VIDEO Review: Bianchi Allroad - A Gravel Bike or a new age of Cyclocross Marathon?
October 27th, 2016
October 27th, 2016
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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So Bianchi presented the Allroad to me with a shy reluctancy. Being so openly passionate about road bikes, I'm not sure they knew what to do with it. I clock the 35cc wide tyres and the pannier rack mounts, and I think I have the bike sussed out already. Then I clock the KS dropper seat post. Umm... Now that cyclocross bikes have adopted disc brakes as a norm, I guess it was only a matter of time before these bikes took on more developments, seemingly emulating the evolution of the mountain bike in the early nineties. Now, as much as I think cyclocross bikes have gone a step too far already with disc brakes for racing (see my rant here), the advancement has made positive changes to commuting and 'cyclocross marathons', and after a few cartwheels at the Three Peaks Cyclocross race, I couldn't help but look at the dropper post and think 'why didn't I think of that?'.
I really wanted to see if the Allroad did what it said on the tin, so I took it to a great big, rugged mountain; Walna Scar. The Lake District is littered with crazy-paving 'roads' and rocky bridal ways that would surely put this bike through its paces. Having a mix of tufty grass moorlands and rough gravel, rock-strewn pathways, it would be the perfect location to find out where this bike pitches itself.
this bike was designed for more than a short race around a country park; this is a cyclocross marathon bike that leans more towards gravel-racing and off-road touring
As Bianchi have laced the bike with pannier rack mounts, both on the front forks and the rear seat-stays, and they've added some nicely flared-out handlebars, it's clear that this bike was designed for more than a short race around a country park; this is a cyclocross marathon bike that leans more towards gravel-racing and off-road touring. The rugged, bolt-bossed aluminium frame was obviously weightier than a conventional cyclocross race bike, but this did inspire me with confidence that I wasn't going to go out with one bike, and come back with two halves of a bike. The wide 35cc Kenda Happy Medium tyres took a bit of bridal way buzz out of the ride and definitely added grip on fast and loose corners, further nodding toward it's place in the new craze of gravel racing. I would also feel very confident lacing this bike up with pannier bags and riding something like an off-road C2C route.
The Reparto Corse handlebars have a 16 degree flare angle, which pushes the drops out to the sides at the bottom. The drops are exactly where I want to be when descending; a good solid position behind the bars, and the angle of the flare offered me a wide and stable hand position for ample control and confidence, especially when weaving through rubble, avoiding big rocks and bounding through single track in the woods. Add a KS E-Ten Dropper seatpost with 100mm of travel to the mix and suddenly I felt as though I was riding the bike, rather than being taken for a ride. My body was in a natural position to tackle steep, bumpy terrain without worrying about the saddle hitting me and throwing me over the handlebars. All that space under my legs also offered up plenty of room for movement to handle the bike and for using my legs as my own form of suspension.
My body was in a natural position to tackle steep, bumpy terrain without worrying about the saddle hitting me and throwing me over the handlebars.
I hate the term 'do it all', but if you like to do just that, or have always dreamed of commuting to work on a Friday, and then dissapearing on a solo mission in the outback for the rest of the weekend, then the Allroad could be your catalyst. Alternatively, it fits very nicely into the new gravel niche with an addition that'll genuinely change your riding; the dropper seat post.
In summary, I may be guilty of having taken the Allroad to Walna Scar in order to highlight it's ridiculousness, however; it all made perfect sense while I was there. You see, you need to forget what you know about cyclocross racing and look upon this bike as a tool for adventure in its purest form; exploring the outback with friends and a bivvi bag, or making local trails a little livelier than they once were on your mountain bike. In fact, after descending trails rougher than those hailed as cyclocross gold at the likes of events such as the Three Peaks Cyclocross race, everything on that bike, from the flared handlebars and dropper seatpost, to the robust aluminium frame, made sense. In my quest to find the limit of this cyclocross bike, I found gravel bike enlightenment. Ironically, the only thing that was out of place on this bike was the one thing we tend to see more commonly; the Shimano 105 groupset, complete with clutch-free, chain-slappingly loud reassurance that it's still on your bike. If you're looking for a weekend warrior; a bike that can tour, explore and race those strangely popular cyclocross marathons, or if you've discovered a love for the new craze that is gravel bike racing, then the Bianchi Allroad is definitely worth a look.
The Bianchi Allroad with Shimano 105 is the top spec model retailing at £1,800 or a little less for the Tiagra spec, both in urban battleship grey.
Photos: HDDN Media.