Like most things designed and made Italy, the Bianchi Methanol FS is a real beauty and Rudolf Zuidema found himself wanting to love it right from the minute he picked it up. From the old school style head-badge, the sculpting of the carbon tubes, to the detail and precision of the finishing, everything screams class and quality.
The FS 2 comes fully loaded and ready to race, with a full carbon frame, including carbon rocker, Shimano XTR drivetrain, Fox CTD suspension setup with remote lever, Fulcrum Red Metal XL Wheels and a full complement of FSA SLK Carbon components.
All this at R 75 000 seems excellent value for money, but there are some compromises that squeeze in with all that bling. Most notably of which is the Formula RX brakes which are pretty low spec compared to the rest of the components and entry level Evolution Fox Float fork and shock.
The lower spec suspension is neither here nor there as all that the higher end models offer are the FIT Damper and Kashima Coating. Functionality is identical and to be honest Fox’s FIT damper isn’t nearly as reliable as the good old open bath damper in the Evolution Series Fork. The Formula RX brakes are another matter; with no reach or pad contact adjustment I could not get them setup to my liking, or get any of the legendary stopping power that Formula is renowned for. (The other thing they’re renowned for is their temperamentally. They either work or they don’t…)
On to the bike and frame itself. The frame is a full carbon monocoque, including the rocker link and the interesting feature is the internal rib that runs down the middle of the down and top tubes to help increase the torsional rigidity of the frame. This and the four bar linkage suspension setup make the Methanol exceptional on climbs and gravel road drags. When the time comes to lay down the law the Methanol reacts instantly to the extra power coming through the pedals. Other details that show the quality of the Methanol’s construction is the Titanium mesh moulded into the underside of the downtube, for extra impact protection, and the replaceable thread insert for the 12mm rear through-axle.
Unfortunately the Methanol is not perfect. As a race bike it’s pretty much a given that the rider will be using water bottles as opposed to a hydration pack and as with so many other brands the Bianchi designers have failed to take that into account! Even with the aid of a side entry cage getting a 600ml bottle in and out of the frame required careful planning and execution; with a normal cage it was downright impossible.
I rode the Methanol on my usual test track that includes quite a varied selection of jeep track, gravel road and singletrack sections of varying technicality. To say that this bike climbs well is an understatement; every ounce of effort going into the pedals is converted to forward motion and the geometry and suspension provide ample traction on steep technical singletrack climbs.
On the flip side descending the steep technical trails of the Western Cape proved a bit much for the Methanol. We never got along well in that department, which was a bit of an enigma as the head angle is identical to other bikes in this category, all of which handle the trails with aplomb. After some research the only explanation I can come up with is that the seat tube angle on the Methanol is steeper than the other bikes I’ve ridden. The nett effect of the steep seat tube angle is that it places your weight towards the front of the bike and more in line with the bottom bracket, which explains the phenomenal climbing ability, but also the tendency of the bike wanting to throw it’s rider on steep descents like a skittish race horse. The bike’s handling was definitely not helped on the trails by the Vredestein Black Panther tyres; the casing is very hard and running anywhere near my usual tire pressure resulted in the tire constantly folding under the rim in all but the gentlest turns. The manufacturer’s stated minimum tyre pressure is 30psi (2.1 bar) which is rather firm to say the least.
All things considered I’m rather conflicted in my opinion of the Methanol, I desperately want to love it, it’s just so beautiful. I’d definitely like to try it again with some different tyres to see the impact it would on the ride.
So at this stage I’d say the Bianchi Methanol FS is a great option if you are going to spend most of your time covering great distances on jeeptrack and flowing, groomed singletrack.
Sus the Geometry:
All measurements in mm or degrees for a 17inch Medium frame.
|Seat Tube Angle||74⁰|
|Head tube Angle||71⁰|