While many bicycle brands boast a long history, few can pretend to be as patriotic as the Wilier brand. After all, its very title is an acronym of “Viva l’Italia, Libera e Redenta!” (which translates to “Long live Italy, free and redeemed!”).
The Wilier brand forged its own history in the shadows of two world wars, because its home base in Bassano del Grappa was only kilometers from the front lines. The brand also helped restore confidence in post-World II Italy when its Wilier-Triestina team competed in the first postwar Giro d’Italia in 1946.
Paying tribute to its classic bike, Wilier has now reissued the vintage Superleggera SL frame. We decide that a test spin in the company’s home region will only be fitting.
Thunderstorms greet us in the morning, perhaps Mother Nature’s reminder to Bassano’s volatile past. While such conditions make for tricky riding conditions, the moisture and matte ambient light provide a perfect way to render the true tones and reflection of the elegant iconic copper color of the Superleggera frame, which harks back to the bike’s classic color when Fiorenzo Magni rode it to victory in the Giro and Tour of Flanders in the 1940s.
“Riding the Superleggera in such a historic place like Bassano del Grappa, I just feel lost in time,” says our friend Luca, a local mountain biker, enjoying the unique ride of this classic steel frame. Undaunted by the inclement weather, Luca rides easily over the many cobblestone streets still found in Bassano. And he cruises over the Ponte Vecchio, the historic wooden bridge that joins the two banks of the Brenta River. But he also enjoys a refreshing stop in the Grapperia Nardini, the timeless bar specializing in the region’s grappa liqueur. “You know it doesn’t matter that it is still morning. Here we have a grappa for all hours of the day,” Luca insists, as he views the selection and enjoys the warmth inside the bar. “What would you like?”
While Luca is loving the vintage vibe offered by the Superleggera, he also loves the bike’s performance.
“When I look at the Superleggera I see a true vintage bike,” he observes. “But when I ride it, the bike is something else. It is very rigid and responds tremendously, and it’s quite light to be honest. When I am pedaling I forget what kind of bike I am on. I just feel a really good bike beneath me. You forget about time. You forget about stress. You just enjoy the ride!”
As the rains relinquish, Luca gets more into the ride, sprinting up the town’s many hills and through its historic streets. “Riding the Superleggera is just amazing,” admits Luca, who can’t get over the combination of classic looks and spot-on performance. “The way it responds and handles is quite modern really. It’s rigid and responsive. But it is also quite comfortable, and then, when I look down, I am reminded that I’m on the Superleggera. That color! That amazing color! It’s just such a classic color, a classic ride!”