The Veneto region of northern Italy is home to what might be the highest concentration of luxury-class cycling brands in the world. They include Sidi, DMT, Campagnolo, Selle Italia, Selle San Marco, Elite, Giordana, Nalini, Pinarello, and Wilier. The gorgeous terrain marries nicely to the fact that they’ve been building roads there for the better part of 1,000 years. Cycling is sewn into the cultural soul of the Veneto, which is why it was such a joy to make a pilgrimage there to test Wilier’s new top-end bike for 2012, the Zero.7.
Wilier has been building on its Cento platform since the mid-2000s, culminating in the Cento1 SL which is currently raced by Lampre-ISD . But rather than laboring to find a few final improvements from the Cento design, Wilier started from scratch with the Zero.7. The result is the stiffest and lightest frame it has ever produced. And the Zero.7’s remarkable handling of the fearsome climbs and corkscrew descents around Asiago and Bassano del Grappa has me rethinking my bike stable.
One headliner with the Zero.7 is that a fully-painted size Medium frame weighs just 799g — unprecedented territory for an Italian bike. The other big news is that it ushers in a new bottom bracket standard called BB386 EVO. You can think of it as a generational leap forward for BB30. Its shell has an unprecedented width of 86.5mm along with a diameter of 46mm (which allows Wilier to use correspondingly larger frame tubes to further increase drivetrain stiffness). When the shell is combined with its BB386-specific FSA carbon crankset (which uses a BB30-like 30mm aluminum spindle), the result is a bike that climbs and sprints as beautifully as the countryside I rode it through.
Another bonus of BB386 EVO vs. BB30? The disappearance of the unattractively bent (and possibly power-robbing) crankarms required by BB30. The BB386 EVO crankarms are straighter and pleasantly normal in their aesthetics. Drivetrain stiffness is always key. But when it goes hand-in-hand with clean lines, that’s even better.
Speaking of clean, dig on the lack of electrical tape holding down the bar tape. Sweaty as my hands got on the climbs, the tape didn’t slip a bit. The lack of electrical tape gave the bar a crisper look, and it was nice not feeling the typical scratchy transition between it and the bar tape itself. Details, details.
Other highlights from Wilier for 2012 include an all-new time trial bike, the TwinFoil. It uses airfoils to reduce frontal drag, reminiscent of the technology on Ridley’s JetFoil. While Ridley integrates its airfoils into the fork blades, Wilier takes a different approach. It starts by integrating the stem to the fork on the outside of the headtube. It’s there, on the outside of the headtube, where the foils reside. It has the other fundamentals you’d expect — cleverly-routed internal cables and brake calipers that seamlessly integrate into the frame. And, yes, it’s UCI-legal.
One other gem was the Cento1 XC mountain bike frame. The photos tell the tale. If you dig hardtails, and you love Italian bike racing culture, it’s outstanding bike porn. If it only came in 29′ wheels. Europeans still have a incomprehensible fixation on 26′ hardtails.
And do you remember the Alpini craze at the beginning of the 2011 Giro d’Italia? It was a treat to be in their backyard. Alpini reminders were everywhere. Because of the price they paid in WWI, tributes were omnipresent.
Half a hundred more,
Little border villages,
Back before the war,
Monte Grappa, Monte Corno,
Twice a dozen such,
In the piping times of peace
Didn’t come to much.
— Ernest Hemingway, in Paris, 1922
Other random notes include a reminder that Italy is a land where Campagnolo reigns supreme, and it does so with flair. Colorful Ergopower hoods and cable housing appear to be the coming rage for the 2012 season. Prototypically Italian style and joy were everywhere, whether it was about bikes or anything else.