Bianchi Oltre XR4 First Ride

By August 29, 2016Bike Reviews, News

First bikes at Criterium Cycles in September!

Bianchi Oltre XR4

Bianchi Oltre XR4

The gorgeous new Bianchi Oltre XR4

Bianchi’s Oltre XR4 Race Bike was first spotted at the Tour de Suisse in June this year. It was then seen being raced extensively by the LottoNL – Jumbo team at the 2016 edition of the Tour de France. The bike was officially launched during the Tour de France. Criterium Cycles then had the chance to ride the Oltre XR4 at an exclusive preview organised by Bianchi and held in Bergamo, Italy, in July this year.

Overview of the XR4

Before we tell you about the ride (which, spoiler alert, was sensational), let’s look first at the bike itself. The Bianchi Oltre XR4 is the successor to the Oltre XR2, first released in 2012 and used extensively by the LottoNL- Jumbo team ever since. The XR4 is an unashamed speed machine. However, as we will see, it manages to do this whilst being extremely comfortable at the same time.

This added comfort is in no small part due to the introduction of Countervail Vibration Cancelling Carbon technology to the Oltre frame for the first time. Already used to great success with Specialissima, Infinito CV and Aquila CV frames, Countervail combines a viscoelastic carbon material laminated with the carbon fibre itself. Bianchi claim an 80% reduction in vibration and aftershock compared to a standard carbon frame. It really is important to understand that Countervail is present in the entire carbon frame so the whole frame benefits from vibration reduction. Other manufacturers utilise flexible pivots or joints and unsurprisingly, Bianchi believes this gives them a real edge.

The geometry of the Bianchi Oltre XR4 is race – it’s lightweight and highly aerodynamic and I was expecting a fairly aggressive tucked in posture. It wasn’t quite as aggressive as I was expecting though. I can see the Oltre XR4 being the kind of bike that even after 3 or 4 hours in the saddle, it is not going to feel like your spine has been snapped in 2 places! Bianchi claim significant power improvements as a result of this aero shape (20 watts compared to XR2 although this is when paired with the Vision Metron 5D bars – see below ). To back up these claims, Bianchi have released some pretty impressive images of the Oltre XR4 during wind tunnel development using techniques such as flow visualisation. This technique is something used by the guys at Formula 1 teams to eke out fractions of a second per lap. Overall, the changes from the Oltre XR2 are visually quite subtle. But it is the Countervail technology that we were really keen to see (and feel) in action.

Bianchi Oltre XR.4 flow visualisation

Formula 1 flow visualisation techniques used to optimise the aerodynamic performance of the Oltre XR4

We arrived at Nembro, Bianchi’s chosen base for the 2017 model range preview early on the morning of July 20th. It was already clear it was going to be an absolute scorcher. The chosen route for the ride was the stunning climb to Selvino, featuring multiple switchbacks on the ascent with an average gradient of 5 – 6 %. Even before we set off, there were plenty of people in the group looking forward to the descent!

Preparing for the Bianchi Oltre XR4 rideout

A line up of Bianchi Oltre XR4s ready for a test ride

I selected a 59cm frame and the Oltre XR4 I was allocated came with a few optional extras – DuraAce DI2 with Vision Metron 55 carbon wheels. Coupled with the Vision Metron 5D bars, the look was slightly sci-fi but still attractive as well as purposeful. For a full list of the various spec options, check out the table at the foot of this blog.

We set off at a relatively gentle pace but even at such a pace, the impact of Countervail was instant. Back home in the UK, I ride a Bianchi Infinito CV with Ultegra DI2 but the difference with the XR4 was startling. Partly that may have been the fact that Italian Tarmac is better than British tarmac. Even accounting for that, the Oltre XR4 is a totally different proposition to the Infinito. It is compliant but not in any way soggy. In fact it feels taut with the steering inputs absolutely precise and confidence inspiring (useful I thought for the descent!). Yet it definitely absorbs those vibrations. This is no grand tourer. It is a fully spec’d racing machine but it does it in a way that feels comfortable and lacking any sense of twitchiness. I struggled with the apparent contradiction in this for all of a nanosecond and then settled back to enjoy a truly wonderful climb up an equally wonderful mountain.

