Will the Zolder live up to its World Cup name? Interbike 2014 © Cyclocross Magazine

Will the Zolder live up to its World Cup name? Interbike 2014 © Cyclocross Magazine

At Interbike 2014, Bianchi introduced the Carbon D2 Cross Zolder, an all-carbon disc brake cyclocross race machine.

Zolder is typically a World Cup stop in Belgium, officially called Heusden-Zolder after the two separate municipalities merged in 1977 . The cyclocross race has been held the day after Christmas at a Formula 1 race track, and is one the more storied events in cyclocross. Might Bianchi’s new carbon cyclocross bike live up to the famous name?

The taperered headtube and steerer should make for a stiffer ride than the Cavaria. Interbike 2014 © Cyclocross Magazine

The taperered headtube and steerer should make for a stiffer ride than the Cavaria. Interbike 2014 © Cyclocross Magazine

Using geometry cues that were successful in the Cross Concept series of the past (that we came to love through past review bikes, and were ahead of their time), the Zolder continues the tradition but with a slightly lower bottom bracket, set at a 6.7cm drop instead of the 6.5cm Bianchi used in the past. The new, beefy tapered headtube still is a short 125mm for a 56cm frame, but considering the increased axle to crown distance of a cross bike compared to a road bike, this allows some riders to more easily mimic their road bike position. The Zolder frame is paired with an all-carbon fork with a matching tapered carbon steerer. The crown is pierced—no cable hanger needed here—though we could imagine it would be useful for fenders.

The Bianchi Zolder uses 160/140mm  front/rear rotor sizes respectively and the rear caliper is seatstay mounted with a reinforcing truss to help the slender seatstay counter the brake forces. The PF30BB makes the whole bottom bracket area appear massive, but behind the bottom bracket, the junction is cleanly sculpted, avoiding the common mud shelf we saw on the Cavaria and Carbon Cross Concept. Cables run internally for shifting, but externally for brakes, an arrangement that makes for easier setup with hydraulic systems.

A fully sculpted bb/chainstay junction should keep clear of mud. Interbike 2014 © Cyclocross Magazine

A fully sculpted bb/chainstay junction should keep clear of mud. Interbike 2014 © Cyclocross Magazine

The spec for the US will be a Shimano 5800 105 11-speed drivetrain with Fulcrum DBCX wheels and Avid BB7 Road SL mechanical disc brakes for an MSRP of $3099 USD.

The Zolder is still based on an open mold, similar to the Cavaria frame that we saw duplicated by other brands (Viner, among others). Bianchi Italy says that ‘cross is a small market for them, but they want a ’cross bike to fill their line for Bianchi fans who want a cyclocross or higher-end gravel bike. If ’cross grows for Bianchi, perhaps it will allow a budget for a closed mold in the future.

Not that there’s a downside to an open mold bike. It could be a stellar handling and well-outfitted bike, just with a twin somewhere else in the world. If exclusivity and uniqueness are important to you, you might look elsewhere, but based on our past experience with the carbon Bianchi cyclocross bikes, we expect this one to ride and handle well without being overly stiff. Stay tuned as we aim to fully test the Bianchi Zolder in the near future.

It’s been an interesting cyclocross course for the Italian bike company. As one of the first companies to develop 29ers in the form of the Project 3, 5, and 7 bikes, and one of the early companies to embrace drop-bar cyclocross and gravel bikes in the form of the versatile Volpe, Bianchi is no stranger to innovation in the off-road arena. In 2003, the company even released its own Scandium Cross Concept frames, which set the standard at the time for lightweight, race-oriented cyclocross framesets. The company also had a famous line of production singlespeed mountain bikes, including the BOSS, BASS, BUSS, MUSS, DISS, SISS, SASS, WUSS, GUSS, MUSS models.

Today, the Volpe still lives on, in both cantilever and disc brake versions, but Bianchi’s cyclocross bikes have narrowed down to the Zurigo (reviewed in Issue 26) and the new disc brake carbon Zolder. Gone are the singlespeed San Jose, the Axis, and the cantilever Cavaria, along with the whole line of singlespeed mountain bikes.

Perhaps Italy’s Eva Lechner, with her impressive silver medal at the 2014 Cyclocross World Championships could restart an Italian cyclocross renaissance we haven’t seen since Daniele Pontoni? Or maybe, just maybe, it will start with the Bianchi Zolder.

2015 Bianchi Zolder Cyclocross Bike Spec Highlights:

MSRP: $3099
Frameset: D2 Carbon Cross, PF30 BB, Tapered 1-1/8″ to 1-1/2″ steerer, internal shift cable routing, external brake cable routing
Drivetrain: Shimano 105 5800 11-speed STI levers, front and rear derailleur, cassette, crankset and chain
Wheels: Fulcrum DBCX
Tires: Vittoria XG Pro
Brakes: Avid BB7 Road SL
More info: bianchiusa.com

2015 Bianchi Zolder Cyclocross Bike Photo Gallery:

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