Urban Velo

Bianchi Volpe Review

Bianchi Volpe

The Volpe is undoubtedly the most versatile bike in Bianchi’s lineup. It has lots of tire clearance, plus rack and fender mounts, giving it the potential to be a commuter, a touring bike or even a cyclocross racing bike. It comes standard with all terrain tires and a triple crankset, so you can literally take it just about anywhere. And that’s what makes the Volpe so much fun.

When the Volpe arrived back in October, my first inclination was to cruise across town to Frick Park and hit the dirt and gravel. This became a recurring theme all winter long. While it’s not terribly fast on the road with the aforementioned WTB 700 x 32 All Terrainasaurus tires, it’s not unbearably slow, either. And all that extra rubber is certain stave off a few pinch flats and punctures, too. Even if you were to install some bona-fide slicks, you might want to hang on to the stock tires for winter riding, as they’ve performed quite well in the snow and ice.

I’m constantly impressed by the latest entry-level drivetrain components. The 10-speed Shimano Tiagra shifters and derailleurs are nothing if not smooth and crisp. Ride after ride, the drivetrain has performed with little maintenance. Having the FSA Vero Triple (50/39/30) really encouraged me to find new routes, secure in the knowledge that I can crawl back up out of any valley.

At the heart of the Volpe is the frame, naturally, and in addition to being pleasing to the eye (as countless people have told me) the TIG-welded, butted chromoly tubeset is built to last. The bike isn’t the lightest in my stable, but the frame is relatively low on the list of culpable suspects.

The geometry is comfortable, but it’s definitely a departure from what I’m used to. The main difference is that I don’t seem to have as much standover clearance as I do with other 49 cm frames. The top tube is short enough that I’m running the stock 90 mm stem, yet I still find it easy to lift the front wheel off the ground. The bike feels like it rides somewhat high, yet it’s stable off-road and downhill.

Although not the lightest components available, the house-brand parts are functional and aesthetically pleasing. The wheelset is simple but strong, and it hasn’t gone out of true despite all of my off-road adventuring. The saddle has definitely grown on me now that it’s broken in. The handlebar on the 49 cm model seems notably narrow. It actually seemed quite nice for riding in traffic, but otherwise I might prefer a little more width.

My only real nit to pick with the Volpe is with the brakes, which I’ve never quite managed to dial in. As much as I love the interrupter brake levers, I have a sneaking suspicion they’re at least partially to blame for the weak braking.

In conclusion, the Volpe is a great all-around bike. If you can only have one, this might be a wise choice because of its versatility. The price reflects the quality of the frame and the drivetrain, and the finishing kit is nothing to scoff at, even if you might upgrade some of the components down the line.

The Volpe retails for $1200. Check out www.bianchiusa.com.

About Urban Jeff

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15 Comments

  1. Justin WinokurFebruary 6, 2012 at 9:55 am

    I agree very much with this review. Perhaps the only addition is that the front wheel is just close enough to avoid toe overlap without fenders but with fenders, it is a problem.

    I should add that I have the 61cm frame. I use it for commuting and for bi-weekly century rides. The first thing I got rid of was the saddle. OUCH! Of course, I have still not found the “perfect” saddle but my Brooks B17 is acceptable until I do.

    I do not know how, but my derailleur got bent sending the chain into the wheel breaking the wheel, the chain and the derailleur itself. I replaced it with a 11-34 mountain cassete and Deore derailleur. Although the old 12-30 was good enough for some climbing, now I can tackle the major grades. Of course, I am a BIG guy so I need the extra power.

    I also got rid of the interruptors and the brakes improved. I still find them to be worse than my old Trek 7.2 FX with V-Brakes but they are good enough. I go in the drops when I think I will need the extra power.

    Finally, I put 28c hardcase tires on since I don’t do trails. They have been nice but when they wear out, I am moving to 32c Gatorskins. I do not care about the small speed boost as much as I want the comfort of the (slightly) bigger tires.

  2. bergerandfriesFebruary 6, 2012 at 11:27 am

    I also ride the 61cm Bianchi and am a big guy. The geometry is perfect for me, and while the braking is a bit disappointing, I have found that installing a bolt-on Tektro brake cable housing stop directly to the top of the fork has helped IMMENSELY with stopping power and eliminating brake chatter. I also use the salmon/red brake pads which grab a little more than the black colored pads. I had to upgrade the rear wheel as well because I kept breaking spokes, but my new wheel works just fine now. Finally, I also have a B17 saddle with about 12k miles on the saddle and Volpe. I too find front fenders can cause toe-overlap, but have the fender dialed in now and use clip-in pedals and it is a non issue now. I run 32c reflective sidewall tires on my Volpe. The Volpe is not the only bike in my stable, but it is by far my favorite.

  3. iliketoesFebruary 6, 2012 at 3:19 pm

    Anyone else reading the sign in the background the same way I am? Trees.

  4. jorgeFebruary 6, 2012 at 5:25 pm

    Used to be a very cool bike some 5 or 10 years ago. I now own a Salsa Casseroll. 38c with fenders? No problem. Tiagra drivetrain. Sugino triple with smallest ring a 26t.

  5. PaulCJrFebruary 7, 2012 at 5:57 am

    Yes!!!! Does that awning say what I think it says???!!!! And where is that store located?

  6. tpennyFebruary 7, 2012 at 12:48 pm

    It says frick park market

  7. Urban JeffFebruary 7, 2012 at 2:35 pm

    Yep, Frick Park Market.

  8. PaulCJrFebruary 7, 2012 at 8:59 pm

    Dang! I was hoping it was saying what i thought it said.

  9. peterFebruary 14, 2012 at 9:41 pm

    Love my 2011, same look but with WTB rims. I also have the same MKS sneaker pedals you seem to have. I haven’t had any problems with the breaks since switching out the cables. I also changed the handlebars for WTB dirtdrops,they work great on gravel roads and are very comfortable on longer rides.

  10. slow joe crowFebruary 16, 2012 at 2:19 pm

    A good cheap fix for weak canti brakes is the Tektro 926A Mini-V. It’s a BMX brake beloved of cheapskate Cyclocross racers and Jagwire makes a noodle with a barrel adjuster on it. I put this setup on my wife’s Redline Conquest Sport for $29.00 in parts and a foot of brake cable housing. I can also attest to the racing ability of the Volpe since I know somebody who won the beginner Men’s race in a Cross Crusade event on an older Volpe.

  11. Justin WinokurFebruary 20, 2012 at 9:51 pm

    @ bergerandfries, Thanks for the tip on the front brake hanger. I talked to my LBS about it and they thought it sounded like a cool idea. It wasn’t very expensive but sure enough, it eliminated shutter. I only had a problem when hard braking or any in the wet. Now there is none. I do not know if there is any more power, but no shutter is good enough for me.

    Thanks for the tip.

  12. MarcFebruary 27, 2012 at 5:17 pm

    I’ve had my (2011) Volpe for about 9 months now, and adore it.
    I have not had any real complaints about the brakes. I had never ridden before with interruptors and now find myself using them maybe 75% of the time. Having my hands on the hoods, I do get noticeably less stopping ability, but not to the point of finding it abnormal. It’s just that the interruptors stop way better than any bikes I have been using in the past.
    As other people have experienced, the stock tires on mine wore out rather quickly, but I am a pretty big guy riding on New York City streets, which are known for chewing up anything but the hardest tires.
    Also, besides being a big guy (about 230 lbs), I ride with about 30-40 lbs of work gear in my panniers most of the time). The bike handles this very well, but the Tiagra rear wheel did not. So, I replaced it with a very strong 40-spoker and now it is fine.
    Also, I put SKS “chromoplastic” fenders on the bike, and I have no problem with front-wheel/shoe clearance. Not sure if it makes a difference, but I’m riding a 59.
    I had one major complaint which was transformed into a major rave. Being a big guy with heavy panniers, who also spends most of his time in the big ring, I found my chainring deflecting a bit more than it should early on. This was very troubling,
    I showed it to the guys at the LBS where I had bought it and they agreed that it was, in fact, troubling. They contacted Bianchi for me, who actually sent them a new heavier-duty crankset, which the LBS guys installed for me. The whole thing did not cost me a penny! The new crankset has held up wonderfully. Real raves to Bianchi for their customer service. This next sentence might sound like an ad (but it isn’t), but due to their after-sale service in dealing with Bianchi for me, I would not hesitate for a second to recommend Pedal Pusher Bike Shop on the Upper East Side of Manhattan in New York City, to any New Yorker looking to buy a bike!
    Anyway, having the Volpe has been a great experience so far, and I hope it remains so for a long time.

  13. JoeOctober 1, 2012 at 5:31 pm

    Hi,
    I’ve tested this bike and really enjoyed it. However, the store did not have my size. For reference, I am wondering how tall are you? I test rode a 51, but wanted to try a 49, which they did not have in stock. I am 5’6″.

    Thanks!

  14. EricOctober 11, 2012 at 7:33 pm

    I bought a 56cm Velope this August and have had some good times with in. Mostly I ride to work, but I’ve also been doing some cyclocross racing in Portland. I have noticed the front brake chattering when pushed hard, and I’ve had some trouble with using the brake interrupters on steeper stuff. I stick with the drops now if there is any chance I’ll have to break hard. I’ve had 4 flats on the back wheel since I got the bike, 2 pinch flats, 1 because the original tube was faulty, and another because I had something dragging on the tire during a race, shredding the tube and tire. The two pinch flats are the most annoying, I’m 170 lbs and I’ve found that I can’t run anything lower than 55 psi without having a good chance at a pinch flat on these rims. I managed to ding the chain hard enough to get two different links stuck, so the chain had to be replaced. Overall a pretty good bike, but there are better values out there. On a cosmetic note the paint seems really prone to chipping, and the plastic emblem on the head tube fell off within a week.

  15. ReggieDecember 16, 2012 at 3:29 pm

    My LBS received a few 2011 Volpes in at the year model change. I had been interested in moving from my aluminum/carbon set up into a steel bike for several months. I am reaching 60, ride on some roads that were causing some rough vibrating rides, and looking to move from a compact to triple ring. Add to that my goals are changing from speed to LONGER rides and the Volpe looked like a possibility.

    With two months of riding on it, I am sold. I do not ride to work, and I do not have a gol of loded touring, but I sure enjoy the smoth ride of steel & the versatility of this bike. I changed out my seat this afternoon, and I am looking forward to a dry day.

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