While most of the people who buy the Vicenza will be in the love-at-first-white-highlighted-sight category, that included more of our testers than we expected – illustrating the fact that the potential appeal of this UK-designed bike runs more than skin deep.
- Highs: Smooth-riding, comfortably equipped, affordable and attention-grabbing mile-eater
- Lows: Soft character and heavy wheels are slow to respond to short, sharp efforts
- Buy if: Your days out are more about comfort than competition
With a short head-tube, 30mm-deep semi-aero rims and a good frame weight, you’d be forgiven for thinking this bike sits on the race side of Claud Butler’s race/touring range. But as soon as you settle into the deep, soft-padded saddle there’s a clear message that the Vicenza is rigged for comfort, not speed. Not only is the seat more hammock than hard shell but, if you’ve got big hands, the drops of the super-shallow compact bar are more like thumb loops.
The deep white rims might stand out on the shop floor, but they kill any acceleration and altitude-gaining efforts stone dead. The Kenda Kampaign tyres are heavy as well, although it’s a tribute to the rest of the bike’s ride that they don’t feel as dead as we expected. The skinny arms and axle of the FSA Omega chainset feel flexy underfoot, though, and climbs definitely require a 'gear down' rather than 'stand up' approach.
On the subject of gears, the use of fancy green cables rather than Shimano wires also has a detrimental effect: they require a noticeably greater effort at the lever compared with the normal shifting efficiency of the Tiagra shifters, although this isn’t as much of an issue on a naturally sedate bike as it would be on a more race-orientated option.
We always seemed to appreciate the sights and sounds of our test routes more on the Vicenza, and found ourselves contesting the climbs and sprints less than on some of its price rivals. The Claud Butler’s character isn’t just a result of the components either – the frame and handling also add a distinctively smooth, unhurried undertone to the bike.
This was a bonus on rougher sections of road, and calmed traction-threatening chatter on weather-ravaged descents. The longer the test rides, the more our team tended to linger on the Vicenza.
In summary, the Vicenza’s heavy wheels and soft power delivery don’t match its racy looks, and it isn’t the first choice for anyone wanting to unleash their inner Mark Cavendish. But if you’re looking for a friendly, fatigue-reducing ride, then this Butler is a faithfully friendly retainer.
This article was originally published in Cycling Plus magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.