Bianchi Oltre XR  £5800.00

9/10

Lightweight speed machine that's stiff enough to stand up to the most powerful of sprinters; it absolutely flies

Weight 7170g   Contact  www.bianchi.com

by Mat Brett   November 29, 2012  

Bianchi's new Oltre XR is among the very best high-performance bikes out there. Lighter and stiffer than the previous Oltre, this pro-level model really sparkles out on the road.

Everyone knows the Bianchi brand – it has been around since 1885, a time when most bicycles were horses. The Italian brand has more heritage than you could shake a stick of spaghetti at. Fausto Coppi, Felice Gimondi, Mario Cipollini, Laurent Fignon, Marco Pantani... they've all ridden Bianchis over the years.

Some people would have you believe that Bianchi relied on that heritage a little too much for a while, and took their collective eye off the ball in terms of technology and product development. If that was ever the case, the Oltre XR proves that they are fully focused once again.

The XR bit of the Oltre XR's name comes from 'extreme rigidity-to-weight ratio', so it's clear from the start where Bianchi's priorities are in this design.

Climb aboard the Oltre XR and you can feel just how stiff the frame is from the first few pedal strokes. You'll notice it especially during sweat-flying sprints and out-of-the saddle climbs when the bike remains remarkably in shape even though your arms and legs are trying to wrench it in opposite directions.

Bianchi have worked hard to achieve this level of frame rigidity – they reckon they've boosted stiffness by 20% over the previous Oltre... if putting a figure on it means anything to you. The Oltre XR is a carbon monocoque with UMS 40 and CN 60 ultra high modulus carbon fibre used in the construction. Like most other pro-level bikes these days, it gets an oversized BB30 bottom bracket and a tapered head tube – 1 1/8in at the top, 1 1/2in at the bottom – for increased rigidity in both those areas.

What Bianchi do differently is that they use their X-Tex process to increase the structural stiffness further. X-Tex, lest this one has passed you by, is a cross weave layer inside the head tube. Carbon strips are moulded on top of the existing carbon structure so it looks a bit like a waffle surface in there, the idea being to add to the rigidity without bumping up the weight much.

The Oltre XR also comes with a huge down tube and mighty-looking chainstays. That doesn't mean a lot in itself, of course, but the sum total of all these features is a frame with barely a hint of flex when you grapple it from side to side.

The handling is sharp as a nail too. That sturdy head tube works with Bianchi's full-carbon HoC fork to provide immaculate steering even when you're flinging the bike as fast as you dare through the S-bends and hanging on for dear life. The Oltre XR will end up exactly where you want it to, giving you the assurance you need to lay off the brakes just a tad longer.

Switching to the other side of the 'extreme rigidity-to-weight ratio' line, our complete 59cm test bike, less pedals, weighs in at 7.17kg (16.9lb). That's pretty light, especially considering that we have a Shimano Ultegra Di2 groupset on there – it's great stuff, but you can certainly get lighter. Bianchi claim a frame weight of just 895g (+/– 5%) – which is 30g lighter than the previous generation – plus 355g for the fork.

They keep the weight down partly through their wrinkleless molding process that, as the name implies, ensures the inner surfaces of the frame are as smooth as the outside. Other manufacturers have similar techniques. Bianchi reckon that controlling the walls in this way allows them to get the stiffness they want without using any more material than is absolutely necessary.

The Oltre XR certainly feels like a light bike in use – it's very, very responsive, jumping forward when you twitch your muscles that little bit faster. There's none of that lag while it mulls over the options; it just accelerates beautifully.

When you hit the climbs, the Bianchi is a worthy partner, shooting up the slopes like a Sherpa guide on EPO. We had a compact chainset (50/34-tooth chainrings) on our test bike which certainly took the pain out of the steep stuff although, to me, a standard chainset would be more suitable. I guess it'll all come down to your personal preference and the terrain you usually ride, but if any bike is crying out for a standard chainset it's this one.

As well as the stiffness and the weight, the other key characteristic of the Oltre XR that Bianchi like to shout about is its aerodynamics. Most obviously, the forks come with slim legs and a crown that flows back into the down tube, the seat tube is aero profiled at the top and cutaway around the rear wheel, and the full carbon seat post is shaped to reduce drag. The cables run internally too.

How aero is the performance? I don't know, to be honest, and I wouldn't trust the judgment of anyone who claims to know from simply riding the bike. Bianchi say they did a lot of development work in the wind tunnel with the Vacansoleil pro riders but they're not publishing any figures so your guess is as good as anyone's.

When it comes to comfort, I'm more confident in giving a verdict – my butt, wrists and back tell me all I need to know here and they all say the Oltre XR does pretty well on this score. I wouldn't say this is the most butter-smooth bike ever but, as performance-driven bikes go, it's a sweet enough ride. Bianchi reckon those ultra thin seat stays are responsible for removing a lot of road buzz and that seems like a reasonable enough explanation to me.

Of course, that assumes you're happy with a race geometry and aren't hoping for a lofty front end – this is, after all, a bike that's raced at the highest level. We have a 59cm model with a 580mm stack (vertical distance from the centre of the bottom bracket to the top centre of the head tube), a 397mm reach (the horizontal distance between those two points), an 18cm head tube and parallel 73° frame angles.

There's nothing too wild there. We did, though, have FSA's Wing Pro Compact bars on our test bike with a drop of just 125mm. Whether or not you're into that is a question of taste. It works for me.

The Oltre XR is available as a frameset (frame, fork, seatpost, headset) for £3,200, or in six different builds in the UK. Here are the groupsets, wheels and colours (because we know how important that is) and prices...

* Shimano Ultegra Di2, Fulcrum Racing 3, red/black, £5,250

* Campagnolo Athena EPS, Fulcrum Racing 3, celeste/black, £6,250

* Shimano Dura-Ace mechanical, Shimano WH 9000, matt/gloss black, £6,500

* Campagnolo Super Record mechanical, Fulcrum Racing Zero, celeste/black, £7,500

* Shimano Dura-Ace Di2, Shimano WH 9000, matt/gloss black, £8,500

* Campagnolo Super Record EPS, Fulcrum Red Wind XLR, celeste/black, £9,500

If you're eagle eyed you'll see that our test bike isn't quite any of these. It's Ultegra Di2 equipped but with Fulcrum Racing Zeros rather than Racing 3s, and the price would be about £5,800.

I won't go into any depth on the build because of the various options available. You'll doubtless already know whether you prefer Campag or Shimano (don't fall for the oft repeated but seldom thought through cliché that you have to have Campag on an Italian brand bike – rules are for fools, doncha know?), and whether you want mechanical or electronic shifting. All I'll say there is that the more I use Ultegra Di2, the more I like it. Oh, and Fizik's Antares saddle is a winner too.

So, as I said up top, the Oltre XR is among the very best high-performance road bikes out there. Bianchi have got things nailed with this one. Lightweight, stiff, fast, cheap... it's all but one of those things.

Verdict

Lightweight speed machine that's stiff enough to stand up to the most powerful of sprinters; it absolutely flies.

road.cc test report

Make and model: Bianchi Oltre XR

Size tested: 59cm

About the bike

State the frame and fork material and method of construction. List the components used to build up the bike.

Carbon monocoque frame made with UMS 40 and CN 60 ultra high modulus carbon fibre, full carbon Bianchi HoC fork, 1 1/2in - 1 1/8in

Headset FSA Orbit C-40-CF-ACB + Carbon Ti X- Plug with logo Bianchi

Shifters Shimano Ultegra Di2

Rear derailleur Shimano Ultegra Di2

Front derailleur Shimano ULTEGRA Di2

Tyres Hutchinson Atom Comp 700 x 23, 127TPI, folding

Stem FSA SL-K

Handlebar FSA Wing Pro

Seatpost Oltre XR Full Carbon Aero special dimension with titanium screws

Saddle Fizik Antares rail braided carbon, shell Rilsan Carbon reinforced

Chainset FSA SL-K Light Compact BB30 50/34T

Chain Shimano Dura-Ace

Cassette Shimano Ultegra 12-25T

Brakes Shimano Ultegra

Wheels Fulcrum Racing Zero

Tell us what the bike is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about the bike?

It's a pro-level race bike although Bianchi haven't built binned comfort in pursuit of speed - this is a bike you can ride for hours and still be left feeling good enough to sprint.

Frame and fork

Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?

Bianchi do the finishing in Italy and it's excellent.

Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?

It's a carbon monocoque made with ultra high modulus carbon fibre. The Oltre XR features Bianchi's Carbon Nano Tube Tech (CNTT) meaning that microscopic spaces in the carbon are filled with carbon nano tubes and nano-powder in the resin. This is designed to stop micro-cracks from forming in the carbon and so to increase fracture resistance.

Of course, Bianchi put a figure on it. They say that CNTT improves toughness 49% over standard resin.

Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?

See text. It's a race geometry.

How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?

See text.

Riding the bike

Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.

Yes, it doesn't score as highly on comfort as it does for speed but this is certainly a bike that absorbs road buzz well, leaving you to concentrate on the main matter of getting the power in.

Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?

Yes, it's notably stiff around both the head tube and the bottom bracket.

How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?

Highly efficient.

Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so, was it a problem?

Not on the 59cm model.

Rate the bike for efficiency of power transfer:
 
9/10
Rate the bike for acceleration:
 
9/10
Rate the bike for sprinting:
 
9/10
Rate the bike for high speed stability:
 
8/10
Rate the bike for cruising speed stability:
 
8/10
Rate the bike for low speed stability:
 
8/10
Rate the bike for flat cornering:
 
9/10
Rate the bike for cornering on descents:
 
9/10
Rate the bike for climbing:
 
9/10

The drivetrain

Rate the drivetrain for performance:
 
9/10
Rate the drivetrain for durability:
 
8/10
Rate the drivetrain for weight:
 
7/10
Rate the drivetrain for value:
 
7/10

Wheels and tyres

Rate the wheels and tyres for performance:
 
8/10
Rate the wheels and tyres for durability:
 
8/10
Rate the wheels and tyres for weight:
 
8/10
Rate the wheels and tyres for comfort:
 
7/10
Rate the wheels and tyres for value:
 
7/10

Controls

Rate the controls for performance:
 
9/10
Rate the controls for durability:
 
8/10
Rate the controls for weight:
 
8/10
Rate the controls for comfort:
 
8/10
Rate the controls for value:
 
8/10

Your summary

Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes.

Would you consider buying the bike? It would be on my superbike short list.

Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes.

Rate the bike overall for performance:
 
9/10
Rate the bike overall for value:
 
7/10

Overall rating: 9/10

About the tester

Age: 41  Height: 190cm  Weight: 75kg

I usually ride:   My best bike is:

I've been riding for: Over 20 years  I ride: Most days  I would class myself as: Expert

I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding,

 

14 user comments

Oldest firstNewest firstBest rated

£5.00?!? Absolute bargain, where do I get one?

Some bloke called Eddy once told me: "Don't buy upgrages, ride up grades"

spin cycle's picture

posted by spin cycle [53 posts]
29th November 2012 - 9:07

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and only 75g! shame its not uci compliant Smile

posted by eddie11 [78 posts]
29th November 2012 - 9:31

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spin cycle wrote:
£5.00?!? Absolute bargain, where do I get one?

One!?!?!

I'll take three at that price

posted by mad_scot_rider [544 posts]
29th November 2012 - 9:52

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I'll have one for a fiver :-P

posted by pdows47 [103 posts]
29th November 2012 - 9:55

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And weighs 7g .... wow!

posted by veseunr [281 posts]
29th November 2012 - 10:08

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It's like one of those dodgy internet adverts - I click on the "superbike for a fiver!" link only to be told it's the price of a new car...

Last night I would have considered trading a very loud baby for a really nice bike.

posted by notfastenough [3079 posts]
29th November 2012 - 10:26

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I LOVE that bike but spec is just plain wrong. Shimano on a Bianchi?! Just not on. A Bianchi bike needs to be sporting Campagnolo. Fact. Big Grin

posted by othello [279 posts]
29th November 2012 - 10:45

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She's a beaut. I'd hate to give that back to be honest, I'd last be seen boarding a ferry to Calais with it.

posted by Nick T [789 posts]
29th November 2012 - 16:54

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Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened – that's what I tell myself as I box it up and send it back to Bianchi. Sniff!

posted by Mat Brett [1856 posts]
29th November 2012 - 17:30

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6 grand and you only get Ultegra? crumbs....

posted by londonplayer [671 posts]
29th November 2012 - 18:43

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I think with any 3 grand frameset you'll "only" get Ultegra Di2 for the money. Stick with mechanical if you want to save the pennies.

posted by Nick T [789 posts]
29th November 2012 - 22:45

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othello wrote:
I LOVE that bike but spec is just plain wrong. Shimano on a Bianchi?! Just not on. A Bianchi bike needs to be sporting Campagnolo. Fact. Big Grin

A Bianchi thats not Celeste is also just plain wrong

posted by usernameforme [49 posts]
30th November 2012 - 10:16

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Like (18)

And the sucker born every minute award goes to...
Cool Confused Angry Crying Devil Big Grin Liar Nerd Plain Face Sad Sick Smile Surprise Thinking Wink Yawn Confused Cool Sad Angry Smile Devil Big Grin Liar Thinking Nerd

YOU !!

Lance Bumstrong's picture

posted by Lance Bumstrong [20 posts]
30th November 2012 - 20:27

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Have the Chineses copied it yet? Nerd

Only joking, i`ll have one too.

wheelz

wheelz's picture

posted by wheelz [60 posts]
3rd December 2012 - 21:26

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Like (21)

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