Virtually all of Cycling Plus magazine's 2010 Bike Of The Year testers had the Wilier Izoard Centaur in their top 10, with quite a few placing it in their top ﬁve. We were interested to see how it would perform in the longer term, so we hung onto it for further testing.
Over four months we put in several thousand miles, and we found that there's a lot to like about this nippy Italian road bike. This is one of those bikes that could equally be the perfect long-distance sportive bike or an accomplished race machine – perhaps with lighter wheels.
Ride & handling: Precise, but you're still in charge
The 2010 Izoard is barely changed from the 2009 model, but it's a perfect example of the maxim ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t ﬁx it’. It weighs 8.1kg, has a full-carbon frame, Campagnolo Centaur 10-speed groupset and Fulcrum Racing 5 wheels. And all our testers agreed that it offers great feedback from the road, it’s easily ﬂickable and well damped.
Like the best all-round road bikes, the Izoard combines speed and acceleration for the racers with the sort of comfort that the less competitive riders really appreciate. The rear stays are curved and whether it’s this or the layup of the carbon that has the greater effect on comfort it’s hard to know, but the Wilier deﬁnitely offers a plush ride.
These initial impressions were reinforced in the longer-term test. The Izoard is an all-day road bike, not a super-stiff racing thoroughbred, and it'll look after you if you're putting lots of miles in. It sounds silly but you just sit on it and pedal. The bike always responds positively, even with tired legs, and there's never any sensation that you're fighting it.
The Wilier's weight helps: at 8.1kg (17.9lb) for the size large that we tested it's a nice balance between flighty featherweight and lumbering leviathan. So it's not skittish on rough roads but it won't hold you back on a climb. But it’s the handling that really seems to impress everybody. Compared with most bikes of this size, the Izoard has a slightly shorter top tube and a slightly longer stem, and it’s a combination that works very well in practice.
It's well balanced, with light but firm steering, requiring you to be the master rather than it looking after you no matter what. The latter can certainly be a desirable quality but it also means you lose feedback from the road. The Izoard will do your bidding without fuss and do it well, but it's not going to give you an armchair ride. It's up to you as to what you prefer.
Equipment: Sportive specced, durable
We didn't thrash the Izoard to within an inch of its life through a full winter, but we did ride in enough bad weather to test the durability of its components. The Centaur groupset is a noticeable improvement over Veloce, with more positive levers and progressively more powerful brakes, and it was still working perfectly at the end of our test period.
The compact 50/34-tooth chainset combined with 12-25 on the back is great for pedalling, not slogging, up most hills. But for longer, steep climbs you'll likely want something lower, as 34x25 might be a little tall. The top gear (50x12) is a little small, however, if you want to power up on a fast descent or contest a bunch sprint. It's the gearing more than anything that puts the Izoard more in the sportive than the racing class. But it's a classy sportive bike nonetheless.
It was good to see Fulcrum Racing 5s on the Wilier rather than the Racing 7s seen on some other bikes at this price, although they're perhaps better suited to the sportive rider than the full-on racer. They were true at the end of the test period. The only issue we had was with the tyres. They're Wilier-branded Cheng Shin tyres and just don't quite do this bike justice. The compound is a little hard and doesn't inspire confidence in the wet. We also punctured on them a couple of times despite them not being worn, which is never a good sign.
But we're talking about a minor blemish on what is otherwise a very well sorted bike. The good news for prospective buyers is that the Izoard will be available in 2011 essentially unchanged from its current incarnation, albeit with a beefed up frame and a curvier fork. The not-so-good news is that the price will rise by £100. That might not matter so much in this price range as value is secondary to performance. If you're hunting for a fun to ride all day bike, then give the Izoard serious consideration.