The Bianchi Via Nirone 7 Allroad isn't a bad all-round package, with a comfortable ride on or off the road and stable handling, but it's a heavy frame, let down by poor brakes and some cheap components when compared against the competition.
- Pros: Stiff yet comfortable ride, impressive tyres
- Cons: Heavy, poor brake performance
Bianchi's Allroad range started off a couple of years ago with a single model but has since grown to incorporate bikes from elsewhere in the Italian brand's catalogue.
Like the others in the range, the entry-level Via Nirone 7 Allroad we've got here has been given the gravel/adventure treatment to create a bit of a do-everything machine.
Weight is such a funny thing, the numbers on the scales will give you a definitive answer but some things just feel lighter than they really are. Unfortunately the Via Nirone isn't one of them. It feels even heavier than it really is and that is the theme that runs right through the whole ride experience.
It's a shame because the ride quality is very good from the triple-butted aluminium alloy frame, comfortable Selle San Marco saddle and the plush feeling Kenda Kwick Tendril 32mm tyres. You can cruise on this thing for miles and you'll never suffer from any harshness from the road or trail whatsoever. Hit a climb or ask for a bit of acceleration, though, and you'll be left wanting.
At 10.73kg (23.65lb) it's never going to be a climber or performance machine, but the much heavier (12.17kg) Kona Rove DL proved that it's not always down to the weight.
Rolling along on the flat was fine but even on the slightest little rise on the road I'd find myself rapidly ascending the cassette to keep the pace up. On the local gravel tracks things were even harder as the climbs tend to be steeper, so you really have to get out of the saddle to drive the Bianchi up to the crest of the hill.
It does show some decent stiffness levels through the bottom bracket shell, though, so at least you don't feel like you are wasting power.
Handling-wise the Nirone is a very stable, capable machine thanks to its 440mm chainstays and long wheelbase, which really works off-road when the surface is a little unpredictable but is still fun to ride on the tarmac.
The Bianchi is equipped with rack and mudguard mounts so it can be used for year-round commuting or touring on wet, greasy, potholed roads, where its mild-mannered behaviour can be fully appreciated..
Descending, as you'd expect, is nowhere near as sharp as a road machine but you do get a decent amount of feedback through the frame and fork about what the tyres are up to, so you can tweak your steering and braking to guide it through the bends. It's a confident-handling machine.
The one thing that is always on your mind as the speed increases is, 'will I stop?' The mechanical Shimano BR-RS305 brake callipers aren't the most powerful or responsive, especially if you are used to a hydraulic system, and I often resigned myself to looking for an escape route rather than relying on predicting a stopping distance when in traffic.
Frame and fork
The frame is manufactured from triple butted aluminium alloy, with each of the tubes being beefed up a bit compared to the rim braked Via Nirone 7 endurance model through the use of hydroforming to shape the profiles.
This is to increase strength for the type of riding the Allroad is intended for. It needs to be able to take a whack or two from pothole strewn roads and off-road tracks, plus the forces of the disc brakes need to be controlled too – or they would if they worked a little better.
Up front Bianchi has chosen not to go for a tapered head tube which is quite rare; we hardly see any bikes these days with a straight through tube to suit a 1 1/8in headset.
The down tube starts off as large square section at the head end before it tapers down and changes shape as it gets to the bottom bracket shell. The BB area isn't massively oversized, so it's quite impressive that Bianchi has managed to get plenty of stiffness here.
The chainstays and seat stays are on the chunky side to keep the rear wheel in check under large efforts from the rider: hard accelerations and climbing, for instance.
The seat tube is set up to take a 31.6mm seatpost, which is slightly at odds for a bike of its kind, where comfort is quite a high priority. A narrower 27.2mm would allow a little more flex, especially if you go for carbon fibre, but thankfully the saddle takes out a lot of road buzz.
The front end of the frame has internal cable routing for the gears and rear brake, which gives a smooth look to the bike. They all exit just before the bottom bracket and head off to their various ports.
There is no massive need for a thru-axle at the rear of a road bike from a braking performance point of view, as only a small percentage of the force goes there. Bianchi has kept things old school with 135mm dropouts closed with a quick release skewer.
Up front it's gone for a 12mm thru-axle for the fork, the diameter that most road bike brands seem to be settling on.
The fork itself has carbon fibre legs and an alloy steerer, which will add to the overall weight, but it's plenty stiff enough under steering and braking loads, with no judder.
The front brake cable is internally routed, and the fork has a pretty impressive tyre clearance of 40mm, the same as the frame.
Geometry-wise, Bianchi has gone down the same route as the majority of gravel/adventure bikes we see. The head angle is slackened off to 71.5 degrees to slow the steering down a little, just what you want on gravel or other loose surfaces, while the seat angle is still steep at 73 degrees to allow you to get the power down.
This 55cm model has a 550mm top tube length, and with the 145mm head tube gives a reach of 382mm and a stack of 567mm (the horizontal and vertical measurements from the centre of the bottom bracket to the top of the head tube).
There is a good range of sizes too: 47cm, 50cm, 53cm, 55cm, 57cm, 59cm, 61cm and 63cm.
Looking at some of the other bikes we've had in lately, the Allroad's spec list is a little lower than you'd expect for a bike costing £1,000.
Shimano's 9-speed groupset, Sora, controls the gearing with the latest R3000 shifters and front and rear derailleurs. It's a quality set of components using the same shape and majority of the parts of Tiagra and the previous 5800 105 setup, just with fewer sprockets.
Gear changes are crisp enough front and rear, and the shifter shape feels comfortable to use and keep hold of.
Bianchi has down-specced the crankset to a Shimano FC-R345-L which uses an Octalink bottom bracket, which first appeared in the Japanese company's catalogue back in the Nineties. It's a good design but really looks dated on a modern bike.
The Via Nirone uses a compact chainset with rings of 50/34 teeth matched to an 11-34t cassette. This gives you a very good bailout gear.
The 9-speed block uses 11-13-15-17-20-23-26-30-34-tooth sprockets, which does give you a good spread of ratios top and bottom, if somewhat gappy especially as the sprockets get bigger.
The brakes, as I've mentioned, aren't very good. Straight out of the box the BR-RS305 callipers and 160mm SM-RT64 rotors offered very little power, there was just nothing there, no matter how hard I pulled on the levers: just what I wanted on a soaking wet first ride back from the office.
They did bed in a little over the miles but they aren't a set of brakes that I'd really put a lot of confidence in. Admittedly, I spend a lot of time using hydraulic systems, so riding in traffic took way more concentration than normal and I didn't spend a lot of time searching out high speed descents.
The Kona I mentioned earlier uses TRP's Spyre-C, which is probably the best of the cable bunch and marginally better than the Shimanos used here, although neither of them have the power or control of, say, a 105 dual calliper rim brake setup.
Reparto Corse is Bianchi's in-house parts brand and it covers the handlebar, stem, seatpost and wheels.
The stem and handlebar are plenty stiff enough and the bar uses a compact shape which allows more access to the drops if you aren't the most flexible.
As we are seeing on a lot of adventure bikes, the Bianchi uses a handlebar that flares out from the hoods to the drops, 16 degrees in this case, which just gives you a little more stability when descending on rough terrain.
The bar width changes from 40cm through to 44cm depending on the bike size, and the stem also increases in length from 90mm to 130mm.
The seatpost is all-alloy so if you wanted a bit more comfort you could swap to carbon fibre, and even shim it down to 27.2mm diameter. As I touched on earlier, though, the Selle San Marco Era Startup Power Open saddle is perfectly comfortable and good at keeping you protected from road vibration. It's quite padded – not something I'm usually a fan of – but it's still on the firm side, which stopped any squishing and numbness.
Wheels and tyres
The Reparto Corse ATD470 Disc wheels are surprisingly strong and not massively heavy. The front was about 5mm out of true right from the start but it never got any worse even after the rigours of some tough gravel and woodland trails.
The hubs run smoothly and even after some seriously heavy rain never grumbled. I'd like a slightly quicker engagement of the pawls in the freehub, but that is about it really.
I was impressed with the 32mm Kenda Kwick Tendril tyres too. They're comfortable and offer pretty good grip levels in the wet and dry. They roll quickly enough on the tarmac so they don't feel at all stodgy and they've shrugged off punctures and the like on the local canal path jaunts.
Their width restricts them to more hardpacked gravel than the loose stuff, purely because they tend to sink, especially in the small stuff. With that 40mm frame and fork clearance, you can fit something more suitable like Schwalbe's G-One without sacrificing road performance.
Bianchi has a long tradition of being one of the top bike builders in the business, and some will always be happy to pay a premium to own one. That the Via Nirone Allroad is handmade in Italy could increase the price a bit too.
I recently tested that Kona Rove DL and really enjoyed it. Yes, it gets an alloy fork instead of carbon fibre, plus it's a cool 1.5kg heavier than the Bianchi for its £899, but it never felt heavy and was a much more fun ride than the Bianchi. The Kona also has a full Sora groupset and those TRP Spyre-C brakes.
I'm currently testing the Boardman ADV 8.8 which is a very similar bike to the Bianchi. It has an alloy frame, full-carbon fork and is slightly lighter than the Italian. It costs £750 and comes with those excellent Schwalbe G-Ones as standard, plus most of a Sora groupset too. It sacrifices the chainset again, but the FSA 48/32 Omega adventure model is better spec than the Shimano found on the Allroad.
The Bianchi offers a stable, comfortable and hassle-free ride, especially if you just prefer to take your time and spin the pedals. Its weight, though, or the way it feels weighty, just takes the shine off what is quite a pleasant bike.
If it was a little cheaper I might be more inclined to overlook it, but it would still be up against some stiff opposition.
Comfortable cruiser but feels heavy on the open road and really requires an update to the brakes
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Bianchi Via Nirone All Road Sora
Size tested: 55cm
About the bike
State the frame and fork material and method of construction. List the components used to build up the bike.
Frame Via Nirone 7 Allroad alloy, hydroforming tubing, internal cable, seatpost diam. 31.6mm, flat mount disc, OLD 135mm, 40mm tire clearance, rack & fender ready, sizes 47-50-53-55-57-59-61-63cm
Fork Bianchi Alu/Carbon 1.1/8", flat mount disc, thru axle 12x100mm
Headset Fsa NO.8B/ZS4D
Shifters Shimano Sora ST-R3000 2x9sp
Rear derailleur Shimano Sora RD-R3000 GS 9sp
Front derailleur Shimano Sora FD-R3000 9sp
Crankset Shimano FC-R345-L 50x34 Octalink, Crank Length: 170mm-44/57cm, 175mm - 59/63cm
BB Shimano BB-ES300
Chain Kmc X9 9sp
Sprocket Shimano CS-HG400-9, 11-13-15-17-20-23-26-30-34T
Brakes Shimano BR-RS305
Brake levers included w/shifters
Wheels Reparto Corse ATD470 Al6061 disc
Rear hub Formula CL-26 alloy disc
Front hub Formula CL-712 road disc
Tire Kenda Kwick Tendril 700x32
Stem Reparto Corse Alloy 6061, rise +/-7°, 1.1/8", Ext: 70mm-44/46cm, 90mm-50/53cm, 100mm-55cm, 110mm-57/59cm, 120mm-61cm, 130mm-63cm
Handlebar Reparto Corse, alloy 6061 diam. 31,8mm, reach 70mm, flare angle 16°, drop c/c 120-40cm, drop 130mm42/46cm, size: 40cm-47/53cm, 42cm-55/59cm, 44cm-61/63cm
Seatpost Reparto Corse AL6061 shaft, alloy head, 15mm offset, 31.6mm, Length: 300mm-44/46cm, 350mm-50/63cm
Saddle Selle San Marco Era Startup Power Open, steel rail, 277x145mm
Rotor Shimano SM-RT64, 160mm
Tell us what the bike is for
Bianchi says, "These Bikes are designed for those who have changes the road racing mentality into something different. The Allroad is a mountain bike, a road bike, a cyclocross and a trekking bike all-in-one. The Allroad bikes can be used in a marathon event but also will take you out to explore the raw finish roads."
Frame and fork
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
It's a well-made frameset with reasonably tidy welds and paint finish.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
The frame is constructed from triple butted, hydroformed aluminium alloy tubing while the fork gets an alloy steerer with carbon fibre legs.
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
Slightly slacker at the front end than a road bike to make the handling easier to control off-road, and a slightly longer wheelbase due to the extended chainstays.
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
This 55cm model has a stack of 567mm and a reach of 382mm. This is pretty much as I'd expect for a bike of its size.
Riding the bike
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
The frame isn't overly harsh but it is definitely helped by a comfortable saddle and tyres.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
For the type of riding intended the Allroad is adequately stiff.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
There didn't feel to be any loss of power from your legs to the bike.
Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so
How would you describe the steering? Was it lively Neutral.
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
The handling is stable and predictable whether on or off-road.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?
Definitely the saddle for comfort and the bar allowed a comfortable position.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's stiffness? would you recommend any changes?
Everything works fine together for a bike of its type.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's efficiency? would you recommend any changes?
Some lighter wheels would make things a little zippier.
Tell us some more about the drivetrain. Anything you particularly did or didn't like? Any components which didn't work well together?
Shimano Sora shifters and mechs are always confident performers but it would be good to see the chainset included for this price point. The brakes are... well, I'd definitely be looking to improve these.
Wheels and tyres
Tell us some more about the wheels.Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the wheels? If so
I had no real issue with the wheels at all for the cost and this type of bike. They stood up to plenty of abuse off-road and aren't massively heavy.
Tell us some more about the tyres. Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the tyres? If so
I was very impressed with the all-round qualities of the Kenda tyres. Confident grip, hard wearing, decent rolling and comfortable.
Tell us some more about the controls. Any particularly good or bad components? How would the controls work for larger or smaller riders?
A good all-round package from Bianchi's Reparto Corse range. Variable stem lengths throughout the range and the handlebar offers plenty of hand options for most riders.
Did you enjoy riding the bike? I've ridden worse.
Would you consider buying the bike? No
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Not at full price.
Use this box to explain your overall score
The Bianchi has some nice touches and it's a good quality frameset, which is why I've scored it 6. But the way it feels to ride did nothing for me, especially in hilly terrain, the brakes aren't very good and I think it's too pricey compared to many rivals, all of which stop it scoring higher.
About the tester
I usually ride: This month's test bike My best bike is:
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, club rides, sportives, fixed/singlespeed
With 20 years of road cycling and over 150,000 miles in his legs it's safe to say Stu is happiest when on the bike whatever the weather. Since writing his first review for road.cc back in 2009 he has also had a career in engineering including 3D-CAD design and product development, so has a real passion for all of the latest technology coming through in the industry but is also a sucker for a classic steel frame, skinny tyres, rim brakes and a damn good paintjob.
His fascination with gravel bikes is getting out of control too!