Italy’s Viner have been building bikes and a high-class reputation over 60 years now, becoming one of the most prestigious and sought-after brands out there. The steel Viner Passo is from their new Cycle To Work range. As such, it’s designed with commuting in mind, but also for racking up the miles on big day rides and even lightweight touring.
Before we jump aboard, though, it’s worth mentioning that the £1,180 price tag puts the Passo outside the scope of most cycle-to-work schemes, like Cyclescheme, which top-out at £1,000. So, chances are you won’t be able to buy one tax-free – you’ll have to pay full whack.
At the heart of the Passo is a frame that’s hand-built in Italy from a Dedacciai COM 12.5 steel tubeset. Yes, Italy. And yes, steel. Both are unusual in a bike world that’s dominated by aluminium and carbon fibre models made out in the Far East.
The top tube and down tube are both tear-drop in profile while the seat tube is round and the stays are ramrod straight – no bending, no manipulation, no nothing. All the tubes, which have walls of variable thicknesses to save weight without compromising strength, are pretty skinny compared to most. Along with the horizontal top tube, the traditional geometry and the understated paintjob, this gives the Passo’s frame a classy and classic look. The TIG welds are neat and tidy throughout and you get eyelets for fitting mudguards and a rear rack – very practical.
Dedacciai provide the fork in the shape of their carbon BlackRain model, along with the seatpost, stem and bar, and pretty much everything else on the bike is Italian too. The wheels, cranks and brake callipers – 57mm drop, so you get decent clearance for mudguards – come from Miche; the gearing is from Campagnolo’s Veloce range; and Selle Italia supply the saddle.
Tipping the scales at 9.45kg (20.8lb), the Viner doesn’t shoot off the mark like a lightweight road bike that you could get for this kind of money but, on the other hand, it’s not especially tardy either. You get a stiff frame here that converts your effort into forward speed with very little wastage and the Miche Race M707 wheels, although not particularly light, don’t bend much when you put the hammer down. It might take a little coaxing and persuasion, but it gets up to speed soon enough.
Once you get there, the Passo cruises along happily, providing a stable ride with the minimum of fuss, and it’s sturdy enough to hold its line when poor road surfaces and strong winds conspire against you.
The one aspect of this bike we just couldn’t learn to love was the saddle. We found the Selle Italia Filante too hard for long-ride comfort, but that’s always a matter of personal preference. Once we’d swapped it for an old favourite, we were racking up the miles without worry.
Even with our new perch fitted, we still found the rear end of the bike pretty firm, though. There’s really not much flex in the tubes back there. We’re not saying that this is a harsh frame by any means, but you do know when you hit sections of poorly surfaced roads. So if you’re after a cushion-soft, yielding ride, or if you want to head off the beaten track and tackle mixed surfaces, this isn’t the best option for you.
In contrast, the carbon Dedacciai fork adds loads of damping up front while tracking through the corners just fine – it’s a real star – and the anatomically shaped Deda bars provide an excellent compromise between stiffness and comfort. We like both of them a lot.
Unlike many bikes designed for clocking up the big miles, the Passo has a fairly short head tube –14.5cm on our 57cm model. You get a big old stack of spacers on top to raise the front end up and you can always flip the stem if you want even more height, but if you lack flexibility just check that the ride position suits you before you splash the cash. Us, we really got on well with the ride position, finding it comfortable enough to stay in throughout our longest stints in the saddle and aggressive enough to keep ticking off the miles at a decent clip.
The Campagnolo Veloce gears shifted as silky-smooth as ever throughout testing, and Miche’s compact crankset (with 50/34 chainrings) matched up with a 12-25 cassette provided an ample range of options for most situations. The Viner is a pound or two too heavy to really shine on the climbs but those gears will let you hoist yourself up even the steepest stuff without too much trouble.
The Passo isn't the lightest bike out there and some won't get on with its firm ride, but it's a good-value steel commuter that'll easily handle big rides at the weekend and some lightweight touring. If you're going to make the most of its versatility, it's a great buy.
road.cc test report
Make and model: Viner Passo
Size tested: 58cm
About the bike
State the frame and fork material and method of construction. List the components used to build up the bike.
