The Bianchi Oltre XR4 is a lightweight race bike that puts in a superb performance. It's agile and mega-stiff with pin-sharp handling, and it's comfortable enough that you can thoroughly enjoy long rides rather than counting down the miles until it's time to get off.
In the past, we've reviewed:
They've all impressed us very highly, so we had high expectations of the XR4 (Bianchi has bypassed the XR3). It doesn't disappoint.
One of the biggest changes from previous Oltres is the inclusion of Bianchi's Countervail technology for the first time.
'Countervail is a patented viscoelastic carbon material with a unique fibre architecture that cancels up to 80% of vibrations while increasing the stiffness and strength of our carbon frames and forks,' says Bianchi.
The Countervail material, from Materials Science Corporation, is embedded within the Oltre's carbon structure.
Bianchi tells us that by eliminating road buzz the Countervail maximises your control, reduces muscular fatigue, and allows you to hold your aero riding position at high speeds for longer.
Countervail technology might be new to the Oltre but Bianchi already uses it on the Specialissima, Infinito and Aquila (time trial) models.
You think it sounds like snake oil, right? I must say, my bullshit detectors flash red and the klaxons start blaring as soon as I hear any claims like this, despite Bianchi's demonstrations with table tennis balls on the frame (you might need to watch the video to find out what I mean).
It's not that I doubted the properties of Countervail, it's that there are a helluva lot of factors that influence how a bike performs and feels, and I wondered how much of a difference this one could make to the whole. I mean, things like the saddle, seatpost, handlebar and tape, wheels, tyre width and pressures, the shape and profile of the frame tubes and fork legs... they all affect vibration damping.
I still wonder how much of an influence the Countervail has outside the lab and on the road. I just can't say for sure because it's impossible to isolate that one element, but I can tell you that the Oltre offers a ride with a marked absence of vibration. Everyone who has ridden this review bike has said the same thing unprompted. There's just a bit less flutter than usual coming though to the contact points. Whether that's down to the Countervail I couldn't tell you for sure, but this is a super-smooth bike.
Don't get me wrong, it's subtle, and the Oltre XR4 feels exactly like any other road bike when you hit a big bump or your front wheel drops into an unseen pothole. It's the high frequency chatter that gets told to pipe down a bit.
Does the Countervail help you hold an aero riding position for longer, as Bianchi suggests? Maybe for some people although I didn't notice that I was able to maintain a tuck position for any longer than usual on the Oltre XR4. Although vibration enters into it, to me that's more about bike fit. It is, though, a very smooth experience at all speeds, and that adds to the composure of the ride.
The Oltre XR4 isn't a one-trick pony. Even if the Countervail technology doesn't impress you, there's plenty more going on here. This is an entirely new frame.
Bianchi has been busy updating the shape of the frame tubes as a result of CFD (computational fluid dynamics) and flow visualisation, a technology that's used extensively by F1 teams.
The aero head tube is said to have been inspired by Aquila CV time trial bike profiles. It is available with two different top cups, one for use with a conventional stem and the other for use with the Vision Metron 5D combo handlebar/stem that we have fitted to our review bike (more on that later). This handlebar and top cup give an integrated front end.
Bianchi has switched to direct mount brakes, the rear one completely shielded by the wishbone seatstays, and the seatpost clamp is now a wedge type design, the bolt tucked inside the top tube.
Bianchi says the changes have resulted in significant aerodynamic improvements over the XR2. Its wind tunnel data says the XR4 has a '20 watt power gain' over the XR2 at 50km/h (31mph). In other words, the power needed to hold 50km/h on the XR4 is said to be 20 watts lower than the power needed to hold 50km/h on the XR2. Five watts of that is down to the new handlebar (see below) while the frame is said to be worth 15 watts.
Even the pro peloton doesn't average 50km/h so we're not sure how relevant that statistic is. Air resistance increases exponentially with speed so the savings you could make in the real world would be considerably lower. We're not in a position to verify wind tunnel data so you can decide for yourself whether you're convinced by Bianchi's claims.
