2020 Bianchi Aria e-Road Review

Originally featured on ShutUpLegs.org on May 7, 2020.


I recently had the opportunity to get my hands on the 2020 Binachi Aria e-Road bike for a couple of weeks to do a write up thanks to Shawn Traxler and the amazing team at Ride Bikes & Service here in Calgary. This is my first time reviewing an electric assist road bike, though certainly not my first time riding one. If I had to sum up my impressions of Bianchi’s venture into the electric assist world of road bikes in just a few words, I’d say that the bike is an impressive, sly, and silky take on an e-assist roadie. And though the bike isn’t for everyone, it’s exactly what its market is looking for (I’ll elaborate in a bit).

First I’ll give you the rundown on the specs of the bike and my thoughts on its performance, and then later on I’ll get into a bit more of a philosophical discussion on the whole concept of electric assist road bikes.

Bianchi Aria e-Road Bike Road First Impressions

At first blush could one easily be tricked into thinking that this isn’t even an electric assist road bike. The earliest iterations of electric assist road bikes were dead giveaways that were characterized by comedically oversized downtubes disguising massive batteries, and bulky bottom brackets hiding equally oversized motors. Fast forward to today and you’ll notice that the Bianchi Aria e-Road bike cleverly hides its battery somewhere in its normally proportioned frame, and actually uses a rear hub based motor to sidestep any obvious bulk in the frame.

To some, it’s clever. To others, it’s blasphemy. But if some people have a problem with that, then you’ll have to just keep reading, as I address the electric assist debate later on in this post.

Getting on the bike feels as good as getting on any other high end road bike. The Bianchi Aria e-Road looks and feels like a Bianchi, from the marquee faceplate on the front of the head tube, to the trademark teal frame, to the high end Ultegra Grouppo. From the saddle the only real giveaway that something is up is a small circular ring on the top tube which is basically your “on switch” for the e-assist. The bike itself is responsive around corners and descending and the geometry feels great for long endurance rides. Not overly racy or aggressive, but not slack and upright either. The ride quality of the bike felt plush and comfortable, though I’m not sure whether that could be chalked up to the 28mm tires, or the frame itself.

Now, one drawback that I’ll take note of, which isn’t really fair to be honest, is that the bike isn’t quite as snappy as other bikes like the Trek Emonda or Specialized Tarmac. And no one should expect it to be. With the e-assist off, you’ll notice that from a standstill the bike takes a bit of pushing to get going. You’re moving a 250 watt motor from a standstill, which unless its on, is dead weight in the hub.

The bike tips the scales at just 26lbs, an impressive feat for a road bike when you consider that there are fantastic non e-assist road bikes out there that weigh 20ish lbs.

The “e” in the Bianchi Aria e-Road Bike

The Bianchi Aria e-Road bike is powered by an off-the-shelf assembly made by Ebikemotion in Spain. The Ebikemotion X35 V.2 motor system is based on a 36-volt/250-watt rear hub motor that produces 40 N/m of torque. Like every other e-assist road bike in Canada, at 32kph the electric assist motor decides that you’re going fast enough and cuts out. With a range of about 120 km (75 mi), it’s perfect for long weekend rides and takes 3.5 to 4 hours to charge from empty.

By toggling the top tube button, the motor can be set to three settings with 30, 60 and 100 percent assist. With the Ebikemotion mobile app, riders can even choose an automatic assist function that is linked to heart rate (super cool, but I didn’t have the chance to try this feature out).

The companion app to the bike was intuitive and easy to use allowing you to track rides, check battery life and range, and even view how much many watts the bike is offering.

So with all those technical details aside, whats its actually like to ride with the e-assist? Subtle, cool, and great.

I went between riding with the motor set to 30% and 60% assist. In its 100% assist, and often even with the 60% assist I found I was simply too often bumping up against the 32kph mark, which wasn’t hard to do considering that the bike is a road bike. In contrast to a hybrid or mountain bike, you can ride up to the speed limit of any e-assist road bike pretty easily on the Bianchi, which I think speaks to the quality of the frame more than anything else.

In its 30% setting I’d describe the bike as similar to riding with a big tailwind, or on a slight downhill grade, or maybe like you were just having the ride of your life after a perfect pre-race taper. I was monitoring the power output using the Ebikemotion companion app and could see in realtime that the e-assist was supporting me to the tune of 10-40 watts, augmenting the 160-200 watts I was putting down myself (using my Garmin Vector 3 pedals). So its not like I was just sitting around doing nothing, the bike still asks you to pitch in. This was particularly noticeable when I was tackling my local climbs. Without putting myself deep in the red, at this bike lowest e-assist setting, I was never in any danger of touching my Strava PR, thus tarnishing sacred leaderboards.