Frame: Dedacciai COM 12.5 steel, handbuilt in Italy, eyelets for mudguard and rack
Fork: Dedacciai BlackRain (1 1/8in), carbon fork and carbon blades. The alloy dropouts come with mudguard eyelets
Wheels: Miche M707, Deda Tre Grinta 700 x 23c
Gears: Campagnolo Veloce 10-spd levers and mechs, Miche Technology Race chainset (50/34), Miche cassette 12-25
Brakes: Miche Performance 57mm drop callipers
Cockpit: Deda Quattro stem, Deda Big Piega bar
Seating: Selle Italia Filante saddle, Deda Metal Stick seatpost (6061 heat treated T6, CNC machined head
Tell us what the bike is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about the bike?
The manufacturers say this bike is designed for fast commuting. With eyelets for fitting mudguards and a rack, it’ll handle year-round trips to and from work without any worry.
It’s designed for riders who want to rack up the big miles in comfort and at a reasonably quick pace. It does that well, although we’re not big fans of Selle Italia’s Filante saddle.
Frame and fork
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
The handbuilt frame is well-made with neat TIG welds and flawless metallic orange paintwork.
The Dedacciai fork is good quality too although, if we’re picking fault, the Viner logos stuck over the top are a bit low rent.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
The frame is made from Dedacciai COM 12.5 cromo steel with varying wall thickness to save weight while providing the strength where it’s most needed.
The Dedacciai fork is made from high modulus (T700S) carbon fibre with 3K external lamination. The steerer is carbon although the crown and dropouts are aluminium
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
The Light Audax is built to a fairly traditional road geometry with a flat top tube.
Our 57cm model came with a 57cm seat tube (centre to top), a 55.2cm top tube, and a 14.5cm head tube. It had a 73° head angle and a 73.75° seat angle.
Removing some or all of the 4cm of headset spacers would allow you to get a pretty low, flat-backed riding position.
The forks are 376mm from dropout to crown with 44mm of rake.
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
The head tube is fairly short for a long-distance orientated bike. You get plenty of spacers, though, to boost the front-end height.
Riding the bike
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
We just didn’t get on with the Selle Italia Filante saddle. You might like it but we found it too hard and jarring. Once substituted off, the bike was perfectly comfortable for long-distance rides, although still erring towards the firm side.
The Blackrain forks deal with road vibration well up front while Deda’s anatomically shaped Big Piega bars provide comfy handholds whether you’re resting on the upper sections or the drops.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
We got very little flex out of the steel tubes. If anything, we’d have liked a bit more vertical give from the rear end although, that said, a saddle that you really like would have much more influence on your level of comfort.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
Yes, it’s an efficient frame. There’s very little torsional or lateral movement when you get busy.
Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so, was it a problem?
None at all.
How would you describe the steering? Was it lively, neutral or unresponsive? Neutral. And accurate.
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
It’s a solid, stable, well-behaved bike that doesn’t require much work to keep it in check. It’s not the most dynamic climber but the low gears mean that it’ll get you up even the steepest stuff without too much fuss, and it’ll stay perfectly planted on the way back down.
A pound or two lighter would add extra spark when it comes to accelerating and climbing, but it’s a reasonable weight for its price. If you do want to make it more lively, though, start by upgrading the wheels and tyres.
Wheels and tyres
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes. It’s a sound, enjoyable bike, and it’s burly enough to handle some abuse.
Would you consider buying the bike? But if I was after something for commuting and lightweight touring and I was going to fit mudguards and possibly a rack, it’s worth a good look.
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? If they wanted something versatile for commuting, audax or lightweight touring.
About the tester
Age: 37 Height: 1.82m Weight: 69Kg
I usually ride: Specialized Tarmac Pro My best bike is: Van Nicholas Aeolus
I've been riding for: 22years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: Time trials, sportives, triathlons, occasional crit races, training, commuting
Mat has worked for loads of bike magazines over the past 20 years, and been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. He's been road.cc technical editor for seven years, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. We send him off around the world to get all the news from launches and shows too. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a past winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer.