The Italian Strade Bianche is a modern spring Classic raced partially on Tuscany’s dusty farm tracks – the 'white roads' that give the race its name. It’s a notoriously demanding race for riders and equipment alike.
Good on paper
Viner’s Italian-designed Strada Bianca looks like it would be a very tempting proposition for just such a challenge. It has a carbon frame, a SRAM Force 1 groupset with carbon cranks and 41mm-wide tyres. Its three-point-fixing rear rack mounts, easily serviceable external rear brake routing and internal gear cabling make it ideal for British cycling conditions too.
The Strada Bianca has all the fixtures for the daily grind and the groupset is a definite bonus on paper
While Viner's parent brand Planet X sells mainly online, allowing for its aggressive pricing, it also has a couple of stores in Yorkshire where you can see the bikes in the flesh and size them up. But if you can’t make it to God’s Own County (why not?), we can tell you the reach is short for any given frame size, though the standard-issue 110mm Selcof stem means that the riding position doesn’t actually feel that cramped.
The long stem and slack head angle make it feel stable through the bar, but a shortish wheelbase stops it feeling too barge-like on the road. The San Marco Concor saddle came in for praise from our testers, particularly when we were too tired to stand and needed a stable shape to grind a big gear around.
Selcof’s slimline 27.2mm carbon seatpost promises a comfortable ride
And as the Viner pairs a 42t chainring with an 11-28 cassette – a bottom gear equivalent to a 34x23 – you are likely to find yourself doing quite a lot of low-rev, high-torque climbing.
Soft, yet harsh
Don’t expect the Strada Bianca to gain speed easily however much power you throw at it, as the otherwise lightweight bike features a heavy pair of wheels. Even with the stiffness and security of a 142x12mm thru-axle, the shallowish chainstays with a flat section ahead of the rear wheel feel soft and dull under power.
The SRAM carbon cranks are fairly flexy, and while the WTB tyres are labelled ‘light and fast rolling’, they didn’t get much love from our testers either. They’re okay on loose gravel, but their continuous centre ridge makes them sketchy over roots or on rocky off-road sections – while still growling on tarmac.
The fork gives an uncompromisingly harsh feel
More positively, they are very easy to convert to a low-pressure tubeless setup. That’s particularly useful as despite those flattened seatstays the Viner transmits a large amount of road and rough-terrain shock through the frame.
You also feel impacts through the slab-sided full-carbon fork, jarring our hands and shoulders unless we softened the front tyre. But a lower front-tyre pressure inevitably adds a more mushy feel when you’re riding out of the saddle and those gears really aren’t going to let you sit down when things get steeper, either.
The result is a bike that really didn’t deliver what we’d hoped it would. The slack head angle handles securely as long as the tyres find grip, it’s got all the fixtures for the daily grind and the groupset is a definite bonus on paper.
But the combination of soft through the pedals and hard through the hands left our testers struggling to love the Viner, despite loving its looks.