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Bianchi Zurigo

Review: Bianchi Zurigo

Elaine Bothe's picture

Right Out of the Box

4
First Impressions

As soon as I heard I was getting the chance to test a Bianchi 'cross bike, I was excited. I couldn't wait to see what part of it was going to be that distinctive Bianchi Green, or "Celeste." Steeped in history, you know it's a Bianchi headed your way from a mile away. There is no other color like it.

Out of the box it looked big. We received a 55 cm size and I usually ride a 54. I typically go bigger than my height might suggest but every manufacturer is different... and this Zurigo had big wide bars and a long stem mounted really low... hmm, was this going to be OK? Female friendly at all? The available 49 is great to be offered, but would be way too small for me. Bianchi had sold out of the 52's, and their sizing jumped over my usual 54 cm. I noodled with the stem and the bar height, adjusted the seat, and whaddya know, the 55 turned out to feel just about perfect. I wasn't all stretched out nor was I cramped up hitting my toes on the front wheel and staring down way over the front end.

The handsome Bianchi Zurigo has classic proportions complete with visible rake to the fork and old-school logo treatment. A closer look shows the triple butted aluminum tubes are most definitely oversized, the downtube is a very modern oval. The top tube has a flat spot for shoulder carries. The Zurigo is mostly shiny black, a little of the carbon fiber visible at the fork and with the Celeste color behind the logo on the down tube and seat tube, and, crazily, the bar tape. They will all see me coming! Alas, no Bianchi branded bar tape cleaner was in the box, but, well, this is a 'cross bike and is meant to get dirty.

Ease of Assembly

The Zurigo demo bike showed up pretty much ready to go, since the bike wasn't exactly brand new, and we had some issues with the shifting. Many thanks to the crew at River City Bicycles and we were on the road again fast!

Bling Factor

I mentioned the sexy Celeste bar tape... the Bianchi Zurigo is quiet and understated otherwise. Its bling is in its relation to historic Bianchi fame... But if you look closer, the subtleties, such as the bonus guide to help prevent dropped chains and multiple fender and rack eyelets show how ready the Zurigo is for all kinds of adventures.

Road Test Ride

4
Climbing

I had my doubts that the Bianchi Zurigo would be much of a climber, with its sturdy build and heavy wheels. But, I was very pleasantly surprised as the Zurigo competently went right on up pitchy hills and sustained climbs. While not rocket fast, the Zurigo's 34-tooth small chainring helped a lot, as did the short chainstays. The stiff all-aluminum frame helped, too, transferring all my power (such that it is) into steady upward motion. Even with all the friction from the stock Vittoria Cross XG tires, I was impressed!

Cornering

Is this a road bike in disguise? The Bianchi Zurigo is fun in the swoopies and stable in tight corners too, especially with some free momentum provided by a fun descent. The wheelbase is actually fairly short for a cross bike, but the Zurigo has the stability of something much longer. The 72 degree head tube angle (for this tested 55 cm size) provides predictable turn-ins with no hint of twitchiness. Even though my riding position is very comfortable and upright, thanks to the reversable stem in the "up" position, my weight is nicely balanced fore and aft. The bottom bracket position also helps lower the center of gravity and improves stability. And the wide handlebars offer great leverage, so it doesn't take much effort to start the turning process. Plus, that big ol' 50 tooth big chainring made long downhills more fun because I didn't run out of gear!

Handling

The Bianchi Zurigo feels a lot more athletic as you're riding it than it does if you just heft it in your garage. Its reasonably sporty geometry helps make the Zurigo a really fun bike to ride. I was concerned about the head tube not being tapered like a more expensive bike, but my fears washed away instantly when I took the Zurigo down my favorite short steep hill to a stop sign, and I felt no hint of front-end chatter. Braking is smooth, positive and predictable. Not road-bike sharp, of course, but for a 'cross bike, more than acceptable on the road, even in the wet.

Ride Feel

The Bianchi Zurigo's frame is all aluminum. It's a Bianchi proprietary alloy, with oversized triple butted tubing designed for stiffness. No carbon fiber anywhere except in the fork. I expected a harsh ride in an aluminum bike at this price point, but no! Smooth and stable! I could feel the road, but I didn't get the vibrations and buzz of other inexpensive bikes. Comfortable but not plush, by any means, the Zurigo's ride is a good balance of knowing when the road surface changes without needing to dread long stretches of gravel or chipseal.

Dirt Test Ride

4
Climbing

The Zurigo's road manners nicely transfer to the dirt. I dropped the air pressure in the Vittoria XG Cross tires and threw some dirt, mud and gravel in the trusty Bianchi's path. The short chainstays improve traction up hills and the low gearing makes it easy up the loose stuff. It's easy to move around on the Zurigo to get my weight right where it needs to be, and the wide bars help with leverage when it gets technical.

Cornering

The Bianchi Zurigo is a verstile platform ready for anything. Gravel sweepers are solid and fast, even tight switchbacks are stable and predictable, uphills or down. I even railed the bike down fairly technical trails I usually reserve for mountain bikes. I really enjoyed how stable the Zurigo's front end feels in very tight downhill switchbacks, with help from the wide handlebars and compliant but sturdy carbon fiber fork. The brakes are predictable, solid without being too grabby. With grippier tires, control at the edge of traction would be even better.

Handling

The Zurigo is the Little Engine that Could. Except that it doesn't have to try very hard at all. On trails, this bike thinks it's a mountain bike. Well, of course maybe not a full-suspension downhill rig, but the Zurigo is confidence building on some pretty fun singletrack. A new event for the cyclocross scene in Oregon this year was a Cyclocross Super D on some very fun trails near Bend, and if I had the Zurigo at the time, I would have raced it. Between the stable front end, competent cornering, solid braking and heavy strong wheels (and I'd add a wider tire) I'd have had a blast!

Ride Feel

The Bianchi Zurigo is also a very comfortable ride on the dirt and gravel. The Zurigo doesn't care what it's on, just stay out of its way and enjoy the ride.

Trainer Test Ride

5
Ride Feel

The Bianchi Zurigo is an ideal bike for a trainer. Its sturdy aluminum frame transmits few vibrations, and it didn't give any hint of flex. The upright riding position and wide bars also makes the Zurigo very comfortable on a trainer, too. I switched out the stock wheel with another wheel mounted with a slick tire, popped the chain onto the pie-plate 50 tooth big chainring and hammered away. Who knew! The term "all conditions" for the Zurigo definitely includes a warm garage or cold parking lot on a trainer!

Race Test Ride

0

I did not race the Zurigo.

We Liked

For all-around fun on just about anything you can throw at it, including Firelane 5 in our local Forest Park, the Bianchi Zurigo is a blast. I liked how it climbed and cornered much better than I thought it would. I really liked the geometry, which feels like a good long-wheelbase bike but without a lot of sluggishness.

The low center of gravity and balanced weight distribution, and fabulous fork made fast sweeping gravel road descents a hoot, while keeping my teeth from chattering too much and my kidneys intact. I could easily see where I needed to be to set up my line. And the big handlebars allowed plenty of leverage and room for riding in the drops without my forearms banging.

I like the spec on this bike for its price point. On paper you may not be impressed. And I'm usually down on heavy parts, but as a whole, the Bianchi Zurigo is a much, much better bike than the sum of its parts.

Most of all I love how truly versatile the Bianchi Zurigo is. Training rides are fun and comfortable, on the road or off. I like the price point, though you could spend about the same amount of money on a bike, there's usually some major things you'd need to change to get it rideable. The Zurigo is not just rideable but it's enjoyable, right out of the box. I love how I'm having a hard time figuring out anything really wrong with it.

We Didn't Like

After many, many miles on the Bianchi Zurigo including rides I've never taken a 'cross bike on before, I had to really think about what I didn't like. There are no fatal flaws like a harsh ride or front end chatter that you can't fix.

The Zurigo is, however, heavy. It has a heavy SRAM Apex drivetrain and Bianchi's house brand wheels and parts. It's the heaviest 'cross bike I've ridden so far.

But of course it's heavy, it's inexpensive. It's not cheap however. The parts are still good quality. And if weight is important to you, you can swap out the heavy parts for light.

And I personally am not a fan of the 50-tooth big chainring. That's way to big for me, but it did come in handy on the trainer and on some long, open descents. But I'd be swapping it out for a more standard 46 tooth ring, or if I lived on the flats, maybe a 48.

Upgrades

There are always opportunities for upgrades, especially with all those heavy parts. With the Bianchi Zurigo though, I'd wait until the SRAM Apex stuff broke or wore out before replacing it with lighter parts. I'd opt for the SRAM Rival gruppo as needed, especially the shifters/brake levers and a lighter cogset. And I'd ditch the extra brake handles.

If you're female, swap out the saddle immediately. Try the handlebars first, but you might need a narrower set.

I'd buy lighter wheels for most rides, but I'd keep the stock ones for cyclocross Super D and burly trail rides rather than selling them off. Lighter bars, saddle, stem, seatpost, cranks... the list is long. You could probably get the Zurigo under 20 pounds pretty easily, if you wanted to race it more seriously, but for training, as a pit bike and for fun, it probably isn't necessary.

The Final Say

Though the classy Bianchi Zurigo isn't the lightest or most athletic 'cross bike around, it is a very fun, extremely versatile bike and may be a worthy addition to your stable. The Zurigo is probably the best all-around cyclocross bike I've ridden so far. If you have a good race bike, the Zurigo could be a great second 'cross bike for training (train heavy, race light!), warming up and as a pit bike in case of emergencies. The Zurigo would also be a wonderful gravel-road racer, cyclocross Super D or adventure bike.

Or the Zurigo would be a perfect and delightfully affordable "only" bike if you had room or budget for just one. You can race the Zurigo if you want to, if you're starting out or just do occasional races. Mount up some fenders, panniers and winter road tires and you'll have a comfortable and competent winter training bike / commuter. Keep a second set of wheels and off-road tires and you can go on far-flung gravel and singletrack adventures. Keep the panniers mounted, and you have an off-road touring bike.

While the Zurigo is not my idea of the "ideal" cyclocross racer, it is my idea of an excellent, if not perfect second 'cross bike. It's very close to my idea of an "only" bike if I could only have just one and if I could have a couple sets of extra wheels, and if I didn't enjoy mountain biking as much as I do.

If our criteria did not include racing, I'd give the Bianchi Zurigo five cowbells, six even, if I was comparing it to just other bikes in its price category for overall fun. But I need to reserve the elusive five-cowbell overall rating for that ultimate (and probably much more expensive) 'cross race bike that does do everything else as well, and, as of yet, I have not found it. The Zurigo gets four (maybe even four and a half) solid and well-deserved cowbells.

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