Bianchi Oltre Super Record EPS Road Bike – Unboxed, Weighed & First Rides

2012 Bianchi Oltre Campagnolo EPS road bike initial review and actual weights

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…

2012 Bianchi Oltre Campagnolo EPS road bike initial review and actual weights

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.

2012 Bianchi Oltre Campagnolo EPS road bike initial review and actual weights

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.

2012 Bianchi Oltre Campagnolo EPS road bike initial review and actual weights

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.

2012 Bianchi Oltre Campagnolo EPS road bike initial review and actual weights

2012 Bianchi Oltre Campagnolo EPS road bike initial review and actual weights

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.

2012 Bianchi Oltre Campagnolo EPS road bike initial review and actual weights

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.

2012 Bianchi Oltre Campagnolo EPS road bike initial review and actual weights

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.

2012 Bianchi Oltre Campagnolo EPS road bike initial review and actual weights 2012 Bianchi Oltre Campagnolo EPS road bike initial review and actual weights

Curves and lines everywhere you look. The battery mount and hole are very close together, minimizing the amount of visible wiring.

2012 Bianchi Oltre Campagnolo EPS road bike initial review and actual weights

2012 Bianchi Oltre Campagnolo EPS road bike initial review and actual weights

Color matche, custom Bianchi celeste green components make it emotionally difficult to swap things out.

2012 Bianchi Oltre Campagnolo EPS road bike initial review and actual weights

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.

 

 

NOTES:

 

Comments

Hater - 05/04/12 - 10:21am

Slam the stem. Don’t be a girlie man.

Steve M - 05/04/12 - 10:27am

12k? not bad! for new Ducati……

A Stray Velo - 05/04/12 - 10:45am

The electrical cable that enters into the downtube from the handlebar/shifter area doesn’t look like it was thought out very well. In a couple of pictures it’s just hanging there. Not a very nice finishing detail. They could have had the cable come in some where behind the headtube on the top tube or the headtube itself.

Same goes for the rear brake cable coming out of the top tube entering into the rear brake itself. I know for sure I’d rub my left leg on that and it would annoy me.

For 12k I’d expect every little detail to be perfect. This isn’t it…

Fikret Atalay - 05/04/12 - 11:36am

“The other issue is that the stock 120mm stem length on the 59 bike I’m testing is too long”.

120 mm stem is very typical on larger frames. Too long for the tester, perhaps? Given the complaints about the stem length and the saddle being pushed all the way forward in the pictures, it looks like that may be the case.

Also, the analysis on the affect of stem length on steering seems inaccurate. Usually, all else being equal a shorter stem gives a more “twitchy” feeling (not that your body wouldn’t adapt to it pretty quickly). My bikes with 120-130 mm stems all handle fine going uphill and coming down.

Chris - 05/04/12 - 1:01pm

This bike is pretty much my no-budget dream purchase. Well, it might be tough between this and a LOOK with a Mondrian paint scheme.

This bike has a subtle paint scheme that, despite it at a glance looking like every other matte black bike that’s all the rage now, but a second look lets all the fine details stand out, and it’s awesome.

You could almost mistake the seatstay for a spoke, that’s how thin it looks.

I love the color matching on the cockpit parts, and would hope that any shop who orders one of these gets quick access to different sized parts to make sure the buyer rides away with a fitted, matching bike.

Collin - 05/04/12 - 2:03pm

Really 5K just for the frame? I remember in 2007 when 5 grand for the whole S-works Tarmac was entering a new relm of expensive. The new game is “screw completely innovation, lets compete for the most expensive bike.”

Blayne - 05/04/12 - 2:48pm

Fikret Atalay is correct. A 120mm stem is about right, and many larger boxed bikes are specced with even longer stems.

Fitters don’t want to see 90mm or 100mm stems except for on very small frames. Most of the time we’re shooting for the 120mm stem on every fit we do. The shorter the stem, the more twitchy the handling. Anything longer makes for a slower handling bike.

Now, if the tester of this 60cm bike is moving the saddle forward (and ignoring the proper position) and wanting for a much shorter stem, we’ve probably got too large of a bike.

Let me ask the tester this: did your upper back and/or shoulders ever get sore during any of the test rides? If so, then you’re way too stretched out on this bike, and probably need one or even two sizes smaller.

Also, I don’t advocate cranking a seatpost binder bolt beyond the spec stamped on it, ever. Use carbon assembly paste, don’t ever overtighten.

speedy - 05/04/12 - 3:53pm

Swap the stem. Get comfortable. You can always take photos with the old one mounted again. Surly you have a few 100mm or 110mm stems laying around to try?

Phil - 05/04/12 - 5:32pm

Seems a bit unfair to a proper review of the bike to be riding a bike that is by your own description not fit correctly.

