By Stefan Abram
Bianchi has chosen to forge quite a different path with its new gravel bike. Whilst many brands are beefing up and adding mounts, Bianchi has pitched the Impulso Pro firmly as a gravel race bike, intended to be ridden hard and fast.
As gravel bikes only continue to become more of an established category, we can expect to see more of a divergence – and increasing specificity – between the bikes that are released.
Not only does gravel exist on a spectrum – with smooth, hard-packed dirt at one end and larger rocks and roots at the other – but the way these terrains are approached and ridden can vary quite widely too.
The Impulso Pro slots into Bianchi’s gravel range between the burly Arcadex, with its chunky tubing, and the more endurance-focused Impulso, with its aluminium frame.
A claimed frame weight of 1,100g is impressive for a gravel bike, although no further details were provided on which size this refers to. However, it’s in the geometry that the racing intent is most clearly spelt out.
In a size 54cm, the Impulso Pro has a stack of 554mm, which is even 1mm lower than the similarly race-focused Cervélo Áspero gravel bike. Bianchi’s Arcadex, on the other hand, comes with a whopping 595mm, so this really is a step change.
The head angle sits at 71.5°, which is a little more raked out than some gravel bikes – being north of 72° is still not uncommon. But at the same time, it isn’t exactly super progressive: other brands have taken things to around 70°, such as BMC with its URS gravel bikes. This seems about the right balance for a modern gravel bike with racing aspirations.
Whilst most gravel bikes out there have chainstays at the 435mm mark – such as the Canyon Grizl – the Impulso Pro keeps the rear end a lot tighter at 425mm. This actually still matches the Arcadex, but the aluminium Impulso’s stretch out to 440mm, which is getting on for touring bike territory.
Coming with 700x37c WTB Riddler Comp tyres, the Impulso is clearly intended to be ridden on smoother, hardpack gravel roads than on rocky and rooty trails. But with clearances for a maximum width of 700x38c, there really isn't any headroom for going any wider.
Even for a race-focused gravel bike, 38c is really quite narrow. The Cervélo Áspero can fit 700x42c – or 49mm in 650b – while Schwalbe’s flagship gravel racing tyres are only available as narrow as 40mm.
A maximum clearance of 38c is closer to what you might expect from a modern endurance road bike – it’s what the Trek Domane comes with and allows you to very comfortably fit 32mm tyres with mudguards.
The groupset specced is Shimano’s GRX 600 series, with a 40-tooth chainring and 11-42 tooth cassette. This provides the lowest range available from a stock Shimano 1x11 setup and typically we’d criticise this for still being a little on the high side for a gravel bike.
But considering that this bike is designed to be ridden hard and fast on hardpack surfaces, that will likely be sufficient. Given the paucity of mounts, none on the fork legs, top tube, or even on the underside of the down tube, the Impulso Pro isn’t really asking to be loaded up and taken on a long-distance trip.
The wheels are comprised of Velomann Disc 700c rims with an internal width of 21mm, which are laced with J-bend spokes to a set of 32-hole RX-300 Formula hubs, which take a six-bolt disc rotor.
This GRX 600 1x11 build is priced at £3,400 and it’s available in two colours, a two-tone green called 'Sage Escape' or a similar take on the classic Celeste. There are six available sizes: 48, 50, 52, 54, 56 and 58cm.
Starting off riding mountain bikes on the South Downs way, he soon made the switch the road cycling. Now, he’s come full circle and is back out on the trails, although the flat bars have been swapped for the curly ones of a gravel bike.
Always looking for the next challenge, he’s Everested in under 12 hours and ridden the South Downs Double in sub 20. Although dabbling in racing off-road, on-road and virtually, to date his only significant achievement has been winning the National Single-Speed Cross-Country Mountain Bike Championships in 2019.
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