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Old 07-02-08, 10:45 AM   #1
leonem
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Bianchi Volpe Review & 1st Impressions

Hi Everyone,

I've had a Bianchi Volpe (2007 model, bought new) for just over a month, during which time I've put it through unpaved carriage roads at Acadia National Park in Maine, fast rides on paved bike paths and a lot of city street riding (in Queens and Manhattan, NYC).

So far, I'm absolutely thrilled with the bike. It's eminently practical, fun and versatile: fast and responsive on the road with skinny tires, confident on hilly trails with cross tires. It's an absolute joy to ride.

My review:

With road tires (Continental Ultra, at $14 apiece) and an aftermarket saddle (Forte classic, $20) and seat post (Ritchie, also $20) my Bianchi Volpe weighs in at about 23lbs, light enough to carry around and nimble enough to get some real acceleration dialed in.

FRAME

The Volpe is built around a cro-moly steel frame, which feels sturdy, absorbs some road vibration and is designed to carry weight both front and rear for touring (and is equipped with mounting points front and rear to that end). I test rode a few aluminum/carbon fiber bikes, and the Volpe feels far more stable and less twitchy at a fraction of the price and a weight penalty of just 2 or 3 lbs.

The low bottom bracket, while making the Volpe less of a cyclocross racer than its big brother the Bianchi Axis, greatly increases ride stability.

Without getting into the steel vs. aluminum debate, I'll say that I'm a big fan of the Volpe's cro-moly steel frame.

Modern cro-moly alloy frames don't have the same rigidity deterioration and flex issues as older steel frames, nor are they as heavy.

For the sacrifice of a few lbs of weight and a negligible amount of energy-absorption you gain ruggedness (you can dent it and it won't crack, you can load it up with panniers, etc.), stability and comfort and a *significant* cost-savings.

While it is true that an aluminum frame and carbon fiber fork setup is more rigid and thus more efficient in converting pedaling energy to movement, the difference is negligible for everyday use.

In fact, the cro-moly-frame Volpe felt faster, more nimble and far more stable than the aluminum/fiber Specialized TriCross (which is a bit lighter and, yet, at $1300, far more expensive) that I test drove.

I already had an occasion to crash (me vs. pedestrian vs. bridge--I swerved, bridge won) and I was really glad for the steel, knowing that if I had damaged the frame on impact, it would just be a dent and not a crack, saving me from having to buying a new bike.

WHEELS & GEARS

The stock 36-spoke 700c wheels are designed for cyclocross, so they can mount a variety of tire widths and withstand most surfaces. They're heavier and sturdier than road/race wheels, which (at least for me) is essential for loaded touring or commuting on city streets.

The stock tires are WTB Allterainasaurus, which are just fine for the trail and the city, though once back from the national park I replaced them with skinnier road tires (Continental Ultras), which immediately improved speed and acceleration on road.

The bike has Tiagra 9 shifters, which work great, with a 9 speed cassette in the rear and a triple crank set in the front. (You can look up the gearing on the Bianchi site).

I don't use the granny gear that often, but it certainly comes in handy on trail hill climbs (biking up Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park) and when loaded with gear in the city (my street is a pretty steep hill).

I tested the Bianchi Axis with a compact crank set; that setup wins hands down for pure cyclocross and road use, but not being a professional athlete, I need that third gear for extended hill climbs, especially when loaded with gear.

I really liked the aluminum/fiber Axis (the next step up from the Volpe in the cyclocross line) actually--it feels faster, more exciting and more fun than the Volpe, but the Axis is a purpose-built cyclocross bike with major component differences (compact crank set vs. the Volpe's and TriCross' triple, for example) and is far more expensive and less practical.

My only gripes with the bike were the seat and seat post (the stock seat post is spring-loaded for some reason, and the saddle is a mushy affair with tiger print on the side), and I replaced them both for about $40. My front brake also sang (i.e. a squeaking noise when the brake pad meets the rim) a bit when new, but I tightened up the cable and by the time the brakes were broken in the noise disappeared.



To sum up, I think the Volpe is absolutely the best all-around bike for the price.

It's stable. It's rugged. It can handle trails. The frame is light but tough and can mount a lot of weight. It's pretty fast with road tires on. It's the kind of bike that's a great value out of the box and can be upgraded as needed over the years.



I'll post pictures in the next few days, and will check this post for questions, so feel free to ask!

Best and thanks!

