Wilier 0 SL Force AXS review
Mar 24, 2023
A race bike without the aggressive geometry
This competition is now closed
By Ashley Quinlan
Published: June 1, 2023 at 5:00 pm
The Wilier 0 SL is the Italian brand's entry-level race bike, sitting beneath the Filante SLR and 0 SLR in the range.
On the spectrum of all-round race bikes, it represents what might these days be considered the ‘traditional’ model – focused on stiffness and handling, while leaving aerodynamic optimisation as a secondary thought.
The 0 SL takes design cues and geometry from the 0 SLR – its elder sibling, which launched in 2019 and was piloted to victory by Jakob Fuglsang in the 2020 Il Lombardia.
In a well-trodden development path, Wilier has retained the same frame shapes but pared back the carbon fibre layup compared to the more expensive models. This helps it hit a more attainable price point, while retaining the key characteristics of the SLR.
In doing so, Wilier has created a solid race-oriented bike, which provides a compellingly involving ride that never feels too aggressive.
Some spec choices leave room for improvement, but the 0 SL has proven a high-quality starting point for a sharp and tactile ride.
As already mentioned, the 0 SL takes the recipe of the 0 SLR, but uses a cheaper carbon fibre layup – instead of the SLR's premium ‘HUS Mod’ carbon, the SL features ‘NH Mod’.
Wilier says the NH Mod carbon offers similar levels of stiffness as the HUS variant, but comes in a little heavier.
A painted size-medium SL frame is claimed to weigh 930g, compared to 780g for the SLR. The fork sees the same material concession, and weighs a claimed 370g (for a 1,300g total).
In this day and age of the best road bikes straddling the divide between total aerodynamic optimisation and a more traditional aesthetic, the 0 SL leans towards the latter.
Truncated aerofoil tubing dominates on the frameset, but aside from a slightly deepened head tube that blends into a broadened front section of the top tube, it isn't obvious at a glance.
The Ritchey single-bolt seatpost clamp lives in plain sight on the interior corner of the top tube-seat tube junction. Although not the most aesthetically pleasing design, it's tucked away behind the lines of the bike (as well as the rider's legs).
Up-front, the headset accommodates special ‘super slim’ bearings, with both upper and lower 1 1/4in in diameter. The design is said to help keep the front of the bike compact, but it's proprietary Wilier tech, so replacements can't simply be bought off a shelf.
The frame can accommodate both mechanical and electronic drivetrains (unlike the SLR, which is electronic-only), and routing is fully internal through the frame and fork.
That said, the cockpit is a two-piece affair. Cables and hoses also run externally of the handlebar and stem, enabling easier part swaps for optimising your bike fit.
The rear triangle features dropped seatstays, but to a lesser degree than has become fashionable in recent years. Although most brands claim aero benefits through dropping the junction of seatstay and seat tube, Wilier looks to have kept things relatively classical.
Wilier has also included a seatstay bridge to boost support and lateral rigidity between the two legs, although the skinny design is clearly intended first and foremost to improve vertical compliance.
The rear triangle sees an asymmetrical layout, with a slightly beefed-up driveside chainstay that's claimed to balance pedalling forces more effectively than a symmetrical design.
Wilier says the 0 SL is limited to running tyres up to 28mm wide, but it appears to be being conservative here. In reality, you could run tyres getting on for 30mm wide (measured width when inflated) without issue, given the space left over.
However, with clearances up to 34mm wide on some of the latest fast road bikes, the 0 SL frame isn't necessarily that forward-thinking in this regard.
Wilier has taken the geometry of the WorldTour-proven 0 SLR and applied it here unchanged.
In my size-XL test bike, a 572mm stack is race-bike low, but it's topped with 30mm removable spacers to keep the front accessibly tall for a race-focused machine.
Meanwhile, the 397mm reach is compact for a bike that's marked as ‘extra large’.
This is balanced with a 120mm stem length and 90mm measured handlebar reach.
The 72.8-degree head tube angle doesn't push the boundaries of all-round race bike steepness. A 58cm Cannondale SuperSix and ENVE Melee both have slightly steeper angles (73 and 73.3, respectively); neither does the seat tube at 73 degrees.
The 411mm chainstays keep the rear-end behaviour sharp (varying by a millimetre or two depending on your chosen size), though.
My size-XL bike is underpinned by a 1,008mm wheelbase, which brings good handling stability.
