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BASSANO DEL GRAPPA, Italy (VN) — It’s hard to compete in the era of superbikes. The big three have just about everything a racer could need in her stable, so if you’re outside of that triad, you need to develop the whole family of bikes to get noticed.
Consider the Zero SLR Wilier’s play to get noticed.
The Zero SLR fills the lightweight climber void in Wilier’s lineup, and it does so in impressive fashion. Wilier says the frame weighs less than 800 grams and the fork weighs 340 grams. To improve impact resistance and vibration absorption, Wilier adds Liquid Crystal Polymer to its carbon layup. That’s essentially a type of resin with impressive strength qualities.
It’s important to note that the Zero SLR is not lighter than Wilier’s Zero.6. But the stiffness to weight ratio is much improved, which means you get a light bike that still maintains the ride quality you’ll want and need in race situations.
In keeping with modern design trends, Wilier does much to integrate components. The integrated Zero carbon monocoque handlebar/stem combo weighs in at 330 grams for the 100×42 size. And even the handlebar spacers get the integration treatment; the highly rigid composite spacers are made of two pieces for easier swapping around the integrated cable routing. And the spacers themselves have a cavity to allow for easy cable routing. That’s important because this space allows the handlebars to move unimpeded by cable interference.
The rear triangle is asymmetrical to address braking forces and transmission forces, and the fork too is asymmetric to address aerodynamics. The seatpost is a truncated airfoil design in another nod to aerodynamics. And the dropped seat stays help improve comfort. And finally, Wilier incorporates Mavic Speed Release skewers for fast wheel changes.
Speaking of wheels, Wilier recently announced the launch of its very own wheel line, and the Zero SLR wears these new hoops. Wilier teamed up with Miche do develop the wheels, which helps Wilier bring more components in-house and develop more control over build characteristics and quality.
All told, Wilier has entered the market with a climbing bike aimed at the WorldTour ranks. Does anything set it apart from the likes of Specialized’s Tarmac or Trek’s Emonda? There are subtle differences, but largely, this is another superbike in a crowded field of superbikes.
But that’s okay. In fact, it’s more than okay: It’s a clear sign that Wilier is taking development seriously and developing a bike lineup fit for the highest echelons of the sport. As a consumer, that means you’ll be primed for trickle-down tech at more reasonable prices, eventually.
Even more importantly, it’s refreshing to see Wilier making modern design choices. Aero touches and integration mater a lot these days, not only to keep pace with the competition, but also to make the product as usable and fast as possible. Wilier engineers clearly did their homework to ensure they didn’t miss anything that would set them apart from the best climbing bikes on the market.
On that note, does the ride match the hype?
We started our first ride not far from the base of Monte Grappa on a chilly day in northern Italy. The first 20 miles or so rolled along the countryside and through small, ancient towns. This was a good opportunity to get a feel for the bike’s handling, especially in a large group.
It became immediately clear that I was riding a bike that deserves to be mentioned in the same sentence as Specialized’s S-Works Tarmac. That’s high praise. It means Wilier has ticked all the boxes that need ticking for a WorldTour-ready race bike. It’s light, agile, and fun to ride, as promised.
But it also didn’t stand out from the Tarmac, which speaks more to the fact that we seem to be living in an era of ultra-refined bikes. Is that a problem? Not at all. If you’ve got moves like the king, you can compete with the king.
If you’re a purebred climber, the handling will feel familiar here. It’s quick and ultra-responsive, which means it will react to your guidance immediately. If you’re like me and prefer a slightly longer trail for stability, you might find the Zero SLR a bit too reactive to your input. But that’s by design. This is a climber’s tool, not an aero bike.
That said, it’s great to see Wilier incorporating aero elements into its all-around bikes. It won’t match the straight-line speed of a pure aero bike like the Cento1Air, but every little bit helps. It indicates that Wilier is thinking forward, and capitalizing on modern designs to create a bike that can compete with the big boys. If I was solely concerned with going fast in a straight line – breakaway guys and sprinters, take note — this probably wouldn’t be my first choice. But it could still compete.
And fortunately, the integrated handlebar, which incorporates some aero shaping, is comfortable enough that you won’t find yourself wishing for your old, round handlebar. But like other integrated handlebar systems, Wilier’s isn’t adjustable, which could be a problem for some riders. It fit me just fine, and I’m happy to note that the bars didn’t dig into my palms with any sharp edges.
So we know it’s at home when the road tips upward. And when you’re ripping down the other side, the ZeroSLR makes short work of tight switchbacks at high speeds. In a straight line it holds its own, though it doesn’t have that rocketship feel you’ll get with something like an S-Works Venge or a Trek Madone.
I’ve got two long rides on this bike so far and I’ve yet to find fault in its ride quality, handling, and acceleration. The only thing wrong with it? In an era of “wow” bikes, the Zero SLR is yet another “Wow” bike. It’s fantastic and it fits right in with some of the best bikes on the road. It’s not standout from those bikes, but Wilier did exactly what it needed to do to position itself among the best.
Wilier-Triestina provided VeloNews with flights and accommodations for this launch.