Wind slicing made more accessible
Wind slicing made more accessible
One of my early rides on the Bianchi Aria was a blustery one, which is appropriate for the bike by the Treviglio, Italy-based company. Bianchi started developing the aero road machine in spring 2016. It made its debut just before the 2017 summer riding season. I, however, got a hold of the bike early this spring, a season that seemed designed for testing an aero bike. I “enjoyed” headwinds and crosswinds, and somehow was able to avoid tailwinds.
The Aria draws features from the company’s high-end aero-road Oltre line and the Aquila time trial bike. Bianchi had specific goals for this new rig. “The project for our engineers was to develop an aero racing geometry bike, at a mediumhigh level price range, because it was missing in our product lineup,” said Bianchi global product manager Angelo Lecchi. Lecchi’s words are well-chosen: at $4,250, I’d say the bike is at the higher end of medium-high.
The Campagnolo build, while very close in price to the Shimano 105 model, is well matched with the frame. Campy released Centaur last year with the hopes of getting its mid-range gruppo spec’d on stock bikes. It’s just appropriate to have the two Italian brands together. The Centaur system worked great. As expected, it wasn’t as refined as Super Record or Record sets. With the Centaur, I needed a bit more muscle for shifts from the small, 34-tooth ring to the big 50-tooth than I would have with the carbon groupsets. The stopping power provided by the dual-pivot brakes was strong and consistent. For fans of disc brakes, the Aria also comes in Ultegra and 105 models with rotors. The alloy Vision Team 35 Comp wheels worked well with the frame. They’re a good all-round set of workhorse hoops that can slice the wind. For a bigger aero advantage, and to really complement the frame, I’d run slightly deeper wheels. Vision’s carbon Metron 55 SL clinchers would be a good pick. Angelo Lecchi said the Aria isn’t as stiff as the Oltre, which I remember as raceready rigid. The Aria, however, is no slouch when it comes to channelling the power you put into the pedals. It has a 86.5-mm-wide bottom-bracket shell. The head tube is tapered with a 1 ⅛"-diameter bearing at the top and a 1 ¼" at the bottom. I’d say the handling isn’t as sharp as Bianchi’s high-end Specialissima, but totally capable in the corners. My only quibble with the design is the seatpost clamp. Instead of a collar to hold the post in place, the frame uses a plug that you drop into the top tube and snug up with bolt. Setting your saddle height as you get the piece wedged into place is tricky, at best. I understand that this setup keeps the shapes more aerodynamic, but this gain comes at the expense of a smooth user experience. Bianchi says the Aria’s tube shapes have been tested in a wind tunnel, but is short on details. The shaping of the fork and its integration with the head and down tubes look legit. My own aero testing is a bit anecdotal. On one of those blustery spring days, I rode with a group into a headwind. While my early season fitness was coming along, I was surprised to find myself at the front not huffing and puffing, but chatting, actually able to have a conversation for kilometres at a good pace. I was comfortable in drops and happy to cruise. Whatever the drag coefficient, the Aria was a pleasure to ride into the wind.