Small wonder then that, when you browse Wilier's website, you’ll find the 0 SL listed under both race bike and endurance bike categories.
The 0 SL on test features a SRAM Force eTap AXS groupset.
Despite being the previous generation, this circa-2019 Force eTap AXS remains impressive. It shouldn't put off anyone wanting an 0 SL with a SRAM groupset.
Shifts are slick and confident, with SRAM's intuitive shift logic taking centre stage (the left shifter button moves up the cassette, the right button down, and you press both together for a front-derailleur shift).
The combination of 48/35-tooth chainrings with a 10-33 tooth cassette, as specced on my test bike, offers practically all the gearing range most road riders will ever need.
A 48-tooth biggest chainring might sound limiting if you like riding really fast, but it's worth remembering the 10-tooth smallest sprocket on the cassette offers a taller biggest gear than with a 52/11 combination (as you’d get on Shimano Ultegra).
There are greater frictional losses when using 48/10 instead of 52/11 (bigger cogs and chainrings are generally more efficient, all else being equal). However, SRAM reckons having a smaller big ring enables it to be useful more of the time to the average rider.
In theory, it should help you spend more time in more efficient gears over the course of your ride, because you won't need to use the smaller chainring as often.
At the other end, 35/33t might not be as light as the 34/34t offered by Ultegra Di2 R8100, but unless you really need to frequently tractor your way up super-steep climbs, it should prove light enough for most scenarios.
The Force brake calipers, clamping onto 160mm rotors, bring good stopping power and modulation, albeit with an established tendency to squeal when wet.
As mentioned earlier, Wilier provides a two-piece cockpit setup for the 0 SL, via its alloy Stemma SL stem and alloy Barra SL handlebar.
The handlebar sees brake hoses routed out of the underside of the bar and down into a port under the stem.
This provides the ability to swap stems and handlebars without disconnecting brake hoses, but Wilier says you’ll need to stay within its ecosystem for stem replacements (the brand says the use of its carbon spacers also enables you to swap in one of its fully integrated handlebars if so desired, albeit at extra expense).
The setup looks neat, but that's partly because the stem bolts are rearward-facing. I found this made access during setup slightly more difficult than a more conventional layout.
As specced in a size XL, you get a 42cm-wide bar. The bar's drops flare marginally, but importantly the tops are flat-profiled, offering up a comfortable spot to rest your palms on a climb.
The tops are swept back slightly too, shortening the contact point, so resting there has the effect of propping you quite upright as you ride.
Wilier's Zero SLR proprietary D-shape carbon seatpost holds a Selle San Marco Shortfit Open saddle.
Wilier provides its own rolling stock via the Miche-made NDR38 KC carbon disc wheelset. As the ‘NDR’ nomenclature might suggest to those familiar with Wilier's recent history, it's pitched as an endurance-style wheelset with 38mm-deep carbon rims.
It's an acceptable entry-to-mid level carbon wheelset (Wilier sells it at €1,100 aftermarket), although there are plenty more progressive wheels on paper for similar or less money.
A 17mm internal rim diameter, paired to a 23.98mm external width, means the Vittoria Rubino Pro 28c tyres (set up clincher) are hardly maximised to their full potential, though. Wider rim diameters would help increase volume when inflated.
The wheelset itself carries a middling claimed weight of 1,665g. The rims are hooked, with 24 J-bend Sapim alloy spokes per wheel laced to alloy hubs with steel bearings.
My test bike tipped the scales at 8.16kg without pedals.
The 0 SL is an easy bike to ride, thanks to the sensible ride position it offers (assuming you don't completely slam the stem).
With the bike set up as close to my optimum fit as possible (prioritising my saddle interaction and orientation relative to the bottom bracket), the front contact points are quite close with the 30mm of supplied headset spacers left in place.
This gives a ride position that feels like a halfway house between a pure race bike and an endurance bike.
There's much to be said for this – of course, removing some of the 30mm spacers (and buying a longer stem aftermarket) will augment the ride position and effectively lengthen the reach to the bars.
Helpfully, Wilier would appear to have recognised that most amateur racers and sportive riders aren't lithe racing whippets like the professionals, and the 0 SL doesn't suffer for the presence of headset spacers.
Of course, if you do want a super-aggressive position, you could ditch the spacers and get low very easily too.
