Take a road bike’s geometry, add aerodynamic features half-inched from the time trial world and – hey presto! – you get a fast bike that’s comfortable enough to ride all day. That’s what Wilier have done with the new-for-2010 Imperiale.
The aero frame is a stunner, but we wonder how many people are going to spend over four grand on a bike that isn’t loaded with the highest level of componentry.
Ride & handling: Fast, punchy bike which could do with some bigger gears
The Imperiale is a stirring bike to ride. Lively and responsive, it’s always up for upping the pace. Equipped with an 11-speed Campagnolo Chorus groupset, it provides you with spot-on shifting via the light-action levers and plenty of stopping power and control through the brakes – single pivot at the back, dual pivot up front for extra power. Chorus isn’t quite at the top of the tree in terms of lightweight performance, but it’s still great kit.
Although not quite featherweight, at 16.5lb (7.5kg) it’s very light and is a ready, willing and able climber. However, we’re amazed that the Imperiale comes only with a compact chainset.
Lots of people could easily handle a standard set of gears on the ascents and pick up extra speed from the bigger ratios on the way back down. That would be our biggest criticism – we could have done with a few bigger gears.
Sticking with the Italian theme, the wheels are Fulcrum Racing 1s and although, again, they’re not top level, they’re lightweight and pretty stiff. Ritchey cockpit components and a Selle Italia SL saddle complete the package.
Frame: Stunning carbon monocoque with aero features
The Imperiale is built around a carbon monocoque frame designed with input from John Cobb, the aerodynamics guru who’s worked on many different high quality bikes and components over the years, including Wilier’s Tri-Crono time trial machine.
The mid-length head tube is deep, with the trailing edge sharpening to a point where the top tube and down tube meet, and it blends almost seamlessly into the broad-legged carbon fork to manage the airﬂow smoothly up front.
The down tube comes with a ridge on the underside to channel air coming off the front wheel, while the seat tube is cut away to improve the aerodynamics out back. The cinched in chainstays are incredibly deep and get even deeper towards the huge rear dropouts – they’re a whopping 50mm tall back there – while the similarly sculpted seatstays wrap right over the top tube.
Rather than having a standard seatpost, you trim the extended seat tube – aero proﬁled, naturally – to the correct length. Measure twice, cut once in order to avoid an expensive catastrophe, although the Ritchey seat clamp does allow you to ﬁne-tune the height a little and you get loads of fore/aft adjustment for effectively altering the seat angle.
That seat tube gets progressively wider along its length to reach across the full width of the oversized bottom bracket, helping to provide a rock-solid platform for applying the power. We’re surprised that Wilier haven’t opted to improve the aerodynamics further by running the cables internally.