Bianchi Italy comes under the ""Cycle Europe"" bicycle conglomerate. This umbrella company has 10 brands across various price points and value offerings that dominate Europe and certain other global markets. Bianchi have always commanded a premium in every market it operates in, and is one of the group's flagship brand. In India, Bianchi have tried its hand at introducing the Duel series of MTBs, with a clear objective of achieving large sales numbers. We test rode their newest entrant, the Bianchi Duel 27.1 (27.5") 2016 entry level MTB, to see if their race for greater sales numbers still keeps their brand promise intact.
The overall frame geometry of the Bianchi Duel 27.1 (27.5) is built for entry level off-road riding. The Duel 27.5'6061 Aluminum frame is well built and sturdy, but is on the heavier side. This weight can be felt while riding as well as when you start pedaling from a stationary point. The Bicycle comes with a 100mm travel SR Suntour XCT-HLO 27.5'suspension system in the front, and with a hydraulic lockout. The rider is seated in a recessed ergonomic position, and the frame geometry along with the semi-curved handlebar translates to an ideal fit for beginners who are getting into off road riding. Overall this triple butted alloy frame is a very strong base on which one could look at upgrading the other componentry to improve the overall performance, when needed. The frame comes with fender and pannier rack mounts.
Design has always been Bianchi's forte, and they do not disappoint with the Duel 27.1. It comes with a unique tapering top tube, which is reminiscent of Bianchi's road bicycle geometries. The gradual flow of lines continues all the way to the seat stay, which certainly gives the bicycle the extra character. The Duel we test rode came in a nice matte orange, which certainly had a lot of heads turning on the streets. Bianchi have not missed this opportunity to sprinkle the bicycle with its traditional 'celeste' color, through subtle decal lines across the frame. The design cues and lines gives the Duel 27.1 a sporty and contemporary look, which is a step up from their earlier design direction on the Duel 26.
The Duel 27.1 comes with a 24-speed gear system, which is entry level, and spec'd for leisure and basic riding. The bicycle comes fitted with a Shimano Altus, FD-M190 in the front and a Shimano Acera, RD-M360 in the rear. The shifting had a bit of lag between the Shimano ST-EF51 trigger shifters, and the actual change of gears in the front and rear. This marginal lag is expected from entry-level componentry. As mentioned in the previous section, if you are serious about gaining more performance from this bicycle, you could look at options of improving the gear system and drivetrain, after riding it for a while. This will however make your wallet a tad lighter due to the cost of better spec'd componentry.
The Duel 27.1 comes with some impressive braking power with Mechanical disc brakes in the front and rear through 160mm rotors. The stopping option on offer was gradually tuned through the Shimano ST-EF51 levers, which means that beginners will not be over braking, but will always have the option to stop on a dime at the end of the braking band.
We were a little worried about the Duel's handling due to the weight of the bicycle, but to our surprise the 27.5'wheelset along with the frame provided responsive steering and handling. It certainly isn't the most agile bicycle around, but it was true and reactive during our ride. The semi-recessed handlebar helps the rider have a nice comfortable posture to steer the bicycle from.The Duel 27.1 comes with some impressive braking power with Mechanical disc brakes in the front and rear through 160mm rotors. The stopping option on offer was gradually tuned through the Shimano ST-EF51 levers, which means that beginners will not be over braking, but will always have the option to stop on a dime at the end of the braking band.
We were a little worried about the Duel's handling due to the weight of the bicycle, but to our surprise the 27.5'wheelset along with the frame provided responsive steering and handling. It certainly isn't the most agile bicycle around, but it was true and reactive during our ride. The semi-recessed handlebar helps the rider have a nice comfortable posture to steer the bicycle from.
The tires on the Bianchi Duel 27.1 are the 27.5'Kenda Slant Six 27.5 * 2.10. These MTB tires come with a small tread box pattern, which are primarily meant for basic and intermediate riding. Kenda utilizes a stickier compound on the sides to give it better cornering ability. These units provided sufficient traction on dry and hard conditions, across grass, sand and gravel. These tires are fitted on to Alex MD17 Double walled rims. The wheelset did seem sluggish on the test ride. The weight of the frame and the relatively slow wheelset made it difficult to pick up speed quickly.¾¾
The 100mm SR Suntour XCT-HLO 27.5'which is supposed to be responsible for taking in most of the bumps, had a few shortcomigs. We noticed that the unit only utilized around 60-65% of the travel on offer, and we did feel that it also added to the overall weight of the bicycle. Since the Bianchi Duel 27.1 comes with a strong frame, a lot of the vibrations were insulated by it. The frame was relatively stiff which meant that it kept the momentum forward, but also transferred a bit of the feedback of the ride, to the saddle area. Bianchi have added the TEC Durus steel rails saddle, which is narrow, sporty and firm.
The Bianchi Duel 27.1 (27.5) comes with a clear objective of garnering a larger market share in the dominant entry level performance MTB segment in India. While it comes with a good frame and an aesthetically pleasing design, we will have to see how customers react to it steep price point of Rs.40,600, and a few niggles in the overall package. At the end of the review, we felt that the Bianchi Duel 27.1 is for an entry level MTB rider who wants to own a bit of Italian bicycling legacy, and is willing to shell out a little extra for brand Bianchi.