Make no mistake, you’ll be getting a workout in on this bike. It still makes you work, you just got faster (to a 32kph limit) or further than you otherwise would have.

So when would I use the 60% or 100% assist modes? Well personally I probably wouldn’t but for the rider who is trying to hang in with roadie buddies on long and steep ascents, adding 130 e-assist watts to your 130 lungs and legs watts could be the difference between a really lonely miserable ride, and the perfect day on the pavement with friends. Those more powerful assist modes would be ideal for big days battling headwinds or big climbs at the end of the ride where you really need the support.

Now, lets dig into that, e-assist.

Who is the Bianchi Aria e-Road Bike for? Actually, who are e-assist road bikes for?

Those are two really important questions. There are still holdouts out there that insist that electric assist bikes have no place in the shops, or on the pavement. And if you’re one of those people, hear me out.

For the urban commuter, an electric assist bike means getting to work sweat free, or makes a 15km commute a viable option by bike. For a mountain biker, it means taking the gravel road up on the bike rather than shuttling in the truck. For a mature riding getting into riding for the first time in decades, it means staying healthy and active into their old age.

As for the road cyclist, it could mean hanging in with their roadie buddies who have spent decades shaving grams from their frames, diligently monitoring their ftps, and planning weekend century rides. Riding an e-assist road bike like the Bianchi Aria e-Road, or the Trek Domane+ LT, or the Specialized Turbo Creo SL isn’t about stealing anyone’s precious KOMs or winning a midweek crit, its about introducing cycling to riders who otherwise wouldn’t be able to enjoy the wonderful world of two wheels. That could be because they can’t quite keep up with their friends, or because their fitness just doesn’t provide the base they’d like in order to enjoy the sport, or any number of other reasons.

As someone who works at a shop, I see it all the time. Someone comes in with their buddy who we see at the shop all time time buying the proper kit, checking out the new bikes, getting to know the staff. That someone has got their first taste of riding but can’t keep up to their Cat 3 riding buddies and doesn’t want to hold anyone up, or can’t quite make it up the trail without getting off their mountain bike and pushing the bike up the hill. E-assist is what helps to level the playing field a bit so we can all ride together. And whats wrong with that?

Now, you might say, “well what about Strava? I don’t want my PRs being taken by people who are riding electric bikes!”. Well, there’s a category for e-bikes on Strava now just like road bikes, just like mountain bikes. And I’ve already been knocked off leaderboards by people who forgot to turn their Garmin off on the way home anyways, so just flag it.

So back to the Bianchia Aria e-Road. At about $9000, this is not an inexpensive bike in the slightest. Bianchi’s generally aren’t. But this is a fantastic bike for someone who values the quality and craftsmanship of the marquee Italian brand, and who has the money and inclination to take an e-assist road bike out to explore the world.

In Summary…

The Bianchi Aria e-Road bike is the perfect bike for the passionate cyclist that’s looking for just a little extra help whether it’s in the climbs, or on the group rides. The e-assist is unobtrusive and subtle when you need it to be, and as powerful as you’d like it to be if you really need the extra kick. At first glance you could easily miss that you’re even looking at an electric assist road bike, but rather, just another beautiful Bianchi frame. At $9000, its certainly not an inexpensive bike but the price tag is in line with peers in the product line such as the Trek Domane+ LT, priced and spec’d comparably at $8500.

The bike looks beautiful, rides great, and will certainly turn heads.

Pros

  • Bianchi chose a solid frame/part spec as the platform for the Aria e-Road and the bike feels just like a road bike should
  • Visually, what separates the Aria e-Road from the its non e-assist brethren are subtle, easy to miss cues (in the best way possible)
  • Props to Bianchi for choosing the hub mount motor over the mid-mount motor
  • Cool integration with the Ebikemotion companion app

Cons

  • The price isn’t for the faint of heart
  • Die hard roadies may throw shade if you aren’t upfront about e-assist (that’s a them problem, not a you problem)

Specs

  • Price: $8995CAD /  $6500 USD
  • Weight: 26.6 pounds
    Sizes: 47, 50, 53 (tested), 55, 57, 59. 61cm
  • Components: Ultegra