1 1/4" races to provide more stability where it is needed, in the lower part of the steer tube. Can't say that we noticed a massive step up in front end rigidity, but it does look subtle and nicely blended in with the orange graphic.
The straight bladed fork is monocoque carbon fibre and is designed specifically to give more precision while cornering. The monocoque carbon seat stays lightens up the rear of the frame and provides optimal power transfer to the rear wheel, but it has to be said that there’s not much ‘give’ in this rear end.
A full Record gruppo is complimented with finishing kit from ITM and Selcof and we finally get a chance to have a go on the Fulcrum Racing 1 wheels, although we weren’t that impressed with the ride, they look good and the quality of build is excellent. The Hutchinson tyres may be OK for Southern European countries and weather, but they are a little on the lightweight side for rain soaked Blighty and a fatter tyre would be our choice for this bike anyway.
There is nothing unusual about the spec and although the bars on our test bike were quite narrow, there were plenty of admirers for the ITM bar and stem combo. We changed the bars for some wider, more familiar ones and in the process noticed the short comings of the Sword bar ensemble. It’s OK once it’s installed but it is very tricky to tighten and loosen the Allen bolts that hold the bars in place. You need a special Allen Key (or ball headed Bondhus type) to undo it. It's really fiddly.
Everything else was suitably pro-stable selection and we thought the Carbon Record throughout with black brakes was very chichi and picked out the carbon frame theme just perfectly.
|BB reinforced for added umpf|
First impressions of the Le Roi are that it’s a bit of a handful. These impressions don't really subside. This is a racer’s bike – make no mistake. Even experienced riders found the ride very 'engaging'. It's so light it almost clatters off everything. The Hutchinson tyres didn't help much on rough roads either. Around Hillingdon and smooth roads the Wilier makes a lot more sense. It has bags of power available when you kick out of the saddle and sprints straight – like a dart. Likewise in the hills it just glides up anything more than a rise - there is no fear of any energy being wasted here.
But let's be honest, this is a LOT of money to be spending on a frame and although it looks fantastic and the weight and construction are excellent, the ride will be a little aggressive for some and when paying this much, you may need to assess your aspirations as well as your bank balance. So do you really need a 16lb rocket ship?
Larger riders (read 'heavier') did find that the bike bucked about a bit, which is to be expected of a bike so light and stiff, but it also can be a little tiring after several hours riding. Obviously Team Cofidis and Lampre won't find this a problem as they are all about 70 kilos wringing wet and let's face it they want a bike that flies like a dart in the sprint.