One area where the Oltre XR4 really scores is in its frame stiffness. There's virtually no flex through the centre of the bike, even when you get out of the saddle and sprint. Select a stupidly high gear and throw it from side to side in an exaggerated manner and the bottom bracket stays exactly where the bottom bracket should be. The whole frame just feels very efficient.
Some high-end aero bikes can flex quite a bit as manufacturers shed grams but Bianchi hasn't made that mistake here, and this is a lightweight bike. Our complete 57cm model hit the road.cc Scales of Truth at 6.53kg (14.4lb). Once you've added pedals, that puts it round about the UCI's minimum weight limit for racing.
Bianchi claims a frame weight of 980g (55cm frame, +/-5% black) and a fork weight of 370g. If you want lighter, Bianchi's Specialissima has a claimed frame weight of 780g, but that's not a bike with any aerodynamic features. Read our Bianchi Specialissima review here.
Anyway, the point is that the Oltre XR4 feels superbly efficient around the bottom bracket despite its low weight. It's a similar story up front where the steering is excellent, giving you the courage to slam the bike hard into corners and jump about in a group of riders knowing that you'll end up exactly where you want to be. No sketchy reactions, no dicey moments, just fantastic handling whatever the situation.
The Oltre XR4 is available in various different builds. These are they:
• Super Record EPS (£9,500)
• Super Record mechanical (£7,500)
• Chorus mechanical (£4,700)
• Dura-Ace Di2 (£8,600)
• Dura-Ace mechanical (£6,800)
• Ultegra Di2 (£5,000)
• Red eTap (£7,500)
In addition, some of the builds have different wheel and chainset options, so there are actually 26 choices in total, all built around the same Oltre XR4 CV frame. You can have Zipp 404 Firecrest wheels on the Shimano models, for example, with the price adjusted accordingly. The frameset price is £3,100.
We have the Campagnolo Super Record mechanical build but with Campagnolo Bora Ultra 50 Dark tubular wheels. That bumps the price up to £9,500. Wow!
I won't go into depth on the groupset because I'm guessing that most people buying a bike like this will already have a preference, but it is superb. I've not had a single issue with any component during testing. If there's a weakness, braking on the carbon fibre rims isn't the best in wet conditions, although the direct mount brakes do pack a punch. Oh, and I found the Vittoria Corsa tubs needed topping up every single ride. If I rode in the evening, they'd need pumping up again the following morning, which was a bit of a pain.
One other component that's worth mentioning is the Vision Metron 5D integrated handlebar/stem. It's made using a continuous carbon composite construction and is notable for the fact that the aero-section tops arc forward 10° from the centre. Vision reckons that this 'accommodates the natural position of your arms for more comfort and easier breathing'.
I must say that this took some getting used to. I found that if my hands were on the tops, the sweep of the bar made my elbows point out in a Chris Froome style. Still, I guess it's done him no harm. On the plus side, this is probably the stiffest aero handlebar I've ever used and the compact shape (80mm reach, 125mm drop) is bound to be popular.
The Bianchi Oltre XR4 really is a superb bike, picking up where its predecessors have left off. It's lightweight, reactive and very smooth, and if Bianchi's claims are to be believed, it's highly aerodynamically efficient too. If you have money in your pockets and racing on your mind, this is one of the very best.
Lightweight, quick to react and very, very smooth, this is a superb pro-level race bike
road.cc test report
Make and model: Bianchi Oltre XR4 Super Record
Size tested: 57cm
About the bike
State the frame and fork material and method of construction. List the components used to build up the bike.
Frame Oltre XR.4 carbon w/Countervail, mechanical/electronic shifting compatible, headset 1.1/8>1.1/4in, direct mount brakes, PressFit 86,5x41mm
Fork Bianchi Full Carbon Aero, 1.1/8>1.1/4in
Headset FSA Orbit C-33 Matt UD Carbon 1.1/8">1.1/4in
Shifters Campagnolo Super Record EPS Ergopower 11sp
Rear derailleur Campagnolo Super Record EPS 11sp
Front derailleur Campagnolo Super Record EPS
Chainset Campagnolo Super Record Ultra-Torque CT TI Carbon 50/34
Bottom bracket Campagnolo Ultra Torque OS-Fit integrated cups 86,5x41mm
Chain Campagnolo Record 11sp
Sprocket Campagnolo Super Record 11sp 11-27T
Brakes Campagnolo Record, direct mount brake
Wheels Campagnolo Bora Ultra 50 Dark tubular
Tyre Vittoria Corsa G+ Isotech graphene 700x25 tubular
Handlebar/stem Vision Metron 5D Integrated Aero bar, UD Weave Carbon, drop 125mm, reach 80mm, Di2 compatible
Seatpost Bianchi Oltre Full Carbon Aero, clamp with alloy head adjustable and reversible +/- 35mm
Saddle Fi'zi:k Arione R3, w/WingFlex, rail carbon braided 7x9mm
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 race bike.
