The new Oltre XR is Bianchi’s top-level road bike for 2013, the Italian brand calling it, “The best performance Bianchi road frame ever.”
The first Oltre was launched three years ago and it has been very highly regarded ever since. With this incarnation Bianchi have managed to perform those two old favourite upgrade tricks: they’ve dropped the weight and increased the frame stiffness.
Mind you, that weight loss is small – a reduction of just 30g from the frame. An empty 500ml water bottle that I just happen to have here on my desk is 90g. But when the frame weight is very low to start with, shaving off any weight at all obviously isn’t easy. Bianchi reckon that a 55cm frame now comes in at just 895g +/- 5%. In other words, all 55cm frames off the production line will be in a band from 850g to 940g allowing for variations in the manufacturing process.
According to Bianchi, the biggest difference between the XR and previous versions of the Oltre is the frame rigidity – the XR stand for ‘extreme rigidity-to-weight ratio. Kind of. Of course, they put a figure on it. Everyone does. This model is said to be 20% stiffer than before.
We went to the Oltre XR’s launch out in Pau, France earlier in the year although we didn’t get to ride the bike then. Bianchi told us about the ‘project philosophy’ behind the new bike. These are the main design points and features:
• Super high-end carbon frame dedicated to extreme racing performance! Thanks to the super rigid frame and to Bianchi’s unique geometry, it assures fast acceleration, the perfect power transmission, and the best handling.
• Design and performance meet thanks to the approach “design technical oriented”.
• Super light frame for optimal performance in the climbs and aero shape to make the bike faster on the flat and in the downhill.
The Oltre XR is a carbon monocoque with UMS40 and CN60 ultra high modulus fibres used in the construction. Bianchi use their X-TeX technology here that involves moulding carbon strips into the structure of the head tube and bottom bracket area so what they end up with is a waffle-type surface on the inside. The idea is to increase the torsional rigidity while keeping the weight down.
As with most high-end performance bikes these days, the Oltre XR comes with a tapered head tube – 1 1/8in up top and 1 1/2in at the bottom – and an oversized bottom bracket – it’s BB30.
The tubes of the front triangle are wide and stout-looking – particularly the down tube – and the chainstays are meaty too, in order to keep everything tight around the drivetrain for efficient power transmission.
The seatstays, in contrast, are super skinny. Bianchi call this their UTSS (ultra thin seat stay) design and it’s intended to improve shock absorption while also reducing weight.
The fork is full carbon with straight, aero-wing legs and a weight of just 355g. The seat post is aero-shaped and carbon too, coming with a new saddle clamp in one-piece forged alloy with titanium screws.
The Oltre XR is available as a frameset for £3,200 and in several different builds. If you want an electronic groupset, you can go for Shimano Dura-Ace with Shimano WH 9000 wheels (£8,500) or Ultegra Di2 with Fulcrum Racing 3s (£5,250), or for Campagnolo’s EPS in either the Super Record version with Fulcrum Red Wind XLR wheels (£9,500) or Athena with Fulcrum Racing 3s (£6,250).
If you want mechanical, you can choose between Shimano Dura-Ace with Shimano’s WH 9000 wheels (£6,500), and Campag Super Record with Fulcrum Racing Zeros (£7,500).
As you can see, we have the Shimano Ultegra Di2 version here with an FSA SL-K chainset and a Fizik Antares saddle with carbon braided rails, but rather than Fulcrum Racing 3 wheels we have Fulcrum Racing Zeros. That would be about £5,800. We have a large 59cm model that weighs in at 7.17kg (16.9lb) complete.
It’s about time we donned the celeste jersey and got out on the road. We’ll be back with a review soon. Arrivederci!
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.