~ Leo


P.S. I bought the bike at Southwest Cycle in Southwest Harbor, Maine. This is absolutely the best bike shop I've ever been to, they gave me a great deal, they set the bike up for me, etc. -- I'll write that up as well in a different post.
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Old 07-02-08, 11:01 AM   #2
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What size frame is it?
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Old 07-02-08, 12:11 PM   #3
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Is anyone able to compare this to a Surley LHT or Crosscheck? I'm planning on getting a LHT in a few weeks, but the bike shop I pass on the way to work has the Volpe. It'd be nice to not have to go across town for repairs.

That being said, it looks like you got yourself a great bike.

D
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Old 07-02-08, 12:32 PM   #4
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My wife has a Volpe, and I had a Cross Check. I much prefer the Volpe.
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Old 07-02-08, 01:23 PM   #5
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Nice review, leonem. I bought an `07 Volpe from Jenson a few months ago and have been quite pleased so far. It`s possibly the most comfortable bike I`ve owned. I put some 32-spoke Mavic Open Pros on it with Panaracer Urban Max tires and I too noticed an improvement in performance. The WTB rims were OK but heavy and definitely not as sweet as the Mavics.
The one word that pops to mind regarding the Volpe is "smooth". I love riding that bike and always look forward to doing so. Hell, I`ll ride it to the mailbox across the street. Congrats on your bike!
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Old 07-02-08, 02:00 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by atcfoody View Post
Is anyone able to compare this to a Surley LHT or Crosscheck? I'm planning on getting a LHT in a few weeks, but the bike shop I pass on the way to work has the Volpe. It'd be nice to not have to go across town for repairs.

That being said, it looks like you got yourself a great bike.

D
I have a Cross-Check (which I built) and a San Jose which is the single speed version of the Volpe. Both are great frames. The Cross-Check frame is definitely heavier, probably more durable, & has very durable powder coat paint. Both of them handle very similarly on road & off-road. I think I would choose based on components more than anything. I think the Volpe is set up very nice as long as your main use will not be racing.
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Old 07-02-08, 05:03 PM   #7
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Biggest difference in the Volpe and Cross Check is the shifters. Do you prefer bar end or Brifters?
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Old 07-02-08, 06:15 PM   #8
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I've had an '07 Volpe for almost a year now as my daily commuter. Like the OP I'm really pleased with this bike. It is stable and forgiving and is easy to set up with rack and fenders, though I had to attach the fender stays to mount points on the rack because there is only a single set of attachment points on the Volpe dropouts.

I've replaced the stock tires with Schwalbe Marathons to cut down on rolling resistance. The saddle with the ocelot print and the spring-loaded seatpost didn't come home with me - my LBS swapped them out.

I have only two small gripes: the paint seems pretty delicate and the front cantilever brakes squeal. I've tried everything to eliminate the brake squeal - toe-in, cleaning rim, scuffing rim, new koolstop pads (tried both black and salmon) and I still have some minor squeal. Next I think I'm going to try a fork crown mounted brake housing hanger to replace the stock stem mounted hanger.

I've had no issues with the drivetrain - everything works as advertised and stays in tune - no surprises at all. Shifting isn't quite as smooth as the 10sp 105 drivetrain on my other bike, but I certainly have no complaints.

Overall I would buy this bike again - no regrets at all.
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Old 07-02-08, 08:20 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by atcfoody View Post
Is anyone able to compare this to a Surley LHT or Crosscheck? I'm planning on getting a LHT in a few weeks, but the bike shop I pass on the way to work has the Volpe. It'd be nice to not have to go across town for repairs.
I've ridden all three and liked the Volpe the best. I'd lose the lame shifters and go with barends, but otherwise the stock componentry is fine. (The LHT is not the same kind of bike actually, so I'd really only compare the Volpe and CC.)
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Old 07-02-08, 09:27 PM   #10
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It's a 52" frame. I'm 5'8 and it fits me pretty well, though if I was a few inches taller I'd definitely be on the 55".

(The geometry is described at the bottom of the Volpe's page on the Bianchi website: http://www.bianchiusa.com/07_volpe.html.)
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Old 07-02-08, 11:25 PM   #11
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Biggest difference in the Volpe and Cross Check is the shifters. Do you prefer bar end or Brifters?
For everyone who mentioned the components and shifters -- I actually really like the brifters on the Volpe. The whole mechanism--especially for smoothly going between sprockets in the front--takes a little getting used to... but just for example the ability to swing the rear dérailleur through several gears at a time in a controlled and precise way with the flick of a wrist is really helpful.

