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Verdict: 
Versatile gravel/adventure bike built around an exceptionally good frameset
Weight: 
9,080g

The Wilier Jena is a versatile gravel bike that's fast and reactive when you want to go out for a blast and fully capable of taking you on an off-road bikepacking adventure.

  • Pros: Versatile, comfortable, great frame
  • Cons: Some people won't be into the roadie gear ratios

The Jena – pronounced more like 'yay-na', if you want to do it the Wilier way – is a zippy bike for bombing along on gravel and other broken tracks. It's responsive, has a riding position that's towards the sportier end of the spectrum, and is stable enough to help you hold your line when the road surface is doing its best to send you off at a tangent. It's also a really comfortable setup.

> Find your nearest dealer here

The Jena is a bike that lets you get into quite an aggressive riding position to wind up the speed. If you compare the stack and reach, they're not a million miles from those of something like Wilier's Cento1NDR endurance road bike. Wilier describes it as a 'racing-comfort' geometry, and that seems a reasonable enough description.

Wilier Jena - riding 2.jpg

Bear in mind, though, that the Jena comes fitted with a Ritchey Comp ErgoMax handlebar. If you've not committed the entire Ritchey catalogue to memory – tch! – let me tell you that the 6061 alloy ErgoMax bar bends upwards 10mm from the clamping point, giving you a more upright riding position than you'd otherwise have.

Wilier Jena - bars 2.jpg

There's actually a lot going on with the ErgoMax bar, so allow me to get sidetracked here for a sec. The tops sweep 5 degrees back towards you from the centre, while the drops flare outwards 12 degrees. Wilier specs the 42cm version of this bar on the large sized Jena with that flare meaning that the outer to outer width is 50.3cm.

Wilier Jena - bars.jpg

The net result is that the Jena's riding position isn't as upright as something like the Specialized Diverge that we reviewed recently.

The frame geometry is quite aggressive – fairly similar to that of the Kinesis G2, for example – with the extra rise from the ErgoMax handlebar bringing the front end up that little bit higher.

Wilier Jena - front.jpg

I'd say it's a riding position that strikes a balance between comfort and performance. That's how it feels when you're hammering along on rolling tracks.

Wilier Jena - riding 3.jpg

Get down on the drops and you can really build up the speed quickly, with the 40mm-wide tyres and steady steering meaning that bumps and holes are handled calmly rather than sending you ditch-ward.

The extra handlebar width makes a big difference to the bike's overall behaviour, especially when things get technical. Control is just that much easier. I found myself using the drops much more than the hoods on tricky terrain.

The Jena is a really comfortable bike. The geometry isn't so aggressive that it puts a huge amount of strain on your back or neck as you ride, and Wilier reckons that the flattened seatstays help to absorb vibrations. The slim (27.2mm diameter) Ritchey Comp aluminium seatpost definitely does. The kinked and sloping top tube means you'll almost certainly have plenty of that seatpost extending out of the frame, allowing a degree of movement over the rough stuff.

Wilier Jena.jpg

More important than any of that, though, are the tyres. Our Jena came built up with 40mm-wide 700C Mavic Yksion Elite Allroad XLs on Mavic Allroad wheels. With these wheels you'll be able to fit tyres up to 44mm. If you opt for 650B wheels you could go with a maximum tyre width of 48mm.

Wilier Jena - clearance.jpg

The Wilier Jena Ultegra with 700C wheels hasn't been available in the UK, but it will be from the end of this month, at the same price as the Ultegra (mechanical) build with Miche 966 650B wheels and 47mm Vittoria Terreno Zero tyres. The cheaper Shimano 105 version also comes with a choice of either 700C or 650B wheels/tyres.

> The 650B alternative: are smaller wheels the right choice for you? 

The Yksion Elite Allroad XL tyres aren't the quickest rolling on tarmac but they're not especially slow either. They provide good grip on gravel and rocky tracks, and even hold their own on any earthy sections that come your way. Get out of the saddle to muscle the bike up a steep, muddy trail and you're asking for the back tyre to slip because it's not toothy enough to dig deep, but that's not really fair; these aren't designed for mountain biking. As an all-round option for various different surfaces, they have a lot to offer.

Wilier Jena - tyre.jpg

Both the wheels and tyres are Mavic UST so you can add some sealant and run them tubeless if you like. One of the biggest advantages for riding on gravel and other rough surfaces is that you can drop the pressure for increased comfort without the danger of pinch-flatting an inner tube.

Wilier Jena - rim.jpg

The saddle is listed as a Selle San Marco Squadra Startup on Wilier's website but our review bike was fitted with a Selle Italia Boost X3 with alloy rails and a cutaway centre. It's not a high-end saddle but the shell offers enough flex to take the edge off bigger hits and there's a decent depth of padding – enough that the little lumps and bumps on uneven road surfaces aren't going to leave you tender. We all know that saddles are a matter of taste but I can't see this one making too many enemies.

Wilier Jena - saddle.jpg

The Jena's is a distinctive-looking carbon frame with a kinked, sloping top tube that provides a generous amount of standover clearance – so you can dab a foot down easily enough without any unwelcome consequences – and a down tube with a Kamm tail profile that's intended to reduce drag. Gravel and aerodynamics? Well, it's A Thing.

Wilier Jena - top tube.jpg

The 3T Exploro gravel bike, for example, is all about the aero, and DT Swiss has just released its GRC 1400 Spline wheels with 42mm-deep wind-cheating rims. I have no data to back it up but I can't help feeling that the Jena's down tube is more of a gesture than anything else – a visual connection to the brand's road bikes rather than offering a significant performance benefit – because the aero theme isn't continued elsewhere.

Wilier Jena - seat tube junction.jpg

You could divide the gravel scene into those who blast the tracks and trails for a couple of hours and bikepackers who want to load up and head off on an overnight (or longer) adventure. The Jena has both covered. The frame and fork come with eyelets for mudguards and you get rack mounts too. If you don't want to fit a lowrider carrier to the fork, you can bolt two bottle holders on there instead.

Wilier Jena - fork.jpg

As mentioned above, you can use tyres up to 48mm wide if you opt for a Jena with 650B wheels – or have a spare pair in the garage – so this is a pretty versatile bike for all kinds of rough riding.

Build options

As well as the two Shimano Ultegra builds, with 650B or 700C wheels (at the same price), Wilier offers the Jena with SRAM Rival 1x components (the front derailleur mount is removable if you want to run a single chainring setup) for £2,949.99. A Shimano 105 build in 650B and 700C variants and a Shimano Ultegra Di2 (electronic shifting) model will be added soon, although prices have yet to be announced for those.

Wilier Jena - front mech.jpg

Ultegra is high-end stuff, Shimano's second tier road groupset tucked in just behind Dura-Ace. I won't go into the details here but it's excellent, and that includes the hydraulic disc brakes that are easy to control precisely. It would be good to see the Shimano Ultegra RX800 rear derailleur on this bike with its clutch mechanism to reduce chain movement, but I can't say that I had any issues with the standard clutchless version fitted here – a bit of chain slap over bumpy terrain, but that's it.

Wilier Jena - rear mech.jpg

For the 2020 model year there will be bikes specced with the new Shimano GRX groupset.

> Read our Shimano Ultegra review here

All of the double chainset Jenas are fitted with 50/34-tooth chainrings and 11-30 cassettes. That gearing is the kind of thing that you'll get on a lot of endurance road bikes and it works for me. I like to go out and hit the rolling, mostly well-packed gravel tracks around my way as hard as I can for an hour or two. Or three or more. As a rule, I'm not riding super-steep trails and the most I'm usually carrying is a small backpack.

Wilier Jena - drivetrain.jpg

Depending on the riding you do, you might want smaller ratios than that, especially for heavy loads. A lot of people might prefer something like an 11-32 cassette while others would prefer a complete step change. If that's you, the SRAM Rival 1x build comes with a 38-tooth chainring and an 11-42 cassette. The flip-side, of course, is that you'll run out of gears sooner on the descents.

Wilier Jena - cassette.jpg

You pretty much know that your components are going to age faster on a gravel bike than on a road bike. Stones ping up from the surface and cause scratches, mud and dust quickly gets into the drivetrain... you know the sort of thing. For that reason, I'd be as happy going for Shimano 105 as Ultegra and spending the difference on sweets, but that's just me.

Value

The Vielo V+1 UDG Rival Edition road plus bike that we reviewed recently was priced £3,499 with a SRAM Rival 1x groupset (Rival is SRAM's third tier road groupset) and DT Swiss CR 1600 wheels, while the £3,349 Ibis Hakka MX was equipped with Rival 1x too, along with Stan's Grail aluminium tubeless wheels.

The Orbea Terra M21-D 19 came with a SRAM Force groupset – a step higher than Rival in SRAM's hierarchy – and Fulcrum Racing 500 DB wheels for £3,199.

Moving over to Shimano, the last Ultegra gravel bike we reviewed was the J.Guillem Atalaya Gravel at £4,794.14, although that's quite a different bike with a titanium frame.

The Trek Checkpoint SL 6 came with a Shimano Ultegra groupset and Bontrager Paradigm Comp wheels and is priced £3,400, but reviewer Dave Arthur found it to offer a decidedly underwhelming ride.

In that kind of company, the Jena's price looks about average for what you're getting.

> Buyer's Guide: 22 of the best gravel and adventure bikes

The Wilier Jena offers you a lot of options. If you want to hit gravel tracks fast, it's quick and responsive with a riding position that suits; if you want to head off bikepacking, it has various eyelets to help you out; if you want wide tyres, you can go up to 48mm with 650B wheels; if you want to use it for commuting on the road, all you need to do is swap to some more tarmac-friendly rubber and maybe fit a rear rack... There's no such thing as a bike that can do everything well, but the Jena is a versatile choice.

Overall, it's a reactive bike that you can easily adapt for different types of riding. You'll have a lot of fun here.

Verdict

Versatile gravel/adventure bike built around an exceptionally good frameset

If you're thinking of buying this product using a cashback deal why not use the road.cc Top Cashback page and get some top cashback while helping to support your favourite independent cycling website

road.cc test report

Make and model: Wilier Jena Ultegra

Size tested: Large

About the bike

List the components used to build up the bike.

Frame CARBON MONOCOQUE 60TON

Fork CARBON MONOCOQUE 60TON

Drivetrain SHIMANO ULTEGRA R8020 DISC

Handlebar RITCHEY ROAD CMP ERGOMAX

Stem RITCHEY COMP 4 AXIS 31,8 BBBLACK

Headset FSA CUSTOM BEARINGS

Shifters SHIMANO ULTEGRA R8020

Brakes SHIMANO ULTEGRA R8070 DISC

Rear derailleur SHIMANO ULTEGRA R8000

Front derailleur SHIMANO ULTEGRA R8000

Crankset SHIMANO ULTEGRA R8000 50/34T

BB SHIMANO ULTEGRA PRESS FIT

Cassette SHIMANO ULTEGRA R8000, 11/30

Chain SHIMANO ULTEGRA R8000

Wheelset MAVIC ALLROAD

Tyres MAVIC YKSION ELITE ALLROAD XL 40 MM

Saddle SELLE SAN MARCO SQUADRA STARTUP

Seatmast RITCHEY CMP V2 ALU

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?

Wilier says, "Jena is a new carbon gravel bike, designed to give you more freedom of choice when you go out for a ride. Jena was designed to satisfy any of your needs, whether it is performance on dirt roads and single track, or adventure, exploration, and bikepacking. Jena is a light, reactive, and easy-to-handle bike with racing-comfort geometries, and able to adapt to the multiple uses required of a gravel bike."

It's a versatile bike for fast gravel riding right through to bikepacking. You could put some road tyres on and use if for commuting too.

Where does this model sit in the range? Tell us briefly about the cheaper options and the more expensive options

This model is available with either 700C or 650B wheels/tyres, each priced £3,399.99. It is also available with a SRAM Rival 1x groupset for £2,949.99.

Frame and fork

Overall rating for frame and fork
 
9/10

Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?

Great quality throughout.

Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?

The frame and fork are carbon monocoques using 60 ton carbon.

WIlier says, "To build a great monocoque carbon frame, we look for the perfect balance of stiffness, comfort and responsiveness at the lightest possible weight. Carbon fibre is an ideal material for bicycle frames because of its qualities of elasticity, capacity to withstand stresses, and its strength-to-weight ratio. The higher the modulus, the stiffer the composite."

60-ton carbon is stiff stuff, although the layup comes into play here too.

Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?

I was riding the large sized Jena frame with a 57.7cm top tube, 53.0cm seat tube and 17.5cm head tube. The head angle on this model is 71.5° and the seat angle is 73.1°, the stack is 608mm and the reach is 391mm, giving a stack/reach of 1.55.

That stack/reach figure isn't a million miles from that of something like Wilier's Cento1NDR endurance road bike (1.52 in a size large) which actually has a shorter top tube and slightly taller head tube.

The Ritchey Comp ErgoMax handlebar bends upwards from the clamping point, bringing the front end up 10mm higher.

How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?

The riding position is slightly more upright than that of one of Wilier's endurance road bikes.

Riding the bike

Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.

Yes, comfortable. I'd definitely be tuning the comfort of a gravel bike by tyre selection and pressure, and there's plenty of scope for that here with a maximum tyre width of 44mm possible with 700C tyres and 48mm with 650B.

Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?

It felt stiff and efficient.

Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so was it a problem?

None.

How would you describe the steering? Was it lively neutral or unresponsive? I found it stable.

Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?

Keeping the bike tracking straight over rough surfaces is simple enough.

Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?

The Ritchey Comp Ergomax handlebar brings the front end up 10mm. That'll be especially welcome if you tend to suffer with back or neck strain on the bike.

You can run the tyres/wheels tubeless at low pressures for extra comfort without the possibility of causing a pinch flat.

Rate the bike for efficiency of power transfer:
 
9/10
Rate the bike for acceleration:
 
8/10
Rate the bike for sprinting:
 
8/10
Rate the bike for high speed stability:
 
8/10
Rate the bike for cruising speed stability:
 
8/10
Rate the bike for low speed stability:
 
8/10
Rate the bike for flat cornering:
 
8/10
Rate the bike for cornering on descents:
 
8/10
Rate the bike for climbing:
 
8/10

The drivetrain

Rate the drivetrain for performance:
 
9/10
Rate the drivetrain for durability:
 
8/10
Rate the drivetrain for weight:
 
8/10
Rate the drivetrain for value:
 
7/10

Tell us some more about the drivetrain. Anything you particularly did or didn't like? Any components which didn't work well together?

Wilier will offer the Jena with Shimano GRX in 2020, but you get a clutchless rear derailleur for the time being.

Wheels and tyres

Rate the wheels for performance:
 
7/10
Rate the wheels for durability:
 
8/10
Rate the wheels for weight:
 
6/10
Rate the wheels for comfort:
 
8/10
Rate the wheels for value:
 
7/10

Tell us some more about the wheels.Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the wheels? If so what for?

They're Mavic's entry-level gravel wheels, designed to be reliable rather than especially lightweight. They didn't let me down at all, although I'd probably upgrade them over time.

Rate the tyres for performance:
 
8/10
Rate the tyres for durability:
 
7/10
Rate the tyres for weight:
 
7/10
Rate the tyres for comfort:
 
8/10
Rate the tyres for value:
 
8/10

Tell us some more about the tyres. Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the tyres? If so what for?

I got on really well with these tyres. I like them a lot! They provide loads of grip on gravel and anything rocky or hard packed – chalk roads, for example. They can't cope with anything too muddy, but they're not designed for that.

Controls

Rate the controls for performance:
 
9/10
Rate the controls for durability:
 
8/10
Rate the controls for weight:
 
9/10
Rate the controls for comfort:
 
9/10
Rate the controls for value:
 
7/10

Tell us some more about the controls. Any particularly good or bad components? How would the controls work for larger or smaller riders?

The Shimano Ultegra levers are excellent whether you're operating them from the hoods or the drops. They come with reach adjustment.

Your summary

Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes

Would you consider buying the bike? Yes

Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes

How does the price compare to that of similar bikes in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?

Some brands don't go any higher than Shimano 105 on their gravel bikes.

The Trek Checkpoint SL 6 we reviewed came with a Shimano Ultegra groupset and Bontrager Paradigm Comp wheels and cost £3,400 – pretty much the same price as the Wilier Jena – but reviewer Dave Arthur didn't rate it all that highly. 

The Vielo V+1 UDG Rival Edition road plus bike that we reviewed recently was priced £3,499 with a SRAM Rival 1x groupset (Rival is SRAM's third tier road groupset) and DT Swiss CR 1600 wheels, while the £3,349 Ibis Hakka MX was equipped with Rival 1x too, along with Stan's Grail aluminium tubeless wheels.

The Orbea Terra M21-D 19 came with a SRAM Force groupset – a step higher than Rival in SRAM's hierarchy – and Fulcrum Racing 500 DB wheels for £3,199.

The Jena's price looks about right compared to these other bikes.

Rate the bike overall for performance:
 
9/10
Rate the bike overall for value:
 
6/10

Use this box to explain your overall score

The Jena performs exceptionally well in a range of circumstances, and the fact that it's so versatile adds to its value.

Overall rating: 8/10

About the tester

Age: 48  Height: 190cm  Weight: 80kg

I usually ride:   My best bike is:

I've been riding for: Over 20 years  I ride: Most days  I would class myself as: Expert

I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding

Mat has worked for loads of bike magazines over 20+ years, and been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. He's been road.cc technical editor for eight 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.

1 comments

Avatar
Disfunctional_T... [438 posts] 3 months ago
0 likes

Looking at another article, this seems to have a BB86 bottom bracket. BB86 is a horrible standard for anything but 24 mm spindle cranksets.

I don't get why so many frames have BB86 shells. This frame, especially being gravel-oriented, should be BSA or BB386EVO. BB386EVO can't cost more than a few cents than BB86 to implement in the frame. I guess they save a few dollars on the bottom bracket itself.