Italian custom-builder Viner has excelled itself on its sixtieth anniversary with the Maxima. Its exceptional power transfer makes it a sprinter's dream but with its smart-bomb handling and light weight it's huge fun in the mountains too.
The only guy who could ride up my training hill faster than me had a Viner, back when I started cycling in 1978. Three decades and a marriage apiece later (we were each other’s best men) I've discovered for myself just what made that Viner so good.
Superb manufacturing, perfect fit and handling that's as precise as an electron microscope make this the best test bike I've ridden yet.
Ride & handling: effortless precision & power
Can a bike fit like a glove? The Maxima did. It was more than the sum of its parts, even though they included the reassuring whirr of the Miche Supertype carbon wheels, the dream-like handling of the light frame, and exceptional power transfer in the first sprints.
In fact, such was the power of the initial sprints that I’d already passed two roundabouts on my test ride in Majorca before I decided to give the Maxima a fair go around the third one.
With no traffic in sight, I did one whole lap around it, accelerating all the time. Leaning into the turn was great fun – the handling was effortless and the bike zoomed around in circles like a dog chasing its tail.
The sun beat down as I approached the outskirts of the seaside resort of Puerto de Pollença. I could see the road ahead of me winding up towards the famous Cap de Formentor – an 18km out-and-back rollercoaster of a road to Majorca’s north-eastern edge.
Sheer cliffs and blue seas were as much part of the ride as long drags, steep ramps and the windy hairpin bends. I made my way up the recently resurfaced bottom section of the climb out of the saddle. All I could hear whenever I leaned the bike to the side was the “whooshing” of the carbon wheels.
Everything felt right, from the way the frame moved under my body, to the way my pedal power was transferred from the pedals through the chain onto my back wheel.
After 3.5km of climbing, I reached a peak and couldn’t wait to throw myself down the other side. This was where the Maxima really came into its own.
Rarely had a bike been so in tune with my expectations. The control was perfect – predictable, but because of the short wheelbase, anything but boring.
The later I pulled the brakes, the better I could feel how well the fork and frame fitted together.
Stiff but not bumpy, comfortable but not dull – this was the best downhill fun I’d had for years!
While I had the Maxima (I loved it so much that I persuaded Viner to let me hang on to it for a bit) I took it out for a few longer rides.
Four hours-plus in the saddle flew past thanks to the super-stiff frame, which provided enough comfort to get me through without any bad back feedback.
Frame: custom-tuned for perfect fit & handling
The skeleton of the Maxima is 100 per cent Italian, and the exotic design of the lug connecting the top and seat tubes and seat stays shows that its designers are never short of ideas.
The Maxima can also be ordered with an integrated seatpost. This would afford the bike an even more extravagant look, but would make the price tag rather more extravagant too.
Viner have always been known for their custom-made frames, and they’ve managed to stay true to this philosophy in today’s carbon era. Using handmade carbon lugs instead of the monocoque moulding process to produce the frame means that all geometries are possible.
Even a rider’s size and weight and the purpose of the bike are taken into consideration when building the frame. The result? A very special and unique bike.
The lightest frame in the smallest size can be 'chopped' to a mere 950g, but that was not the case for me. I ordered a frame with a short wheelbase for quick and responsive handling and extra stiffness around the bottom bracket – exactly the sort of bike I’d have gone for as a pro.
This type of geometry is great fun in twisty downhill sections and, with the shorter distance from the centre of the front hub to the centre of the bottom bracket, there’s no doubt it would be great for manoeuvring in bunch sprints.
Equipment: superb mixture
The Maxima's components impressed too.
Anatomically, the Deda Phazer handlebar was the best I’ve used in ages. My hands rested in a very relaxed position on the tops, there was heaps of room on the hoods and, when sprinting, the very thick drops gave me that extra grip I could only get in my pro days by using double layers of bar tape.
I found it useful to add some extra tape on the top. True, it did spoil the carbon look of the bike, but the grip was much improved when riding without gloves.
It wasn’t just the bars that proved their worth. I found it almost impossible to twist the Deda carbon stem even a fraction when forcing the bike from standstill into big gear accelerations.
The bike came with a Campagnolo Record derailleur and Ergopower shifters, and with a full Miche bottom bracket, brake and wheel set-up.
This is the same bike the Italian Viner-Miche team ride, with one exception. The team bikes feature white and gold stickers on the wheels. Mine came in yellow and gold, which was a shame as they didn’t really fit the bike’s overall colour scheme.
Looks aside, the Miche wheels were actually built with 404 Zipp rims (not the dimpled ones). They were fitted with 28 spokes at the back and 20 at the front. The Miche carbon hubs looked good, were very light, and used normal, round spokes. Why? Simple: this way, when fixing the wheels after a race, mechanics needn’t worry about the spokes being twisted sideways.
Braking on carbon rims, such as these Miches , will never be as efficient as braking on aluminium. The Supertype carbon brakes didn’t have as much bite as I would have liked, but even so their performance was adequate.
The Supertype carbon crankset, with its golden writing and great performance, fitted in perfectly with the 60th anniversary paintjob on the frame. The white, gold and carbon looked a treat. It might not be to everybody’s taste, but I liked it.
Adding the finishing touches to the crankset’s look was a patriotic Italian flag accompanied by the words 'made in Italy' underneath. Viner are proud of their heritage.
Conclusion: Best. Bike. Ever.
There’s no doubt about it – the Maxima is the best bike I’ve ever tested. Viner have gone out of their way to produce something extra-special for their 60th anniversary, and the beautifully designed and engineered Maxima fits the bill.
Equipped with exactly the same components as the pro team bike, the Maxima might upset the purist with its mix of Campagnolo and Miche components, but you can easily avoid this by choosing your preferred components at the ordering stage.
This masterpiece proves that custom-made frames really make a difference. Any pro would be proud to be seen on the Maxima, and so should you.
Getting a Viner
From ordering to delivery, a made-to-measure Maxima will take approximately six weeks to reach you. Yes, you’ll need to be patient while you wait for your new toy to arrive, but once you’ve got your hands on it, you’ll realise it was worth the wait.
If you know what you want from your bike, and you know how you want to ride it, you can’t go wrong with a custom frame.