We review the classy Wilier Montegrappa Elite road bike
Wilier Montegrappa Elite
Wilier Triestina may be less well known in Britain than the likes of Boardman, Cube or Cinelli, but the Italian company has more than a hundred years of heritage under its belt. The Montegrappa – named after the Monte Grappa mountain in Italy – has a more modest kit line-up than some of the opposition at the £1,000 mark, so the question is whether the Taiwanese-made aluminium frame can overcome these limitations.
Frame and fork
Wilier’s Montegrappa has had a major revamp for 2014, its carbon fork with an aluminium steerer and chunky double-butted aluminium tubes joined by newly slimmed-down seatstays, designed to build in more comfort through the rear end. While our model came with 23mm Vittoria Zaffiro tyres, the frame can accommodate tyres up to 28mm wide. That, along with its weight, suggests that the Montegrappa will score more for comfort and endurance than it will for all-out speed.
Most of the components are from Shimano’s Tiagra groupset, with a 105 rear mech. FSA supplies the chainset and bottom bracket, though the Wilier’s is not a BB30 model. While Tiagra is lower down the Shimano ranks than 105, the shifting action is actually light and efficient. The bright red cables leave a bit of a spaghetti junction at the front of your bike, though they do complement the frame’s crimson highlights.
The FSA compact chainset is paired with a wide-ranging 11-28 cassette, which has a higher top gear than the Cube’s but is otherwise much the same. There are inevitably quite large gaps between the gears, but for the sort of riding this is likely to be used for – training, sportives and general fitness rather than racing – large gaps are less of an issue. The non-cartridge Tektro R340 brakes work well enough, though we’d upgrade to cartridge blocks once the supplied set’s time us up.
At a shade under 3.4kg (complete with cassette, tyres and skewers) the Wilier’s wheels are chunky even at this price point. On the plus side, the cup and cone design of the hub should be fine for the home mechanic to service. The 23mm tyres are reasonable, but as with the brakes we’d probably swap them for something lighter for racing or tougher and wider for winter riding.
Our riding expectations for the Wilier were tempered by its weighty wheels and modest kit, so we were pleasantly surprised that the ride quality surpassed our hopes. With wheels weighing well over 3kg, acceleration and climbing are inevitably going to suffer, and this was the case. This isn’t a bike made for sprinting, though with a deep drop bar you can still get low enough if you want the occasional high-speed blast.
As the miles and the hours mount up, the Montegrappa’s positive qualities come to the fore, and it’s clear it really would make a fine mile-eater for the prospective sportive or century rider. You are going to feel potholes and larger imperfections, but this well-designed frame isn’t overly harsh over most road surfaces.
The San Marco saddle, with its large cutaway, proved an excellent companion to the slimline, flattened seatstays, and even with the aluminium seatpost and much narrower tyres than the frame could accommodate, comfort levels were very good. We’d happily ride this on rougher roads too and even the likes of towpaths and gravel tracks with suitable 28mm tyres.
The handling doesn’t have the zip and zing of similarly priced bikes such as the Cinelli Experience, and it’s definitely slower to hustle it up to speed, but there’s no flex evident in the frame or the wheels so you can climb in or out of the saddle, the 28-tooth sprocket being low enough for most climbs that you’re likely to encounter. You can’t descend as swiftly you can on the Cinelli, but the neutral handling feels safe, and never throws any nasty surprises at you either.
Overall, this is a bike well suited to the needs of the endurance rider rather than the speed merchant, and perhaps the bigger, stronger cyclist. You’re not going to break any speed records on the Montegrappa, but the Montegrappa’s never going to break you either.
+ Good looks with smooth-running wheels
+ Very good long-distance comfort
– Heavy wheels hamper its liveliness
– Underspecced against the similarly priced opposition