Wilier Triestina has been building bikes in Italy since 1906 and was thrust into the upper echelons of Italian racing history when Fiorenzo Magni won the Giro d’Italia in 1948 on a Wilier and, more recently, the popular brand carried Alessandro Ballan to his 2008 World Championship jersey. We first set eyes on the Imperiale at Eurobike and were blown away at the intricate and creative aero aspects of the frame. It was a breath of fresh air in the oftentimes minute and usually invisible technological advances in road bike design and manufacturing. The Imperiale isn’t Wilier’s attempt to jump on the recent movement of creating more aero road bikes-the Wilier Imperiale defines the movement.
Drawing inspiration from the John Cobb-designed Crono TT line from Wilier, the aero Imperiale shocks and surprises at the seat stays, seat tube, head tube and chainstays, which all feature wind-cheating design elements to offer up a comprehensive aero frame.
The carbon monocoque Imperiale frame has an integrated seatmast (cool for this price point), and its most shocking aspect is the downtube junction designed for superior air management. The Imperiale arrived in the RBA offices equipped with a Shimano Ultegra 6700 group, Fulcrum Racing 5 wheels, a Ritchey Pro bar, stem and seatmast cap and a Selle Italia SLR XP saddle. Vittoria Rubino pro tires complete the $3899 package.
We approached the Imperiale with some prejudice: Would the aero design instantly translate into faster speeds, better handling and superior performance? All things that are impossible to quantify unless you are strapped into a wind tunnel in non-real-world situations analyzing data. Here’s what we did find: The Wilier Imperiale does everything really well and some things exceptionally. It climbs well, it corners well and, if called to sprint, it answers. But across the board, the RBA test crew came away from the Imperiale test talking about how well the bike rides on rollers, false flats, at 75-percent of your max, legs screaming. In this setting and in long, smooth descents, the Imperiale really stands out.
WEIGHT: 17.4 pounds