Bianchi has stepped into the e-road market in a big way. I recently tested the Aria-E, which I think is the best-looking electric-road bike on the market right now. The Impulso e-Road is very much the ugly stepsister to the Aria-E’s Cinderella. Before you dismiss it, though, it’s an e-bike that’ll give you some serious assistance and a fine riding experience.
The bottom bracket-mounted motor system is from Italian scooter and motorbike component manufacturer Polini, who are based just down the road from Bianchi in Bergamo near Milan. On paper I was expecting a match for the Bosch drive unit found on Cannondale’s Synapse NEO SE, but the Polini system packs much more of a punch and has a surprisingly generous range.
The controller screen is relatively small, and in an unusual diamond shape Robert Smith
My lumpy first ride, switching between the five power modes, all easily accessed by the central mounted controller that sits over the stem, amounted to 58.55 miles / 94.22km with 4,206ft / 1,282m of climbing at an average speed of 17.2mph.
The cut-off on the Polini system is generous, neatly trailing off rather than stopping at 16.4mph / 26.4kph, which is at the very upper limit of what is legally allowed. On further rides I’ve stretched the range to 103.3km / 64.2 miles by being clever with the assistance: level one or two on the flat, three for rolling, four for climbs and five for when you want to kill a climb or beat everything off the lights.
The controller screen is relatively small, and in an unusual diamond shape, with large buttons for switching between assistance modes and operating the attached lights (the Impulso doesn’t have them fitted as standard). The data screens are accessed via a mini joystick and you can also connect a smartphone or heart rate monitor via Bluetooth.
The 15.8kg weight for my 55cm bike does sound hefty, but full-fat e-bikes usually weigh-in closer to 18–20kg, especially as it has a high capacity 490Wh battery within that industrial looking down tube.
The power on the Polini motor is impressive. Robert Smith
I was seriously impressed with the power of the Polini motor and the way in which it’s delivered. Compared to Shimano, Yamaha or Bosch, it feeds in its considerable torque in a much more progressive way in the lower settings and it’s only when you put it on full boost (signified on the LED screen by a rocket) that the crankset starts to jump and buck.
Polini claims its motor system weighs 2.85kg, which is much lighter than the Bosch on a Cannondale Synapse NEO SE.
The build of the bike isn’t half bad, with Shimano Ultegra shifters and mechs (11-32, 105 cassette) and an e-bike motor specific FSA chainset (Shimano doesn’t make a chainset for a mid-mount system like this).
The bike is running on Fulcrum Racing 700 CX disc wheels and fat 32c Vittoria Zaffiro tyres, which add plenty of buoyancy but don’t exactly excel at speed and feel a little sketchy in the wet.
The aluminium frame is nicely finished with hydro-formed shaping and has a full suite of mounts for mudguards and racks, so it’d make a great commuter bike.
For a bottom bracket-mounted system, it feels relatively drag free when you’re riding outside of the power assistance and, although it’s hefty, keeping it at about 30–32kph on the flat was doable.
The Impulso is neither cheap nor that good looking, but it makes riding easier, which is exactly what you want a full-on e-bike to do. It would be a fine choice if you’re a rider who is less able physically, whether you’re recovering from injury or a veteran looking to keep up with fitter riding partners.
The Impulso E-Road performs well on the road Robert Smith
I was impressed by the Impulso’s performance, but I’d probably opt for the all-road version, which uses the same power unit, frameset and much of the same components but has more off-road biased wheels and 40c tyres for £400 less.
Bianchi Impulso E-Road geometry (55cm)
Seat angle: 73,5 degrees
Head angle: 71.5 degrees
Seat tube: 52cm
Top tube: 55cm
Head tube: 14.5cm
Bottom bracket drop: 6.8cm