Friday 17 June 2011

Bianchi's new Impulso looks good, but that might be all that's going for it

The new Impulso long-distance racer is set to be the only new-for-2012 road bike from the world's oldest bicycle manufacturer, but it ought to get noticed. It is, to put it mildly, stunning - the triple hydroforming process used on the top and head tubes gives it a unique appearance among alloy bikes, the effect being that this is a much more expensive bike than it actually is.

The process involves hydroforming the tubes to begin with, then welding them together in the conventional way, then hydroforming them again. This has allowed Bianchi to create a ridge running from the top tube, around the head tube and back down the other side of the top tube. Not only does this look spectacular, with the resulting smooth welds helping to produce an overall resemblance to a particularly stylish carbon fibre frame, it also adds to the strength and stiffness - by as much as 10%, according to Bianchi themselves.

The price is expected to be somewhere in the region of £1300, which places it slap-bang in the middle of a hotly-contested section of the market and whether or not it can hold its own in the bikeshop against bikes at a similar price point but which, by using more conventional tubes, can be fitted with better parts remains to be seen. BikeRadar's Jamie Wilkins, one of the very few journalists to have been allowed to have a go, suggests much the same - while he's impressed by the stiffness, he notes that the bike feels heavy and puts this down to heavy wheels and Campagnolo Veloce kit. However, the fact that it is so eye-catching and looks like a £2300 bike are going to help it sell - even if more experienced riders see beneath the beauty.

Overview: the Impulso is going to be a nice bike - Bianchi don't make anything else - and the hydroforming trickery has given them a frame that's very pretty to look at. However, the added cost of doing it means they've had to cut costs in other areas. This is a bike which is going to sell best to those new to the sport who don't yet have the knowledge that prevents an old hand from being dazzled by gumpf, which is a shame because had Bianchi have opted for a more conventional frame they could have built a very nice bike; which is what noobies need if they're going to get the bug and stick around. There are much better choices out there at this price range, even if they're not as sexy. Don't buy one on impulse!

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