I was genuinely excited to recently test the Wilier-Triestina’s 2019 Jena Gravel bike.
Off road riding is always thrilling, but this Company Wilier Triestina has a special place in Italian Cycling history.
Back in 2017 I similarly found myself in luck and asked to test ride Wilier's pre-launched Cento10 amongst the beautiful 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's a new genre to me. But the required bike skills are familiar.
As you read this the Jena has 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.
Lastly the sandy variables in Watagans National Park, Laguna, 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’d ideally swap this out.
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.
My reliable Cannondale CAADX 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 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, and for me the Jena only started to slip on the most technical climbs on the steepest of rocky hills, (which was on the Oaks Trail).
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 the Jena has plenty of mounting points and carry options for racks, bags and bottle holding. You may not know, but Wilier have an awesome full range of practical travel bags. But 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 was made to feel a strong part of this community, and enjoy 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 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. Those who know Ben are aware his momentous calves speak of his sporting experience better than any referee.
Photo Credits to Alison McGregor, Co-Owner of CHAINSMITH PTY LTD