Would you all really recommend switching to a different set of shifters? Is it worth the expense?
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Old 07-02-08, 11:29 PM   #12
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Nice review, leonem. I bought an `07 Volpe from Jenson a few months ago and have been quite pleased so far. It`s possibly the most comfortable bike I`ve owned. I put some 32-spoke Mavic Open Pros on it with Panaracer Urban Max tires and I too noticed an improvement in performance. The WTB rims were OK but heavy and definitely not as sweet as the Mavics.
The one word that pops to mind regarding the Volpe is "smooth". I love riding that bike and always look forward to doing so. Hell, I`ll ride it to the mailbox across the street. Congrats on your bike!


Thanks -- agree w/ you 100%. The ride, the components are super smooth so far--and I've been putting a fair bit of wear and tear on the bike.

And yeah... I *do* ride it to the mailbox across the street.
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Old 07-02-08, 11:29 PM   #13
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I bought the Volpe new summer'06. I stand 5'10 & my frame is the 58. Fits me perfect.

This was my first new bike purchase, as my car was falling apart with rust, so I went for something nicer than I otherwise would have. My only comparisions are the various mtnbikes I've ridden & the road/tour/cross bikes I test rode that summer. But the Volpe climbed best, felt the most responsive and I was sold. Since then I replace the saddle for a brooks, the seatpost for a thompson, rear wheel is now a deepV, and the tires are Michelin City, etc etc.
Probably I could have done a little better but its hard to see how. A solid year-round commuter.
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Old 07-02-08, 11:35 PM   #14
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... front cantilever brakes squeal. I've tried everything to eliminate the brake squeal - toe-in, cleaning rim, scuffing rim, new koolstop pads (tried both black and salmon) and I still have some minor squeal. Next I think I'm going to try a fork crown mounted brake housing hanger to replace the stock stem mounted hanger...
I had this too, and it more or less went away once I had the brakes adjusted by my LBS and broken in through some use... I'll ask the shop (they're a Bianchi dealer) what they did next time I'm there and post it. I would bet that this is an issue with the rims rather than the bike setup... we'll see what they say.
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Old 07-03-08, 09:12 AM   #15
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Another Volpe owner here. I bought an overstock '07 a few months ago at a decent discount and am thoroughly enjoying the bike. So far the only change I've made is swapping out the pedals for Time ATACs. A new saddle is coming up soon.
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Old 07-03-08, 09:55 AM   #16
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The saddle with the ocelot print and the spring-loaded seatpost didn't come home with me - my LBS swapped them out.
I really don't get that saddle. I suppose it's meant to be fun and/or quirky, but to my eyes it's just ugly and not in keeping with the rest of the bike. Does anyone know if there's a particular reason for it? I'm not really up on my Bianchi history...
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Old 08-05-08, 09:39 AM   #17
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brake squeal

Well, I finally got rid of the brake squeal in my Volpe's front brakes. Toe-in, cleaning rims, scuffing rims, changing pads, etc. did not work and yet the rear brakes never squealed and the front brakes always squealed.

In trying to address any differences between the front and rear I noticed the rear brake cable housing hanger is much closer to the straddle cable than on the front brakes. I found a fork-crown-mounted cable housing stop made by Tektro at Harris Cyclery (http://sheldonbrown.com/harris/cable...are-brake.html) and that seems to have solved the problem for me. I've gone two days now without frightening a single pedestrian.
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Old 10-25-08, 12:31 PM   #18
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Thanks for taking the time to post the picture. I ordered and installed the same part, but I didn't experience the same (positive) results you did. Perhaps I did something wrong... this is unclear.

Do you have a theory as to why the new part fixed the problem?


In the end my local bike shop--Spin City Cycle in Forest Hills (Queens), NY--and I decided that this is a matter of mountain-bike-size pads on road-bike-size wheel rims. I'm just going to mount some road brake pads (something like http://www.performancebike.com/shop/...tegory_ID=5226) onto the existing brakes and hope for the best!

Will report how it turns out...

~ L
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Old 10-25-08, 12:49 PM   #19
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5-month update on Bianchi Volpe

Hi All,

While I'm on here I figured I'd post a 5-month update to my original post.

Modifications
  • Forte saddle
  • Front brakes are getting replaced for road brakes (a $10 operation)
  • Added a rear gear rack.
  • Mounted some road tires (but kept the original tires for the twice-yearly national park trip).

Positives
  • I absolutely love the bike (see items below):
  • The frame is solid as a rock without being twitchy in the city -- I ride on NYC roads with no fear or discomfort. The wheels are heavier than those on a speed-built road bike, but it's worth it for the occasional pothole.
  • To add to the above point, I crashed during the summer -- pedestrian stepped out in front of me, I flew over the handlebars. The bike went flying, landed on its side and skidded on the pavement. The only damage was a scratched pedal and a paint chip.
  • The gearing is fast enough for me to keep up with traffic, and (with a fast cadence) ride in a pack (on a comfortable road ride, not a race), yet still comfortable for hills and climbs for me.
  • Can mount a front and rear rack.

Negatives
  • The front brakes squeal. I've finally given in and ordered new pads (see above, $10). According to my local bike shop (we tested with smaller pads to confirm) this will fix the problem.
  • There is an obvious weight penalty as compared to aluminum- and carbon-frame road bikes, but comparing the Volpe to a Cervelo-frame racing bike is very much apples-to-oranges.
  • When I crashed, the paint chipped in one spot (see above).

Overall, I'm really glad I chose this bike -- it's absolutely terrific as a trainer, as a city bike and for long road rides. A racing bike it is not, but then again I don't race. So there it is.
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Old 10-25-08, 01:51 PM   #20
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Nice review & update. I have 300 miles on my one month old Soma Double Cross. I have the same high opinion of my bike. Steel framed Cyclocross bikes rule !

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Old 10-25-08, 02:17 PM   #21
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Thanks for taking the time to post the picture. I ordered and installed the same part, but I didn't experience the same (positive) results you did. Perhaps I did something wrong... this is unclear.

Do you have a theory as to why the new part fixed the problem?


In the end my local bike shop--Spin City Cycle in Forest Hills (Queens), NY--and I decided that this is a matter of mountain-bike-size pads on road-bike-size wheel rims. I'm just going to mount some road brake pads (something like http://www.performancebike.com/shop/...tegory_ID=5226) onto the existing brakes and hope for the best!

Will report how it turns out...

~ L
I think it just stiffened everything up. I should apologize - I should have posted a followup. After about a week I started getting squeal again, but not as bad as it was originally. I do have a solution the quiets the brakes completely, but it is some ugly looking. I put one of these on: http://www.nashbar.com/profile.cfm?sku=11615, and I have nor heard a peep from my front brakes in more than a month.

I always wondered why the front brakes made so much noise and the rear brakes were absolutely silent. I think the difference it that the canti studs face forward on the front brakes. When you lean on the brakes I think the fork is flexing a bit (each leg of the fork is twisting - when viewed from above the right leg twisting clockwise, the left twisting counter-clockwise) allowing the studs to splay outward a bit. This splay gives the brakes a bit of heel-in, canceling out any toe-in you have adjusted in. On the read brakes any flex increases to toe in.
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Old 10-25-08, 03:41 PM   #22
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My tri-cross came with linear pull brakes standard. Vastly better stopping power than cantis IMHO. It appears they've switched back to canti's on the 2009s now. I wish they'd make up their minds. That feature alone makes it superior to the Volpe for me.
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Old 10-25-08, 06:44 PM   #23
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23lbs? Seriously? Did you weight it? I owned a 2006 model one and didn't care much for it because of the weight. I'm pretty sure it was nowhere near 23lbs. It did feel like a nice solid bike though and for commuting only, I would have loved it, but I was looking for a do-everything bike and this one wasn't that good for rec riding with other roadies. Got dropped on the first hill and was dead tired by the end of 30 miles. Never had that problem on my road bike. As long as you like it, that's all that matters.

FWIW, I ended up with a Specialized Tricross Comp as my do-everything bike. Love it.
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Old 10-27-08, 08:38 AM   #24
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Steel framed cross bikes = excellent! Agreed
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Old 10-27-08, 08:39 AM   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mthomas View Post
I think it just stiffened everything up. I should apologize - I should have posted a followup. After about a week I started getting squeal again, but not as bad as it was originally. I do have a solution the quiets the brakes completely, but it is some ugly looking. I put one of these on: http://www.nashbar.com/profile.cfm?sku=11615, and I have nor heard a peep from my front brakes in more than a month.

I always wondered why the front brakes made so much noise and the rear brakes were absolutely silent. I think the difference it that the canti studs face forward on the front brakes. When you lean on the brakes I think the fork is flexing a bit (each leg of the fork is twisting - when viewed from above the right leg twisting clockwise, the left twisting counter-clockwise) allowing the studs to splay outward a bit. This splay gives the brakes a bit of heel-in, canceling out any toe-in you have adjusted in. On the read brakes any flex increases to toe in.

I'll see what happens when I install the new brake pads; if that doesn't work I'll try this and let everyone know the result...
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