First Look: Bianchi Aria
August 8th, 2017
August 8th, 2017
Anna is a jack-of-all-bikes, and has been riding and racing in a myriad of genres for over seven years; from World Cup level cross-country, to grass roots coaching kids on the road.
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The Aria represents a trickle down of technology from Bianchi's time trial bike, The Aquila, with a nod towards triathlon design, and a foot in the direction of their aero road bike, The Oltre, and yet it's managed to come in a much more affordable package with a broader application.
The Aria is developed from Bianchi's prior work in the wind tunnel and we are assured that the end results have also been tweaked with the help of pro riders - none of which is a problem for a brand that has been around for over 130 years, and one that has provided bikes for some of the fastest road racers in cycling history.
The seat and head tubes both cutaway to give an aggressive aero shape, and the slim seatstays and forks also help to reduce drag. A look at the geometry shows that this bike favours an aero position from the rider as well, which further compliments its purpose, especially as the rider is one of the biggest contributors to aerodynamics (or indeed resistance). And if all this wasn't enough to confirm its racing pedegree, the Aria sits in Bianchi's 'Performance Race' category, which means it shares the exact same geometry as the top-end Oltre and Specialissima models. You know, the ones ridden by pros.
Though the forks have been designed with cues from the Aquila, and the fit is very similar to the Oltre XR4, production costs on the Aria have been reduced by forgoing Bianchi’s trade mark vibration damping technology, Counterveil. Instead, the bike uses a medium modulus, high strength carbon, which provides a stiff drive platform, but still manages to maintain a comfortable cockpit. It is by no means as comfortable as those models with Counterveil, but it does feel just as stiff and responsive. There's a bit of a kick up the bum from the aero-shaped seat post, but it's by no means the firmest road racing bike I've ever ridden and it sustained 3hour+ rides without a fuss.
Although it’s on a budget, The Aria still has that classic Bianchi feel; a responsive ride character, with no surprises and that well-loved magnetic cornering action. The long and low position gives you a stretched flat-back riding action, especially in the drops. This won’t suit all riding styles, but it certainly lends itself to fast-paced racing, especially when it requires a little bit of chewing on the handlebars. The Aria will gladly carve through a pack of hungry riders and willingly attack from the front. Sure, the kit and the weight won't compete with it's Oltre XR4 equivilant, but it's a bike worthy of any Tour de France aspiring sprinter who may not yet be on a pro salary.
This build, with Campagnolo Centaur and Vision Team 35 wheels, is the only groupset build available at this time, but it retails at a purse-pleasing £2,249.99 and is just shy of 8kg (without pedals), the frame being 1100g alone. Shimano Ultegra, 105 and Campagnolo Potenza will follow shortly.
The spec works exceptionally well, as expected from a historically acclaimed groupset, and suits the bike's sleek aesthetics with all of its curvy Italian prowess. Campagnolo has never been my favourite goupset (as shifting is difficult from the drops when you have tiny mouse-hands like mine), but it is a simple transition from the likes of Shimano, with smooth thumb and forefinger shifting, if that's of concern to you. Saying that, I think you'll find most true Bianchi fans will give you a look of horror if you were to run any other than Campagnolo.
The Aria starts Bianchi's Performance Race category off, being their most affordable aero road bike, but it is clearly no runt of the litter. With that well-loved Bianchi ride quality, the classic gloss finish trade mark "celeste" colour paintwork, the traditially aggressive lines with flat top tube (even on our tiny 47cm!), and that general oozing of Italian style, the Aria is surely going to set a cat amongst the pigeons in the entry-level aero road genre.
The Bianchi Aria is currently only available with this Campagnolo Centaur build at £2,250.