The Bianchi Sempre Pro is a first class, mid-range racing machine that we’d recommend to riders with speed at the top of their agenda.
We’ve ridden two incarnations: an edition equipped with SRAM Red and Vision TriMax 42mm carbon-alloy clinchers intended for the Italian market, and this model, one of five configurations available in the UK, fitted with Shimano Ultegra Di2 and a Fulcrum Racing Quattro wheelset.
The frameset was stiff, but not uncompromising. Sprints along flat roads showcased the Sempre Pro’s excellent power transfer; seated climbs produced another tick for its ability to convert rider input to forward motion. Much of this ability we believe stemmed from the 406mm chainstays, which contributed to a tight rear triangle.
The Sempre Pro’s stiffness was not limited to the rear end. It could be felt laterally, too; the legacy we’d say of the giant downtube and lozenge-shaped top tube. This quality was most apparent when wrenching at the bars during out of the saddle sprints, and on high-speed descents through corners.
Upfront, things felt direct. Steering inputs were quickly processed, producing a lively, responsive ride better suited perhaps to the experienced rider than the newcomer. The trend for a 1.5 inch lower bearing at the headtube has been one declined by Bianchi’s Italian rivals, Wilier, who claim it makes the front end too stiff, but has become increasingly de rigueur, and on the Sempre Pro inspired in us the confidence to push the bike through corners.The groupset
Electronic shifting is still a relatively new development. Our test bike was equipped with Shimano Ultegra Di2, making it, at £3900, the flagship of the Sempre Pro range. The newness was obvious in the bulky design of the derailleurs and the external battery, but not in the performance, which was excellent.
Newcomers to Di2 will find the shifting performance revelatory, especially at the front mech, which lifts the chain and dumps it on the required ring in faultless fashion. Having done so, its final correction to eliminate chain rub is truly inspiring. Similarly, the position of the shifting controls (microswitches placed on the outer edge of the brake lever and the inner edge of the shift lever) could scarcely be more intuitive.
The worst that can be said of Ultegra Di2’s electronic shift is that it is a bit, well, mechanical. There is no human input into its length or character. Changing gear requires no more skill than summoning a lift. And shifting is strictly a one-at-a-time procedure. All of these issues have been addressed by the now-programmable 9070-iteration of Dura Ace Di2, and such developments are almost inevitably bound for the next overhaul of its Ultegra equivalent.
Lest you think this has become a review of Shimano Ultegra Di2 rather than a Bianchi Sempre Pro, we should highlight that mechanical incarnations of the bike are available at a considerable reduction. The Campagnolo Athena model, for example, costs £1,200 less for a spec identical in all other areas. The saving might allow those for whom £2,700 represents a budget ceiling to own a bike with the Sempre Pro’s excellent chassis, or others, able to reach the £3900 price tag of our test bike but not fussed by electronica, to upgrade a mechanically-equipped model. Which bring us to…
The FSA Energy chainset. We noted our disappointment at its inclusion on such a fine machine in our first look, and its performance proved to be little more than adequate. We’ve found nothing to fault Shimano’s Ultegra turbine in other contexts and would liked to have seen it here. The Italian edition of the Sempre Pro we rode last November boasted FSA’s carbon-armed SLK offering, notably stiffer, though admittedly supplied in tandem with more affordable SRAM Red mechanical components. In short, the chainset supplied with our test bike would be one we’d seek to upgrade.
Also on the list of parts to improve would be the Fulcrum Racing Quattro wheels. While they performed steadily enough, they did nothing to inspire the Sempre Pro to levels clearly indicated by the character of the frame. Those callous enough to ride a bike this beautiful through winter will find the Quattros well matched to the season.
For summer duties, however, lighter hoops with quicker engagement will coax more from the Sempre Pro’s willing chassis. How do we know? Again, we refer to our earlier experience with the Italian model, which came equipped with Vision TriMax T42 carbon-alloy hoops; not of themselves stunning, but which were able to offer a greater clue to the Sempre Pro’s true potential.
Finishing kit is largely a matter of personal preference (we weren’t wild about the San Marco Concor saddle, or the 42cm bars) but we were pleased to note the matched and credible appearance of FSA’s Reparto Corse bars, stem, and seat post. The carbon wrapped stem was especially attractive.Conclusion
In an industry increasingly obsessed by the ‘comfort’ and ‘compliance’ demands of the sportive market, it’s nice to see a manufacturer of racing bikes manufacture a racing bike. This is especially pleasing from a company with Bianchi’s heritage. The Sempre Pro is fast, responsive, lively, and stiff. Stamp on the pedals at it will leap forward. We like that.