Bianchi Volpe disc review£1,150.00

Retro styled yet modern disc equipped urban 'cross machine

BikeRadar score3.5/5

Bianchi’s Volpe is part of the firm's Classic range, launched to celebrate its 130th anniversary. It successfully mixes, erm, classic Bianchi livery and subtle metallic sliver paint scheme with that most modern of features on a road bike, disc brakes.

The frame is both nicely finished and well appointed, with both rack and mudguard/fender eyes both front and rear and even an under-the-top tube pump peg, so you can carry a full-length pump too. It's constructed using Bianchi’s own spec steel tubing and the double-butting of the tubes gives it plenty of spring and plenty of life.

The bike's geometry owes something to a traditional tourer and a little to a cyclocross bike. The front end uses a 72.5-degree head angle combined with a fork with plenty of forward rake. That makes the steering stable on the road but it quickens through its arc and becomes nice and quick when you’re trying to traverse gravel and dirt.

The effective top tube length of 56cm makes for a Goldilocks ride position: just about right, neither too short nor too long. This makes the Volpe a seriously pleasant place to spend your riding time.

The general spec level is decent, albeit somewhat below the brilliant value GT Grade AL 105. The Tiagra drivetrain works very well, with smooth shifting and a good range from the 50/34 chainset paired with an 11-32 cassette. The wheels are well put together, based around Formula disc hubs and Alex rims and shod with treaded Kenda Kwik rubber in a fat 35c size.

Don’t keep off the grass. bianchi’s fox will take you anywhere:
Don’t keep off the grass. bianchi’s fox will take you anywhere:

Don’t keep off the grass. Bianchi’s fox will take you anywhere

Round town, on towpath and trail the Volpe is a great ride. The downsides are that the weight (11.65kg) can take its toll when it comes to hills – the wide range cassette will make sure you get up even the steepest inclines but don’t expect any Contador-style changes of pace and attacks.

On road the Kendas rumble along, offering great cushioning and plenty of grip. Get off the beaten track though and they come into their own, holding onto traction brilliantly on gravel and even mud. They’re never going to match a full-knobbly cyclocross tyre, but we were surprised at how far into the rough the Volpe was able to go.

Braking from the Hayes CX Expert units is powerful and well controlled. We did have a slight issue with the rear brake: the cable routing has to move outside the rear chainstay, because the brake body is on the large side, and the position of the cable anchor is outboard meaning we occasionally clipped our heel on the cable when moving around on the bike. It's not like this tester's EU44 feet are excessively big, either.

The only other niggle is with the WTB SpeedV saddle. It’s a mountain bike derived unit, and while we like the shape and the deep padding is comfortable, it feels very short. Even with shifting the saddle back as far as it goes on the rails we still found ourselves sitting on the rear edge when putting the power down on the flat and shifting our weight back – a longer-hulled road saddle might well be a better option.

In all, despite the inflated price and niggles with the saddle and rear brake cable routing, we certainly fell for the Volpe's charms. It’s a great handling, great looking and very, very comfortable bike to ride.

It’d be easy to put it to use riding to work day in day out, enjoying a bit of off-road adventuring and even loading it up with racks for a bit of touring – and you could do all that with plenty of modern-retro style too.

This article was originally published in Cycling Plus magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.

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