Soon after its international release, the images were on the Bianchi Australia Owners Club Page and with nought but a 284 or so kilobyte image to go by, fans, converts and the first battalion of the great celeste army were basically beside themselves. New bikes always generate chatter and generally more so when it’s something from the 130+ year old bicycle manufacturer made famous by its own color. But this one seemed different – more emotion, more fanaticism, more hyperbole.
“This looks interesting,” I thought as I read the longing comments and looked over the low res images of the Bianchi Impulso AllRoad, a major makeover to the company’s existing AllRoad gravel bike. That online chatter continued for days, a rarity I thought, the fickle cycling public generally quick to move on with the click of a mouse, soon-forgotten like of a post or swipe of a thumb. It stuck in my mind and a few days later I phoned Bianchi Australia to be told the bike had just arrived. A hair-brained idea came to mind.
It was early November and although we’d long-farewelled winter, a check of the weather showed snow was forecast for the mountains on Friday. The bags were packed and a spontaneous road trip was on. Navigating traffic I picked up the bike from Atelier de Velo in the urban jungle of central Sydney. It was noon on Thursday and a sunny 25 degrees. Six hours later the thermometer was showing single digits as I wheeled the bike into a Jindabyne Hotel room at the Snowy Mountains.
With snow rather accurately forecast for above 1700 meters from 11 am Friday, all was going to plan. The idea was put this sporty, versatile go-anywhere all-rounder on bitumen, gravel, grass, mud and even snow!
Eating pizza, watching the local SMTV 24hr mountain bike channel, and sipping beers, I ogled over the frame – the exquisite triple hyrdoformed aluminum construction, the carbonlike shaping on the top tube, and beautiful finish of this eye-opening new bike. A captivating machine, this bike looks lively, inspires adventure, and is equipped with the power to make your imagination wander.
With way more ups than downs, but still enough descending to get a feel for the bike at speeds over 60 kph, next morning it didn’t take long to develop an understanding of what the bike was capable of. It was a long and cold climb from the town at 915 meters to tree line at around 1550, maybe not so enjoyable some of the time, but a combination of a ride and a bike I’ll never forget.
Sure I could feel some extra weight while climbing – particularly some of the longer ascents with 12+% on the GPS, but the gearing (a 32-11 cassette with 34/50 on front) made the climbs way more than bearable, but perfectly comfortable. Crest the climbs, slide the silky smooth Shimano 105 shifter to the right, push hard on the pedals and lower your hands into the drops of the splayed handlebars, and you’d swear you’d just mounted another steed.
Exhibiting surprising comfort and control, to me the Impulso AllRoad passed perfectly as a road bike. Sure you’re carrying that aforementioned weight penalty, but the bike has clearly and cleverly been well-engineered as a multipurpose machine. This is clearly not a just case of wider tires, heavier wheels and a beefed up frame – Bianchi have designed and optimized this machine as a credible all-rounder.
Sporting factory fitted 35 mm Kenda tubeless tires, there’s ample space for 40 mm’s. Personally I didn’t like these tires at first and thought ‘they’d be the first thing to go if purchasing the bike’. I soon changed my mind. ‘I’d use and thoroughly enjoy the Kenda’s,’ I decided, ‘and then look around for 35 to 40mm options and most likely invest in some high quality and lighter weight alternatives.’
Onwards, upwards and so we climbed. Passed by one under-attired rider but passing two rugged up others, the bike continued to surprise and surpass expectations. With the temperature around two degrees, the altimeter showing 1650 meters, and into an icy headwind, begrudgingly headed higher.
Passing Perisher and just above 1700 meters, my faith in the weather bureau was confirmed. I shivered as the snow started to fall, turned the bike onto a side track, kicked it down a gear or two, and peddled toward a large patch of icy snow in the distance. Snow continued to fall, the flurry lasting a good 40 minutes or so, and the Bianchi and I reveled in the fun.
With the maiden mission accomplished it was a fast and freezing descent back to a warm bath at the hotel. A joy downhill, for a short time I found myself on the top tube, sternum neatly resting on the stem, again enjoying the ride – the splayed handlebars allowing for a slightly wider hand position and the ability to continue pedaling.
Next morning, a completely different day, and it was back for more. This time the Bianchi took me higher, up to 2300 meters past Charlottes Pass to the Kosciusko track. Revelling in the snow, ice and gravel, and riding with the local MTB and fat bike boys, again the Bianchi outshone itself. “What’s that?” one of them asked, convinced it was a roadie.
The Impulso Allroad ticks all the boxes for a gravel bike, with refined engineering, faultless flat-mount disc brakes, the stability and assurance of thru axles and clearance for 40 mm tires, this is one go-anywhere, do anything bike.
Nearing Australia’s highest peak, Mount Kosciusko, and having ridden dirt, mud, snow and gravel, it was the rider that faded well before the bike did. It was late in the day, the MTB and fat bike boys had long left the mountain, and under a blackened sky I heard the sound of distant thunder. I was 2 km and 100 vertical meters from the top Australia, but not about to take any risks.
Turning the bike I embarked on probably the best descent of the year – the first six or so kilometers being gravel with patches of snow, then smoothly transitioning to black top bitumen for a long run back to town. Low on the bars, a finger on each brake lever, facemask on and thermals fully zipped, it was not just that ride but a bike I’ll never forget. The Bianchi Impulse AllRoad, highly recommended.
Frame: Impulso Allroad Aluminium
Seatpost diam: 31.6 mm
Axles: Thru axle 12x142mm
Bottom bracket: PF41 Shimano
Fork: Bianchi Full carbon
Headset: FSA 1.1/8” – 40 mm tire compatible
Shifters: Shimano 105 11sp
Rear derailleur: Shimano 105
Front derailleur: Shimano 105
Crankset: Shimano 50×34 T
Crank length: 170 mm-47/54 cm
BB: Shimano PressFit
Cassette: Shimano 105 11-32T
Brakes: Shimano Flat mount
Rotors: Shimano 160 mm
Wheels: Reparto Corse CDX22 Disc
Tires: Kenda Flintridge 700×35
Stem: Reparto Corse 3D forged Alloy 100mm-55c m
Handlebar: Reparto Corse Aluminum, reach 70 mm, flare angle 16°, 130 mm x 42 cm
Seatpost: Reparto Corse AL6061 shaft, alloy head, 15mm offset, diam. 31,6mm. 350mm in size 50/63cm
Saddle: Selle San Marco Era Startup Power Open