Astute readers of this blog will have noted that in Kazuko’s comment about her new Bianchi minivelo, one of the reasons for getting it was “And the story is, Cam, Bruce has already bought TWO bikes in Japan and I haven’t !! It’s not fair.” But hang on, Bruce has only bought one bike in Japan – the Bianchi Pista. The Long Haul Trucker was shipped from Perth. The truth is, when Kaz was typing that comment, there was a bicycle on order which, I’m delighted to say, has now arrived.
Astute readers will also recall that when Kaz and I arrived in Japan, we went shopping for a new road bike for me. We took Kaz’s road bike in the plane but my Bianchi Vigorelli had to stay in Perth. It was a hard choice (for someone who floats through life trying to avoid any form of decision-making) because I half-felt I was ready for a new, lighter road bike but there isn’t really anything wrong with the steel Vigorelli. In the end, it would have been too much luggage so we took just the one bike and even then were lucky to get away without paying extra baggage fees.
Then when we got to Japan, I was disappointed to find that the bike I was after (ie the Bianchi Mono-Q – only carbon one that would fit my budget and tastes) was sold out at the local shop, Cycle Ono, and the Japanese distributor claimed there were no more to be had. The horror of not having a bike for six weeks while I waited for the Surly Long Haul Trucker to arrive was unimaginable. I didn’t want to rush off to the internet and but a bike online because although it’s cheaper, the sizing varies from brand to brand, for example, a 58cm Cube seems to have the same dimensions as a 55cm Bianchi while my 56cm Trucker is bigger than my 57cm Bianchi Vigorelli. It’s much easier to go to a shop and get the bike properly fitted. Any problems can be resolved by visiting the shop and a good shop, such as Elite Racing Cycles will always be happy to make adjustments and the bike’s first service is usually included.
It’s bad enough that I couldn’t make my mind up whether a 55cm or 57cm Bianchi would fit me better. As it turned out, Cycle Ono had a 55cm Pista for sale which would allow me to postpone getting a road bike until I found something I was happy with and also give me an idea of how different the smaller would be. This turned out to be a good choice because I’ve found I much prefer riding the smaller Pista. I feel I can sprint much better with the handlebars closer in to me and the shorter wheelbase gives me a lot more manoeuvrability which makes downhill cornering at speed a lot of fun.
So I settled in to riding the Pista about the place and found it’s possible, if hard work, to take it up mountains and on nice long rides. My knees in particular looked forward to retiring the Pista from mountain duties once my touring bike, the Long Haul Trucker, arrived. In the meantime, Kazuko bought a Japanese cycling magazine and we found a bike shop in Osaka that still had Bianchi Mono-Qs in stock, including a 55cm model in the celeste colourway with Shimano 105 groupset. I would have liked Ultegra but that model wasn’t available and a little over A$3000 is a decent price for an all-carbon road bike. Once we placed the order, they informed us that they were the slowest bike shop in the world and it would take 4-6 weeks to get the bike to us, but I didn’t mind waiting as I already had two bikes to play with.
So why this long-winded introduction? Although there is no such thing as too many bikes, I admit I feel a bit guilty about having three of them, especially as I’ll have to get them all back to Perth at some stage. So now the Pista is on fair-weather commuting and around town duties, the LHT is for wet weather, shopping and longer trips where I want to carry a bit of stuff. My plan is also to use it to do an end-to-end ride of Japan, which I hope will happen next year.
Late on Wednesday afternoon, the Mono-Q finally arrived and I could see why the bike shop took so long. They reckoned they had about 100 bikes on order and it came in a massive box, well-packed and fully built up. All I had to do was straighten the handlebars. I suppose if they have that many on order and not enough staff (they were advertising) then it could take 4-6 weeks to ship. Here’s how the bike looked straight out of the box:
It arrived too late to take for a proper ride but I was able to take it for a ride around the block to get the saddle height sorted out. I’m a bit nervous adjusting bits on it because I don’t want to over-tighten and damage the carbon. Maybe I need to look at getting a torque wrench just for peace of mind. Then I fitted it out with bike computer stuff and spent a bit of time worshipping checking the frame for blemishes. All clear, as far as I could see.
Rain was forecast for the next day but when I got up it wasn’t raining yet so I thought I might risk a quick ride. I headed for the road that takes me through the hills around the back of town with the aim of doing this ride:
But the hills seems to attract clouds and the closer I got to them, the damper and mistier it got and I decided the road through the hills is a little busy and narrow and with mist/clouds settling in, visibility might not be that good. So I turned around and came home. And just as well; rain settled in for the rest of the day not long after I got home.
The next day, however, was perfectly fine and I had the whole day to myself so I thought about going for a really long ride but, because I was working at the konbeni in the evening, I decided not to risk wearing myself out too much so I went to my favourite local ride, Teineyama to see how well the bike would go.
The first difference I noticed was in the Shimano 105s. My Bianchi Vigorelli had Ultegra, so this was a step down in groupsets. The difference isn’t actually all that great. Changing gears, the 105s push the chain on to larger rings just as easily at Ultegra, the only difference was when clicking back down. Especially in trimming the front large chainring, it’s quite clunky and I kept worrying that I was actually going back to the small chainring. It’s not a big difference, though and I think I’m already used to it.
The next thing is the wheels and tyres that came with the bike. Tyres first. This is my only real disappointment. The bike came with Vittoria Zaffiro tyres. This is an insult. It’s an insult to the memories of Marco Pantani, Fausto Coppi and Edoardo Bianchi to sell a full carbon frame with tyres that you would get for your pub bike. I am shocked. It really wouldn’t cost that much to get some tyres that at least look like they are for racing on. The wheels are Mavic Ksyrium Equipe so at least they are not entry level and they seemed to ride well enough but on day two I put on my Easton Circuits and the bike felt a lot better and more responsive. I’ve put the Mavics on Kazuko’s bike and conned her into it because the cassette is 12-25, not 11-23 as on the Eastons so climbing will be a little bit easier for her. Please don’t tell her of my disgust for the Zaffiro tyres.
Next to the frame itself. It definitely felt better with the Eastons on. Steering was snappy and more immediate than my steel frames. Is this where I can slip in the claim that it was “laterally stiff yet vertically compliant”? The carbon frame certainly felt quite different to steel. There didn’t seem to be any give in the frame in steering and again when going uphill. This may not actually be the case but that’s how it all worked in my head. The frame certainly felt a lot lighter, even though it comes with relatively heavy components and I revelled in taking it up Teineyama and did my fastest ever speed up there, averaging 15.9. Even the third time up where I was really struggling just to get up there was still faster than my fastest time on the LHT. Downhill was brilliant. It felt slightly more manoeuvrable than the Pista, which is a long way ahead of my other bikes. The brakes were also better than the generic ones on the Pista so I could risk a bit more in the corners, knowing I could still brake and save myself.
And lastly, it was very comfortable to ride. I was pretty exhausted from going up Teineyama three times but still no shoulder aches and pains or sore backside from the saddle. I cannot wait to go for some longer rides on the Mono-Q and I think I’ll be doing the bulk of my riding on this bike for the foreseeable future. Of course, I love all my bikes equally but I think I love the Mono-Q just a little bit more.
In conclusion, here are some pics I took of my new baby at the top of Teineyama: