Review: Bianchi All Road Hydraulic Disc 105

Words and photos by Jeff Lockwood 

The Italian bicycle brand Bianchi has been an icon in the world of cycling for well over 100 years, and its celeste green paint is lusted after by legions of bicycle lovers from all walks of life. While Bianchi regularly sees its bikes in the pro peloton, the brand is also known for building a solid stable of rigs for mere mortal cyclists. For example, Bianchi produced a very popular series of singlespeed mountain bikes, like the SiSS, in the early- to mid-2000s.

We know from watching races like the Giro d’Italia and Strade Bianche that Italy has some rough roads and that Italians love to ride bikes. Thus, it should come as no surprise that Bianchi’s All Road collection offers a couple of bikes to be ridden atop such surfaces. As part of this collection, the All Road Disc 105 hits a market that prefers a bike that can handle the rugged white roads in Tuscany as well as riding to the local café or winery. While that sounds quite utopian, more practical applications for the All Road for the rest of us means we can ride the bike around town during the week and then take it on some modest adventures on the weekend.

Bianchi - BT

The aluminum All Road frame is designed to be ridden in a variety of scenarios, on differing surfaces—sometimes all on the same ride. While people sometimes simply opt to buy cyclocross bikes for off-road riding, the All Road offers some features that are more specific and useful to the average cyclist—and offers more comfort than a racy cyclocross frame.

Bianchi’s own marketing copy positions the bike as a capable all-terrain steed, “The All Road best suits the needs of riders looking to enjoy endless miles ‘off the grid’ — whether their excursions take them up fire roads, down gravel roads, over mountain bike trails or ‘all of the above.’” However, I find the bike does better with riding situations closer to home. Without failing miserably at being too many things to too many people, the All Road deftly presents a product that wisely offers three important characteristics needed for varying types of riding.

Bianchi drivetrain - BT

1. Versatility

For starters, the amusingly (yet appropriately) named 35 mm Kenda Happy Medium tires offer a tread that will roll nicely on smooth tarmac, grab enough on loose dirt roads and absorb some impact from neglected city streets. The fender mounts are key if you’re more into commuting to the office, as well as light touring. The 35 mm tires are about as wide as you can fit here, but there’s still plenty of room for the fenders. While the rack mounts offer a certain level of utility by allowing you to attach some bags and other bits, I wouldn’t say this bike is quite suited to heavy touring or bikepacking.

The key aspect of the bike’s versatility, in my opinion, is the fact that it’s a bicycle that is quite stable and comfortable on rougher roads for long distances. However, it’s still nimble enough that it can confidently cut and dice around traffic and errant pedestrians as you ride from your apartment to those glorious dirty stretches of road. And, of course, everything in between.

Bianchi tires - BT

Bianchi rear rack mounts- BT

Bianchi tires- BT

2. Comfort

While you could theoretically use the All Road to test the waters of a cyclocross race if you’ve never done one before, the bike has a more relaxed and comfortable geometry and measurements than its racy siblings. The chainstays are a bit longer, which offers more straightline stability, yet the front end of the bike remains on the short side. This lets the bike get snappy when you need/want it to be.

Its taller headtube puts the rider in a more upright (read: comfortable) position, which is always good for those long days in the saddle. This comfortable position is bolstered by the compact handlebars, which offer a shallow drop and slightly flared drops. I love the comfort and confidence this cockpit offers. It’s not often that I find myself riding in the drops on road or ‘cross bikes too much, so it was a pleasure to get into such a position with the All Road.

Bianchi bars - BT

Bianchi stem- BT

The All Road is spec’d with a wider diameter seatpost (31.6 mm). Combined with its aluminum frame, I was expecting a rather rigid and unforgiving feel—especially on rough roads. I was pleasantly surprised that the bike muted some of the vibrations on rougher roads. While it didn’t offer steel-frame-level forgiveness, I found it to be plenty comfortable. Sure, this is mostly thanks to the wider tires, but the whole package rode really nicely.

Bianchi fork - BT

3. Performance

Let’s be honest. The All Road is not designed, or priced, to be a hard-edged racing machine. It’s meant to be more of the trusty Swiss Army knife you have at the ready for whatever might come your way. However, since it’s billed as something to play in the dirt with, I sought out to see how the bike would perform on some tasty singletrack. It’s definitely no cyclocross bike, nor can it withstand truly technical trails with gnarly rocks and roots. But when the path was smooth, flowy and tacky, the All Road was fun. As long as I approached turns with a bit of care, the All Road stuck nicely to the trail.

