Wilier Cento1Hy e-bike review
We’ve been getting a bit of help on the hills from Wilier’s e-bike
The Wilier Cento1Hy is great fun to ride both on hills and on the flat, with plenty of power on tap and sleek looks. But its motor does rather take over when it starts to get tough, somewhat reducing the satisfaction of an otherwise challenging ride.
Doesn’t look like an e-bike
Loads of assistance on hills and from standing
Simple one button interface
Taut, quality ride
Pretty robust companion app
Rear wheel may slip when climbing damp roads
It is an e-bike for the road riders who still want their road bikes feeling and riding like a race bike. The Cento 1 Hy is a lightweight machine, which’ll assist you up those tough climbs, however the motor isn’t going to be all encompassing. Our test model was the Ultegra version, however to show its class, Wilier has given us a special build for this Editor’s Choice entry. What a machine!
When it launched the Wilier Cento1Hy, the Italian marque claimed a headline-grabbing sub-12kg weight for its e-bike. The large size Ultegra Di2 equipped bike tested was 70g over that, but that’s pretty close and a smaller frame would surely skim below 12kg.
Although UK importer Hotlines will not bring them to the UK, there are Dura-Ace, Dura-Ace Di2 and SRAM eTap specs available from Wilier too. With carbon Miche wheels, they should also comfortably drop below the 12kg mark.
So how does adding a motor to Wilier’s carbon machine work out?
The ebikemotion system fitted to the Wilier Cento1Hy uses a rear hub motor, built up into a custom rear wheel, with the battery housed in the down tube. The battery is completely enclosed, but can be removed via a screw-on panel under the bottom bracket shell. There’s a chunky power cable zip tied to the underside of the right chainstay that leads from the battery to the motor.
The ebikemotion system’s 250 watt hub motor weighs a claimed 2.1kg. Ebikemotion quotes a weight of 3.5kg for the whole system, with the in-built battery providing 250Wh of juice – so that’s enough for one hour of assistance at full power.
Although that doesn’t sound a lot, the motor isn’t likely to be working flat-out much and regulations require that assistance cuts out at 25kph. So for the averagely fit rider on flat roads, the motor will probably not be working most of the time. When it’s not providing extra power, the motor doesn’t add any rolling resistance.
Being based near the Dolomites, Wilier has the opportunity to test its machines on some long ascents. It says that you should get between 1000m and 2000m of altitude gain from the battery when it’s fully charged. Even at the top, red, level of assistance, there’s plenty of juice for a longish ride through the hilly terrain of the Chilterns.
You can purchase a second battery too, that fits into a bottle cage. It plugs into the charge port, which is positioned under a cap on the top of the bottom bracket shell, and pushes the total battery capacity up to 460Wh for extra range.
The motor is controlled via a single button which Wilier mounts on the top tube. This is surrounded by an LED ring that indicates the battery charge level and assistance level selected.
It starts off in green “soft” assistance. Press the button once and the LED will start to flash. You can then cycle through the higher amber and red assistance levels, while another 3 second press turns assistance off.
Once you’ve set the assistance level, the LED will revert to showing battery charge going from white, via green and amber to red, which indicates that you’re down to your last 25% battery charge. It starts blinking too when you hit 15% and blinks furiously at 10%.
There are a whole range of other colour codes for the control button LED ring, indicating everything from “OK” to “go to dealer”. It’s confusing at first, but like most electronic systems you quickly work out how to use what’s important to you. Its advantage is a very low profile, unobtrusive control for pretty much everything you want to do and it’s conveniently close to the bars, without taking up room on them.
>>> New bikes in Wilier's 2019 range
The ebikemotion system has a smartphone and PC app that provides more system management options, as well as coupling to a Bluetooth heart rate monitor and providing Strava-like ride stats and navigation – and automatic sync with Strava itself. The app syncs via Bluetooth with the Wilier Cento1Hy (or whichever Bluetooth enabled bike is closest).
If you use a heart rate strap and carry your phone along. you can use the app to turn on the motor when your heart rate goes over a pre-set threshold.
Wilier has used an all-carbon frame and fork for the Cento1Hy, incorporating the same materials and technologies as used in its pedal-powered machines. So the frame and fork are both made of high modulus 46 tonne carbon fibre, like the endurance oriented Cento1NDR and GTR.
One nice feature of the ebikemotion system is that the battery is totally enclosed in the down tube. So the down tube of the Wilier Cento1Hy doesn’t look a lot different from that of a standard aero machine, although it has a more oval profile.
The Cento1Hy has a similar sloping top tube and dropped seat stays to the Cento1NDR. There’s clearance for 28mm tyres, such as the Vittoria Zaffiro Pro tyres fitted to the test bike.
The Wilier Cento1Hy’s geometry comes in somewhere between the race-oriented Cento10Air and the endurance Cento10NDR. So although the reach is almost identical to the Cento10Air, the stack is around 2cm higher, partly from a longer head tube.
That leads to a slightly more upright ride position and also makes it easier to ride in the drops for longer periods.
