I was genuinely excited to recently test the Wilier-Triestina’s Jena Gravel bike. The 2021 Jena is described as 'light, reactive, and easy-to-handle bike with racing-comfort geometries'. While Wilier's latest Jena has added fresh graphics with the UNICO DUSTIN KLEIN range, the essential geometry is what I really wanted to put through the ringer to give you a solid review.
Off road riding is always thrilling and a true escape, but this Company Wilier Triestina has a special place in Italian Cycling history.
Back in 2017 I similarly found myself in luck. I was asked to join Wilier's pre-launch to test the new range by climbing what is surely the most beautiful of settings - the Italian Dolomites.
At the time Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy was my base. I'd just completed the Lavaredo Ultramarathon and, within 24 hours, piggy backed on an invite by Wilier to celebrate their 110 year Anniversary as Bicycle Manufacturers.
So here I am again with the opportunity to test a Wilier. But this time its off road, and this time its in a thoroughly Australian context ...
Having ridden Road, CX and MTB, gravel was a fairly new genre to me. The required bike skills are familiar but the set up differs greatly.
As you read this the Jena has since been tested on every varying terrain.
Jena and I started on the rockier undulating Blue Mountains Oaks Trail. The following week the bike was taken over the harsher corrugated surfaces on Kings Tableland Rd. Then we proceeded to escape the City and hit the gravel through the Colo region.
We also hit the sandy variables in Watagans National Park, Laguna. This gave the chance to experience a solid feel for the Jena and a new love for the art of riding gravel …
Gravel is an utter escape from Suburbia
But I want to explain the excitement, the comfort, and the security this bike gave me.
Firstly, the bike was set up standard, fresh from the box, unaltered.
The bike supplied was an L, perfect for my height of 183cm. It runs SRAM Rival. The bars are a good fit at 42cm, and the Italian San Marco "Squadra" was amazingly comfortable for a standard supply saddle.
The basic RX31 Shimano Wheelset is sturdy, but unfortunately not tubeless ready.
With the Kenda Happy Medium tyres (40mm), I hammered the bike without a single flat. A feat on my part! But my personal preference is tubeless and I’ve since swapped this out. You can read my choice a little further on...
The bike can handle a 44, which I don’t think is necessary with the terrain here in Sydney. But still a great option for those looking to experience a cushier ride.
Ive ridden a few CX frames, including an extensive use of the Cannondale CAADX - this has a totally different ride. The CX has a stiff harshness. Good for switchback cornering and controlled riding on tight circuits. But CX isn’t Gravel riding! Instead the Wilier is nimble but can comfortably cut through more rounded corners without the twitch.
The longer and slacker geometry of the Jena offers a stability that increases the harder you push. There’s an amazing amount of traction when climbing in and out of the saddle.
Traction depends on many factors. It was on the most technical climbs and the steepest of rocky hills that the Shimano Wheel set slipped, (which was on the Oaks Trail). This was also a symptom of the tyres that would likely be swapped for more loose large baby-head rocks familiar to this trail.
The Kenda was instead really suited to the heavy packed gravel and occasional bitumen travels between gravel trails.
The racing comfort geometry with typical Wilier aero tubing (truncated tail shape), meant the bike was super comfortable and totally solid on descent and corners.
The security was a real surprise after getting used to suspended MTB! In fact, the road chatter absorbed so well it allows for easy conversation while riding on rough terrain. This proved the case at a recent organised Grove Bikes gravel ride I joined on the Jena, alongside 60 other participants.
We were moving at an average of 26k/p hour, and even through the deeper sandpits it was great to be able to talk and meet with guys that I’ll certainly ride with again.
The Jena in the blue/red matt colour scheme seems to mute their logo more than the norm for Wilier. But the colour range attracts a decent amount of comments. Id only note that as a Wilier owner Id like to show my loyalty with a prominent logo or typeface.
As for paint finish, the matt's surprisingly easy to wash. The Bike Worx, Shine Spray Mat from the guys at Chainsmith is brilliant to use as preparation before the dirtier rides. It reduces the job of post ride cleaning.
At this point Im not looking at bike touring, but I am looking to get out of the City and do overnight trips. The Jena has plenty of mounting points and carry options for racks, bags and bottle holding.
You may be unaware, but Wilier have an awesome full range of practical travel bags. They've also just topped up their series by adding the Italian crew Miss Grape. We've been watching those guys for years and happy to see their quality is being appreciated by brands like Wilier.
As for other changes and additives, I've since tried the DTSwiss 1600Spline and really impressed at the difference. This is a strong wheel that takes any force you throw at it. Im keen to take up the offer of testing the latest DTSwiss GR1600. As for tyres, the Vittoria Terreno Mix are great at ripping up most terrain throughout these regions while remaining grounded.
At the moment getting out for quick Weekend trips has me anticipating the next ride. These short outings have even rejuvenated my passion for riding.
Gravel isn’t just about the ride, its hinged on an inspiring community. Coming from an ultarunning background Gravel Riding reminds me of what trail running used to be; honest, clean, friendly, inviting and totally at grass roots.
Its thanks to the Jena I feel a strong part of this community, and since enjoyed a wide gamut of new experiences.
If you're after a stable secure bike to take off road and simultaneously become part of an adventurous community, definitely get in touch with the guys at Chainsmith to look at the Wilier Jena. Absolute thumbs up!
Ben Blackshaw is a personal trainer and coach. He's known for Ultramarathon pursuits and uses the bike as a cross training method to all race lead ups. Ben is also a mechanic.