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Description

Off the road.

The carbon-hardtail gravy train is moving full steam ahead -- riding fast on 29-inch biscuits. And, it doesn’t come as a surprise Wilier's stepping aboard with a line of competition-ready mountain bikes. As they have a wealth of carbon expertise and pro-peloton proven technology to give the 101XN Carbon Mountain Bike Frame distinct performance benefits.

By using the same technology and design philosophy as its super-bike, the Cento1 SL (Chen-toe - uno if you wish to prevent ghosts of Ciclo meccanica Dal Molin from haunting rides with mountainous headwinds), the XN101 is leading the evolution of the 29er hardtail. But, this isn't the first time that a road-specific manufacturer or road-based technology has made the leap to mountain bikes.

In the early '90s, LeMond tried it before a fateful acquisition by Trek; where another mountain bike brand would be deemed redundant, so it was quickly killed. Ironically, those desirable titanium hardtails could be spec'd with Campagnolo's short-lived MTB components. Despite the corporate axing LeMond mountain bikes experienced, and Campy's besting in the off-road market, there has been success -- in fact, early high-end mountain bikes commonly rolled on Dura-Ace hubs, and the first 29ers used road rims like Mavic's Open Pro.

The most obvious contribution to the 101XN from the Cento1 is its material. They share same 60t Mitsubishi high-modulus carbon fiber construction. The 'T' in 60t refers to ton, as in it can withstand 60 tons of pressure per square millimeter. Wilier uses this carbon fiber, because the stronger the carbon, the less is needed. Thus, they are able to strike the perfect balance between strength and weight. Another significant shared technology is asymmetrical stays.

While asymmetrical rear triangles are common among full-suspension bikes due to clearance for linkages, front derailleurs, and chainguides, it has little to do with ride characteristics, as that's left to suspension. In a traditional double-diamond hardtail, pedaling forces put different loads on the driveside chainstay vs. the non-driveside chainstay, hence the appeal of asymmetric stays in this application. Engineers have known this for over 20 years, but Wilier modernized and proved the concept with the Cento1 over the ferocious cobbles, savage climbs, and harrowing descents of the Pro Tour.

Now applied to the mountain bike, the XN101's rear triangle features a lowered drive-side stay to combat twisting forces that deform the triangle when you stomp on the pedals. This translates to less power loss for faster acceleration and efficient climbing. The non-drive side is shaped to offer compact post-mounts for the disc brake, and it's designed to fight the twisting forces braking puts on the chassis. This ensures confident stopping and a frame that tracks true when hitting the brakes late and hard.

Tying the stays together is a replaceable dropout system that allows a variety of options. They're interchangeable so you can run either the standard 135 x 10mm quick release, or a thru-axle. Also available is a hanger for Shimano's new Direct Mount standard. At the other end of the chainstays is a PressFit 92 bottom bracket shell.

The PressFit 92 allows the stays and downtube to flare immensely into the wide bottom bracket, where lateral stiffness is most crucial. Up front is a tapered headtube with an angle that varies depending on the frame size. With a recommended 100mm travel fork, the small measures 70 degrees, the medium 71.3, while the large and x-large are 71.5. This brings to attention the fact that each frame is individually designed and optimized within given parameters for the least weight, most strength, and best handling .

The innovative spirit of Wilier doesn't stop there. The XN101, like the Cento1, has internal cable routing. While this results in clean lines and protects cables from contaminates, Wilier's design goes a step further and is ready for electric shifting. Yes, as of publishing this, aside from Franken-trains by shop tinkerers, no one has produced an electric mountain drivetrain. But, as we see electric proving itself on the road, it's not going to surprise us when buttons, batteries, and servos start showing up on the mountain bike.

The Wilier XN101 Carbon Mountain Bike Frame is available in Black/Red and comes in four sizes; Small, Medium, large, and X-Large.

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