If you’re wondering why you haven’t seen a row of Viner bikes lined up in your local shop, it’s because this historic Italian brand have a web-direct distribution setup. The Gladius is a well-proven but still competitive bike that’s not only comfortable to ride but surprisingly comfortable on your cash flow too.
Ride & handling: Incredibly comfortable but struggles when the power goes down
While our sample was a medium, the dramatically sloped top tube made it look more like a small. Get the seatpost up to the correct height, though, and the dots all join up.
Besides the size, the other immediate impression given by the Gladius was of the comfort levels it offers. The fat saddle, long seatpost extension, sloped top tube, stays and compliant fork all combine to make the bike feel like you’re running 10-20psi less in your tyres.
The same ‘softly, softly’ feel continues out of the saddle too, with the soft cranks and Campagnolo hoods doing a good job to keep you isolated from any road evil that might be scudding underneath.
The compact chainset ratios are just right to keep you in efficient, easy spinning gears most of the day. The classic 73° parallel handling is equally as benign and easy to live with.
Once you’re used to the Viner's soft feel it descends really quickly and confidently – lucky considering the brakes need some proper squeezing to scrub speed.
The payoff is that the Viner struggles when the power goes down. Its relatively heavy wheels and soft cranks mean less than sparkling acceleration, even though the actual bike is a reasonable weight.
As a result, while it spooled along happily at steady speeds on group rides, the Gladius was gapped every time the pace, or the gradient went up. In mitigation, the high comfort levels will leave you fresher for the run than most of the competition.
Chassis: Compact frame is surprisingly heavy but tapered fork is a classy bit of kit
The Gladius frame (named after the Roman legionaries’ short swords – considered to be good for both cut and thrust) features an appropriately compact chassis. And while it’s not exactly Caesarian in date, it has been around for a couple of years.
The smooth, slightly concave head tube leads into a skinny top tube that slopes away dramatically to the extended seat tube, and then triangular-to-round stays.
In contrast, the absolutely massive down tube all but swallows the bottom bracket shell, while the wishbone chainstay bridge transmits the power on through big triangular-to-round chainstays.
The tapered carbon fork creates a classy, comfortable front end. However, while the fork is superlight at 503g (1.11lb), the frame is heavy (1,339g/2.95lb) considering its relatively small size.
Equipment: Clunky/positive Campag shifting, wheels are hefty and chainset's too soft
You can buy the Viner frame and forks for £903.99 and build your bike up to your own spec, or you can choose from several transmission, wheelpack and finishing kit options.
The Campagnolo Veloce equipment is their baseline group, but you still get 10-speed shifting in characteristic clunky/positive (depending on your opinion) Campag style.
The rest of the Miche kit isn’t such a blessing, however. Despite relatively light Schwalbe tyres, the fancy-looking dual-spoked, red-hubbed Miche Race 707 wheels are heavy, and the matching quick-release levers with separate cowled covers are basic too.
While the machined compact-sized chainrings certainly look the part, the Miche Race chainset feels very soft underfoot. The Miche performance brakes also feel spongy through the non-cartridge pads.
You could certainly make the Viner lighter by ditching the big Selle Italia sofa saddle but the rest of the Deda finishing kit is all well-shaped. You also have the opportunity to specify crank and stem length as well as bar width when you order the bike, which is a nice touch.