The component spec on the All Road is typical for what you would find on a similarly priced rig. Shimano 105 takes care of the drivetrain. The 105 group is the workhorse of the shifter/derailleur world, and it’s hard to beat its performance-to-cost ratio. Disc brakes are a must for a bike like this, and Shimano’s road-specific hydraulic brakes offer smooth modulation and confidence. The aluminum stem, bars and seatpost, all branded as Bianchi’s Reparto Corse products, do their respective jobs with neither complaint nor fanfare. The carbon fiber fork is a nice touch. It tracks nicely and doesn’t really chatter on the rough stuff, which is welcome for more dirty sorts of riding.

Bianchi front derailleur - BT

Bianchi rear derailleur - BT

Bianchi QR- BT

While the Reparto Corse DRAW 1.9 Disc wheels and the Happy Medium tires performed well during the testing period, I would have preferred to run a tubeless setup. I understand that would have priced the bike a bit higher, but the performance gains, and confidence, offered by tubeless tires is key for such off-road specific bikes like this. I did worry about pinch flats when I would drop the pressure to further smooth out the ride.

While it was designed and built to be primarily ridden off-road, I found the Bianchi All Road more adept at rides along varying types of surfaces, rather than a pure gravel machine as marketed. If you’re into riding what you want, when you want, the All Road is certainly worth consideration. It may lack the sexiness that Bianchi is known for, but it’s a reliable rig that’s versatile, comfortable, decently spec’d and comes in below the $2,000 threshold.

Bianchi rider- BT

Price: $1,900
Sizes: 50, 53, 55 (tested), 57, 59, 61 cm
Weight: 24.3 lbs


This review originally appeared in Bicycle Times #44. Read more reviews online here, and subscribe to our weekly email newsletter to get content like this delivered directly to your inbox every Tuesday.

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Shimano now offering flat-mount Tiagra disc brakes

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Riders desiring hydraulic disc brakes on their road bikes can now get flat-mount discs from Shimano at a Tiagra price point. Previously, Shimano only offered this technology at Ultegra and 105 levels.

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The BR-RS405 system uses 140 or 160 mm rotors with Shimano’s heat-dissipating ICE technology. Shifters feature 10 mm of reach adjust and will accommodate 10-speed cassettes.

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Pricing has not yet been set. Aftermarket availability is predicted for July 2016.

 

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First Impression: Marin Lombard

Marin Lombard—WEB (1 of 20)

Editor’s note: Here at Bicycle Times we are as mindful of price as you are. So we gathered together a group of six very diverse bikes to showcase what you can find right now at the $1,000 price point. See our introduction here.


Marin describes the Lombard as having been “Birthed from cyclocross and touring parents…” and “Part adventure bike, and part urban warrior.” Those descriptions certainly had me sold from the get-go, this is my kind of bike: versatile.

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We’ve had a lot of conversation around the office lately about just how good bikes around and under the $1,000 price point are these days. Assembling the Lombard further cemented that point in my mind. On initial impression, this bike is very well built and spec’d at the price point.

Let’s take a walk around the bike.

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Due to the subtle matte grey and black palette, the Lombard’s gum-wall Schwalbe Road Cruiser tires draw your attention. These 35mm-wide tires seem like an awesome choice for a bike that will see terrain that varies from dirt to street.

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The second thing to strike me were the Lombard’s subtle reflective graphics. Not only is the branding minimal and tasteful, it also adds an element of visibility after dark.

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Promax Render R cable actuated disc brakes promise all-weather stopping power front and rear. Note the Lombard’s dual eyelets for both a rack and fenders. By mounting the brake inside the rear triangle, Marin greatly simplified rack and fender installation.

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Check out that headbadge and ample tire clearance in the fork with the stock 35mm tires. Looks to me like a 40mm would fit no problem. Might even be able to squeeze a 45mm in there.

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Rear tire clearance is generous at the seatstays, but a little less forgiving at the chainstays. Anything much bigger than a 40mm tire looks to be a tight fit.

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The Lombard’s 9-speed Sora drivetrain with the 50/39/30 triple chainring offers a wide range of gearing. Let me tell you, this Sora group operates more like an Ultegra group from the 9-speed era than an entry level drivetrain. It really is that good.

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Marin’s house-brand cockpit rounds out the build. All of these bits are functionally perfect and the fit is spot on for me.

Look for the full Lombard review in Issue #33 of Bicycle Times. Subscribe to the magazine or our eNews to have more of this great content delivered directly to your inbox.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misidentified the brand of brake calipers.

 

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First Impression: Specialized Diverge A1

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Editor’s note: Here at Bicycle Times we are as mindful of price as you are. So we gathered together a group of six very diverse bikes to showcase what you can find right now at the $1,000 price point. See our introduction here.


All-surface road bikes are what the popular kids are riding—especially here in Northern California—and we also enjoy moderate climates, rolling terrain, and unlimited riding opportunities. So it’s no surprise to see NorCal’s own Specialized launch its Diverge line of bikes with disc brakes, endurance geometry, and tire clearance for up to 700x35c rubber. We are reviewing the Diverge as part of our $1,000 bike round up.

The Diverge line includes seven models, from the $8,500 flagship Carbon Di2 to the entry-level $1,100 A1, which we received for testing in late October. Three models are available with a carbon frame and fork, with four available with an aluminum frame and carbon fork. The A1 frame is welded aluminum, mated to a Specialized FACT carbon fork with Zertz gel inserts for road chatter damping. The entry-level 8-speed Shimano Claris group helps keep the overall price of the bike down, but also contributes to its stout 24-plus pounds.

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Gearing is a spot-on 50/34-tooth crankset and 11-32-tooth cassette, providing ideal cruising and climbing options. Shifting was a little slower than I’m accustomed to after riding several Dura-Ace and Ultegra equipped machines the past year, and the external shifting cables were a bit distracting at first.

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The taller headtube and bowed top tube props me up a bit taller than my daily rider, but I settled in quicker than I thought. I appreciate bikes with longer wheelbases, and the 700x30c Specialized Espoir Sport tires still provide room for fenders; Specialized included handy threaded bosses on the chainstay bridge and rear dropouts to add its Plug + Play fender set.

After spending the past couple months on a repurposed Ibis Hakkalügi Disc bike, I’m ready to put the Diverge A1 through its paces on my test loop through Arastradero Preserve.

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Look for a full review in Bicycle Times Issue #33, along with our complete overview of the six $1,000 Bikes For Work & Play, available in early February.

 

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Shimano announces new road disc brake mount

Renderings courtesy of Shimano

Shimano has never been afraid to reinvent the proverbial wheel, and today it has announced it has done it again with a new road disc brake mount standard dubbed Flat Mount.

The new mount has been developed with “leading road bike brands” and we will likely see it equipped on some 2015 models this fall. The design allows road bike manufacturers to move away from the traditional mountain bike mounting system for a cleaner, more integrated look. It will still be backwards compatible with the proper adapters, Shimano says. It also has no visible hardware and will allow easier tool access for rear brake calipers tucked inside the rear triangle.

No actual product images yet, but when they are available we will post them here.

 

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Review: Tektro HyRd hydraulic brakes

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Mountain bikes have been reaping the benefits of hydraulic disc brakes for years now, and while they were finicky at first, the products available now are virtually maintenance-free. When they first began appearing on road bikes, mechanical discs were the obvious stop-gap—a brake cable is a brake cable, after all. But now that discs are becoming more prevalent, roadies want the benefits of hydraulic fluid, too.

Read the full story

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SRAM publishes ‘stop use immediately’ notice for hydraulic brakes

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Disc brakes have made a big push into the cyclocross and even road bike markets in the past year, but they certainly have had their share of bumps in the road along the way. SRAM, Shimano and TRP have all issued recalls for some of their disc brake products, but the latest news from SRAM trumps them all.

Despite an earlier recall that affected only a small production group of SRAM RED hydraulic disc road brakes, the new recall covers ALL hydraulic disc and rim brakes, and recommend riders stop using them immediately for their own safety.

Click here to read the full text of the announcement.

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First Impression: Women’s Liv/Giant Invite 2

By Emily Walley

Liv/giant is Giant’s initiative to reach out to female cyclists offering bikes and gear designed by and for women. Click here to read the Liv/giant philosophy. The Invite 2 is Giant’s women’s-specific, drop-bar bike for mixed-terrain adventure. Its aluminum frame makes it light weight, only 24lbs. with the stock pedals, so I’m able to tote the bike up and down steps without a grunt. Read the full story

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