Interbike 2009 – Wilier Imperiale Aero Road Bike
INTERBIKE 2009 – Wilier Trestina introduced their new aerodynamic road bike, the 2010 Imperiale, designed to minimize the effects of crosswinds and maximize aerodynamic efficiency.
In the past, Wilier (pronounced vee-lee-air) worked with reknowned aero guru John Cobb (type his name in our search bar and you’ll find some other brands he’s worked with, too) on their Cento Crono and Tri Crono TT bikes, and the Italian brand brought him on board to design the Imperiale’s frame and fork.
Cobb points out that making a bike aerodynamic requires more thought and research than simply ovalizing tubes or attempting to “hide” or integrate components. It’s all about managing airflow,” he explains. “If you try beat or cheat the air, you’ve already lost the battle.”
Pics, specs and our ride review after the break…
This is why we used their “glamour” shot at the top of the post rather than ours…Vegas’ desert sun likes to wreak havoc on a camera’s white balance. The Imperiale uses a high-modulus carbon monocoque frame with one-piece rear triangle.
Cobb worked with Wilier to affect the three areas where they felt they could gain the most: The headtube, downtube and seat cluster. The goal was to direct airflow past the wheels, rider and rest of the bike in the most efficient manner.
The Imperiale’s headtube has a slight point and rounded “V” shaping. The downtube squeezes into a thin, wing-shaped ridge about a third of the way down, just behind the 10:30 position on the front wheel. Interestingly, they didn’t go with internal cable routing, though.
The Imperiale uses the same bottom bracket design as their flagship Cento1 road bike. Note the ridges dropping down on either side of the cable guides. Not sure if that’s an aero benefit, but it sure looks cool.
Front derailleur is mounted directly, allowing the seat tube to be more shapely.
The rear triangle is molded as one piece to increase strength and stiffness. Wilier calls this their Swing-Arm Integrated Design, and it shows up in various iterations on their other bicycles, too, though the Imperiale’s chainstays drop down a bit further on the bottom.
The seatstays join each other by wrapping around the seat tube/top tube junction, which Wilier claims helps to direct air around the rear wheel and maximize stability, not to mention give the bike a very unique look. It uses an integrated seatmast that, unlike the Cento’s standard inner diameter round tube that can be cut down to use a seat clamp if desired, uses a Ritchey mast topper seat clamp that allows for a small range of vertical adjustment and quite a bit of fore/aft adjustment.
For U.S. customers, your two color options are Silver/White or Red/Carbon.
They also had this nice metallic blue/green color, but alas, it won’t be available.
The complete Wilier Imperiale weighs in at 17lb 4oz built with Ultegra 6700, Fulcrum Racing 5 wheels, Sell Italia SL saddle and Ritchey WCS post, bar and stem. The bike will be available with this build in November 2009 with an MSRP of $3,899.
The Imperiale will also be available as a frameset as shown with stem, fork, headset and seat mast topper for $2,899. Frame weight is 1130g and fork is 360g. It’s available in six sizes.
TYLER’S RIDE REVIEW:
The road demo course at Interbike consists of buttery smooth pavement unlike anything you or I probably experience on the majority of our rides, and to some extent that played into the smoothness of the Imperiale. It felt fast, but there weren’t a lot of crosswinds to test some of their aerodynamics. I could definitely scoot on this bike, but would need a longer (much longer) ride to really be able to opine on the comfort and overall performance.
Giving the handlebars the old “shake and shimmy” test felt fairly stiff to me, though I did talk to one retailer that did the same and thought the bike felt a little soft.
It was perhaps a bit too responsive to accidental input, which means it’s a bike you’d need to stay on top of, which is characteristic of racier bikes…and that puts (IMO) the Imperiale in a weird position: It’s aero and fast and reactive, but the frame weight is heavier today’s typical “race” bikes. Still, at just over 17lbs, it could very easily be built down to 15.5 lbs, making for a good longer-distance race bike. Hmmm…at the very least, I’d say give it a whirl if you have the chance, and if we can get some more time on it, we’ll report back with a full review.