review

Bianchi Oltre XR1 Veloce road bike

8
£2,700.00

VERDICT:

8
10
Entertaining handling with plenty of speed; lacks composure on rough roads; the specification lags behind rivals
Weight: 
7,950g
Contact: 

A fast and lively character makes Bianchi's new Oltre XR1 an appealing package for anyone seeking a fast performance bike, whether it's for racing or just enjoying a rapid ride in the countryside.

The Oltre XR1 is a more affordable version of the flagship Oltre XR2 released last year, which Mat reviewed in £6,800 trim not so long ago and absolutely loved, finding it 'lightweight, rigid and very, very fast.' The good news is that the more affordable XR1 runs that bike very close in performance terms. Critically none of the sensation of speed or fine handling has been compromised in Bianchi's desire to make the Oltre platform more affordable. It's a fun and fast bike to ride if belting along the road as fast as you can is top of your list.

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Frame: Visually identical to top-end Oltre but with more affordable carbon

The original Oltre XR introduced a new frame design for the Italian company, with tube profiles clearly designed to be aerodynamic and including an aero seatpost. That design blueprint was carried through into the updated XR2 but with an increase in frame stiffness.

To produce the Oltre XR1, the same mould is used - hence the frame has an identical shape - but a different, more affordable, carbon fibre is used to construct the frame. As well as using a more affordable grade of carbon fibre, the XR1 frame doesn't have the X-Tec technology found in the more expensive versions. X-Tec, if you've not heard of it, is basically extra strips of carbon fibre moulded in a grid pattern around the head tube and bottom bracket area, with the idea being to increase the rigidity in the frame.

The carbon fibre changes have resulted in a small weight increase - Bianchi claim a 55cm frame is about 200g heavier than the XR2's claimed 895g, but that's still a respectable weight. The XR1 has one-piece moulded carbon fibre dropouts rather than the Oltre XR2's bolted dropouts and aluminium inserts. It might save a bit of weight, but it does look more aesthetically pleasing.

In fact, the Oltre frame is a very good looking thing, a nice collection of curves that is satisfying to the eye. The frame is available in the classic and iconic celeste colour you see before you now, or a more modest and conservative black paint job. Bianchi has been restrained with the graphics on this frame compared to the XR2 that Mat tested; a good thing in my book.

There are some nice details. The seat clamp is seamlessly integrated into the top tube and secures an aero seatpost in place. I had an issue with the seatpost being extremely tight in the seat tube, so getting my desired saddle height was more of an effort than it really should have been.

Like the XR2, this bike gets fully internal cable routing, with the Campagnolo gear cables passing through the down tube and the rear brake cable inside the top tube. The frame is compatible with electronic groupsets so it could stand an expensive upgrade like an EPS or Di2 groupset.

While there are overriding similarities yet small differences between the affordable XR1 and expensive XR2, one area that they are identical is in the geometry. The important thing to take away from the geometry chart is that this is very much a race bike, with a short head tube and stretched top tube. There's not the same concession to comfort as you get with the company's Infinito CV. That'll either work for you or it won't, but if you've read this far into the review you're probably in the market for a race-ready bike so it won't put you off.

Build: Decent spec but the budget has gone into the frame

Campagnolo equipped production bikes are rare, which is a real shame as I really like the ergonomics and tactile feel of the ErgoPower hoods, I actually find the shape fits in my hands better than both Shimano and SRAM's levers. The new downturned shift lever - the small paddle located on the inside face of the hood and used for up changes - is much easier to use and more easily reached when in the drops. It's a long overdue change.

The XR1 is available in four builds, of which this £2,700 Veloce model is the most affordable. Veloce is Campagnolo's entry-level groupset and is 10-speed. You don't get quite the full groupset on this bike, there's an FSA Gossamer Pro chainset plugged into the pressfit bottom bracket. The gears and shifters provided smooth shifts and the brake calipers provide firm and progressive braking.

Vision's Team30 wheels weigh in at a claimed 1,770g for the pair and feature a 30mm deep aluminium rim with aero bladed spokes, CNC machined braking surfaces, sealed cartridge bearings in the hubs and a 2:1 rear spoke lacing pattern. They're a stiff and responsive wheelset but they're not the most electrifying in terms of acceleration and outright speed, but they're very durable and the braking surface produced good stopping power.

Wider 25mm tyres are rapidly becoming standard and the Oltre XR1 comes with 25mm Vittoria Zaffiro Pro Slicks. The extra volume is appreciated and being able to run slightly lower pressures with no trade-off in rolling resistance overcame some of the harshness that occasionally intrudes into the generally high quality ride.

The complete bike weighs 7.95kg (17.52lb).

While it's all very good kit, you don't have to look too far to find better specced bikes for similar money. The high quality frame clearly takes up a substantial amount of the budget and this shows in the groupset which is a few notches below similarly priced rivals. It's clear when you look at the Bianchi Sempre I reviewed last year. That bike offers high quality Campagnolo Athena in 11-speed guise and the whole bike is £500 cheaper. You're paying a lot for the XR1's frame then, and it is a very good frame, a significant advancement over the Sempre which mirrors the geometry of the newer bike.

