Last year we tested the Bianchi Arcadex, the legacy Italian brand’s first clean-sheet design of a modern gravel bike and, priced at $3600, found it to be a capable off-road entry. Now Bianchi is adding to the dual-purpose mix with the Impulso Pro.
Where Bianchi’s signature Celeste-colored paint is a finish that ensures instant recognition in road cycling, the brand thankfully sees fit to rely on the blue/green hue as they continue to jump into the gravel world. The Impulso has been in their lineup, but it has recently come under the knife for a “Pro” carbon makeover. Unlike its aluminum predecessor, which is more dedicated to adventure gravel gurus, the new Impulso Pro aims to strike a balance of gravel and road for those of a racier mindset.
Previously made from alloy, the frame is now constructed with full carbon tubes that are oversized in key areas for strength and stiffness. The Bianchi Impulso Pro is available in six frame sizes—48, 50, 52, 54 (size tested), 56 and 58cm. In addition to their traditional Celeste frame color is a new (and equally attractive) color named “Sage Escape,” which fades a light-and-dark shade of green throughout the frame.
There is decent frame clearance that allows for 38mm tires, but for real off-road adventuring that is on the limited side of tire clearance. Equally limiting as a true gravel bike is the lack of a third bottle mount. The bike’s geometry leans towards aggressive with a 102cm wheelbase joined with a slack 71.5-degree head tube angle. Stack and reach on the Impulso Pro measure at 55.4cm and 38.6cm. The frame has modern touches, like flat-mount disc brakes and a tapered full-carbon fork.
Between wheels, tires, drivetrains and small parts, the Impulso Pro sticks with its modern touches. With Shimano’s name found on the drivetrain and brakes, riders can always have confidence that these components will meet the demand. Instead of running two chainrings, Bianchi spec’d the GRX 1×11 drivetrain. The 40t chainring is mated to an 11-42t cassette to provide easy-on-the-knees gearing in most situations. The stem, seatpost and 16-degree flared handlebar are all Velomann alloy parts. To top things off, a Selle Italia ModelX Superflow saddle is used, which everyone found to be very comfortable.
“Taking on a variety of gravel, all-road environments and technical singletrack (some would consider mountain bike-worthy) is all possible on the Impulso Pro.”
The aluminum wheels share the Velomann name, and the 700c wheelset is a 32-hole hoop with a 24mm profile. It’s worth noting that while the wheels claim to be tubeless-ready, we did have some difficulty getting each wheel to properly hold air when run sans inner tubes. We recommend taking the extra step to reapply new tape out of the box. Once that step is taken, you can still utilize the WTB 37mm Riddlers that come stock.
The Impulso Pro blends performance and compliance while also partnering high-end components with more affordable choices on the market. We see this as a great platform for a gravel racer to get them started with room to upgrade as they go. Taking on a variety of gravel, all-road environments and technical singletrack (some would consider mountain bike-worthy) is all possible with the Bianchi. The reach did feel a bit long for the size 54cm we were testing. Nevertheless, the bike felt planted on steep descents with steering that was nimble yet precise.
The WTB Riddler rubber remains an all-around favorite for test riders with a penchant of bouncing between the road and the trail settings. If a rider wanted to take things to the next level, a carbon wheelset upgrade would be beneficial to save weight for racing and more vibration reduction over bumps.
While GRX doesn’t have as wide of a range as the 12- and 13- speed drivetrains from SRAM and Campagnolo, the Shimano 40-42 gear offered the 1:1 spin-to-win ratio that we favor. You know, the type of gearing to get through long fire-road climbs on adventures or burst up to the front of the pack at a gravel event. At any rate, some might opt for taller gearing for smooth high-speed descents and worthy road segments during their rides.
When it comes to real gravel pursuits, which for us always includes real paved pursuits, the Impulso Pro comes up short compared to its more authentic gravel sibling. The Arcadex we tested last summer costs $1000 less, weighs two pounds less and, most important for a bike found in this category, had frame clearance for up to a 42mm tire.
Owing to the bike’s weight, the “Pro” name is probably a bit off base. For the faster riders among us, they found the bike’s biggest setback was in making accelerations with the weight of the stock wheelset. After putting away their need for speed, those same riders were quick to praise the bike’s handling and all-around dirt worthiness. The Impulso is a bike that we could power down into on the road on our way to soak up some rocks on a singletrack. We rode it hard as it came out of the box, and in the end felt it a noteworthy gravel bike for someone looking to race and upgrade as they progress.
38mm max tire clearance
On the heavy side for racing
Great value to get you out on all surfaces
Weight: 23.15 pounds
Sizes: 48, 50, 52, 54 (size tested), 56 and 58cm
Helmet: POC Ventral Lite
Jacket: Sugoi Zap
Bib: 7 Mesh