Previous incarnations of the Wilier Izoard have impressed us with the character and comfort of the ride, and the XP is no exception, with a superb frame and fork. You'd expect some compromises on an Italian thoroughbred priced at £1,750, but the average wheels and poor tyres are easily upgraded.
The frame is designed around the company's sport-level geometry which, on our size large test bike, means a 160mm head tube – shallow by sportive standards but not as aggressive as their top flight Zero7.
It shares the same seat and head angles for similar handling traits, but longer chainstays provide more rear end vertical flex, adding to the nicely damped ride. We'd definitely recommend the Izoard for long days in the saddle, but the longer wheelbase and comfortable back end don't hamper progress when you want to blast a shorter, swifter ride.
The responsive handling might seem at odds with the bike's overall plushness, but we welcomed having a bike that can slice through corners and mix it with big groups of riders, but also provide a stable and smooth ride that helps get you through at the end of a long spin.
The Shimano-105-equipped model is the cheapest in the Izoard line-up and some compromises have been made. The Shimano RS30 wheels are mid-level, with a claimed weight of 1952g the pair – not exactly lightweight, but they're tough enough and stayed true throughout the test. The real downside is that they're shod with Wilier-branded Chen Shin tyres.
These have a stiff, waxy feel that we quickly found the limits of, especially on autumn's greasy road surfaces. They also suffer from a boggy, slow feel which hampers the bike – imagine Usain Bolt running in wellies. We switched them out for a set of R500s and the XP immediately felt swifter, nippier and far more confident cornering at higher speeds.
While we're more than happy with the Shimano 105 drivetrain matched to a Wilier-branded FSA compact chainset, we'd prefer a lighter sprocket out back than the 25T here; just a couple of extra teeth would have kept us spinning rather than grinding when the road really ramped up.
The compact drop bar makes it easy to get into an aero position in the drops, and the deeply padded Selle Italia saddle is plenty comfortable. With all the finishing kit matched in colour and graphics to the classy Izoard frame it catches the eye, and if you stepped up to top quality tyres the XP would certainly start to live up to its huge potential.
This bike was tested as part ofCycling Plusmagazine's 2012 Bike Of The Year feature – read the full results in issue 260, on sale Friday 2 March.