long ago I met a true cyclist. He was rolling down Highway 1 in San Clemente,
California, looking like a traveling circus: panniers, racks and an oversize
saddlebag squishing his body between the two rotating hoops. I passed him
in my car, pulled over before the next light and waved him down.
It turned out he was en route to Oregon by way of Colorado--not
the most direct route, but his time schedule permitted such luxury. I commended
him awkwardly, feeling more than a little envious. You see, he was fulfilling
one of my personal dreams--a multiday bicycle tour.
I recalled this chance meeting as I set out for my first day
on a wine-colored Bianchi Eros. I doubt Eros (the Greek god of desire after
whom the bike was named) felt the need to hit the open road. I, on the other
hand, took one look at the bike's triple crank and crank eyelets and caught
wanderlust. I imagined the Eros would be the perfect machine on which to
travel long miles on the open highway.
Though I pegged the Eros for a touring special, Bianchi has
many possibilities for its best-selling road bike. "The Eros is a great all-around
bike," Bianchi's Ken Turchek remarked. "It has big enough gearing for a fast-paced
road ride, yet with a longer wheelbase, some easier gearing and comfortable
ergonomics, turning out some long miles will be no problem."
As Turchek pointed out, the Eros offers more race-oriented
gearing than a typical touring bike. Instead of a downsize Shimano RSX triple
(with a mere 46-tooth top chainring), the Eros uses a 32/42/52 Campagnolo
Mirage crank. The Eros' 12-25 8-speed cogset and triple rings offer enough
gearing to lead out the pack, yet still crank a heavily laden bike up a steep
Considering Bianchi's Italian heritage, the Campy spec is no
surprise. The Eros' near-complete Mirage group includes Ergopower shifters,
calipers and rear derailleur (the front derailleur is Veloce). The wheels
are also completely Italian, with 14-gauge spokes tying together 32-hole
Fir rims. And what would a Bianchi be without Italian tubing? The Eros uses
double-butted Dedacciai steel.
Ornate lugs sustain the Eros' Italian flair without adding
much extra weight. The Eros frame also features Bianchi's proprietary SuperSet
II down tube, which is ovalized to stiffen the bottom bracket area. Other
construction standouts include a braze-on front derailleur hanger and semivertical
dropouts, which make quick wheel changes a snap.
Besides moving the seat forward to accommodate my position
with the 56.5-centimeter top tube on our 57-centimeter test bike, it took
little to get comfortable on the Eros. From the start, I found the Eros reacted
speedily to my pedal strokes, though I did notice a hint of flex in the bottom
bracket when I sprinted. On long downhills, the Eros carried speed easily,
and I felt comfortable tucking behind the bars and letting the bike roll.
It wasn't too quick when the corners came fast and tight, but the upside
was more stability in open, high-speed turns.
The Mirage shifting units worked well throughout the test,
and I was impressed with the Ergopower shifter's ability to make multiple
rear upshifts with one push. I just jammed the black thumb knob as I peaked
a climb and I was ready to sprint away on the descent. The Campy drivetrain
garnered more than one compliment with its polished alloy exterior.
The Eros' beauty extends to Campagnolo's Monoplaner calipers,
which were first introduced with the Chorus group in '89. While the brakes
were strong, easy to pull and simple to modulate, I thought a nonpolished
rim would have helped the brakes grab harder with improved feel.
Campagnolo's Tim Campen credits the improved modulation to
a new all-conditions pad the Italian manufacturer is using for 1996. I rode
the Eros through a stint of California rains and found the pads left little
residue yet stopped the bike well. The tires, a set of Vittoria Techno 25s,
also helped keep the bike upright in the wet, squishing the water away with
their winglike tread pattern.
I had only one complaint with the Eros. After I tried to drop
the saddle nose down a bit, the seatpost wouldn't hold position until I gave
the clamp bolt a mighty tightening.
Bianchi targets the Eros for a broad market so there are many
sizes available. The largest size features a 63-centimeter seat tube while
the smallest is a 46 centimeter (rolling on 650c wheels). An Eros will cost
you around $900, which when you consider the bike's all-Italian pedigree,
quality finish and performance, makes it quite a value.
I would have liked to hit the open road on the Bianchi, but
a tight work schedule limited me to single-day rides. Still, I can't help
but commend the Eros for its all-around prowess. It offered the gearing and
stiffness to be ridden hard, as well as all the necessities to commute or
head out touring. At just under 23 pounds, it's too heavy to win a criterium
but it will get you to the race, through the race and then back home again.
Bianchi USA, 21371 Cabot Blvd.,
Hayward, CA 94545; (510)264-1001, firstname.lastname@example.org