Selvino Climb on Bianchi Oltre XR4

The Strava map of the Selvino climb. Wonderful!

I am the first to admit that I am not the fastest rider up or down a steep mountain. However, thanks to a fair amount of endurance running in my legs, I can keep up a decent cadence on a gradient like the Selvino climb whilst in the saddle. And it was the Fizik saddle I found slightly challenging after a while so at one point I stood up out of the saddle to give my backside some respite. The reaction was instant. With more power now going through the bottom bracket and all of that increased power being transferred into propelling the bike forwards, the Bianchi Oltre XR4 quite literally accelerated from under me on a reasonable uphill gradient. The sensation was extraordinary and brilliant.

The descent was equally memorable. The bike negotiated the tight switchbacks of the Selvino road like it was on rails, inspiring absolute confidence and ever increasing speed.

Summary of the Bianchi Oltre XR4

Overall, this is a seriously fast bike but it delivers this performance whilst at the same time being very comfortable. This is no doubt considerably thanks to the use of Countervail Carbon Vibration Cancelling technology. If you are looking for a bike that goes very quick yet offers the potential to spend a decent amount of time in the saddle then the Bianchi Oltre XR4 ought to be high up your list. The fact that it looks absolutely gorgeous as well makes it even more tempting. Five colourways are available including the classic Celeste of the bike I rode in Italy.

Availability

Criterium Cycles will take delivery of our first Bianchi Oltre XR4 in September. Why not sign up to our email newsletters to be the first to hear when the new bikes arrive? To sign up to our newsletter, simply scroll down the page and fill in the easy to use form just under the Instagram photos.

Richard and the Bianchi Oltre XR4

Enjoying the sunshine (and the Bianchi Oltre XR4) in the square at Selvino

Specifications

Super Record EPS 11sp

Compact 52/36

Wheels Fulcrum Racing Zero C17
Option Wheels Fulcrum Racing Zero Carbon
Option Wheels Campagnolo Bora Ultra 50
Option Crankset Rotor 3D+ InPower 52/36

 

Super Record 11sp

Compact 50/34

Wheels Fulcrum Racing Zero C17
Option Wheels Fulcrum Racing Zero Carbon
Option Wheels Campagnolo Bora Ultra 50
Option Crankset Rotor 3D+ InPower 52/36

 

Chorus 11sp

Compact 50/34

Wheels Fulcrum Racing Quattro C17
Option Wheels Fulcrum Racing Zero Carbon
Option Wheels Campagnolo Bora Ultra 50

 

DURA ACE DI2 11sp

Compact 52/36

Wheels Fulcrum Racing Zero C17
Option Wheels Fulcrum Racing Zero Carbon
Option Wheels Campagnolo Bora Ultra 50
Option Crankset Rotor 3D+ InPower 52/36

 

DURA ACE 11sp

Compact 50/34

Wheels Fulcrum Racing Zero C17
Option Wheels Fulcrum Racing Zero Carbon
Option Wheels Zipp 404 Firecrest
Option Crankset Rotor 3D+ InPower 52/36

 

DURA ACE MIX 11sp

Compact 52/36

Wheels Fulcrum Quattro C17
Option Wheels

 

Ultegra DI2 11sp

Compact 50/34

Wheels Fulcrum Racing Quattro C17
Option Wheels Fulcrum Racing Zero Carbon
Option Wheels Zipp 404 Firecrest

 

RED eTAP 11sp

Compact 50/34

Wheels Fulcrum Racing Zero C17
Option Wheels Fulcrum Racing Zero Carbon
Option Wheels Zipp 404 Firecrest
Option Crankset Rotor 3D+ InPower 52/36

 

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: