Two hybrids from Bianchi and Wilier mix Italian flair with flat bars and relaxed gearing. So which one fired us up the most?
When I consider what I'm looking for in a weekend steed, there are a few necessities that I'd like to include: practicality, style, sharp handling to name a few. But top of the list would be a comfortable and zippy ride.
Well, Bianchi must have read my mind when they came up with the Camaleonte, which features a good-looking aluminium frame that's very comfortable to ride. Practicality is taken care of by the pannier rack bosses and mudguard eyelets. It's almost a given now that these mounting points are included on hybrid bikes, so it's no surprise to see them here, but it just adds to the impression that this is a bike that strikes a good balance between style and practicality.
"Passione, passione, passione." Bianchi bikes are Italian through and through. But wait, where's the Campagnolo? Campag, the famous groupset manufacturer, is as Italian as cappuccino gelato, so why haven't they been invited to the party?
Well, sadly Campagnolo does not make a mountain bike triple groupset, so in steps the constantly reliable Shimano to fill the void, with a wide-ratio cassette and a small inner chainring. And god bless the gods of mountain biking, it works like a dream. The groupset is one of the two biggest differences between the Bianchi and the Wilier. The other is the ride.
Talking geometry, Bianchi have gone for an upright position that sometimes seems to be only a few degrees away from vertical. The benefit of this is comfort, and not really at a considerable detriment to speed. Riding it didn't give that impression anyhow. It's zippy in a way that defies both your posture, and the bike's relatively heavy weight of 12kg.
The brakes are excellent and the contact points - the saddle, grips, levers and pedals - are all wonderful. I enjoyed the ride a lot, and even though it doesn't encourage a top speed that would send you back to 1955 (88mph), it's certainly a ride that's fun. Personally, I appreciated it. It meant I could enjoy the ride for that little bit longer.
By calling it ?the Chameleon', Bianchi is provoking an obvious question. Does the name reflect the bike? On this occasion, I really do think so. To me, ?Chameleon' suggests a bike that's versatile and adaptable - OK, that's spot-on. It's a zippy hybrid with a full mtb groupset.
It can take to the town comfortably, and it can take on the hills, and win. The tyres have a degree of all-round use, and they're grippy. You can stick on fat, wide tyres and take it off-road for real, or you can buzz along the road all day carrying your gear behind you without a worry in the world. Versatile, adaptable, sticky feet. All yes. The ability to change colour.
OK, we'll let that one go....
Bianchi Sport Alu
Shimano Deore with Shimano BR-M445 hydraulic disc brakes
Selle Royal VIPER
43, 47, 51, 55, 59cm
Hutchinson Urban Tour 700x35
TEC logo rims and Shimano FH-RM66 hubs