Normal industry spec on a bike this size is indeed 120mm but so what, change it. As others have mentioned a need to crank the seat forward and bring the stem back could very well indicate a frame size that is not appropriate and as such the handling characteristics would not be optimized.

with reference to Blayne’s response, I am curious to any hard data that would suggest that all proper fits would have a 120mm stem with only few exceptions. The frames geometry, handlebar dimensions, lever style, rider biomechanics and other factors all weigh in too stem length decisions, and a 90 or 100 stem can certainly produce a fit on that is correct and correct for the handling of the bike. In the 80′s with the traditional Italian road geometry I would have agreed more with you, but with the trend toward longer nad longer top tubes, high stack headtubes, compact and sloping frames and other geometrical changes common and recommended stem lengths have been getting shorter just as short reach bars are becoming more common with modern brifter designs.

On the point of matching components, you can always order a shorter matching stem to maintain the look. That’s not a very good reason for not changing. That’s akin to complaining about the color of the handlebar tape. and I have to agree that the cable routing looks sloppy, there are much cleaner routing examples for far, far less money.

Tyler - 05/04/12 - 6:11pm

Blayne – I went through a professional fit when I visited Parlee a few weeks ago and used the measurements to set this bike up, which is why the stem is flipped to give me a bit more height on the front end. I’m quite comfortable on the bike, even on three hour rides, but would prefer a slightly shorter stem. Bike size is spot on.

To be clear, I’m not advocating torquing any bolt beyond the manufacturer’s recommendations, but without carbon paste handy, it was the only way to keep the post from slipping. At the recommended torque I got about 100 yards out of my driveway before the post was an inch too low.

About saddle position, I use a plumb line from my kneecaps to line things up, which is how it ends up where it is. I’ve ridden s,aller frames and they just feel too small…things like toe/wheel overlap become an issue.

Mike - 05/04/12 - 7:19pm

I’m on to my 4th Bianchi carbon frame. All 4 have cracked on the chainstay behind the BB. I’m 80kgs.
I purchased the Ullrich black and celeste carbon XL back in 2004 – that lasted 3 months (also seat tube crack)
Replacement was an Alessio/Bianchi team frame – lasted 6months.
Then a black and white 928 – 12 months
…and finally a 928 C2C carbon that barely fits because of the ‘comfort’ geometry. This is also cracked but I can’t be bothered dealing with a warranty again.

Bianchi frames look nice and ride ok but really aren’t built to last in my experience. A friend who worked at the local distributer said they had a skip bin full of failed warranty frames at the back of the warehouse…

bike1225 - 05/04/12 - 10:25pm

For real. This is about the least appetizing machine of recent memory. 13 grand for a Bianchi? Bianchi? Good on you guys at Bikerumor for getting to the point where a company will send you a Campy EPS group to play with. Take a pic with the stem proper, it looks horrible. Bianchi may be a faint shadow of their former self (as many companies are) but they deserve a decent pic. But come on…Anytime but a bike when you could have gotten a 6 series Madone with Di2 or Specialized Tarmac with Di2 or Cervelo R3 (or R5) with Di2 or any number of custom Ti bikes with Di2 and still have money for a Zipp wheelset and a really fancy dinner or 5 you should not buy the bike that costs as much as these. This bike is marketing garbage.

Ben - 05/06/12 - 10:06pm

Bike 1225:

I love that you created a whole post which is based around the absurd price of this bike, and 2 of the companies you have mentioned offer bikes at 10k plus. And you realize that Specialized offers a bike for 18k. So, yeah. Not sayin’, just sayin’.

Nevzilla - 05/07/12 - 2:54am

I have the same bike except built with Sram Red 203 grouppo. I have not had any seatpost slippage as I use carbon prep paste on mine, I can torque to 4nm with zero slipping.

This is one amazing bike and I have enjoyed every mile on it. I posted 2 reviews on mine on my website http://www.nevcragg.com

Its fast light and comfortable to ride, yet super stiff. Incredible.

jivanss - 05/08/12 - 2:20pm

As for the long stem, Euro bike companies seam to go one size smaller frame then USA standard hence the longer stem. Also bars are narrower to help compensate for the longer stem. I’m a 56cm x 44cm bar x 110mm stem for USA but for the European bike I would be a 54cm x 42cm bar x 120mm stem. Euros go for the more aero rider position (narrower, lower, longer). Yes on the carbon paste… it’s a must for all carbon parts. Nice bike for sure.

Mike - 05/09/12 - 6:55am

Thanks for the review. Want to hear more about the EPS.

I can’t believe you didn’t use carbon paste on the seat post … WTF! : )

b*tcH - 05/11/12 - 12:31pm

SLAM THAT STEM! The bike looks nasty! the builder should be fired! It could look super sick if built right! 15lbs even without pedal. HAHAHAHA

Tropt - 05/13/12 - 9:31pm

I think what they meant was- 15 lbs even, without pedals.

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