That said, it's not as if the handling was dull to begin with. Steering feels sharp, even with the front end left at its maximum stack height.
The head tube angle, which is slightly slacker than some designs, enables the front wheel to be pitched forward.
This lends the steering a very predictable quality, however low you choose to set yourself up at the front end.
You can find the limits of your skill with confidence. The twitchiness that can be a side-effect of an overly compact ride position isn't a factor here.
Climbing is also an enjoyable affair, especially if your style is to sit back and spin with your hands resting on the tops.
In the event, the 0 SL is stiff enough to mop up standing efforts on the hoods, whipping around with keenness.
The swept-back tops of the Barra SL bar might not appeal to everyone. I can see its utility to relax the climbing position, and they’re comfortable to rest palms (helped by the fact that you can simply loosen the stem faceplate interface and adjust the angle – not possible with an integrated setup).
I also found the compact drops easy to settle into and ride in on flat terrain.
But the combination of the sweep and short reach means it can feel a touch too close for my liking, and likely for many riders looking for a race-type bike.
I’d have preferred a 10mm longer stem or a handlebar with longer reach to counter the short reach of the frame, to mitigate the compactness of the ride position.
A Wilier dealer might be willing to make these swaps at point of purchase, but, either way, the light-touch front-end integration means the front end can be customised easily to suit your wants and needs.
The 0 SL Force AXS is by no means cheap off the bat, costing £7,250, complete with the NDR38 wheels and all-season style Vittoria Rubino Pro tyres.
Compare this to a £4,799 Canyon Ultimate CF SL 8 Aero with Shimano Ultegra R8100 Di2 and DT Swiss ARC 1600 wheels. Meanwhile, a Pinarello F7 and Basso Diamante, each with their own carbon wheels and Ultegra Di2 drivetrains, will cost £7,000 and £7,199 respectively.
The NDR38 wheelset feels taught and responsive, but overall is a touch rigid to ride on. Part of this will be down to the narrow internal width, with an associated low tyre volume.
The carbon seatpost can only do so much to improve comfort.
Those with competitive aspirations may also wish for deeper or wider rims, although new wheels wouldn't be a cheap upgrade.
The Vittoria Rubino Pro tyres are fine all-rounders, delivering good grip in all conditions.
Those after more suppleness and faster performance would be best served upgrading to a set of the best tubeless road tyres soon after purchase, though (perhaps keeping the Rubino Pros back for winter use).
In fact, after touchpoints, this is where I’d begin thinking about potential upgrades.
The Wilier 0 SL is a highly competent race bike. A race bike for everyone, perhaps. In that, there is strong merit here.
However, there will be plenty of amateur racers and keen sportive hunters who may find the overall ride position (and handling) a little too docile for their tastes.
Meanwhile, the wheels and tyres as specced are good quality, but they don't set the world alight and arguably don't get the most out of the frameset.
In short, the 0 SL will appeal to many riders wanting race-bike performance without the excessive ride position, and it could well be an ideal bike for some.
Yet it leaves too much room for improvement to rank among the very best.
Each bike is set up as close as possible to the tester's bike fit specifications, followed by a short, local shakedown to verify initial fit.
After this, longer separate rides are undertaken, punctuated by occasional side-of-the-road fettling (if necessary) to optimise the fit and desired ride behaviour.
Once set, a series of standalone and back-to-back rides are undertaken with each bike gradually dropping out of the running until the winner is left.
The bikes are measured in line with BikeRadar and Cycling Plus’ scoring criteria, considering overall performance in a variety of suitable situations, as well as comfort, handling, fit, specification and value for money.
Thanks to our sponsors, Lazer, FACOM tools and Band Of Climbers for their support in making Bike of the Year happen.
Senior technical editor
Ashley Quinlan is a senior technical editor for BikeRadar, covering all things road and gravel. A trained journalist, he has been working in and around the bike industry for almost a decade, and riding for much longer. He's written for road.cc, eBikeTips, RoadCyclingUK and Triathlon Plus magazine, covering the latest news and product launches, and writing in-depth reviews, group tests, buyer's guides… and more. He's also worked in PR for some of the industry's biggest brands. A roadie at heart (who often casts an interested gaze at gravel and XC mountain biking), Ash has been told that he's best used as windbreak thanks to his 188cm, 80-plus kilogram build. Despite this, he loves spending time in the mountains scaling cols and is a repeat finisher of the Étape du Tour. ❚