You may laugh, but compared with some of the Euro race whippets we were testing it alongside – from Bianchi, Storck and Look – the 720mm and 90mm stem of Wilier's 101X feel almost like an enduro setup. A 70.5-degree head angle for the in-moulded headset and a 1100mm wheelbase also provide the 101 with a decently stable steering feel.
There’s only one XT shifter on the bars too, racking up the Wilier more ‘on trend’ points and dropping weight competitively low (10.13kg) for the price. It even has a direct mount rear derailleur at the tip of the asymmetric 142x12 thru-axled chainstays for tighter shifting accuracy.
Conventional and Di2 compatible internal cable routing uses guide plates to keep it quiet and it can be rigged to work with Shimano’s latest Side-Swing front derailleur designs.
There are 12 different build options available too, from Miche-wheeled XT right through to top-line Di2 XTR. It says something about Wilier’s priorities that even the top model still comes with the same Performance grade Fox 100 fork as the base model and our sample, rather than a premium Factory grade fork.
While older generation XT wheels used to be heavy and unresponsive, the new 8000 series versions wrapped in barely treaded Maxxis Ikon 29 rubber are well competitive in terms of weight and wind-up speed. It’s still definitely expensive for an XT-equipped bike from more mainstream brands, however the ‘60 ton elastic infiltrated film’ carbon frame is a complex construction that uses different diameters and shapes of tube for different frame sizes.
Smooth rather than razor sharp
The top tube is split just ahead of the super narrow seat tube creating an upper loop brace just below the seat collar and a lower ‘shelf’ that splits into the two skinny seatstays. The lower part of the seat tube squares off and expands where the bottle cage mounts and the broad 92mm bottom bracket looks suitably stout for when riding flat out.
That meant we were surprised there’s a definite sense of sapped power on short, sharp digs where you’re throwing every muscle from shoulder to toe into the mix. While the way the 27.2mm seatpost twangs around keeps life in the saddle smoother, it also creates irritating bounce when you’re trying to grunt a big gear at low revs. The payback is impressive traction from the Ikon tyres and seated comfort, but stand up and the Wilier feels harsh through your feet on rocky descents.
The fractionally wider cockpit and more stable handling does make it more forgiving on technical trails though and when we weren’t at full gas the Wilier 101X XT is a fun place to be. Its ‘contemporary’ feel also counts in its favour.
This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine.