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Bianchi's top-end road bike gets updated for 2014, and we have it in on test

The Oltre XR2 is Bianchi’s new top-end road bike, ridden by the Vacansoleil –DCM pro team during the second half of last season and included for the first time in the 2014 line-up. We've just got one in for test here at road.cc.

I’ll put my cards on the table right at the start. I loved the Bianchi Oltre XR that we had in for test here at road.cc last year, and I was equally impressed by the Oltre XR2 when we went out to Italy for the launch and a quick First Ride back in June, so I’m hopeful of good things from the full test of the new bike back in Blighty.

The XR2’s frame is made from UMS 40 and CN 60 ultra high modulus carbon fibre and the weight (for a 55cm frame) is just 895g (+/- 5%), according to Bianchi. While we’re dealing with the weight, the new fork is a claimed 355g, and the weight of our complete review bike, as pictured (no pedals), is 6.62kg (14.6lb).

Like pretty much every top-end race frame these days, the XR2 (that name makes you think of a Ford Fiesta, right?) comes with a tapered head tube. Bianchi have stuck with a traditional (okay, it’s a fairly modern tradition) 1 1/8in bearing up top, extending out to a 1 1/2in bearing at the bottom, the larger diameter allowing them to engineer in more front-end stiffness.

As you can see, the new fork is an integrated design. In other words, a notch is taken out of the head tube/down tube junction and the fork crown is accommodated in there. The idea is that this improves the airflow slightly, reducing drag.

The fork legs are slim too, the deep seat tube is cutaway around the leading edge of the rear wheel, and the seat post is aerodynamically shaped – all features we’ve come to associate with aero road bikes over the past few years. Although Bianchi say that the XR2 is designed partly with aerodynamics in mind, they don’t put any drag figures on it.

Along with the oversized head tube, Bianchi provide an oversized bottom bracket. This allows them to use a large diameter down tube and wider chainstays for increased stiffness. They’ve gone with the BB386 EVO standard that allows you to fit a whole range of different chainsets.

As on the previous generation Oltre XR, Bianchi use their X-Tex technology here. This consists of extra carbon strips moulded into the frame at the head tube and around the bottom bracket area. The X-Tex is a grid-like structure, the design being intended to provide extra rigidity where it really matters without adding the weight that uniformly increasing the width of the tube walls would.

In stark contrast to the oversized tubes of the front triangle, the seatstays are flattened and ultra thin – which is why Bianchi call this their ultra thin seat stay (UTSS) design, reasonably enough. The plan, of course, is to dial in a little up-and-down flex at the back end to provide comfort.

The Oltre XR2 comes in various different builds from all three of the major groupset manufacturers: Shimano, Campagnolo and SRAM. Of course, some people will have only Campag on a bike from an Italian brand (it’s one of those rules that infest cycling), but we have a mechanical Shimano Dura-Ace group on our test bike, with an FSA K-Force Light chainset. The wheels are Campag’s, though. Well, kind of. They’re Racing Zero Darks from Campag’s sub-brand Fulcrum. This little lot will cost you £6,800.

The least expensive complete Oltre XR2 is the Campagnolo Chorus-equipped model at £5,000. If you’ve had a win on the horses, maybe you’d like to consider the Super Record EPS version at £9,950. Budget, it ain’t.

Whether you go for mechanical or electronic shifting, the Oltre XR2 frame is exactly the same – it’s compatible with both – so if you go for a mechanical version and fancy switching to electronic further down the line, that’s do-able. There’s a little port close to the bottom bracket that allows you to recharge a Campagnolo EPS internal battery without the need to remove it from the frame.

The Oltre XR2 is also available in a couple of disc versions. These use essentially the same frame but with a different carbon lay-up in the chainstay in order to handle the pressures of braking. You get a disc-specific fork too, obviously. The SRAM Red disc model comes with a compact FSA K-Force Light chainset, Vision’s Metron 40 clinchers, and is priced at £7,800.

As I said up top, my previous experiences of the Oltre XR and Oltre XR2 have been really positive so I’m really looking forward to getting the miles in on this one. I’ll be back with a full report as soon as pos.

Go to www.bianchi.com for more details.

Mat has worked for loads of bike magazines over 20+ years, and been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. He's been road.cc technical editor for eight 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 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.