When we look at the Cento 10NDR, it evokes images of riding the beautiful "white roads" around Tuscany or tackling famous sections of pavé at Flanders or Roubaix. It's hard not to channel your inner classics specialist and picture yourself duking it out in a select group of fast riders that have made the selection late in the race. And in races such as these, both in reality and in our heads, the equipment demands require an efficient machine that can soak up the rough roads. Essentially, a bike that keeps a rider comfortable for hours over the punishing stones, yet efficient so as to not waste any wattage to unwanted flexing so when it's time to put in the big attack, a rider can push all their chips to the center of the table and hopefully get into a winning scenario. At least that’s the one we replay in our heads. Wilier's Cento10NDR Disc Ultegra 8070 Di2 Complete Road Bike is such a ride and its comfort-oriented geometry, race-stiff chassis, huge tire clearance, and innovative rear suspension all conspire to help the pros, and more importantly, you, perform at your best on the most heroic rides.
Wilier pitches the NDR as an endurance bike, which it does do quite well, but we also feel it serves the racer on terrain where some compliance goes a long way towards staying fresh and leaving some reserve in the tank. When we get in the thick of the spring classics, we fully expect to see both the Wilier Triestina-Selle Italia and the Direct Energy teams campaigning the bike over the cobbles. That's because Wilier is still a racing company first and foremost and the oversized tubing and burly bottom bracket provide intuitive handling and a stiff pedaling platform, perfect in racing situations, while the more stable geometry and the Actiflex elastomer suspension help for going faster over a rough parcours.
Rear suspension has been tried on road bikes over the years with varying levels of success. The designs that have done well still find a home in the peloton and those that haven't been are cast aside as relics of designs not fully realized because neither material nor proper testing was available at that time. We slot Wilier's suspension design in the lasting category and have no concerns with any squishy deadness that might deter from the bike's ride quality. Dubbed Actiflex, it 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 for when the road turns rough or on reasonably well-maintained gravel and dirt. For our needs, we mostly appreciate Actiflex on longer training rides, chip seal roads out in the county, and light gravel use, but we can completely see how the smoother ride will benefit the pros over the hellish spring classics.
The mixed bag that can occur with some suspension designs like this is that, as with mountain bikes, it can eat watts through spongy damping and frame flex. Actiflex uses a pair of axles with two bracing arms—a proper linkage—instead of just a single suspension shock in a wishbone stay. After a brief stint on the bike over some pockmarked pavement, the bike feels like a road bike with the high-frequency buzz filtered out. The design mandates that the rear triangle's only movement can occur on the vertical plane so the laterally stiff, vertically compliant cliché that's as tired as our legs on the first long ride back from winter's hibernation applies, and this bike exhibits it more than just about any drop bar bike we've thrown a leg over. This lateral stability is welcome on any over-geared sprint or short, steep hills, and the lack of any rear wag allows the suspension to properly absorb the chatter.
The Cento10NDR isn't a full-on gravel bike by any means, it has the Jaroon for that. What it is though is a bike that is much more forgiving on traditional and rougher road surfaces than Wilier's standard Cento, and the efficiency and weight penalties are virtually non-existent. We've already seen some pro teams racing all season and in all races on frames that have some sort of suspension and we think this will become more prevalent over the next few years. After all, 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. But disc brakes are ubiquitous now, especially in endurance cycling, and the NDR can handle rotors too, like in this build, or rim brakes if you want to build up the bike as light as you can, or that's where your braking allegiances lie.
The suspension might be the NDR's strongest suit, but its ability to work with both disc and rim brakes is perhaps just as genius. Traditionalists may balk at the frame and fork's ability to flip-flop between brake standards but 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. We think it's great that you have the brake choice and it allows for a frameset that can be upgraded as you go. Special inserts at the dropouts 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) which provide one more nod to the current direction of cycling innovation.
Much like the Cento10AIR, this frameset features integration that is easy on the eyes and wind. When using electronic shifting and hydraulic brakes, like we have here, Wilier's Barra and Stemma allows up to 3 pieces of housing to 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 the tube shapes and hidden housing.
The frame's tube cross sections borrow from the Cento10AIR, a design that combines a classic NACA leading edge with a truncated, Kammtail trailing edge. The shape maintains the aerodynamic advantages of a traditional NACA teardrop but with the added benefit of fewer grams by requiring less material, increases in torsional stiffness, and additional stability in crosswind yaw angles. This design is mimicked in 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 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 nostalgic for analog.
This one is electronic, and a smart build through and through from our friends at Wilier. Shimano's Ultegra Di2 and Mavic's Cosmic Elite wheels instill confidence and add value. Both are durable and reliable and can stand up to the abuse of long and rough roads that Wilier had intended when designing the frameset. Heck with the money saved going with Ultegra and the alloy hoops, you might even be able to book a flight and attend a European fondo.