The Ultegra Di2 spec of the Wilier Cento1Hy comes with a complete gruppo of Shimano’s lowest price electronic groupset. So you get a 50/34 compact chainset coupled to an 11-30 cassette for plenty of lower range (which I didn’t actually find that I needed).
Wilier makes two Ultegra Di2 specs of the Cento1Hy, with the UK version having Miche Race Axy WP DX alloy wheels, while the higher specced version gets Miche SWR carbon hoops.
When we tested the Race Axy wheels without a motor, we commented on their robust build: it’s a quality likely to be of use with the extra power that the motor puts through them. Those wheels came out at around 2kg a pair, so they’re not light, but with a motor to help out, slow acceleration isn’t a problem. The standard thru-axle spacing means that you could potentially swap out the front wheel or have the rear wheel rebuilt with a lighter rim too.
The rest of the spec is FSA alloy. It’s durable kit but not de luxe, although it does all come with Wilier branding. There’s a Selle Italia X1 saddle that’s plenty comfortable.
Riding the Wilier Cento1Hy
If you always wished that you could have been a pro, then the Cento1Hy gives you just that bit of the vicarious experience. Even in green assistance level, the ebikemotion motor really doesn’t seem to like your speed to drop below 15mph.
So pulling out of junctions, it will cut in and quickly accelerate you away. Likewise, waiting to pass parked cars, once there’s no oncoming traffic, the motor will cut in hard and push you forward.
Hit a hill, either a long draggy one or a short sharp one, and the motor will pull you along to keep up that 15mph. So I was much less out of breath and my heart rate was significantly lower on reaching the top than would be the case normally, even when I’d hit PB times on ascents on the Cento1Hy.
In fact, even on hilly rides through the Chilterns, I found that I barely used the small chainring, except on arrowed hills. Even more so than the Fazua unit on the Focus Paralane2, the ebikemotion motor will take over to keep you moving.
Switch from green to red assistance level and the effect is even more pronounced, although there’s a certain gradient – longer false flats – where you are hovering around 25kph and the motor doesn’t help much, so you start to feel your efforts and the weight of the bike more.
A couple of times I found that motorists went to overtake me, obviously expecting that I would be slogging up hills at 5mph, only to drop back in shock and awe as I ploughed on up steep ascents in the drops on the large ring like Marco Pantani in his prime (when he rode a Wilier, incidentally).
There’s satisfaction in racing up ascents that for years you’ve crawled up in bottom gear, even if it’s little thanks to your efforts. But one disadvantage of my new-found climbing prowess was that it was quite easy to slip the rear wheel on damp back roads – a more grippy tyre might help with this.
A plus from not wrecking yourself on uphills is that you feel a lot livelier on flatter roads. So I found I was taking full advantage of the Wilier Cento1Hy’s fast ride feel and great handling, getting down into the drops and pushing on, rather than taking it easy to recuperate for the next uphill.
The Cento1Hy has the Wilier DNA, with a taut ride, but not lacking in comfort, so it’s enjoyable to ride even when the motor is taking a rest. Steering is precise and agile and you don’t feel the extra kilos’ weight of your little helper, nor does its concentration in the rear hub seem to affect the bike’s balance.
Ultegra Di2 is a first rate groupset, with precise shifting and a quality look and feel. Its hydraulic disc braking is an excellent match for the Cento1Hy’s heavier weight too, providing the stopping power for a confident ride, even in the wet. It has its own battery buried somewhere in the frame, so needs to be kept charged separately from the motor.
At just over £5000, the Wilier Cento1Hy is actually pretty good value for an Ultegra Di2-equipped e-road bike from a prestige Italian marque. Drop down to mechanical Ultegra and the price is £4199.99.
By way of comparison, the Ribble SLe is £3999 and the Orbea Gain M20i is £4999, both with Ultegra Di2 and using the same ebikemotion motor as the Wilier. The equivalent Ultegra Di2 spec Focus Paralane2 9.8 is priced at £6399.
If you live somewhere hilly and would like a bit of help on your ride, to make things a bit easier or to keep up with fitter ride buddies, the Wilier Cento1Hy is a good proposition. It’s got the quality ride along with the Italian looks and prestige of the Wilier marque, as well as the added power from the motor.
It’s great fun zooming up hills rather than slogging up them. But the ebikemotion motor doesn’t leave you much room for your own efforts, so you crest hills and get back from a ride not feeling that you’ve had the workout that you’d expect, and perhaps with a bit less satisfaction.
Whether that works for you depends on your mindset. I enjoyed my time on the Wilier Cento1Hy, but I’ll be content to take climbs at my own pace again and without assistance too, so perhaps the Wilier Cento1Hy is more of an n+1 for faster hilly trips than a substitute for your own effort.
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Paul started writing for Cycling Weekly in 2015, covering cycling tech, new bikes and product testing. Since then, he’s reviewed hundreds of bikes and thousands of other pieces of cycling equipment for the magazine and the Cycling Weekly website.
He’s been cycling for a lot longer than that though and his travels by bike have taken him all around Europe and to California. He’s been riding gravel since before gravel bikes existed too, riding a cyclocross bike through the Chilterns and along the South Downs.
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