A hardtail 29er can be a frightful beast. Just look around the start line of any marathon, stage or cross country race and the pointy end is littered with hard tailed big wheel rides. They are built unashamedly for speed. Ride hard, ride fast and hang on.
So where does the Methanol 29 SL fit in? Well let’s lay it down straight. Bianchi believe that the frame is the heart of the bike and the Methanol certainly exudes this belief – the frame is a work of art. However, like an underdressed supermodel, the carbon frame is smoking hot yet the accessories need some tweaking. It’s a heavier ride than it should be, and in its current guise, flickable it ain’t.
With a lot of rider input the Methanol tugs at the reigns begging to be let loose. It’s some work to get it there but when the trail opens up and the pace goes on the Methanol comes into its own. [private]
The Methanol sports an integrated seat post which is great for direct and stiff power transfer (ably assisted by the BB30 bottom bracket), however not so great for the pre-ride hacksaw cut. As they say, measure twice and cut once! Not a fan of the integrated seat mast? Well the Bianchi engineers designed the frame to accept a 31.6mm seat post if you prefer. Regular travelers and those thinking of resale options will appreciate this feature. Great thinking Bianchi.
Having lopped the mast, the first hours on the bike were frustrating to say the least. We had endless troubles with the Ritchey WCS stubby seat clamp, so much so that seated riding over any bumps was impossible as the saddle continually tilted backwards. Back in the garage and after a complete disassemble and over-torquing the seat finally stayed were it was pointed. No longer did we have to fear talking like a chipmunk!
Overall the Methanol is specced with reliable if not remarkable components. Magura MT 4 brakes, Magura TS6 29 100mm fork, Shimano XT derailleurs and Fulcrum Red Power 29 XL wheels take care of the duties.
The Shimano XT derailleurs were reliable as ever and we’re a big fan of the 2 x 10 setup with FSA’s 24/38 teeth chain rings. Paired with the 36 tooth on the rear we never went searching for a granny gear. Double chain ring setup is where it’s at for a bike like this, although there were times when we wished for a higher gear as we spun out the 38/11 combo when pushing it on the fire roads.
We don’t come across Magura’s forks all that often however the Methanol came fitted with Magura’s TS6 100mm 29 fork. With Magura’s Double Arch Design and solid build it tops the scales at a solid 1,945 grams (claimed). At this weight stiffness wasn’t an issue and we appreciated the 15 mm MAGURA M15 thru-axle as well. Magura even manage to slip a Torx 25 key into the axle so there’s no pocket multi tool hunt required to get the front wheel off.
We did experience a bewildering sound from the fork’s lockout when engaged and taking a solid hit. Even rolling off gutters was enough to blow the fork through the lockout and create an almighty twanging sound. To say this was unnerving was an understatement, it sounded like the forks were imploding, however with the lockout disengaged the fork operated quietly and solidly.
The Magura MT4 brakes were powerful enough and generally played nice however occasionally the front brake produced shuddering at both low and high speeds. On investigation we found that the 180mm brake adapter fitted to the test bike’s fork pushed the front caliper too far outboard. After removing the adapter and running the caliper as direct mount we found the problem went away. The caliper had sufficient clearance to be drag free so it beats us why the adapter was fitted in the first place…
The Fulcrum Red Power 29 XL wheels were sweet and they remained straight and true contrary to our best efforts to get loose. Despite their strength though we’d say that at 1,915 grams there’s potential for a lighter race wheel upgrade in there to bring the Methanol closer to what it’s intended for.
It’s hard to pin point exactly what market the Methanol is targeted at. By default the 29’er hard tail category is inevitably aimed at racing with quick accelerations, nimble handling and efficient riding. The Bianchi reaches high and with a few tweaks you’d have yourself a smoking weapon. Ditch the seat, save for some lighter race wheels and you’ve got yourself at least a ride a day habit.