Cycling Plus editor Rob Spedding was happy with production bikes – until he tried this custom-built Viner. Now he knows what he's been missing.
- Frame: Stiff enough for fast riding, but there’s enough comfort for long days on the road (9/10)
- Handling: Precise and conﬁdence-inspiring, the perfecta/volato will have you hitting corners at a faster velocity than before (9/10)
- Equipment: Despite the price tag, the equipment levels mean that this bike represents good value – Miche Supertype is excellent (and different), Record, Deda and Selle Italia reliable (10/10)
- Wheels: Stiff, strong, light and compatible with the latest tyre technology (9/10)
All of my suits, including the one I was married in, are off-the-peg. My car was bought secondhand so the optional extras were chosen by a 73-year-old man. The closest I’ve ever come to having something ‘tailor-made’ for me was when my mum turned up my trousers when I was 12.
This extended to bikes. Every bike I’ve owned has been factory standard – 58cm top tube, standard groupset and whatever colour was in stock. It worked for me. Well, I thought it did.
Gliding along, pretty effortlessly, on a Viner Perfecta that’s been built to my precise measurements, something feels different. Firstly, I’m gliding along pretty effortlessly. That isn’t normal. It’s more than this though – and stop me if I get dewy eyed here – but the bike underneath me doesn’t feel like it’s just underneath me. We’re in harmony with each other… there’s an instant trust… we should get a room.
I’m getting ahead of myself here, though. The Viner-ati among you will spot that the Perfecta pictured is actually a 2009 model. It’s still available but in 2010 is called the Volata. The 2010 Perfecta has an upgraded, stiffer frame (and costs £450 more).
It’s a 2009 machine because I ordered it just as the annual model switch was about to take place. I couldn’t wait for a Volata – lack of patience is one of the reasons I’ve never gone bespoke for anything – and the idea of a custom-made carbon ﬁbre Italian stallion in just ﬁve weeks if I opted for the Perfecta was too tempting.
Italian? Yep, Viner doesn’t sound especially Latin, but it’s as proudly Mediterranean as Colnago, Pinarello and Bianchi. The company was founded in 1947, in Tuscany, by Viviano Nerosi who took the ﬁrst two letters of his Christian name and the ﬁrst three from his surname to create a brand.
Kevin Worster, at Canary Wharf’s Cycle Doctor, might not be Italian but with more than 20 years’ experience in the bike industry he’s typical of the type of person Viner entrust with the task of measuring clients for their made-to-measure machines (23 of the bikes in Viner’s 27-strong 2010 range – including aluminium and steel – can be custom-built at no extra cost).
Kevin – who decided in late 2009 to move to France – is thorough. In the nicest possible way I feel as if I’m undergoing a physical rather than purchasing a bike – not surprising when my most recent buying experience was: “Yeah, looks about right, you can have £50 off if you take it today…” He measures the distance from my sternum to the ground, the width of my shoulders, inside leg and arm length. From this year, Viner ﬁtters will also be asking your shoe size to perfect your cleat position.
After this I sit on a static bike that can be adjusted every which way. This ascertains the ideal position for my saddle – height and setback, the length and height of my stem and seatpost angle. Kev does this by using both his experience and by quizzing me about my racing. A few probing questions later he knows I’m a fat knacker who wants a bike that can be ridden quickly, will climb efﬁciently and not scare the hell out of me on corners – the perfect sportive ride.
After the measurements we go through the options available for the Perfecta/Volato. Frame and fork cost £1,600 and you can get a complete made-to-measure machine for £2,300. (The cheapest custom Viner is the alloy Vigor at £800 for frame and fork.) I am, of course, a tart at heart so I opt for a ﬂashy build.
Despite being as Latin as John Prescott I go for an almost 100 percent Italian build. Added to the Dedacciai T700 High Modulus frame are Fulcrum Racing 1 two-way ﬁt wheels, Deda Zero 100 stem, bar and seatpost, a Selle Italia Flow SLR saddle and Campagnolo Record 10-speed shifters and derailleurs.
I could have gone for full 11-speed Record, but one likes to be different so I opt for Miche’s sweet-shifting carbon Supertype chainset. The brakes are carbon-wrapped Supertype too. The French Hutchinson tubeless tyres were the only deviation from the Italian.
I leave feeling as if I’ve been looked after and genuinely excited by what will be delivered in ﬁve weeks. At the same time my measurements and requirements are sent to Viner’s factory in Tuscany where these dimensions are ‘tuned’ using software that digitally designs the frame and the mask that the frame is built on. This is the template on which the frame is built and, say Viner, is one of just three in the world.
According to Viner’s Peter Cole this allows tweaks to be made to the frame geometry that are accurate to within 0.1 of a millimetre: “This is important as even small changes in the design can change the ride characteristic of the bike.” Cole says that by custom building in carbon ﬁbre Viner are offering something that few other brands can: “In today’s world of mass production and customers having to adapt to ﬁt the bike we are trying to offer a real difference in service and, above all, quality.”
Once ﬁnal checks of the geometry are made, the tubes are cut, mitred and bonded into place, the lugs that hold the tubes and frame together are then hand wrapped and placed in an aerospace grade autoclave where they bake and harden. The frame is then hand ﬁnished, checked over and Robert is your father’s brother. Luckily while this is all happening the impatient among us – ie. me – receive regular emails from Viner updating our bike’s progress.
Once the due date arrives it’s off to the Viner dealer for ﬁnal ﬁtting and you’re riding away on a bespoke bike. But are you? Sure, the ﬁrst few miles feel fantastic. But then don’t all ‘ﬁrst few miles’ on something reassuringly expensive feel fantastic?
The Perfecta’s ride is special – fast with instant power delivery through the stiff, yet compliant frame; ﬂuid, precise handling on every corner; deceptively effortless climbing. But then that’s what happy owners of non-bespoke Perfecta will say too.
So what’s the difference? Well, ﬁrst up I asked for a standard frame rather than the ‘off-the-peg’ compact, to give it the handsome, traditional look I favour. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a proper head turner though. Once workshop manager George had stripped down the Perfecta any lingering doubt that it isn’t bespoke disappears – his measurements match Viner’s. When anyone asks what size bike I ride there’s no more 58cm – I’m proudly rocking 57.5.
A longish wheelbase of 100cm and 6.2cm trail means jittery old me has some much needed stability while the 73-degree head and seat angles, shallow drop bar and perfectly set up cockpit – ideal reach, every control exactly where I need it to be – gives the comfort an old man like me needs on a long ride.
The shortish chainstays, though, mean my weight is placed perfectly over the back wheel to aid power delivery should I ever get excited and the Fulcrum 1s also mean it’s not too wimpy. Basically, it’s the smooth-riding, super-fast, taut handling, lightweight sportive machine I asked for.
So is going bespoke worth it? Of course it is (especially when it’s a no-cost-extra). Ask anyone who’s had a truly custom bike built for them and they’ll say the same.