I had spent the best part of a year drooling over the pictures. All carbony, stealthy and ravishing. How my Strava times would tumble as I put this piece of bicycle p0rn through its paces. The weekend warriors of the North Downs would cheer as I roared past on the two wheeled equivalent of an Ariel Atom. Colour selected, spec firmed up and, and then nothing. You see, I had lofty ambitions of buying a Canyon CF SLX. 6.7 kilos of German craftsmanship, a veritable rocket ship which would propel me around with a fixed grin and tightening shorts. However, there was one problem which I could not shake, the question of size. I could have had a bike fit or followed the video demo, which in hindsight might have been enough, but it wasn’t. My worry was spending 3 grand on a bike which I had not sat on. For a man who spends 2 hours in the supermarket deliberating this was an insurmountable problem. My decisions come rarely or rashly. What if I hated it? Well how could I? More importantly, what if it just did not fit and would never fit? With a proposed budget which would slip comfortably into my top 10 most expensive purchases this was an indecision too far.
My early years of road bikes were not much help as I looked into my heart to see if there was a way to replace my dream with something [as my father would say] less silly. The second hand Vindec was but a stepping stone to my father’s 5 speed Coventry Eagle, and to me the pinnacle of the bike world. I drew a blank when considering the years I spent working at a bike shop because by then I had been thoroughly brainwashed by mountain bikes. One memory is of a chap with a Bianchi, rider and clothing resplendent in pistachio. On once mentioning this to the Chairman he corrected me, Celeste. You see I know b ugger all about road bikes.
Back when I was invited to ride on the Guildford to Bordeaux ride my mind was sharpened and I had to have a road bike. It needed to be sturdy, have pannier lugs and be happy to get covered in winter filth. £360 (inc postage) later I had a 58cm 2010 Specialized Allez. It was spec’d with Tiagra and had all the right bits in the right places. As Ebay purchases go it was a no brainer. I found myself with a light bike which would do. Add to it a pair of Aksiums and I had the perfect starter bike, and all within the £1,000 budget I had set aside to get me to Bordeaux. The Allez was now due to become my winter bike..
Knowing what I did about specialized it was the obvious next place to look. The Roubaix was an option and looked good with its 2016 matt black finish. It also had disc brakes, which was another consideration. It fitted but felt like I had not progressed far from my Allez. The Tarmac was just not quite right and the Venge, well I’d have needed to find a new club. At this point I discounted all non-European bikes. Why? My rash decision making was deployed to cut down on the options. With the Canyon out I looked to Belgium, France and Italy. You might be surprised why I did not consider a British bike. I did. There are fabulous options out there, but I had owned British and I had owned American. Now it was time to go Continental and quirky.
On 1st Jan 2015 I went for a 30 mile loop with my sister. A veteran Col bagger she turned up on a Wilier. It was a beautiful bike. Covered in Campag and paint job to die for I was instantly very envious. Remember this was back in the Canyon days, so I dismissed it as a possible mount.
Various forays to bike shops around The City gave me an opportunity to try many bikes which were in my price range, and it was here I stood opposite a Wilier for the first time since my dismissal of anything non-European. Obviously I was not in the market for an aero bike so focused on the Team GTR. There were three options on the shop floor, 105 mix etc up. The GTR SL looked good, but I could lose the necessary weight difference in a morning, if you catch my drift. So it was with some resolve (to love it) that I took the Ultegra bike outside and into the chilly chaos around Spitalfields. It has always troubled me that when buying something I will not fully appreciate it until I have got up close and personal. If for example you buy a pork pie you will generally eat it soon after purchase. What does it taste like if you keep it for 100 days? What about a year? When buying a bike you want to know what it will feel like after 50 miles on a hot day. All I had to make my decision was winding through the hipsters and city boys on cr4ppy roads. In a short space of time my mind was made up. This bike moved quickly. The uptake was fast, which I presume is what stiffness is all about and it sailed over the fractured road surface, giving noticeably more protection to my contact points than the aluminium Allez. The weight difference between the two is not huge, but it felt light and nifty. My past three bikes have been black, yellow and red. Sitting astride the GTR Team in its white/grey livery was quite unusual, as too the amount of information on the carbon frame. Cables! it proudly announces next to where the cables enter the frame. No sh1t.
A deal was struck for the non-Ultegra components to be switched over and the bike was mine.
On getting it home I sat for long periods looking at it - bear in mind it is February and this is the most expensive bike I have ever owned. It was beautiful. The harsh lines of the geometric paint job are softened by the now familiar Wilier logo.
Not having the same level of profile as other Italian brands, the Wilier was good value, and to be fair I would not be able to tell the difference or justify the extra cost currently. The finishing kit is a mixture of FSA and own brand parts, which for now are fine, though I could probably lose a few grams by replacing any one of them. Askium Elite wheels provide a minor upgrade from what I am used to, but so minute is the difference it is not worth discussing in detail.
Known for my hatred of hills and love of descents I am pleased to report both have improved. On the way up the GTR feels light and stiff. On the way down (with the addition of green Swissstop pads) I feel fully in control. Solid into bends at speed and spritely off the apex, this is a classic Italian downhill hooligan. Bone jarring sections of road are navigated with ease, and with the imminent purchase of a carbon seat post will only get easier.
I could be riding a Canyon, and I too would have been very happy, but I love my tattooed Italian hooligan – it rocks.