Back in the summer of 2011, Dario took off on a solo tour, from his home town to Rome and back. This tour totaled over 2072.7km and changed the way he looked at the world. Tours and long rides on a bike are like that. Those long hours pedaling can really bring out the creative juices. The endorphins, the sights, sounds, smells, and the people you meet on the road broaden your perspective. You’ll often hear of these experiences as being life-altering and for good reason.
While in Rome, Dario met the team at Associazione Ex-Lavanderia, a bicycle frame building school and when he returned home, be began welding. Many hours were spent perfecting the art and over the past few years, Dario has had many teachers to aid his torch. Mattia (Legor), Dario Pegoretti, Gianni Gilardi and Preda, Stucchi and Perego have all passed down their knowledge to Dario.
When the time was ready, he launched Bice Bicycles where Dario builds road, all-road, gravel, touring, and mountain bikes. I was set up with a review of his most interesting offering, the Wandrian, through Biciclista, the US distributor for Bice Bicycles and Ingrid Components.
So what is this bike? Is it a gravel bike? Or a 29er? Well. It’s a little bit of both. Dario designed the Wandrian to be a fast-paced, lightweight bike for long-distance riding. It would excel in bikepacking or gravel races with its 29×2.2 tire clearance and lightweight tubeset. The combination of those two really makes the bike feel spry and lively. While the longest ride I did on the Wandrian was only 60 miles, I can see how the bike’s geometry would make for a stable ally during longer races or rides. Then strap some bikepacking bags on it and take off into the wilderness for weeks, or even months on end.
Dario says the Wandrian is the missing link between a gravel bike and an XC bike.
My personal approach to reviewing bikes, however, is to not look at the marketing jargon and just ride the damn thing! … but before we get to that, let’s unpack this bike.
Tubing and Tech Talk
The beauty of a handmade or custom bike is the ability to use tubing you’re unlikely to find on production bikes made in Asia. That’s why when you pick up a production steel bike from Taiwan, versus a handmade bike from say, Italy, you’ll quickly note the difference in weight. After a ride or two, you’ll feel the difference in ride quality too. This isn’t downplaying production bikes made in Asia, it’s just stating the differences between them. Yes, it’s still steel, but there are idiosyncrasies to steel!
Spend enough time around builders and there will be lots of steel talk…
For the Wandrian, Dario picked from a selection of Columbus and Dedacciai tubing. The down tube is 44mm Columbus Life, the top tube is 31.7mm Life. The seat tube is Zona, externally butted for a 31.6mm seat post. More on that in a bit. Chainstays are Zona and the seat stays are Dedacciai 29er heat-treated. It’s got an English BB, and a beautiful head tube.
The 3T Luteus fork has 51mm of rake and a tight axle to crown of 395mm which is why the bike looks so balanced. A lot of rigid 29er forks have longer axle to crown dimensions and it can really mess with the bike’s silhouette. Dario’s thought here is that a short A2C fork allows for a more “racing” position while in the drops, while maintaining a taller headtube, allowing for bigger framebags and therefore bigger storage capacity. He’s not wrong.
Add a dropper to this mix, thanks to the 31.6mm seat tube size and you’ve got a bike that pedals fast on the hoods, and descends even faster downhill in the drops with the saddle out of the way.
So what about those dropouts? They were designed in collaboration with Gianmaria Citron, an industrial designer. They’re stainless steel and come in two travel versions. There’s a “light” with 12mm of travel in the rocker pivot or a “normal” with 18mm. This means you can run the bike singlespeed if you want and the rocker adjustment allows for elongation of the chainstays if needed for bigger tires.
As with all of Bice’s frames, the bottom bracket is threaded and can be 68 or 73mm. The rear frame spacing can be 142 or 148mm for either standard or “road boost” chainlines. This really ties into Dario’s claim that the Wandrian is the missing link between gravel and XC mountain bikes. Further defending this point is the axle spacing, which is 15mm thru-axle at the front and 142mm or 148mm at the rear. While the world is going to flat mount for all things drop bar, the Wandrian holds onto post-mount. Thank you!
It’s impossible to look at this bike and not notice the crankset from Ingrid Components. Those cranks are quite the conversation starter! While they were an obvious aesthetic choice to be on this bike, the Ingrid cranks ensure the perfect chain line for a 29er drive train on a gravel frame. The Stans wheels, Maxxis Tires, and King Classic hubs are very XC, while the Force 1x kit and cassette are very much a standard in the gravel world. The dummy lever on the left actuates the dropper, by the way. Ritchey bars, a Thomson stem, and a Chris King InSet7 round out the cockpit. Overall, this bike is built around gravel and XC componentry.
You know, I have probably shot thousands of bikes over the years, but ever so often you see a detail that really stands out as a by-product of function, sacrificing form or aesthetics. That’s a good thing, mind you. This detail might bug some people but I love the way these downtube cable guides deviate from their line around the downtube bottle bosses to avoid interference. This move really stood out to me as a clever and intelligent design choice. I have never seen that before.
I also love the seat stay bridge, with a slight kink, the tire clearances, and the paint. That paint job! If you want a bokehlicious paint job, this is it. Dario’s friend Mario did the paint, with a nice ombré fade and an 80’s toothbrush-splatter to really set it off. When I first saw the colors, I was reminded of the purple and orange colors from Prolly is Not Probably back in the day. I think this is one of the first bikes I’ve ever cleaned off to shoot it, just so the paint really popped!
Dustin the Wind
So what is that all about? Dario added it as an homage to his friendship with Dustin from Dust in the Wind bike shop. For me, I took it as a play on words and really enjoyed getting this bike dusty. While I rode it a few times in Los Angeles before the move, the bike didn’t come alive for me until moving to Santa Fe, where I have hundreds of miles of XC trails right out of my front door. On these trails, I appreciated the 29×2.2″ wheels more so than a 27.5″ wheel of my personal drop bar bikes, which always feels a little small for me on trails like this. A few miles in and I really began to jive with the frame, which has a geometry perfect for this sort of riding.
You like numbers? There ya go! Numbers!
With these trails, it’s a lot of up, down, up, down, jib, bank, hairpin. The swoopy, Juniper and Piñon-lined trails are perfect for a slightly steeper head angle than I’m used to with my mountain bikes. As such, this bike carves through the rock, the sand, and leaves a nice dust trail in its wake. The tubing spec makes for a bike that resonates on the trails and even with the stiff carbon fork, there’s a certain smoothness that results from all those tubing decisions Dario made. It’s pleasant, fun, and lively. So much so that you tend to forget you’re on a drop-bar bike.
Over the course of a few months, I got to really know Dario, even though we never met. Riding the work of a builder is an all-access pass into their modus operandi and while Dario’s press text for this bike is all about racing, clearly what the Wandrian is really about is having fun.
This bike is what I feel like a lot of gravel bikes are striving towards but they’re afraid to let go of their road-bike lineage. While the Chamois Hagar we looked at earlier this month is one approach, the Wandrian is one that might get more bees with its honey.
I’d like to thank Bice Bicycles, Biciclista, and Ingrid Components for pooling their resources to get me on this bike. I must say, it had me re-thinking my current stable of “gravel bikes.”
Got questions? Holler at me in the comments!