Bianchi says: "Your body contributes about 80% of aerodynamic drag on the bike so staying in your most aero position as long as possible is vital for fast times. With our new Bianchi Oltre XR4, enhanced with revolutionary Countervail vibration cancelling technology that increases control, reduces fatigue and frame turbulence that affect performance, you will be able to hold your most aero position at high speed for longer to maximise your aerodynamic advantage.
"Developed for NASA by the Materials Sciences Corporation, Countervail is a composite-material system that combines viscoelastic carbon material within a unique fibre preform to cancel road vibrations and reduce turbulences in the frame that can affect its performance. Countervail enhances the rider's peak power output by maximising the vibrational dissipation in the surrounding polymers. Countervail® is exclusive to Bianchi CV frames and forks for unparalleled cancellation of vibration, ensuring the frame's optimum performance at peak power output and high speed, and eliminating road buzz to reduce rider fatigue.
"Aggressive race geometry, lightweight, highly aerodynamic and with Countervail®'s unique vibration-cancelling technology, the Oltre XR4 keeps you in position to race faster. Oltre XR4 has been developed and tested in cooperation with Bianchi-supplied World Tour Team LottoNL-Jumbo, and has already collected remarkable successes on the World stage with Dylan Groenewegen and Sep Vanmarcke. Oltre XR4 is also currently used by the Dutch team at the Tour de France."
Frame and fork
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
It's carbon fibre with Countervail. See above and in the main body of the review for details on Countervail.
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
The Oltre XR4 CV is built to a race geometry that's very slightly altered from that of the XR2, with head tubes 5mm shorter across all seven sizes to take account of a new headset system.
The 57cm frame that we have for review has a head tube that's 155mm rather than the previous 160mm. The stack height (the vertical distance from the centre of the bottom bracket to the top of the head tube) is 557mm (down from 561mm), and the reach (the horizontal distance between those points) is 395mm (up from 393mm).
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
It's low and stretched, although you get a stack of spacers if you want to keep the front end higher.
Riding the bike
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
The ride quality is superb. This is a very smooth bike.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
It's very stiff, especially in the bottom bracket area.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
Very efficient. This is a high point.
Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so, was it a problem?
A little, but rarely an issue.
How would you describe the steering? Was it lively, neutral or unresponsive? The lively side of neutral.
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
It feels super-efficient and it corners beautifully.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?
I got on well with the Fizik Arione R3 saddle with carbon braided 7x9mm rails, although I'll never understand why the extended section at the back is there.
It's great stuff, but Super Record wouldn't be top choice for value.
Tell us some more about the drivetrain. Anything you particularly did or didn't like? Any components which didn't work well together?
I would definitely prefer a 52/36-tooth chainset over the 50/34-tooth one fitted here. It is an option.
Wheels and tyres
Tell us some more about the tyres. Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the tyres? If so, what for?
The air needed topping up before every single ride, which was a pain.
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Very much.
Would you consider buying the bike? If I had the money, it would be on the shortlist.
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your score
It's a superbike with a superbike price tag. The cheapest complete Bianchi Oltre XR4 you can get is £4,700. Bianchis don't tend to be cheap and you don't need me to tell you that's a lot of money.
If you average out the score of 9 for performance and 7 for value, the overall score would be 8... but that's not the way we do things here. I think the quality of the performance outweighs the value in this instance (feel free to disagree) and the bike is exceptional enough to score 9 overall.
About the tester
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: commuting, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding
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.