A few weeks back I was invited down to the Forest of Dean by Kevin Izzard from ATB Sales (UK distribution firm) to check out the new range of Wilier Triestina bikes. This may not be a brand that many mountain bikers have heard of but, in the words of Ron Burgundy, they're 'kind of a big deal' in the road cycling world.
To get some background on Wilier, I asked Kevin to deliver the full story of the brand's move into the MTB market:
Wilier have been making bikes for over 100 years. Before ATB Sales took on the distribution of the brand almost 10 years ago, they were almost unheard of in the UK. However, with their blend of heritage, sharp Italian styling, sublime handling and cutting-edge carbon technology it was a relatively easy job to get the bikes into retailers and make them available to the public. Since then, the brand has grown quickly year on year & is now a well established road bike brand.
Wilier have actually been manufacturing MTBs for a number of years, but with the arrival of the new 29er wheel size it was an obvious place for Wilier to take their expertise in frame geometry and carbon technology and apply it to a 29er frame. The result was the 101XN; a high-end 29er XC race frame that shares many design features first used on the Cento 1 SR road bike, with the addition of some inspired & practical MTB design features. This same design ethos has been applied to the later 650b bikes and also a range of aluminium frames.
These bikes have been very well received in Wilier`s overseas markets and we are now making them available in the UK. They are all very much XC race orientated frames, built for high speed aggressive XC riding and all have the outstanding ride characteristics that are taken as read for any Wilier-designed bike. There is of course a very strong emphasis on relatively long-travel trail bikes in the UK, but there are also many riders who still enjoy the benefits of a light, aggressive hardtail for fast riding on less technical trails for enduros, racing or just for fun. This is exactly what these bikes were designed for.
We see the Wilier range of MTBs as complimentary to the other products distributed by ATB Sales. We are starting with a relatively small range for the 2014 season but we are already planning to expand and enhance the range for 2015; this is very much the start of a long-term project for Wilier in the UK.
Initial reaction to the bikes has been very good, but the real attention grabber at shows has been the sub-18lbs 101XN Rigid. This is a 101XN frame with a custom-made rigid fork fitted out with SRAM`s XX1 group. Wilier intended this bike to be used for aggressive, short rides, the sort of two hour blast you would go for after work in the summer. Having tested the bike I can say that it totally fulfils its design brief! We sold one of these bikes to a dealer as soon as he laid eyes on the sample & he has already won races on it.
- Kevin Izzard