Ride: Fizzy and exciting, but lacks composure on rough roads

Don't think the downgrade in carbon fibre negatively impacts the performance of the frame. It's still impressively stiff and on a preview ride of the Tour de Yorkshire, over a hilly course with some fast roads and chasing David Millar (he's still pretty fit despite having retired last year) the XR1 displayed a very commendable level of rigidity and stiffness. Up the steep Cow and Calf climb there was clearly no lack of stiffness through the lower half of the frame when pushing hard on the pedals, out of the saddle, in a deliberately high gear.

The position the geometry creates - and I changed the stem for a longer 12cm to achieve my desired reach - is well suited to those cyclists who favour riding as fast as possible. It certainly won't be for everyone, but if you like to hunker down on the hoods or bury yourself into the drops, the XR1 produces an aerodynamic position with a focus on fast and responsive handling.

On flat and rolling roads, the XR1 has a real punchy character. The weight is also less of an issue on such roads, and the excellent 52/36t chainring combined with the generous 12-27t cassette provides a suitable spread of gear ratios. At 7.95kg it's not exactly a heavyweight but get it onto any climb over about 15% in gradient and you can feel the effects of gravity start to unravel the exciting pace that the bike displays on most other roads.

The one note of caution with the XR1 is in the lack of smoothness when riding over any road surface that isn't buttery smooth. Despite the 25mm tyres, there's a lot of feedback through the contact points. While this means you're not removed from what is happening underneath the tyres, it can feel quite aggressive at higher speed and a little nervous when descending fast on a road scarred with pot holes, cracks and sunken drain covers. I'd like a slightly softer setup to allow you to exploit the available speed but with greater composure on bumpy roads.

This fizzy handling is the real highlight of the XR1 though, it's a very engaging bike. It's not one for sitting back and taking in the views, it's for pushing those pedals as hard as you can and attacking every single corner, crest, rise, dip and descent. It's hard to criticise its lack of composure on rough roads when it rewards with such pace and verve. I never finished a ride on the XR1 with anything but a smile on my face.

Conclusion

None of the excitement and pace has been diluted in the desire to offer the XR platform at a more affordable price point. The specification is lacklustre compared to its rivals, but it doesn't dent the energetic, exciting and fun-fuelled handling and pace that the XR1 provides. If you want a fun riding bike, the XR1 is very entertaining and won't fail to put a smile on your face.

Verdict

Entertaining handling with plenty of speed; lacks composure on rough roads; the specification lags behind rivals

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road.cc test report

Make and model: Bianchi Oltre XR1 Veloce

Size tested: Mint green,

About the bike

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

The new Bianchi Oltre XR1 has all the advantages of the Oltre XR2 at a groundbreaking price point. Being a high-end race bike weighing only 200g more than the XR2 frame the Oltre XR.1 is our bang-for-the-buck. Rigid, aggressiv, fast - a classic race bike built to win.

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?

Bianchi's race-ready Oltre XR was launched in 2012, followed up by the improved XR2 in 2014, and is this year joined by the new XR1, a more affordable version built using a slightly modified frame with a different carbon layup, and four builds starting with this Campagnolo Veloce model costing £2,700.

The new Oltre XR1 looks identical to the XR2. That's because it essentially comes out of the same mould, but it uses a different grade of carbon fibre to keep the price a bit more affordable. There's none of the reinforcing X-Tex in this frame, which is used around the head tube and bottom bracket of the XR2 to boost stiffness. The seatstays are typically skinny in an effort to provide some smoothness over bumpy roads.

Frame and fork

Overall rating for frame and fork
 
9/10

Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?

Race-ready geometry that is identical to the more expensive Oltre XR2 on which this new bike is based.

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

Perfect if your prefer a racy stretched out position and low at the front.

Riding the bike

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

In terms of fit, yes it was. In terms of vibration absorption, not so much.

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

No lack of stiffness when you lay down the power on a climb or sprint, it's very responsive to hard pedalling.

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

Yes.

Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?

Very fast and engaging handling. It's typically aggressive in its intentions, not for taking in the views when out cycling, but head down and charging.

Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?

While all the components worked just fine, there are better specced rivals at this price point.

Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's stiffness? would you recommend any changes?

Lighter wheels would bring the overall weight down and a change to a carbon fibre handlebar might improve the comfort on rougher surfaces.

Rate the bike for efficiency of power transfer:
 
8/10
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:
 
8/10
Rate the bike for cornering on descents:
 
8/10
Rate the bike for climbing:
 
7/10

The drivetrain

Rate the drivetrain for performance:
 
8/10
Rate the drivetrain for durability:
 
8/10
Rate the drivetrain for weight:
 
7/10
Rate the drivetrain for value:
 
6/10

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:
 
7/10
Rate the wheels and tyres for comfort:
 
8/10
Rate the wheels and tyres for value:
 
9/10

Controls

Rate the controls for performance:
 
8/10
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? I would save up for a higher specced model.

Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Maybe.

Rate the bike overall for performance:
 
8/10
Rate the bike overall for value:
 
7/10

Anything further to say about the bike in conclusion?

None of the excitement and pace has been diluted in the desire to offer the XR platform at a more affordable price point. The specification is lacklustre compared to its rivals, but it doesn't dent the energetic, exciting and fun-fuelled handling and pace that the XR1 provides. If you want a fun riding bike, the XR1 is very entertaining and won't fail to put a smile on your face.

Overall rating: 8/10

About the tester

Age: 31  Height: 180  Weight: 67

I usually ride:   My best bike is:

I've been riding for: 10-20 years  I ride: Every day  I would class myself as: Expert

I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo cross, commuting, touring, mtb,

 

David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.

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