Sunday, February 22, 2015

Bianchi Vertigo 105 - One Year Review

Updated: June 18, 2015

Time: 17 months
Miles: 4,000
Longest Ride: 130 miles
Biggest Climb: 6,350 feet

Bottom line: a great carbon bike with a huge upgrade potential.  Great for climbing, fast rides, centuries.

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Bianchi Vertigo is an absolute bargain if you can score it for $1,500 - $1,600.

It can be an amazing ride, but you have to upgrade it, since beside the amazing frame and a decent Shimano 105 group, it comes with low-end components.

Upgrade it and you will have a fast bike, great climber, and a great companion for long rides -- even with a heavier rider.

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The ride is comfortable and the steering is precise.  It performs really well when descending.

On the negative side, as a result of Bianchi taking some shortcuts with components to keep the cost down, the bike struggled with climbing and loses some efficiency while pedaling straight. This is easily fixable with swapping a few parts.

With some upgrades you can make this bike great one!  I have upgraded mine significantly and the result has been fantastic.  It climbs really well now, rides fast straight, and descends nicely. The steering is even more precise.  With the Campy Zonda wheels, I erred a little on the stiff side, but the ride is still comfortable.  The weight went from original 21 lbs to 17.8 lbs after the upgrades.

Even though the bike was listed for $1,899, I was able to pick this one for $1,180 at the year-end sale. I probably spent extra $2K in upgrades.  One could argue that I could have gotten a better frame at $3,200, which is probably true, but I really like the end result and process of upgrading.

Here is how it looks after all upgrades:



Below is the list of upgrades -- organized from the most impactful to least:

1.  Brakes.  The stock Reparto Corsa brakes were terrible for a person weighing over 200 lbs.  They would barely stop the bike on steep descends.  I upgraded them to Ultegra 6800 and it made a world of a difference in stopping.  The power and confidence is close to the TRP HY/RD hydraulic brakes on my other road bike.


2.  Craknkset.  The stock Shimano FC-R565 was complete crap.  Very flexy and inefficient.  It felt like you were not moving while pedaling hard.  I swapped it to Ultegra 6800. Even though it is an 11-speed crank set, it works well and I haven't had a single problem with it.

The Ultegra crankset made a HUGE difference. I easily gained 3-4 mph and the ride feels much smoother now.


3. Wheels.  Stock Shimano WH-R501 were heavy, hard to climb with, but not terrible.  1,900 gr for the wheelset is a bit much though.

I swapped these to Campagnolo Zonda weighing 1,590 grams, which have been great.  Gained another 2-3 mph with these.

The ride is a little stiff, but the wheels perform really well, making climbs much easier and fun.  I am at the point with this bike where I enjoy climbs. 3,000-4,000 feet CAT 4/3/2 climbs feel like not much effort.


4.  Rear Derailleur.  Went from 105 to Ultegra 6700.  Contrary to what I found on forums, it did make a difference in shifting and the frequency of tune-ups went down a lot.

5.  Tires.  Stock Hutchinson Equinox 2 23mm tires were getting pinch flats all the time due to a heavier rider.  I swapped them with my usual Continental  Grand Prix 4 Seasons 700x25.  This gave me more puncture protection and a more comfortable ride.

6.  Seat Post.  I switched from the stock Aluminum to SL-K carbon seat post, which made the ride even more comfortable.

7.  Saddle.  I am currently using Specialized Romin Evo Pro, which is pretty comfortable for both short and long rides.  At some point I probably will try some other saddles, but this one works for me a this point.

8.  Tape.  I switched from the crappy stock tape that disintegrated very quickly to the Lizard Skins, which I have been very happy with.

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Other. I have also upgraded other parts that I think made no noticeable difference in my ride.

- Shifters.  Moved from 5700 105 to 6700 Ultegra shifters.  No big difference so far.
- FD.  Moved from 105 to 7900 Dura Ace.  Some difference.
- Cassette and chain - Tiagra ---> Ultegra 6700.  No difference.

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That's it.  Transformation complete!  It now has a complete Ultegra group.  A HUGE difference from the bike I started with.  It is pretty fast now, nimble, easy to climb, and easy to descend.  I have been thoroughly enjoying this bike.  Bianchi has done a great job with building and designing its frame.

It really stands out and I haven't see another person with this bike out there yet!

Based on my experience with this bike, I may give Bianchi Infinito CV a try at some point.

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