Bianchi Oltre XR4 road bike

Countervail tech, aero improvements and Bianchi's iconic celeste add up to a stunning bike which looks fast standing still

When one of the oldest and most distinctive bike manufacturers in the world decides to update its flagship aero race bike, you tend to sit up and take notice. That’s what we did – and it’s what you should do too.

Described at the launch as an evolution of the XR2, the Bianchi XR4 brings the aero stable up to scratch, with larger profile tubes for greater aero gain, while also integrating Countervail comfort-improving technology to dial out excess feedback from the road.

In fact, we know from Bianchi’s road product manager, Angelo Lecchi, that Bianchi have set out not to necessarily create the stiffest or fastest bike, but one which brings together “the complete package”. Countervail integration certainly hints at this, but while it has a slightly softer edge compared to its predecessor, it can’t fool us – this is a rip-roaring speed machine, make no mistake.

That’s probably just as well, with the excellent Bianchi Specialissima, inducted into the 2016 RCUK 100, covering the lightweight market, and the Infinito CV the endurance breed. What we want from the XR4 is speed – raw, pure, unadulterated speed.

But let’s also not forget that comfort-improving innovation has its uses for boosting speed – given that aero positions are harder to hold over a given timeframe. By including Countervail, Bianchi have aimed to reduce the tax on the rider’s body, which means that low-down, aero-efficient positions should be easier to hold on long rides. This makes you faster. Simple logic, but effective, definitely.

Thankfully, you get the speed you want, in spades – we had a grin from ear to ear when we tested the Oltre XR4. The aero profiling has been updated in the downtube, seatstays and seattube for maximum wind-cheating efficiency, with stability a key factor in influencing the slightly truncated nature of the tail edges. The XR4 frameset looks downright quick, even when sat still.

It even incorporates a fork design borrowed from the Aquila CV time trial bike, which bows outwards to allow smooth airflow to pass through the gap between the wheelset and the forks themselves. The slender, hourglass headtube also cuts a bit of Aquila-esque shaping – handy considering both play a key role in guiding the air optimally around the frame. No longer is the aero game about making a bike as narrow as possible – now it’s all about sympathetic air manipulation, giving it the path of least resistance.

This is also achieved through details like the striking Vision Metron 5D integrated bar-stem setup, and the very smooth wedge-style integrated seatpost clamp – both serve to give the bike very clean lines while minimising disruption of the air. However, it’s nothing without a stiff platform on which to transfer your power.

RCUK 100 2017, Bianchi Oltre XR4 road bike

In this respect, the XR4 has an oversized bottom bracket for super-stiff responses after each pedal stroke, and with flared stays designed to lap up any potential wastage along the length of the drivetrain, claims of a 20-watt efficiency improvement over the XR2 aren’t likely to be exaggerated.

On top of that, Bianchi have kept the frame weight competitively low at a claimed 980g – again making the ‘complete’ tag ring true. Sure, it’s not as light as an out-and-out climber’s bike, but the Oltre XR4 doesn’t hold back when the road heads uphill.

RCUK 100 2017, Bianchi Oltre XR4 road bike
RCUK 100 2017, Bianchi Oltre XR4 road bike
RCUK 100 2017, Bianchi Oltre XR4 road bike

Bianchi Oltre XR4 Super Record

With the Countervail tech also doing nothing to tie the Oltre’s hands behind it’s back in terms of power transfer or speed, the XR4 is only available with what we’d describe as ‘premium’ groupsets worthy of such a scintillating ride. In fact, the minimum spec you can have it in is Campagnolo Chorus, with Shimano represented by Ultegra Di2.

Our RCUK 100 bike costs £8,350 and satisfies the purists by coming equipped with a Campagnolo Super Record mechanical groupset. It also meets Bianchi’s “complete package” aim by featuring lightweight Fulcrum Racing Zero hoops too, though stick a set of aero hoops on it and this bike will well and truly fly.

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Selected for The RCUK 100 2017

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