Bianchi announced the launch of a second new road bike at their recent 2011 range launch to go alongside the new top end Oltre – it’s a carbon performance bike called the Sempre, and we’ve been to Italy to ride it.
The Sempre fits into the B4P (Born For Performance) range and is designed to combine low weight with high rigidity. Whereas the Oltre is going to appeal to full-on racers, the Sempre, although it comes in a racing geometry, is likely to attract attention from a wider range of cyclists, including sportive riders.
The Sempre is made using Bianchi’s Carbon Nano Tech technology as opposed to the Carbon Nano Tube technology used on the Oltre (we know it’s confusing; don’t blame us, we’re only reporting it). What does that mean?
According to Bianchi, “Nano material has the character of nano-scale size and high superficial content, adding it into the matrix system can enhance the cohesion superficial content between fibre and matrix. Because of this character, the micro crack of interlayer will decrease and further prevent the extension of crack. It will also extend anti-fatigue and enhance the anti-impact of resin.”
Got that? Essentially, it stops micro cracks appearing in the carbon, and makes it stronger and more durable by filling the voids between the carbon fibres which would otherwise be filled by resin – which adds weight without adding strength, so you get a lighter, stronger frame than a standard one… bung in some nano tubes and it's even lighter and stronger still.
The carbon monocoque frame is built with large tubes for plenty of stiffness. The down tube, for example, morphs from a deep diamond-section profile to a broad oval en route to the bottom bracket while the slightly sloping top tube, although it tapers along its length, is a big, meaty size too. And, as we’re seeing more and more these days, the bottom bracket area is a chunky almost-square affair housing an oversized BB30 bottom bracket for extra stiffness and lower weight,
The chainstays are oversized as well for direct power transfer in stark contrast to the seat stays which, like the Oltre’s, are super-skinny to save weight. Speaking of weight, according to Bianchi the 55cm frame hits the scales at 1100g while the carbon/alu fork, with ‘semi straight’ blades, comes in at about 550g.
The Sempre – the name means ‘always’ in Italian, if you like a bit of trivia – features a whole new range of customized components, called Reparto Course, to match the frame. The front arm of FSA’s Gossamer brakes, for example, gets a white finish and a Reparto Course logo, the brake hoods match the paint scheme and so on. It looks pretty darn cool, if you ask us.
The Sempre will be available in four different builds, and three different colours, based around Shimano Tiagra, 105 and Ultegra, plus a Campagnolo Veloce option. They will all feature a compact chainset although prices have yet to be set.
We were among the first batch of journos (is that the right collective noun for journos? Actually, forget we asked) to sling a leg over the Sempre when we headed out to the launch in Bergamo, northern Italy. Bianchi haven’t given us much to moan about here because the bike achieves exactly what it tries to achieve.
It’s light and sprightly from the off – not ultra-light like the Oltre but still very quick to pick up speed whether from a standing start or when you decide it’s time to crank up the pace and smoke your ride-mates.
First impressions are that it’s a perfectly comfortable bike too. The ride position is certainly sporty but far from extreme and, despite some highly dodgy road surfaces and a couple of sections of cobbles, our fillings stayed firmly in place. We were only aboard the Sempre for a couple of hours though, so we can’t tell you about long-ride comfort yet. Both Tony and I reckoned the position was slightly longer on the Sempre, I rode a 57 in both and the B4P bike certainly felt rangier than it's higher end stablemate. Neither bike are supposedly built for all day comfort, interestingly of the two Tony reckoned the Oltre shaded it on comfort even though that element comes lower down the mix on it than on the Sempre.
Either way neither of these bikes could be called harsh or uncomfortable' in the way that similar machines would have been only five years ago a mark of how the evolution of carbon bike technology and the acceptance of the performance benefits of comfort have changed top end race bikes.
Get the Sempre on the climbs – and there are plenty of those around Bergamo, believe us. – and It’s very nimble too. Again, it’s not in quite the class of the Oltre on the hills, but that’s to be expected – the Oltre is going to be big, big bucks while the Sempre will be much more affordable. The Sempre hasn’t got the same chomping-at-the-bit urgency but it gets on with the job in hand impressively with virtually no sway in the bottom bracket when you stand on the pedals, and the compact chainset will get most people up pretty much anything – even in the closing miles of a long, tough sportive. We wish they had a traditional chainset option in the range too – it would make sense with a bike that’s this performance-orientated.
As for the downhills, we were slinging it through the sharpest, bumpiest of hairpins without a care, daring ourselves to see how late we could leave the braking. The Sempre was loving it and so were we.
Mat has worked for loads of bike magazines over the past 20 years, and been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. He's been road.cc technical editor for seven years, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. We send him off around the world to get all the news from launches and shows too. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a youthful 45-year-old Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a past winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer.