Bianchi's Zurigo is the ultimate workhorse for cyclists on a budget. The aluminum and carbon bike is designed for cyclocross — a high-speed race on grass, dirt, and pavement — but the stable handling, wide tires, and responsive power transfer made it ideal for commuting, road rides, and most off-road trails. In fact, Italian bikemaker Bianchi calls the Zurigo its "Swiss Army knife" in its line of bikes that includes everything from Tour de France racers and pro mountain bike rigs, to classically styled beach cruisers.
The versatility begins with the hydroformed aluminum frame that's relatively lightweight and fits up to 38mm tires (most road bikes max out at 25mm). Bianchi complements the frame with a carbon fork that, along with wider tires, helps absorb vibrations and rough roads, for a more comfortable and better-handling ride. The Avid disc brakes add crisp stopping power for all weather conditions. And fender and rack mounts make this an easy grocery getter.
We tested our Zurigo in and around New York City from summer into the heart winter. The same qualities that make it a race bike — stiff, efficient pedaling, and quick, but steady handling — also made it an ideal city bike for keeping pace with traffic or cutting through stopped cars and around oblivious jaywalkers. We swapped out the knobby Vittoria Cross XG Pro II, a great tire for 'cross racing and light mountain bike trails, for slick Continental Gatorskins. The fat road tire matched the Vittorias' compliance over rough, cracked streets, while also helping the bike keep pace with any road bike. The Zuirgo's compact gearing (smaller front chainrings) with a wide-ranging, 11-32T cassette meant the bike was able to spin up the steepest hills — on- or off-road — but still reach top speeds for a red-light sprint.
Bianchi offers the Zurigo in two builds: a Shimano Tiagra drivetrain for $1,600 (pictured) and SRAM Apex components at $1,800. The company says the Tiagra bike is better suited to city riding, while the Apex Zurigo makes a better racer. We tested the Apex version and through wet, sloppy, and snowy conditions, the components performed admirably, with only two minor shifting and brake tune-ups from regular use and an occasional cleaning. [From $1,600; bianchiusa.com]