Oh! I am so happy! My dream possession, Bianchi arrived. Finally!
But. I couldn’t take it for a spin until it was a few days (till the weekend). Right when I saw a Bianchi (the older 2009 model) at BSA GO, a year ago I was in love with it. Didn’t know much about bikes then. But found it prohibitively expensive at about Rs. 57,000. I decided for Aeron Sport which was around Rs.30k. Then my both kids wanted an upgrade to their bikes. And few more domestic expenses. So I did more research and settled for Hero Thunder Racer at Rs.6k. While I was certainly enjoying cycling, including to work on work days and long ones during weekends, I continued my research for the upgrade. Nine long months to be precise. Yes, believe me. These were nine LONG months!
After a lot of research and riding several road bikes, and particularly after riding the Bianchi Volpe, I decided I was not going to settle for anything less than STI levers for gear shifting (don’t have to lift my hand while in drops to change gears). And there wasn’t anything in the market that offered STI levers. When the 2010 models of Bianchi came in, it was ONE clear choice for me. No more need to consider the 2009 Trek 1.5 or the Orbea, or the Giant or whatever. The Bianchi 2010 models offered the best of both – beauty and the beast! The components were good (based on my limited knowledge of 9 LONG months of research and reading hundreds of articles). I knew it wasn’t going to be anything less than the Tiagra. Was it worth the extra Rs.29k for the 105 Mix from a Tiagra at an MRP of Rs.78k? Well I realized there were nearly every component upgraded; some I understood, some I didn’t. I finally said, ‘okay. I don’t know when I will do an upgrade again. Let it be!’.
So after it finally arrived, I decided to wait till the weekend. I knew I would only thrill, if my first hop on to bike was a LONG one, to compensate for my LONG wait! No, a short spin wouldn’t do. So I wait. And on the Sunday (July 18, 2010), I get ready early and go out in the dark.
Oops! I realize in the dark after a short ride, my handle is err, misbehaving. The stem was loose. Some more distance, my goggles slipped down . . . and few more small irritants. Got down and fixed all of them. Continued on my first long ride for 80 kms to & fro (Trip details here). My onward ride averaged 23 kmph being cautious and return ride averaged 26 kmph (realized later I forgot to correct the wheel size in cyclocomputer, so the numbers are slightly on the higher size). Here are my thoughts on the bike:
- Beauty: Yep! The bike is a beauty! Absolutely stunning! I just love it for appearances alone.
- Size: The 53 cm size is probably slightly bigger for me. My height is 5’4″. At the saddle’s minimum height, the height is just right for me. No flex. I would think a right size would be one which allows flexibility to go up or down at least to some degree. That having said, I have zero issues as far as the fit is concerned based on how I feel on it. No issues at all.
- Ground Clearance: The bike has lower ground clearance than the Hero Thunder Racer (HTR). In other words, for an inch or so higher saddle position when on pedals than the HTR, the toes actually meet ground just as the HTR did, when not on pedals. So I liked it. If this was not the case, it would have been a disaster for me (scared to think!), since the saddle wouldn’t go down any further. Will a lower ground clearance improve stability just as it does for a car? Nah! That’s an exaggeration.
- Handle Distance: The overall length of the cycle is WAY (several inches) shorter than the HTR. The handle is closer to saddle. I liked it. Gives a very comfortable position during the ride. I don’t have to stretch my back for reach.
- Control: The cycle over-steers in a big way when compared to the HTR. For a small effort from my hands, it turns lot more than I was used to. Yes, in a big way and scary. So much so that it took me nearly 50 kms of ride to get used to it. I suspect it is because of the shorter wheel base (distance between two wheels). But once I got used to it, it was not a problem. So much for the manufacturer’s claim that the longer bike length helps in complete control better during turns.
- Saddle: The saddle is so so so comfortable. I did not have to change my position on the seat almost in the entire ride. Definitely one of the best things I like about this bike.
- Comfort: Bianchi is definitely lot more comfortable than my HTR. After riding the same 80 kms distance that I often do with the other bike, I found myself not exhausted at the end of the ride; almost 20%-30% less exhausted. But legs did ache in a different way that I never had on HTR. I notice this even on shorter rides. I get far less exhausted on the Bianchi. But I quite don’t understand one aspect though. I used to have a whole body strain on the HTR but somehow it’s only legs on this bike.
- Weight: The bike is very light at about 9 kgs. I can very comfortably lift and walk anytime I needed (yesterday there was a huge traffic jam when coming from work; and I happily lifted my bike and just crossed over and cutting over the traffic, smiling myself at the poor guys in cars). The reduced weight induced me into getting rid of my seat post carrier of my other bike (just after my first ride), and learned to survive with a backpack instead!
- Shock Absorbing: With all due regards to its Kevlar technology and the carbon fiber material to its forks (and probably seat post), I have to admit that I did not find the Bianchi anymore shock absorbing than the HTR, probably due to significantly thinner tires. That having said, the ride quality was pretty good. While I can feel every bit of the road, it was dampened enough to not bother me during ride. Overall, I am pretty happy with shock absorbing. It never gave me a feeling that I should have gone for a cyclocross bike with a slightly wider tires or the Volpe which was definitely more comfortable ride.
- Speed: Thanks to the 23mm thinner tires and light weight, combined with good components, I could see a significant difference in my speed. Usually my average speed is about 16 kmph. On the Bianchi it is around 22 kmph.
- Brakes: These are fantastic! Their stopping power is pretty amazing. It improved my confidence in a big way of riding at a high speed when going downhill and still feel confident that I can stop at the speed braker along the way in a short distance. Also the brakes are very light to operate.
- Gears: After fiddling around and fine tuning a few times, both the front and rear gears shift well. There is very little sound when down shifting. I test rode the Tiagra model, and did not like the large sound it made when shifting. One pleasant surprise that I noticed was depending on how much I pushed the brake lever, it actually shifts up to three gears at a time. Three discrete steps were available. Since this is a ten speed on rear, it helps sometimes not having to move one at a time only. The gearing ratio is excellent for achieving high speed. I noticed that even when going downhill at about 45 -50 kmph I could still spindle the pedals and go further up on speed; thanks to large gearing ratio. However when going uphill, the gearing ratio is not small enough to make uphill riding easy unlike the Bianchi Volpe. Not having a third gear in the front adds to the misery. That having said, I always have a tendency to remain in higher gear ratio at the cost of slower pedaling.
- Levers: They are very easy to operate. The STI levers are extremely comfortable when compared to the other type (not sure what they are called), since I don’t have to re-position my hands for up-shifting or down shifting. Thank God, I am not exposed to double tap levers yet, lest I would have missed them!
- Drops: The drops position and the handlebar are VERY comfortable. I can use the brakes very effectively while I am on the hood. And I am also comfortable going to drops anytime. There is lot of space on the handlebar for other positions of holding.
- Tires: It is amazing to notice that while I had to re-fill air on my HTR at least weekly, it is more than a month now, and I did not have to refill on the Bianchi. The locking mechanism on the valve is probably helping it retain the air pressure, despite being higher at 120 psi. Ironically, not knowing the locking system, I struggled a lot trying all combinations in the pump, to figure out how to fill air!!
- Overall Ride Feel on the Bianchi: There are two things I like best about the Bianchi 105. The bike often makes me compare it to the BMW car. Firstly, the ride is extremely smooth. Quality of wheels, hubs, cranks etc., are of excellent quality giving it a very smooth ride. The manufacturing tolerances are very tight and the gaps between moving parts are very slim, giving the bike a very robust ‘single piece’ feel just as the BMW did. Secondly, the BMW always encouraged me to push the accelerator further. There was something springy about that pedal that it constantly encouraged to push further and take-off from current speed. The Bianchi 105 is something very similar. There is something about it that it encourages to push the pedal harder and make me feel the moving parts. There is this unexplainable beautiful feel when it pedals. They are NOT light. They are smooth albeit grinding. Love it!
All in all, the bike is pretty good. I have not yet found any limitations, other than it is probably very delicate. I dropped it once and had a minor scratch on a lever and dislocated itself. As long as I am ‘on’ it, I feel a little bumpy road is not something you enjoy, but certainly not something you will be scared of riding over.
I ride it to work every day and enjoy the commute!
More bike pictures are here.
Thanks for a patient reading. Comments welcome!