Bianchi have unveiled an update to their flagship frame – now known as the Oltre XR2 – which has also become the latest super-bike to join the disc brake revolution.
Bianchi have overhauled their range for model year 2014, with 80 per cent of the collection updated, including the introduction of the all-new Intenso, but it was the Oltre XR2 Disc that caught the eye at the firm’s presentation in northern Italy. It is, along with the Colnago C59 Disc, one of only a few disc-equipped race machines.
The Oltre XR2 is the latest evolution of the top-of-the-range frame ridden by the Bianchi-sponsored Vacansoleil-DCM team, having started life as the Oltre in 2011 before becoming the Oltre XR last year.
For 2013 the frame gets a new BB386 bottom bracket to improve stiffness and reduce weight, and an integrated tapered headtube/fork (claimed weight for the fork is 355g) for a sleeker front-end and to improve aerodynamics.
The unveiling of SRAM’s hydraulic disc brake-ready Red 22 groupset in May should see an influx of disc-equipped machines, and the Oltre XR2 Disc is one of the first frames we’ve seen dressed in the new group.
The Oltre XR2 is, of course, available in a range of rim brake builds but the Disc version of the frame has been specifically designed for disc brakes, with more carbon fibre added to the left-hand chainstay to account for the increased braking forces generated by the 160mm post-mount discs.
The frame itself (in both its disc and regular guises) is made from a combination of UMS40 and CN60 ultra high modulus carbon fibres and has a claimed frame weight of 895g for a size 55cm. That’s light but not super-light by modern standards. The Cannondale SuperSix Evo frame, to cite one example, comes in at less than 700g.
Out back, the ultra-thin seatstays help build a bit of comfort into what is a thoroughbred racing machine, while the aero seatpost comes in four lengths (250mm, 300mm, 350mm and 380mm), depending on which of the seven frame sizes (47cm to 61cm) you opt for.
Besides the Oltre XR2 Disc, the regular rim brake-equipped Oltre XR will be available in six builds, three electronic and three mechanical: Campagnolo Super Record EPS, Shimano Dura-Ace Di2, Shimano Ultegra Di2, and Campagnolo Super Record, Shimano Dura-Ace and SRAM Red 22.
If you opt for the Campagnolo Super Record EPS build then it’ll come with Campag’s new internal battery. It’s a cylindrical design which slots into the Oltre XR2’s seattube, just above the bottom bracket, and is charged via a small external port.
We took a Campagnolo Super Record-equipped Oltre XR2 out for a two-and-a-half hour ride around Lake Iseo so keep an eye out for a first ride report soon.
Sempre Pro updated
While the Oltre XR2 was the showstopper in Italy, Bianchi also unveiled significant updates across the rest of its road range.
Bianchi’s range is split into three categories – Hors Categorie, Born for Performance and Coast to Coast – with differences in geometry and technology – and price – to reflect the target consumer.
The Oltre XR2 occupies the Hors Categorie, erm, category and, as such, Bianchi describe it at as a machine for riders who have a “racing mindset and a competitive attitude”. That’s not to say machines in the Born for Performance and Coast to Coast collections aren’t race-ready, however.
The Sempre Pro occupies the Born for Performance category and is used by the Bianchi-sponsored Androni Giocattoli squad, one of 23 teams who raced last month’s Giro d’Italia.
We reviewed the existing Sempre Pro earlier this year and called it “fast, responsive, lively and stiff”, and this 2014 version gets a new PressFit bottom bracket and tapered headtube (1-1/8″ to 1-1/5″) to boost the tube profiles in the downtube and headtube, thereby improving rigidity and handling. Like the Oltre XR2, it also has Bianchi’s ultra-thin seatstays.
Frame weight for a size 55cm is 1,050g, which is approximately 100g lighter than its predecessor, and the Sempre Pro is available in five builds: SRAM Red 22, Shimano Ultegra Di2, Shimano Ultegra, Shimano 105 and Campagnolo Veloce.
Infinito CV in the flesh
It’s already been a big year for Bianchi following the launch of the Infinito CV ahead of Paris-Roubaix in April. Officially part of the 2014 range, Infinito CV is Bianchi’s ‘comfort’ bike and the launch in Italy gave us an opportunity to take a closer look.
The Infinito CV is part of Bianchi’s Coast to Coast range. That’s reflected in the more relaxed geometry (taller headtube, longer wheelbase), designed for improved comfort and stability. The frame technology, however, remains optimised for racing.
The frame uses what Bianchi call Countervail technology to cancel road vibrations. Countervail was developed by Bianchi in conjunction with the Materials Sciences Corporation in the United States and viscoelastic material has been embedded into carbon layup. Bianchi are keen to stress the Countervail technology cancels vibrations before they reach the rider, rather than merely dampening them.
Otherwise, the frame has a tapered headtube (1-1/8″ to 1.5″) and a PressFit bottom bracket, while claimed weight (again, for a 55cm) in a frame where comfort takes priority still falls below the sub-kilo barrier at 990g. The fork also has an aero profile and, reflecting its position both as a ‘comfort’ bike and a machine designed to tackle the harshest roads in cycling, the frame can also take 28mm tyres.
The Infinito CV will be available in seven builds: Campagnolo Super Record EPS, Shimano Dura-Ace Di2, Shimano Ultegra Di2, Campagnolo Super Record, Shimano Dura-Ace, Campagnolo Chorus, Campagnolo Athena, Shimano Ultegra. But, stop the press, the Infinito CV will also come in a Disc version.
Entry-level, carbon fibre Intenso unveiled
While the Infinito CV is aimed at a high-end market, the Intenso is a more affordable alternative in the Coast to Coast range and that’s reflected in its three build options: Shimano Ultegra, Shimano 105 and Campagnolo Veloce.
The frame itself is a carbon fibre monocoque affair and has a tapered headtube (1-1/8″ to 1-1/2″), which is paired with a full-carbon fork. While the Intenso doesn’t have the Countervail technology of the Infinito CV, it does have vibration-damping Kevlar inserts to help take the sting out of rough roads.
The frame uses a BSA bottom bracket and, like the rest of the carbon range, has neat internal cable routing throughout. Target weight is 1,230g. It also uses Bianchi’s Coast to Coast geometry; again, designed to offer a slightly more upright riding position through a taller headtube, and a more relaxed ride thanks to a longer wheelbase.
Moving onto aluminium, and the Impulso, based around a triple hydroformed frame, remains unchanged. The Via Nirone 7, however, has been updated and now has a hydroformed, triple-butted 7000-series aluminium frame which Bianchi say is more rigid that before. A carbon/aluminium fork, which, like the Intenso, has kevlar inserts, slots into the frame.
The Via Nirone will come in six builds: Shimano 105, Campagnolo Xenon, Shimano Tiagra, Shimano Sora and Shimano Claris (the Japanese firm’s new entry-level, eight-speed groupset).
Finally, Bianchi didn’t have anything new to show us in their time trial range but did say there’s something new slated for model year 2015. Watch this space.