While we're at our desks, daydreaming about riding, we typically think of endless country roads that we glide effortlessly along, the pedals doing all the work even though we're clipping along at 22 mph. Think Pozzato's unflappably smooth pedal stroke while shadowing Boonen across the stones of April. Of course, getting out on the bike typically dispels that perfect ride fantasy, and the culprits tend to be rough surfaces, inefficient frames, and—admittedly—our own occasional lack of form. Wilier's Cento1NDR Disc eTap HRD Complete Road Bike turns those disadvantages into advantages—at least, it does for the first two. But its comfort-minded geometry, race-stiff drive spine, huge tire clearance, and Wilier's take on the latest wave of rear suspension road bikes all conspire to make the pursuit of form on the rough roads of spring all the more pleasant.
Though it's billed as an endurance bike (hence "NDR"), we'd be remiss not to stress that the Cento10NDR is actually built for racing on terrain where a little bit of comfort goes a long way towards higher speeds. As with most bikes of this level, the proof of this claim is in the peloton. Whether we're drinking chianti and watching them tackle the white gravel of Tuscany or drinking Duvel while they chatter across the punishing stones of the northern classics, we fully expect to see this bike under Pozzato and the Wilier Triestina-Selle Italia team. That's because it combines the classic Wilier front end with a burly bottom bracket—providing intuitive handling and a stiff pedaling platform—with a more stable geometry and the Actiflex elastomer suspension.
In our experience, rear suspension gimmicks on road bikes tend to feel like, well, gimmicks. Wilier has largely addressed our concerns, most of which centered on the squishy deadness such designs typically add to a bike's ride quality. Actiflex involves an elastomer insert and a hinged, alloy housing at the seatstay/seat tube junction, and it's scant few millimeters of suspension are surprisingly effective when the road turns rough or on reasonably well-maintained gravel and dirt. For our needs, we mostly appreciate Actiflex on long training rides, country chip seal, and light gravel use, but we can see how the reduction in jarring will benefit the likes of Pozzato come spring.
The big shortcoming of most suspension designs like this is that, as with mountain bikes, it can eat watts and smother ride quality. Actiflex uses a pair of axles with two bracing arms—a proper linkage—instead of just a single suspension shock in a wishbone stay. We're not totally certain (after all, we're cyclists, not engineers), but it feels as though that linkage design reduces the squirreliness of the rear triangle by buttressing it up against movement on any plain but the vertical. This lateral stability is most evident while mashing, but it also makes the rear feel more stable while the suspension is absorbing chatter.
The Cento10NDR isn't a gravel bike by any means, but it's much more forgiving on non-traditional road surfaces than Wilier's standard Cento, and the efficiency penalty is virtually non-existent. It's so unnoticeable that this bike may be the harbinger of things to come, even at the pro level. Just a few years ago, we figured that disc brakes would be a short-lived fad on road bikes, destined to join road suspension in the garbage bin of history. Disc brakes are ubiquitous now, especially in endurance cycling, but the Cento10NDR is the first frameset that might prove us wrong on both counts.
Suspension aside, the Cento10NDR Disc belies its true identity by working with both disc and rim brakes. Traditionalists may balk at the prospect of bolts on the frame for the brake standard not in use; however, we also suspect that the Actiflex suspension design provides an even more compelling reason for them to avoid the Cento10NDR and stick to their traditional tube shapes and 20th century frame designs. Their loss. Special inserts at the dropouts also let the frame transform quickly and safely from a thru-axle set up to quick-release, and generous tire clearance (28mm with rim brakes and 30mm with discs) provide one more nod to the current direction of cycling innovation.
Much like the Cento10AIR, this frame is all about integration as well. When using electronic shifting, hydraulic brakes, and Wilier's Barra and Stemma cockpit (as we've built the frame up here), up to 3 pieces of housing can be routed directly through the stem and into the frame. This gives the front end an extremely clean look and provides superior aerodynamics—considerations that Wilier applies to the rest of the frame, from tube shapes to progressively tuned angles.
The frame's tube cross sections also take their cues from the Cento10AIR, a design that combines a classic NACA leading edge with a truncated, Kammback trailing edge. The shape maintains the aerodynamic advantages of a traditional NACA teardrop but with the added benefit of fewer grams (by dint of less material) and a more stable crosswind footprint. This is hardly a rarity across the industry today; but Wilier's progressive geometry, which tailors the angles and tube lengths of each size to the bodies of the riders appropriate to that size, and the NDR's reduced reach and higher stack make for a frame that's not only aerodynamically proven, but looks far cleaner than bikes with a static geometry across sizes and a few centimeters of spacers.
The frame is finished with a final pair of details that combine old and new in a typically Wilier-esque way. The round, 27.2mm seatpost adds road bike suspension the old-fashioned way, by dispelling road noise with the slightest bit of flex. This may seem inconsequential, but it's a welcome departure from the latest trend of "aero" seatposts, whose ovalized cross sections tend to have the unfortunate effect of eliminating any give, thereby magnifying any bump in the road. The nod to the new is Wilier's interchangeable routing plate, which lets you swap between the electronic drivetrain we've equipped the frame with or mechanical, if you're feeling the need for the tactile tug of cables.
But electronic it is, at least for now. This is an in-house build, so we had the luxury of kitting it out with the stuff that we like to ride rather than the stuff the vendor chooses. We opted for SRAM's Red eTap HRD and Mavic's latest Cosmic Pro SL UST hoops. It may be the most user-friendly build we've ever put together. SRAM's eTap basically sets itself up, though you can tweak it as you see fit, and Mavic's UST tubeless design is so simple to use that you can install the tires without using levers and then inflate them without needing CO2, a high-volume pump, or an air compressor. Just a standard floor pump and a cold beverage. It really is that easy, extending the theme of easy cruising that the Cento10NDR is predicated on.
- A racing bike that doesn't skimp on comfort or stiffness
- Integrated elastomer suspension cheats noise and chatter
- Geometry maintains comfort while reducing the need for spacers
- Race-grade frame maintains stiffness despite the pleasant ride
- Aerodynamic tubes are dialed specifically to each frame size
- Compatible with thru-axles, quick-releases, and disc or rim brakes
- We curated a mix of racing kit from SRAM, Mavic, and Rotor
- Wilier's been building bikes for over a century, but it's not afraid to innovate