Italy jumps on the e-bike bandwagon
As a publishing company devoted to bike magazines, not a day goes by that a variety of bike boxes aren’t delivered at the back door. Over the years we’ve watched our co-workers at Road Bike Action express an extra level of excitement whenever a bike box from Italy shows up. Apparently, when a new road bike from Italy arrives, it is automatically welcomed with open arms and giddy excitement.
Well, we’re happy to say that when a box from Italy showed up addressed to EBA, we finally had the chance to react with similar elation. And this wasn’t from just any Italian company; this was from Wilier, a 110-year-old bicycle company.
“This bike begs to go faster than 15 mph with power. It has Italian race heritage to live up to after all!”
Wilier was originally an English brand, then in 1904 Pietro Dal Molin, an Italian shopkeeper and craftsman from Bassano del Grappa in northern Italy, decided to start selling bikes. He bought the brand from the creator, then he started selling them. He wasn’t the first bike shop in Bassano, but he was one of the first. Soon, cycling became the number-one form of transportation in Italy.
In a few years Dal Molin had made significant improvements in the bikes. In the 1940s he started sponsoring teams, and those teams won a lot of big races. Bicycle racing eventually became part of Wilier’s very DNA.
BORN FROM RACING
Wilier’s racing pedigree provides the perfect platform for electric bikes. Wilier has a few electric bikes, including the Atomo and Volt (mountain bikes) and the Refill, their carbon monocoque-framed flagship. At under $3000, they added the Magneto as their entry-level bike.
You’d expect refined geometry, ride characteristics and components on a bike like this. And you get them, starting with geometry and size. Available frame sizes not only increase height but length as well. The men’s small is 45cm from the top of the seat tube to the bottom and 57cm from the center of the seat tube to the center of the head tube, whereas the large is 55cm from the top of seat tube to the bottom and 61cm from the center of the seat tube to the center of the head tube. The seat tube angle is the same as the head tube angle, forming a parallelogram. Picking one with the geometry for the best riding position is very important.
The rear rack of the bike is a great thing to have. The battery makes the back end heavy, but with a mid-drive motor, it balances it out.
Wilier’s website has a great size guide to help chose a frame, though you should still visit your dealer for a correct fit. You’ll also need to decide whether to go with a women’s (low step-through frame) or men’s version (traditional high top tube).
The 11.6 Ah Shimano Li-ion battery mounts on the rear rack. There’s an option to have a version that’s mountable on the bottle-cage bolts, and strangely it adds 110 grams more. It might balance the bike overall, but the rear-mounted version only becomes obvious when you’re carrying it up stairs.
The more bikes we ride with the Shimano STEPS (Shimano Total Electric Power System) mid-drive, the more we realize what an excellent motor it is. STEPS provides efficient pedal assist while letting you provide your own torque to the ride. The new STEPS display is fantastic—big, bright and able to be mounted several ways to get you the position you prefer. It comes stock mounted on top of the stem. It’s beautiful and provides all the information you want—battery level, speed, assist level and range.
The controller has three buttons—one for increasing motor power, one for decreasing it and one for walk assist. It’s small but easy to find, reach and use. Walk assist is handy when you’re pushing the bike up a hill. Speaking of going up stairs, at 51 pounds, the Wilier is pretty light for an e-bike. The battery on the back actually doesn’t make it unwieldy, though it does shift some weight to the back. You notice it when carrying it but not at all while riding.
Since many bikes at this price range run with mechanical disc brakes, we were pleasantly surprised to find Tektro hydraulic binders on the Wilier—and that’s because Tektro’s hydraulic brakes are really good. They can stop you on a dime, but they can also be modulated very precisely for light or hard braking, or anywhere in between.
For our first ride on the Wilier, we rode it without any assist, which is something we do with all the bikes we test just to get a feel for how they ride as a bicycle. Lo and behold, the Magneto is magnificent as a plain ol’ pedal bike. It is a joy to ride, feeling like a bike painstakingly made by a manufacturer with over a century of experience. It flows down the street and begs you to take it on a long ride.
Then we turned on the STEPS system. Wow. This was even cooler. The Shimano motor adds so much power, and it’s all controlled by their intelligent power assist, which gives the power delivery an easy, natural feel. There are three levels, if you don’t count zero. Level 1 (Eco) is okay, and level three (High) is really too much unless you’re going up steep hills all day. Normally, we spend a lot of time in the highest setting. On the Magneto, it was so much more than we needed.
We took a cruise to run some errands along a distance you’d normally expect to drive to. The bike was still set to European standard—25 kph (15.5 mph). It accelerates to that faster than you’d expect, then cuts off just when you feel like you’re getting up to cruising speed. This bike begs to go faster than 15 mph with power. It has Italian race heritage to live up to after all!
We kept it in level two (Normal) most of the time running errands through the west side of Los Angeles—up hills, through residential neighborhoods, following directions from Google Maps all the while. Level two is truly the sweet spot in the range. We did notice that it was geared so close that we ended up shifting constantly or just jumping two gears each time. There’s a Shimano Di2 option that offers Start Mode that automatically downshifts so you can start easier from stop signs and stoplights, etc. Ours didn’t have it, and we didn’t care!
“The more bikes we ride with the Shimano STEPS mid-drive, the more we realize what an excellent motor it is.”
The bike is so efficient and has a large-enough battery that in 30 miles of riding, mostly at level two, it only used about 30 percent of the battery. The Wilier was the rare bike where we thought the claimed range figure (70 miles) was probably on the conservative side. The company claim that you can ride for several days on one charge is absolutely true; we did it. The battery just lasts and lasts.
As a commuter or even as a touring bike, the Magneto stands out. It’s a pure Italian bicycle experience with great electrics. While the current model is already landing in America, we’re hoping that sometime in the future Wilier will release a model with a U.S.-spec’d motor that allows it to go to 20 mph. We doubt that would affect the range much, but either way, we came away impressed with the Italian brand’s entry-level bike. You get more than what you pay for—Italian roots, reliability, power, beauty (although some thought the primer gray finish could use some color highlights) and all with incredible range.
Wheels: Aluminim 700c
w/SRAM MTH-306 hubs
Tires: Vittoria Voyager, 700x38c
Motor: Shimano STEPS DU-E6001 36V, 350W
Battery: Shimano BT-E6000 Li-Ion 36V, 418 Wh, 11.6 Ah
Controls: Shimano STEPS SC-E6010 display, SW-E6000 switch
Charge time: 4 hours
Top speed: 15.5 mph
Range: 70 miles
Drive: Shimano Deore, 1×10
Weight: 51 pounds
Sizes: Men’s small 45cm, medium 50cm, large 56.5cm; women’s small 42cm, medium 47cm, large 51cm