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Bianchi’s new Oltre ‘Air Deflector’ tech isn’t UCI legal

Bianchi has now confirmed the Oltre has been approved by the UCI without the addition of the radical Air Deflectors, but that the frame is prepared to mount this component

The ‘Air Deflector’ technology that Bianchi has included on the new Oltre road bike that it announced last week cannot be used in UCI-sanctioned events, reports Cyclingnews

We showed you Bianchi’s radical new Oltre last Tuesday and the Air Deflector airflow channels on the sides of the head tube attracted a whole lot of attention.

> Bianchi unveils radical new Oltre road bike with ‘Air Deflector’ aero tech

Bianchi says that the design was “inspired by the world of motor racing at the highest level to optimise aerodynamic efficiency in every situation”. 

2023 Bianchi Oltre RC Air Deflector - 2

“[We] designed and integrated Air Deflectors (patent pending) into the sides of the head tube, thus channelling airflow and creating a low-pressure zone at the rear of the tube,” says Bianchi.

“The action of the deflectors complements the performance of the new aero cockpit, which generates low-pressure air vortices directed towards the legs of the moving athlete through a centrally located hole.

“The result is a significant reduction in aerodynamic resistance by the athlete-bike system, as certified by wind tunnel testing. In short, results proved higher speed with less effort.”

That’s a big promise. However, Cyclingnews reports that the UCI has said, “The Bianchi Oltre RC was presented and homologated without the so-called deflectors. Therefore the use of the mentioned parts will only be possible outside of UCI-sanctioned events.”

2023 Bianchi Oltre RC Air Deflector - 3

The Oltre that has been added to the UCI’s List of Approved Models of Framesets recently is described as the ‘Oltre Zero Pro-RC’.

This is a little confusing in that Bianchi announced three new Oltre platforms last week: the Oltre RC, the Oltre Pro, and the Oltre.

As mentioned above, Bianchi has described the Air Deflectors as being “integrated” although the UCI suggests that approval was made for the bike without their inclusion.

Companies don’t need to send bikes to the UCI for inspection to receive approval. Submitting the designs so that the UCI can check they conform with the rules is sufficient; no safety testing is involved.

2023 Bianchi Oltre RC head tube - 1 (1).jpeg

Bianchi says, “Compared to the previous Oltre XR4 model, the Oltre RC saves 17 watts at a speed of 50km/h (31mph) and gains 45 seconds over a distance of 40km (25 miles) with a power output of 250 watts/h. 

“In variable wind conditions, the advantage over the best aero bikes on the market increases by 30 percent, ensuring extreme performance even during sudden changes in wind direction.”

For clarity, that statement doesn’t imply that Bianchi says the Oltre RC offers a 30 percent advantage over the best aero bikes on the market. Rather, it says that the advantage over the best aero bikes – which could be tiny for all we know because Bianchi hasn’t released comparative figures – increases by 30% in variable wind conditions.

2023 Bianchi Oltre RC  - 6 (1).jpeg

Supposing Bianchi claimed its Oltre RC offered a 1% advantage over the best aero bikes from competitors – this is just a 'for instance' – that would increase to 1.3% in variable wind conditions, according to the claim. That’s a side issue, though.

The UCI hasn’t cited exactly how the Oltre falls foul of the rules although article 1.3.024 of its Cycling Regulations says, “Any device, added or blended into the structure, that is destined to decrease, or which has the effect of decreasing, resistance to air penetration or artificially to accelerate propulsion, such as a protective screen, fuselage form fairing or the like, shall be prohibited.”

The Clarification Guide of the UCI Technical Regulation says, “Aerodynamic assemblies and protuberances on the head tube or elsewhere are prohibited.”

What does Bianchi have to say about all this? It confirms that the Oltre has been approved by the UCI without the addition of the Air Deflectors but that the frame is prepared to mount this component, so they’re perhaps not as ‘integrated’ as we might have been led to believe.

Mat has been in cycling media since 1996, on titles including BikeRadar, Total Bike, Total Mountain Bike, What Mountain Bike and Mountain Biking UK, and he has been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. Mat has been technical editor for over a decade, 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 winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer. Now over 50, he's riding road and gravel bikes most days for fun and fitness rather than training for competitions.

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