The Cento10 SL is a great looking aero race bike that features many of the attributes of it's higher end Cento10PRO stablemate yet comes in at a more affordable price point. The ride quality is somewhat uninspiring if you were looking for a racing whippet but if you want a solid all-rounder with aero attributes, a comfortable ride all wrapped in some Italian flare then the Cento10 SL might well be worth a punt.
Underwhelming ride quality
By James Bracey
The Cento10 SL slips into Wilier's line-up underneath the top level Cento10PRO but for the casual observer it will actually be pretty difficult to tell them apart, especially at the sort of speeds both bikes will be ridden at.
The frame casts a similar shadow to the Cento10PRO but in order to appeal to a broader audience (read lower price point) Wilier has trimmed the minor details.
The frame design has tube shaping developed according to the Naca-Low Speed aerodynamic rules; the same applied to the higher tier Cento10Pro range of bikes. In fact the Cento10SL shares plenty of similarities with this higher-end range, just in a more paired down design aesthetic. Look across the main tubes and you will see that Wilier has adopted truncated airfoils throughout alongside a smattering of other slippery looking tube shapes.
One distinct feature of the new frame is its head tube, incorporating super-thin bearings. Designed to accommodate up to four cables running through the area without fouling the steerer it leaves plenty of room for cable servicing. After a chat with Wilier, it was quick to point out that the brand has had very few Cento10Pro owners or bike shops complaining about long term durability and life of these much smaller bearing races. This is something we'd have to confirm in a long term test.
Whilst the profile remains almost identical to the more costly Cento10Pro, the Cento10SL is constructed using Wilier’s lower tier NH Mod carbon layup. The new frame also does away with the down tube plate feature of the other model in favour of a simpler, more economical construction method.
One new feature that should please home mechanics and bike shops alike is the adoption of a new ‘faux’ integrated cockpit setup. Wilier has also worked in collaboration with component brand Ritchey to develop a new stem designed to work in conjunction with a carbon lower sleeve that effectively routes the cables into the head tube and hides them from sight. This also features a distinct hinged faceplate that enables the bike to be used with any standard 31.8mm diameter handlebar. Even the top model we have on test has standard external cable routing along the handlebar which should make swapping bars or cables a much simpler job.
Geometry mirrors the Cento10PRO and offers very similar measurements to other brand's aero race bikes such as Merida's latest Reacto and Trek's Madone, so it's easy to jump on the Cento10 SL and feel pretty much at home, as long as you prefer a slightly more aggressive frame setup that is.
Wilier adopts a slightly different approach to creating its range of bikes and offers a degree more customisation when compared with competitors thanks to an almost ‘built to order’ approach to every bike sold.
In general Wilier is offering both disc and rim brake models built with Shimano 105, Ultegra, Ultegra Di2 and Campagnolo Chorus groupsets – the disc model also features SRAM Force eTap AXS groupset options. Alongside each groupset choice runs an option of two different wheelsets; a higher end carbon Wilier NDR 38 KC/KCR or a lower priced wheel option. Wilier figures that many riders will already have a good set of wheels so might not want to pay a premium for wheels they might not even use.
But it doesn’t stop there, Wilier will also allow the prospective purchaser to spec bar width and stem length to complete the optimisation of the Cento10SL to them.
Our test bike came dressed in the top spec Shimano Ultegra Di2 complete with the carbon Wilier wheels. One aspect that I found really impressive is the speccing of high end Vittoria Corsa tubeless tyres and the fact the wheels and tyres came ready setup with valves and sealant.
Whilst tubeless isn't everyone's cup of tea on the road I personally enjoy the added ride quality and grip that comes from being able to run lower pressures. Plus my local roads (South Wales) feature some pretty terrible road surfaces so any technology that can prevent ride killing punctures is a bonus.
Barring the Ritchey/Wilier proprietary shaped carbon seatpost it was refreshing to see a pretty standard handlebar and stem set up on the Cento10 SL. This allows for far greater individual set up tweaks and also enables the rider to swap to different brands easily, although the neat carbon cable shield found under the stem obviously works best with the Ritchey stem. Further to Wilier's range of spec options, as the customer you can choose stem length and bar width to suit you at the point of sale.
My initial impression of this bike was that it felt cool, calm and collected. At 7.67kg for the XL size I tested it sits in the same weight class as many of its rivals, if just a few grams heavier than some. Taking it on some of my normal test routes and the one thing that is noticeable is just how well the Cento10SL holds its speed. It’s almost metronomic in terms of how, once you put the initial power in, it keeps it steady with minimal extra input. The shallow and relatively light 38mm carbon rims enable it to perform this task well on rolling courses without upsetting the balance whilst descending or encountering crosswinds. On the flip side I also feel that the frame could benefit from a set of deeper wheels to increase the speeds the bike is capable of reaching when putting in the effort.
The geometry and ride position of the Cento10 SL is also really good. It benefits from a semi-aggressive stance with a slightly higher stack height than an out-and-out race bike, allowing the rider to remain in a relatively aero position without needing to ring a chiropractor every time you need to dismount. The position is balanced and body weight feels well placed within the frame to enable it to handle without you feeling like you're a passenger sat atop of the frame.
One thing I did notice is that the ‘lower’ grade carbon layup of the Cento10 SL equates to a distinct muting of road chatter when compared to other aero inspired frames. When combined with the tubeless Vittoria Corsa tyres and shallower 38mm depth wheels it happily trundled along rough surfaces without leaving me feeling pummelled. This combination also led to a descending prowess that instilled confidence and refused to be knocked off line even when encountering those horrible potholed patches of gravel on blind corners.
There is of course a slight expense formed through the gaining of this level of compliance and the Cento10SL lacks a little bit of excitement to the ride. It climbs well but doesn’t fly out of the start gate on steep punchy climbs where power transfer is all-important and even during a little bit of bunch sprint training it just has a delay to the acceleration. It shouldn't be enough to put off the rider wanting a bike that delivers a solid ride across all formats, it's just it's more a 'jack-of-all-trades' personality and it didn't wow me with any of its ride attributes.
I have to finish by saying the Cento10 SL is a good looking bike and it garnered plenty of admiring looks and comments when riding with friends. Wilier has a knack of inspiring Italian passion and that certainly rings true of the Cento10 SL.
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