Verdict: Accomplished in every respect, it just comes at a price
Pros: An aero bike that’s every inch nimble race-machine
Cons: An aero chassis this good comes at a premium price
Bianchi’s Oltre has evolved from its first rim brake-equipped semi-aero pro race machine to this latest XR4 model, which is a full-on aero machine where every inch of the beautifully sculpted frame is optimised to cheat the wind.
So, you won’t find a stray external cable messing with the clean lines and even the colour co-ordinated bar from Vision is the latest 5D ACR model of which the patent-pending design of the bar/stem combo and the ACR (aerodynamic cable routing) headset internalises the cable from the bar and cleverly through the headset.
I’d expect the deep aero-shaped tubing of the chassis and fork to make for a solid bike, but it’s here where Bianchi’s clever countervail technology comes into play.
Countervail is a clever mix of carbon fibre layup combined with a viscous-elastic resin that acts as a damper to null road buzz and vibration.
On the road the XR4 has a rigid feel but one that isn’t harsh. The bike does ping across the surface of the road and, combined with the 73-degree head angle and straight fork, makes for a bike that darts through corners and can be corrected in an instant.
The ride position is also unforgivingly aggressive with a low 575mm stack height and long 575mm top tube, which puts you low down and in full-on attack mode. The wheelbase of just 5mm over a metre means the XR4 is short and so adds to the bike’s overall agile feel.
Quite often aero bikes can be more about stability at speed; a bike for going fast in a straight line, sort of a pseudo time-trial machine. Thankfully the Oltre is anything but.
At its heart it’s a flighty race bike, all about flickable handling that moves as fast as your reactions, such as split-second shifts to avoid potholes or to get to the front of the pack through a gap, which are all within the XR4’s very capable hands.
The gearing is aimed at stronger riders with its 52/36 and 11-28 combination and I found the XR4 a rapid bike over any terrain. The compelling mix of its brutal efficiency and low weight meant I always felt like I wanted to attack climbs at full chat.
Descending on the XR4 is a joy too, with its blend of supreme stiffness at the front-end from the cockpit and oversized head tube, and straight-lines for confidence-inspiring handling, to the surefooted grip and brake control that the excellent Ultegra hydraulic units and Icetech rotors bring — even if they did get a little vocal after some heavy braking on a longer descent at speed.
The downside of such a wonderful chassis and cockpit combination (a 5D bar alone is the best part of £500) is that I did get left with the feeling that I was getting short changed elsewhere.
There’s nothing wrong with Ultegra Di2, it’s a wonderfully accomplished drivertrain and deserving of all the superlatives it regularly receives, and the same can be said for the deep carbon Fulcrum Racing Quattro carbon wheels (an upgrade over the standard UDi2-equipped XR4 at £6,500), though they do come shod with decent but not top-tier Vittoria Rubino tyres. I just think that for such a high price tag I’d be right to expect range-topping equipment, and that’s the issue I have.
Bianchi Oltre XR4 Ultegra Di2 Disc specifications
- Sizes (*tested): 47, 50, 53, 55, 57, 59*, 61cm
- Weight: 8.05kg
- Frame: Oltre XR4 carbon
- Fork: Bianchi full carbon
- Chainset: Shimano Ultegra
- Chain: Shimano Ultegra
- Derailleurs: Shimano Ultegra Di2
- Shifters: Shimano Ultegra Di2
- Wheelset: Fulcrum Racing Quattro DB carbon
- Tyres: Vittoria Rubino Pro 25c
- Stem: Vision Metron 5D ACR UD carbon one-piece bar/stem
- Bar: Vision Metron 5D ACR UD carbon one-piece bar/stem
- Headset: FSA
- Saddle: Fizik Arione
- Seatpost: Bianchi carbon aero
- Brakes: Shimano Ultegra hydraulic disc
Bianchi Oltre XR4 Ultegra Di2 Disc geometry
- Seat angle: 73 degrees
- Head angle: 73 degrees
- Chainstay: 41.2cm
- Seat tube: 54cm
- Top tube: 57.5
- Head tube: 17.5cm
- Wheelbase: 1,005mm
- Price: £7,600