It’s been a busy month for my Bianchi Methanol 9.4 CV long term test bike — since I last updated this blog, I’ve clocked up a few hundred kilometers on the bike, swapped out a few parts and tried my hand at another XC marathon race.
Starting with the new parts, I fitted the AbsoluteBLACK Traction ring, oval chainguide and weird top-cap-bolt thingy that we featured in 11spd a few weeks ago.
I’ve only had a little bit of previous experience with oval rings — coincidentally at another XC marathon race, the Rotor Big Race in Spain — and I was really keen to spend a little more time on one to see see how well they worked for me XC racing.
Like many others using oval rings for the first time, the sensation of riding one took a little bit of getting used to, with the strange ‘dropping’ sensation at the bottom of the pedal stroke at fast cadences totally throwing me off kilter at first.
However, I found this sensation to be far less noticeable at slower cadences and when climbing, and after 20 or 30km of regular riding, I stopped noticing it at all.
I feel like my pedalling — particularly when climbing out of the saddle — is a lot smoother since fitting the ring.
This is, of course, what AbsoluteBLACK and other oval ring manufacturers will tell you should happen, but I don’t feel that I’ve spent quite enough time on it to determine whether this is just a placebo.
I was finding that I would spin-out on fast fire road descents with the 32t ring I had fitted to the Methanol before, so I decided to take a chance and opted for a slightly larger 34t oval ring.
While this has been absolutely fine for my local climbs, I wish that I had actually looked at the elevation profile of the Scott MTB Marathon in Minehead before Reuben and I lined up at the start a few weeks ago.
The 62km loop took in just under 2,000m of climbing, including an ascent of Porlock Hill, the steepest A-road in the UK.
Averaging 25 percent for over 1km at one point, this was among the most savage climbs that I’ve ever done, with the 34t ring forcing an out of the saddle effort for the majority of the ascent.
The longer I spend on the Bianchi, the more time I seem to spend climbing out of the saddle. I suspect this is in part due to the malign influence of Joe and Reuben, neither of whom I think I’ve ever seen sit down on a climb.
Lumpy bumpers for days
The rest of the loop consisted primarily of a mix of incredibly fast and rough singletrack and fire road.
While not particularly technical, I can't stress enough how exhausting smashing through what was essentially a 3km rock garden on an XC hardtail was and I spent most of the descent cursing Reuben — in between whoopin’ and hollerin’ as I was actually having a blast — and his full-suss Focus 01E Pro.
While I’ve not dropped a chain on a 1x setup in years, this terrain was the perfect chance to test out the AbsoluteBlack chainguide.
I’m pleased to report that the guide kept everything in place and didn’t rub throughout the whole day, but perhaps most critically, the chainguide is among the least faffy I’ve ever had to set up. Long gone are the days of tricky, noisy roller guides and good riddance to them I say.
Given the guide weighs in at a paltry 30g with mountain hardware, this will be staying on the bike for the foreseeable future.
And lastly, I of course fitted the weird, super-light top-cap-bolt thingy from AbsoluteBlack to the Methanol.
While the stock top-cap was doing a fine job of sitting there doing nothing, I fitted this new one because it's gold and 3g. That is all.
Despite my best intentions, I’m clearly a glutton for punishment and still haven’t swapped out the Kenda Honey Badger tyre from the rear of the bike.
During the Minehead race, the super dry conditions and long fire road sections meant that the tyre wasn’t hugely out of its depth, but I did spin out a few times when climbing out of the saddle, especially on some of the steeper singletrack climbs.
I also would have given anything for more volume (or rear suspension) on the long, flat-ish and super rough climbs that characterised a lot of the day.
While the comfort afforded by the skinny seatpost and ‘infused’ Countervail helped to take the sting out of bumps, my lower back felt pretty pummelled by the end of the ride. Perhaps it’s time for a plus tyre test on this bike?
Costs this month
- AbsoluteBLACK Narrow Wide Oval XT M8000 Chainring:£40.99 / $54.99 / AU$70.99 from Chain Reaction Cycles
- AbsoluteBLACK Oval guide: £49.95 $65.95 / AU$ N/A from AbsoluteBLACK
- AbsoluteBLACK top cap:£13.00 from Tredz
Mileage this month
- Mileage clocked: approximately 200-ish-km
- Most enjoyable ride:Scott MTB Marathon Minehead (44/133 in my category, 82nd overall)
Original post: 22 June 2017
The Bianchi Methanol is the Italian brand's ultra-light, Countervail infused, XC 29er hardtail and I recently took delivery of the 9.5 CV, the cheapest option in the Methanol lineup.
So far I’ve clocked up just over 300km on the bike, so thought it was about time to check in with how I’ve got on with it so far, and to discuss any changes I’ve made to the stock configuration as well as any problems that have arisen.
- This review is part of our new long-term test format on BikeRadar, where staffers like me will be introducing the bikes we're spending time on over the next few months. We’ve already seen Oli’s Norco Search Alloy and had a brief look at Ed’s Kona Operator DL. Be sure to keep checking back here for regular updates.
I chose the Bianchi Methanol because I wanted a super-light XC bike that would double up as a test bed for new kit and hopefully take me towards my goal of mid-pack-semi-domination through this summer’s season of XC races.
I’m also generally quite a big fan of using skittish and light XC bikes for general trail riding. The feeling of controlled chaos in technical or steep terrain is oddly amusing, and with something so light to ride back up the hill, you can often squeeze in a decent sized ride even after work.