Earlier in the year Jamie tested out the new Bianchi Aria. This is the entry level aero carbon bike from Bianchi with prices ranging from £2,250. This is the model tested and comes equipped with Campagnolo Centaur and Vision Team 35 wheels and runs calliper brakes. There are also disc versions available. His review is below.....
Snappy and direct ride
It’s best to describe the ride as snappy and firm. This bike feels quick and the race derived geometry means it’s long and low. Taking the bike around the fast sweeping curves of Lee Valley Velopark it was sure footed on the corners and responsive when you push on the rises.
Whilst purpose built circuits like Lee Valley are a great hunting ground for this machine it’s also likely to be a workhorse spending much time pinching out the miles on UK country roads. I took the bike on a few of my favourite local loops and commutes. It’s fair to say tha on the bumpier roads of Bedfordshire the firmness was noticeable, probably mostly due to the stiff aero shaped frame. Overall the bike felt fast, and when it looks this good and feels fast, what’s not to like!
Aero frame with trickle down technology
The aero looks can divide opinions, but I think the frame looks great. As with all Bianchi bikes you have to love the colour. This has the new CK12 Celeste which has a more flouro finish than the traditional colour. I like it, but it may not be for the Bianchi traditionalists.
There are some nice trickle down technologies on the Aria. The fork borrows it’s bowed shaping and flush junction to the frame down tube from the top of the pile Oltre XR4 range. Not bad given these bikes start at over double the price of the Aria. The dropped down tube and short rear seat stays also make the bike look fashionably aero.
As for the benefits of aero frame shaping, I’m no scientist, and at the speeds I tested the bike probably didn’t get the most from this feature. If you’re into saving watts and shaving time off your PB then the science of aero is likely to be important to you. To me the frame just looks great and if I was to go a little quicker on this bike, then great it’s an added benefit.
More practically, there are some neat touches on the frame; like the cutaway above the bottom bracket allows for a short wheelbase making the bike lively when out of the saddle. The lowered drive side chainstay reduces the risk of chain slap on bumpier surfaces. The frame is also drilled for electronic gearsets should you wish to upgrade in the future (all standard specifications are mechanical).
Sublime Campagnolo groupset
This was a revelation to me, having not ridden Campag since my race days, many moons ago, in fact thinking about it this was before the days of indexing. Gear changes on the Centaur groupset were positive and had a noticeable and reassuring clunk when moving between gears. The Campag gear lever position took a few minutes to get used to but once you’re going, it became second nature to shift on the inside of the hoods.
Having ridden this bike with entry level 11 speed Centaur I have to say I was impressed. It’s a different feel to Shimano, think industrial reliability vs Shimano’s buttery smoothness. I was already wondering if my next bike should have Campag and this has answered it for me, yes!
Vision Aero Wheels
The deep profile of the rims looks smart and the Vittoria rubber was good and grippy. At this specification level the wheels are in line with the rest of the bike spec, which is a novelty as wheels are often down specced on most new bikes.
Braking was good, especially since one of my test rides was rather damp. There was a little flex in the wheels with some brake run when out of the saddle but I’d put this down to a tight brake setup and me being an absolute bloater. Not a problem for most normal shaped sub 100kg riders I’m sure!
Lighter wheels may make the bike feel more lively and be a benefit when climbing however I’d be happy with these wheels given the price of the bike.Finishing Kit
A combination of FSA and Bianchi own brand Reparto Corsa kit can be found on the bike. All good and functional.
The bars specified are narrow at 42cm given it’s a 59cm large bike, but this wasn’t an issue. The bars are also shaped to be flattened on the tops, you could argue for aero gains, however more usefully they were comfortable when riding on the tops.Flamme Rouge Verdict
Value wise, Bianchi has delivered. An aero frame, race geometry and decent spec all for £2,250. This is a great race bike for those wanting to give circuit racing a go, or those who love the aero looks.
Given the recent rule changes at British Cycling I’d probably opt for the disc version. Whilst a little more expensive, this can be raced, guarantees braking performance in all conditions, still looks great and is probably a bit more aero (if you’re into that sort of thing)
Come and see the bike in the flesh at Flamme Rouge. Demo rides can be arranged by request.