Bianchi’s ultra responsive and uniquely detailed Methanol is loaded with some fantastic features. But there are aspects that could do with updating, and others where its potential is unfairly restricted.
Needy, unstable handling
On the bright side the smaller wheels accelerate slightly faster to put even more pep into an already punchy and combative ride feel. It doesn’t do the smoothness, traction or stability of the sketchy tread, small volume Kenda Honey Badger tyres any favours though.
The stability aspect is particularly telling as the naturally faster handling wheels are controlled through a 71-degree head angle and a super narrow 685mm FSA carbon flat bar. Obviously you should be able to negotiate a free swap to a wider bar if you’re putting this sort of money into the till of your local Bianchi dealer but even then the very low standover, steep frame is naturally needy, requiring constant control rather than being trusted to do the right thing.
Combined with the tyres, an adequate but not amazing Fox Performance fork and hair-trigger Formula R1 brakes, this leaves very little margin for error and gives a fatiguingly frantic rather than reassuring relaxed feel on even slightly technical trails. The flip side is that bar obviously means you can cut trees or overtaking gaps a lot finer if you’ve got the nerve and it’s got very keen climbing manners even on twisty trails.
Well-balanced ride feel
Considering the wheel size, ride feel is well balanced between precise, powerful efficiency and just enough forgiveness in the saddle for day-long missions. The double crankset and 11-speed rear block mean you’ll never be short of the right ratio for your ideal cadence either and in the context of the predominantly fire road courses of European marathon races the Methanol would fit perfectly into place.
While handling and wheel size definitely dominated the testing conversations there’s a lot to talk about with the frame too. The obvious aspect is the use of a seat mast and socket saddle clamp to minimise weight at the expense of easy adjustability.
It’s something Bianchi doesn’t even do on its road bikes. But at least you can cut the mast off completely and use a conventional post if you really screw up your initial sawing.
Flying rock protection is provided by titanium mesh moulded into the belly and reinforcing ribs stiffen the head tube and BB30 bottom bracket. The internal cabling is Di2 compatible, there’s an internal battery mount and even the bottle cage bolts are anodised in Bianchi’s trademark celeste green.
This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine.