Monday, November 12, 2012

The Wilier Zero.7: Everyone should want it, only a lucky few can have it.

Wilier does not create bikes for everyone. They are not Trek. They are not Specialized. Wilier bikes are not designed for the masses. They are not the Olive Garden, they are La Pergola—a three-Michelin-star restaurant in Rome. They create bikes for people with discerning taste, for people who appreciate a race bike as art, as well as a performance machine.  Style and tradition share equal importance with performance and innovation in Wilier’s design strategy.  The two sides complement each other in their bikes, each side feeding off the other, pushing innovations in performance and style to their absolute pinnacle. 
Italian design and style.
The Wilier Zero.7 perches comfortably atop this pinnacle. The new quintessential Italian racing machine, the Zero.7 offers riders a world without compromise, striking a lovely balance between performance and comfort. No more are people forced to choose between a brittle, brassy, race machine and a sluggish, soft, long-haul rouleur. Wilier found a way, though proprietary carbon design technology, to offer both sides without compromise.

The iconic head-badge.
Wilier collaborated with FSA on certain design features of the Zero.7 frame as well as customized FSA K Force Light components. The bottom bracket on the Zero.7 is yet another BB standard called BB386EVO, which, despite adding to the long list of bottom bracket standards, contributes greatly to the ride quality of this frameset and is compatible with several common cranksets. The asymmetrical dimensions of the 386EVO allow for what Wilier claims is a 30% increase in stiffness, while also reducing weight.
BB386EVO: Large and in charge.
Pretty much every manufacturer out there has a proprietary BB design though. The Zero.7’s true innovation comes when you look into the exclusive carbon technology Wilier implemented on this frame. Wilier has used a carbon fiber blend they call 60 TON since the introduction of the original Cento1. This blend is predominantly made of a carbon fiber known as MR60H, which can withstand 60 tons of pressure per square millimeter. This makes for an incredibly stiff and strong carbon blend. New for the Zero.7 though, is Wilier’s use of a technology called Special Elastic Infiltrated Film, or S.E.I. Film. This film, which was developed for the aeronautical and automotive industry, is injected between layers of 60 TON carbon. The S.E.I. film's elastic qualities dramatically increase vibration dampening and impact resistance.
Asymmetric stays allow for a wider, stiffer, and lighter BB area.

Now I realize that is a whole lot of technical verbiage, which probably doesn’t mean much to you. Here, though, is why this stuff is important: Normally, to reduce vibration and improve impact resistence, a manufacture will use a lower modulus carbon in certain areas of the frame. Lower modulus carbon is heavier, more immune to impact, and less stiff than high modulus carbon. Wilier eliminated the need for that lower modulus carbon by using the S.E.I. Film. This means more super high modulus 60 TON carbon in the Zero.7 frame, making it very light and stiff and thanks to the S.E.I. Film, comfortable and strong—a race frame without compromise. 
A truly beautiful ride.
All of this technology is meaningless, however, if the bike does not perform on the road. In spending an extended period riding this bike, I was impressed by many of its features. This bike has personality.  That is what truly sets it apart from other flagship models I have ridden. I am a lucky guy in the sense that my job affords me ample opportunity to ride some of most high-end bikes and components in the world.  The Zero.7 is more lively than any other bike I can ever remember throwing a leg over. It goes. It wants to go faster than you can make it; you can feel it each time you pedal. Pushing forward with each stroke, it begs to be ridden at the absolute limit. I think this can absolutely be attributed to this bike’s extreme low weight and efficient power transfer.
Asymmetric bottom bracket design.
Despite flying like the fastest bikes I’ve ridden, the Zero.7 does not beat you up. This alone is an accomplishment, as the industry sprints towards the stiffest ride possible. It is refreshing to see a bike maker put real design features, like the S.E.I. Film, into areas that contribute to increased rider comfort. Comfort is a difficult feature to quantify, and because of this, it is also difficult to get marketable stats that objectively quantify rider comfort. Unfortunately, this has made comfort a second-hand citizen to stiffness. Bike makers can easily spit data about how stiff their frame is, and how that will make you faster, but comfort is another animal. Not only is it difficult to quantify, but once you quantify it, there is still a great deal of selling that has to be done. 

This bike was set up with Campy Super Record, which made it a complete Italian masterpiece.
Let’s not get the wrong idea here though. The Zero.7 is built to go fast—up and down hill. Wilier, as usual, has done a masterful job in creating a geometry that makes the Zero.7 feel racy, but predictable. I had no problem charging descents to the point that I had spun out my largest gear. I love going downhill. The Zero.7 scratched that itch and then some. I was struck by the way this bike holds a line. The tapered head tube lent confidence-inspiring stability at 35+ MPH. Where my wits would normally get the best of me, I found myself pushing on, buoyed by this bike’s impeccable handling. 
Wilier Triestina always does it with impeccable taste.
Along with this racy geometry, comes an aggressive fit, which could be cause for concern for a less flexible rider. This fit is common in these flagship models across the industry, as they are often designed around the needs of the European Pro Peloton. I’m fairly average sized though, and I had no problem setting the Zero.7 to the same measurements as my usual road rigs. 

Some of the custom FSA components and special design features.

The only real obstacle between this bike and utter racing domination is price. At $5k for the frameset and about $12k as I rode it, this bike is not for the faint of wallet. It is not uncommon for any manufacturer’s flagship model to ring in over five figures these days though, and if you’re willing to spend the cash, you truly get a masterpiece of carbon, metal and rubber. New for 2013 though, is Wilier’s Zero.9, for those of us who aren’t able or willing to shell out premium dough. The Zero.9 packs all the same features as the Zero.7 except for some of the really premium carbon technologies I talked about before. That said, the Zero.9 still comes in as a sub-1,000 gram frameset, which is incredibly respectable in any situation. 

With all the customization, this bike looks amazing from every angle.
The overall impression I am left with after shipping the bike back to Wilier, is that I would like it back.  In a world where every bicycle maker on earth is shooting for the perfect balance of weight, stiffness, and comfort, Wilier has struck a perfect chord; bringing the three together in a harmony that I, heretofore, hadn’t experienced. Like a fine wine or rare diamond, the bike is not for, or even accessible to everyone, but it wasn’t designed to be. If this kind of bicycle design was easily affordable than it wouldn’t be so special, nor would it be such an occasion when you get to throw a leg over a machine like this.  I hope I get to again very soon. 

Some additional pics for your viewing enjoyment:


  1. Nice ride. Do you happen to know the weight of the saddle?