Bianchi’s Oltre road bike is their top of the line Grand Tour racing road bike, and our test model is spec’d out with the new Campagnolo EPS electronic group. It’s a no-expense-spared racer, complete with logo color matched FSA carbon stem and handlebar, Campy Eurus 2-Way Fit wheels and Fizik saddle that comes in at a whopping $12,900 MSRP. Frameset only (EPS/Di2 version) is $4,999.
The frame is a mix of carbon fiber and Bianchi’s X-Tex, Nano-Tube, WMP, and UTSS technologies. In order, those are carbon strips are woven between carbon layers to increase strength and stiffness (X-Tex), carbon nanotubes are added to the resin to improve fracture resistance (Nano-Tube), Wrinkleless Molding Process (WMP) keeps the insides of the tubes smooth to reduce or eliminate stress risers, and Ultra Thin Seat Stays (UTSS) to improve road compliance. All of that is molded into very shapely, thin road bike with quite a few aero features.
Is it worth the price? It might be a bit early to tell, but scroll down to see the frame details, weights and first impressions…
OVERVIEW & WEIGHTS
One of the first things out of the box is another box, and it’s chock full o’ goodies. Bianchi bikes, at least the higher end ones, come with a carbon bottle cage, Bianchi water bottle, cheap front and rear lights and a chain catcher. This particular bike also came with all of the Campagnolo EPS instructions (which are voluminous) and the charger.
Despite a very narrow headtube, the fork is tapered, hiding a full 1.5″ lower section in there. Fairings trail behind the fork crown to smooth airflow onto the downtube.
The headtube has only a slight bulge to provide a wider junction with the top tube, which gets really, really narrow as it arcs backward to the seat tube.
The seat tube is teardrop shaped with a cut out for the rear wheel. Every tube on the bike has some angular, chiseled sections, yet the overall look of the bike is never too hard. Compared to so many of today’s massively oversized downtubes and chainstays, the Bianchi Oltre seems almost petite…but it’s super stiff where it counts.
It’s also compliant where it counts, like in the seatstays. They’re thin and flat and seem to do a good job of eating up chipped up asphalt and small square edged bumps.
Down here is where it’s stiff. Stand up, throw the bike side to side and crank and it feels tremendously rigid. The bottom bracket is BB30, which requires Campy’s Ultra-Torque OS-Fit cups. The lines flow nicely throughout the frame. On more than one occasion, other riders in the group commented on how beautiful the bike is.
For the electronic-specific frameset, there are smaller holes at the front of the frame for wires. On mechanical framesets, the cables enter at the front of the downtube and pop out of the recessed area just in front of the BB, keeping them mostly tucked out of the wind. Note the “V” shape of the downtube’s underbelly and the matte, dark gray crowned eagle company logo. Sharp.
Curves and lines everywhere you look. The battery mount and hole are very close together, minimizing the amount of visible wiring.
Color matche, custom Bianchi celeste green components make it emotionally difficult to swap things out.
Bianchi offers six sizes in the Oltre, from 47 up to 59. We’re testing the largest, a 59, which weighed in at 15.0 lbs even without pedals.
FIRST RIDE IMPRESSIONS
So far, I’ve put in four solid rides on the Bianchi, including the Burnsville (NC) Metric Century and a day-after jaunt up to the top of Mountain Air (including it’s 32% grade grand finale).
The first two rides were in the greater Daytona/Ormond Beach area in Florida, where the roads are flat and there’s typically wind in one or more directions. Yes, sometimes the wind seems to be blowing in multiple directions depending on which side of the Halifax River you’re on, and it can mess with your head. Both times I finished saying “Damn, this bike is fast!”
Those rides were 34 and 31 miles respectively, and on the latter my average was close to 19mph. I haven’t checked the Garmin for the first ride, but it was similarly fast. There were long stretches were I was holding 22mph, and riding into the wind I was able to steadily plow along at 17-point-something. The surprising part of all this? I wasn’t killing myself to hold these speeds.
It’s quite easy to go fast on the Oltre. It’s stiff when standing up to hammer, very stable through the turns and surprisingly comfortable over less than perfect pavement. It’s no cobble crusher, but the Ultra Thin Seat Stays seem to do their job. It also feels lighter than it is, particularly when standing up and cranking.
Only two minor issues have popped up so far: The seatpost seems to slide down despite a thorough overtightening. The recommended 3.5Nm is nowhere near enough force, but I’m hoping some carbon friction paste does the trick. We’ll see. At the moment the seat binder bolt is cranked to about 6.6Nm and I still have to double check it occasionally. The back of the seatpost has small dots as a visual height reference.
The other issue is that the stock 120mm stem length on the 59 bike I’m testing is too long. I’m tempted to swap in a 100mm, but the matching celeste graphics make it a tougher decision. The issue with such a long stem is it provides too much leverage over the steering. With a “normal” length stem (most fitters try to dial you in around a 90mm to 100mm stem), it’s a balance between control and the inherent stability provided by a rotating wheel. Give the rider too much leverage and one-handed riding becomes a bit sketchier. It also made the handling feel a bit too quick on the steeper, faster descents in the NC mountains. Subbing in a shorter stem will let me see if this is the Oltre’s natural handling characteristics or if it’s just the stem.
Bianchi’s not shouting from the rooftops about the Oltre being an aero bike, but it might just be the aero bike you really want…one that doesn’t look like it. First impressions are darn good, though. And for the price, they should be.
As for the Campy electronic shifting, I’ll do a separate post on that.