One of the most interesting sectors of the e-bike market is road and gravel bikes. What should be the priority? On the one hand there’s the likes of Giant and Raleigh making full-fat e-bikes with a road bent: standard motors and batteries on a road chassis. That means you get the range and power of a full e-bike, but it’s a heavy package for a road bike: 19-20kg is about the average.
On the other hand, manufacturers like Focus, Orbea and Cube are working with much lighter motor systems, with a bit less power and reduced battery capacity. That means you can get a much lighter bike – 12.5kg is about the lower limit – and you use the power on and off when you need it, as the range is reduced.
Enter the Bianchi Impulso e-Road, which sits smack bang in the middle. With a Polini motor that has a comparable power output to a Bosch Performance Line CX unit, and a 490Wh internal battery in the down tube, you might expect it to be a heavy beast. But in fact our 57cm bike tips the scales at 16.34kg; not the lightest bike we’ve seen but not that much more than the Fazua-powered Cube Agree C:62 hybrid we’ve got in for testing, that’s about 2kg lighter. It’s the lightest full-power, high-capacity e-bike we’ve yet to try.
How so light? Well, the Polini motor helps. This is the first bike we’ve tried with this motor, which is Italian built in a factory just down the road from Bianchi’s base. It weighs just 2.85kg which is much lighter than a similarly powerful Bosch motor (3.4kg), and puts out 70Nm of torque, which is comparable both to Bosch’s Performance Line CX motor and Shimano’s STEPS E8000 unit. It’s built into a tidy alloy frame that incorporates the battery into the down tube. It’s not quite as well hidden as some of the Fazua-powered bikes out there, but the lines of the Bianchi are pretty clean.
You get a Shimano Ultegra drivetrain on the e-Road, with hydraulic disc brakes. The cassette is one rung down the groupset ladder – Shimano 105 – and FSA provide the crankset; Shimano don’t do a double chainset for a mid motor system. Other road e-bikes we’ve seen recently have switched over to a single chainring and a wide-range cassette, but the Bianchi has a full 22-speed setup, with a 50/34 double chainring at the front and an 11-32 cassette at the rear. That should be more than enough gears for anything, especially since you’ve got an extra 250W of help as and when you need it.
The Polini system includes a bar-mounted display which sits centrally over the stem. It gives you access to the five levels of support, and you can turn your integrated lights on and off if you have any fitted (the Bianchi doesn’t). The display is easy to read and has a backlight for after dark too.
When they say ‘road’, Bianchi aren’t talking about super skinny tyres: this e-Road has Fulcrum Racing 700 disc brake CX wheels, which are a well-built, all-purpose sort of a wheel, and the tyres are 32mm Vittoria Zaffiro Pro G+, road oriented, but more about durability and puncture resistance than out-and-out speed. They’re plenty sturdy enough to take in a bit of graded trail if you want to stray from the tarmac.
The Impulso e-Road retails at £4,000. If you’re planning to use your bike on more mixed surfaces then Bianchi also do an e-Allroad build of this bike. It’s a bit cheaper at £3,600; it uses Shimano’s 105 groupset instead of Ultegra and the wheelset is different, which saves you £400 over the e-Road build. You could always get that bike and swap the tyres for a cheaper road build if you wanted: it’s the same frame and motor system. We’ve already put some miles in on our review bike, so watch out for a full report soon.