Bianchi have a habit of making their bikes look more expensive than they are and that is certainly the case with this 1885 model that commemorates the year the company was founded by Edoardo Bianchi. Bianchi split their road bikes into three ranges and the 1885 is at the entry point of the B4P (Born For Performance) range aimed at the 'sportive rider'.
The 1885 features some attractively profiled 7000 series tubing that is hydroformed to achieve the desired shape. The profiled tubing is no stiffer than a round tube but it's one of the best looking frames with the carbon back end designed to introduce some extra vertical compliance. Bianchi has the lowest, most race-oriented riding position of this group, which is curious for a sportive-orientated bike where comfort in the saddle over long rides should be a major consideration.
The 31.6mm seatpost fits firmly in the frame, which is a good indication that quality control is to Bianchi's usual high standards. As with the others here, you can dismiss any perceived negatives of its frame being made in Taiwan; the Bianchi should be considered an all-Italian bike in terms of its groupset and kit.
The efficiently stiff yet vertically compliant frame has a carbon-like smoothness over rough surfaces in much the same way that a Specialized Roubaix or Cannondale CAAD 8 or 9 does. The Bianchi also has a profiled carbon back end that wins points for style but probably serves more to aid large production runs than comfort, because the carbon seatpost alone soaks up the vibrations. The steering has pin-point accuracy and this helps to boost rider confidence when descending at speed. When climbing, the transition from seated to riding out of the saddle feels seamless.
The level of equipment here is broadly in line with what you would expect at the price too. The ITM Wing Shape handlebars provide a greater surface area for the palms to rest when riding on the tops and they are better at soaking up vibrations than the ITM 330 bars. However, they leave nowhere to place a light or cycling computer, save for those such as Campag's Ergobrain that have an especially slim mounting bracket.
The Bianchi's oversized stem has no brand identity but is very similar to the ITM Forged Lite that costs around £43. Finally, the Selle San Marco Blaze saddle is a hit in terms of comfort and has tubular titanium/ steel rails, which would be around £39 if bought separately.
The Bianchi's Campagnolo Khamsin wheels normally cost around £100 to buy and their deep-section rim design requires the use of a long valve inner tube or screw-on extension. Deepsection rims such as these provide a small aerodynamic benefit, but strong cross winds can give the rider a hard time as the testers found out. The G3 spoke pattern looks good and is two-cross on the drive side rear and radial on the non-drive side. In the six months of testing our samples have remained perfectly true, though it is too early to be sure of their longterm reliability; suffice to say that this type of wheel rarely goes more than slightly out of true even when a spoke breaks.
The Continental Grand Prix tyres used on the Bianchi cost around £40 per pair and have a soft compound that grips very well in the wet. However, they have shown to be a little more susceptible to tread cuts than the others here.
We have no hesitation in recommending the Bianchi 1885. The Campagnolo Khamsin wheels are a little on the heavy side and thus lack sparkle on the climbs, but the quality of the frame and components come together to produce a bike with real pedigree. This is spot on for £1,099.
Frame geometry Aside from the usual frame angle figures and tube lengths, frame type is generally referred to as either 'compact' (sloping top-tube - downwards from front to back), semi compact (slightly sloping top-tube) and traditional geometry (level top-tube)
Gear hanger Sacrificial bit of metal that attaches your rear mech to the frame. In an accident it will bend or break instead of your aluminium frame
Specialized Allez Elite £899
Giant TCR Zero £1,099
Focus Variado £599
BH L60 £1,279-£1,399
Specialized Allez Elite £899 The Elite 2007 is based on a full aluminium frame, Shimano 105 groupset together with FSA chainset, Mavic CXP22 rims and has a carbon/alu/ carbon fork commonly seen on bikes costing over a grand. Specialized - 01159 775900 www.specialized.com
Giant TCR Zero £1,099 The TCR uses Giant's proprietary Aluxx aluminium tubing throughout and looks like sound value for money based on a full complement of Shimano Ultegra equipment, together with Giant-branded wheels and finishing kit. Giant - 01159 775900 www.giant-bicycle.com
Focus Variado £599 Came a resounding 3rd in our 'Budget race bike of the year 2006' and is now probably the best value bike currently available for less than a grand. The Focus has a fully butted aluminium frame with semi- compact geometry, and the spec is based on 105 triple and Shimano's WH-R550 wheels. www.wiggle.co.uk
BH L60 £1,179 This took 1st place in the C 2006 awards (C 191), winning 2006 Race Bike of the Year. The Shimano 105-equipped BH L60 is a pound lighter than you would expect for this money and is currently discounted down to an incredible £1,179. BH - 07977 157223 www.bhbikes.com