Wilier's new Cento10 Air looks almost understated for a next-gen aero bike – sit it alongside a Venge ViAS, Madone or new Scott Foil and it's the one that most closely resembles a standard road machine.
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I'm a fan of that sense of minimal fuss, and the relatively normal diameters of the major tubes. The front end, incorporating the Alabarda one-piece bar, is impressively clean, even with standard mechanical cabling (the eTap flagship model Wilier had on display at the launch simply takes that minimalism to another level).
Purposeful Campagnolo build
Our test bike featured a purposeful build based on Campagnolo’s third-tier Chorus group combined with Record direct-mount brakes (it's yet to be confirmed that these will be on the full production bike) and the latest MegaG3 spoked Campagnolo Eurus wheels. The complete 57cm bike was impressively light at just below 7kg.
On the road the immediate feel is one of smoothness. A glance at the Kamm-tail profile tubes might not suggest a bike with comfort in its DNA, but the Cento coped admirably over some of the snow- and frost-scarred Alpine roads around Cortina.
Faced with test loops that incorporated hours of constant climbing, an aero road bike probably wouldn’t be our first choice, but the Cento proved itself a very capable companion. Out of the saddle, the Alabarda one-piece cockpit had just enough give to smooth out side-to-side swinging on the bars, and for those moments when you want to sit in and grind away the flat, deep top sections provided a comfortable handhold.
Going up can only tell you so much about a bike's performance (it’ll tell you a lot more about yourself). Thankfully though after so much ascending we were faced with some seriously fast downhills, incorporating long fast runs with wide open corners, but also plenty of hairpins and switchbacks where good handling manners were essential.
Fast, stable, stealthy and comfortable
On the fast straight sections the Cento10 ran smoothly, and remarkably quietly. On some aero machines you’ll get a myriad of creaks and booms from big hollow tubes, but the only noises we had were from a flappy windproof, and a rattling bottle cage.
Over ruts, bumps and rougher sections the 10 showed plenty of compliance from the front end, giving me confidence to keep on the gas rather than backing off. When the road started to twist and turn the 10’s natural feeling handling response (neither too sharp, nor too lazy) combined with some seriously impressive and chatter-free braking from the alloy Eurus wheels and direct-mount stoppers.
We only ran in dry conditions, so it's difficult to come to any conclusion as to all-weather brake performance. But with what we had on offer the Cento seriously impressed, with the frame unwaveringly stiff under hard braking and equally hard cornering.
That said, the combination of slender fork and one-piece bar isn’t quite as rock-solid as the rear end, though the compliance here felt more benefit than downside – and as a whole it's far from being noodly. The only other niggles were that rattly bottle cage and the Astute Skyline saddle, which with a flat profile and firm hull didn’t suit this rider. Plenty of others though didn’t have an issue, and as we all know saddles are a very personal choice.
In all I was impressed by the Cento10Air – it's got a beautifully fluid feel to the way it rides. It may not be the slipperiest aero bike out there, and it's certainly not the most tech laden, but it rides like a proper all-round road machine and hasn’t been compromised by the pursuit of low drag numbers and watt savings.
Instead it's comfortable yet quick, with handling that (on our test terrain at least) hit the ideal balance between stable and sharp. I for one am looking forward to getting my hands on a UK-spec production bike and getting on some more familiar routes and roads to see how it compares to the latest aero-road fare. Stay tuned for a full review in the coming months.