We take a look through the 2018 range from the Italian marque that claims to be the world's oldest surviving bike manufacturer
Bianchi bikes is a brand that dates back to 1885. Founded in Italy, its headquarters and culture has remained rooted in its homeland.
The bikes are designed and pieced together in its Treviglio factory, though the majority of production now takes place in Taiwan.
Synonymous with Bianchi is Celeste. Also called ‘Bianchi Green’, almost all frames come available in the customary hue. Surprisingly, it has changed slightly over the years – but it’s always recognisable and the brand has its own flock of fans who wouldn’t think to ride a bike in any other colour.
In its early days, Bianchi produced motorbikes as well as bicycles – tying up with Fiat and Pirelli to create Autobianchi – but this arm was eventually sold to Fiat, leaving the bike makers free to focus on people-powered machines.
The Bianchi range is far reaching, consisting of aero race bikes as well as those with an emphasis on endurance. In most cases, performance remains a hefty part of the remit; a Bianchi is not typically the first port of call for a commuter looking for a value option.
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Bianchi Dama Bianca bikes
Bianchi doesn’t alter its geometry for female riders. Instead, it produces ‘Dama Bianca’ bikes – named in reference to Italian Tour de France and Giro d’Italia winner Fausto Coppi’s lover Giulia Occhini.
These come with female specific touch points – narrower handlebars, women’s saddles, shorter stems and in some cases shorter cranks. Only the endurance focused models are available in a Dama Bianca build, but since the geometry is unchanged, all of them could be made so with a few component adjustments.
Bianchi bike sizing
Bianchi has always been proud of its sizing range – with some models available in up to nine sizes, from 44 to 61 – meaning it’s easy for most people to find a comfortable fit.
All bike brands measure their sizes slightly differently, but it’s fair to say that Bianchi bikes come up fairly big when compared to the American giants.
Bianchi first introduced Countervail technology embedded into its Infinito frames. The material was patented by the Materials Sciences Corporation, and has elsewhere been used in military helicopters to reduce vibration. Its use for bicycles was developed by Bianchi and tested in NASA aerospace operations. Sounds high tech right?
In short, Countervail technology is a process of manufacturing that sees a viscolelastic resin used in conjunction with structural carbon.
The result is a dampening effect that Bianchi says cancels out 80 per cent of vibration whilst increasing stiffness and strength.
The Bianchi 2018 range
Bianchi Specialissima (race)
The Bianchi Specialissima is the brand’s lightweight race bike. The geometry is designed for pros, and though an oversized head tube and bottom bracket offer ample stiffness, the claimed frame weight is as low as 780g.
Comfort isn’t forgotten – Bianchi has woven its Countervail tech into the frame, with the aim of reducing fatigue and helping riders to go harder and faster for longer.
A frame will set you back £3,899.99 and the only available ready-made builds use Shimano Dura-Ace, SRAM eTap or Campagnolo Super Record.
Testing the £8,300 Shimano Dura-Ace option with Fulcrum Racing Zero Nite wheels, our reviewer gave the bike a 9 our of 10, commenting: “The Specialissima delivers everything you’d expect from a superbike and looks amazing too. If only the bike came with some slightly plusher wheels it would be perfect. The frame looks and feels very special indeed.”
Bianchi Oltre XR3 and XR4 (race)
The Oltre is Bianchi’s aero race pedigree, but it’s available in two different frame options. The XR4 is the top of the range choice, raced by pro cyclists on team LottoNL-Jumbo.
Where many aero race machines provide a harsh ride, Bianchi bucks the trend, adding Countervail technology to create a smooth passage, whilst aero tubing and an integrated Vision Metron 5D aero bar/stem combo slice through the air. The head tube takes notes from Bianchi’s Aquila time trial bike, and you get all the aero nods you’d expect such as a hidden integrated seatpost clamp.
A size 55 frame comes in at 980g, and the geometry is race inspired and places the rider in a long and low position.
A frame will set you back £3,399 – and as per the Specialissima, you can only buy built bikes with the best of the best. There is also a ‘Triathlon’ build, which comes with Vision Metron 4D Flat clip-on extensions.
The XR3 does use different tubing to its bigger sibling, but the down tube and chainstays are identical and it still carries pronounced aero shapes, just minus the integrated bar/stem combo. You still get the buzz-reducing Countervail, too.
If the Oltre range is out of reach, then the Aria is the alternative. Design cues from the Aquila time trial bike are still present, including an aero fork plus integrated seatpost clamp. The key loss is that of Countervail technology, so the ride will be a little harsher.
Models start at £2,250 with Campagnolo Centaur, or £2,300 with Shimano 105. The Aria is available in a ‘Triathlon‘ build, with short reach Vision Team Mini TT Clip-On TT bars in 170mm length.
Bianchi Sempre Pro (race)
For those seeking Bianchi performance with agressive geometry, at a more wallet-friendly price point, the Sempre Pro rounds off the race range.
The carbon frame boasts plenty of stiffness, with an oversized bottom bracket, though there’s no real aero claims and Countervail tech isn’t on offer.
Prices start at £1,750, with Campagnolo Centaur, and max out at £2,100 with Shimano Ultegra.
Bianchi Infinito CV and Infinito CV Disc (endurance race)
The Infinito CV – available with rim or disc brakes – moves into endurance territory. However, it’s ‘endurance race’ – meaning that although you’ll find a higher head tube, longer chainstays and longer wheelbase for greater comfort and stability when compared with models like the Oltre XR4, it’s still designed to make the rider feel fast and agile.
All frames are carbon with Countervail technology woven in. Models start at £3,000 for the rim brake Shimano 105 option, with the cheapest disc brake version at £4,300 with Shimano Ultegra and hydraulic stoppers.
There’s a total of eight built models, and of course wheel choice varies – but notably all options come with swish 25c Vittoria Rubino Pro G+ Isotech graphene tyres, plus compact chainsets which will offer plenty of gears for the hills.
Bianchi Intenso (endurance race)
The Intenso, like the Infinito, is an ‘endurance race’ model. The stack and reach measurements are the same, though sizes start from 44 as opposed to 47, which perhaps suggests Bianchi expects more women to buy this slightly cheaper option.
It wouldn’t be unimaginable that readers are seeing a pattern developing here – but for clarification, the key difference between the top end Infinito and the lower end Intenso models is the loss of Countervail technology.
This does mean that the six model line-up can start from £2,000 for the rim brake Campagnolo Centaur build, rising to £2,500 for the Shimano 105 equipped entry-level hydraulic disc version. All chainsets are compact again, with Vittoria Zaffiro Pro Slick tyres in 25c.
Bianchi Via Nirone 7 (endurance race)
The Bianchi Via Nirone might be the entry-level choice in the stable, but named after the address of Edoardo Bianchi’s first workshop in Milan, it’s a model with a lot of heritage and thus it’s received some very careful design attention.
There’s five Via Nirone options, plus one ‘All Road’ version for venturing off the beaten track.
For 2018, the frame now uses higher quality 6061 aluminium that is hydroformed and triple butted, meaning there’s three tube wall thicknesses to allow it to be as light but stiff as possible.
Whilst you can’t have Countervail tech, you do get kevlar inserts (K-Vid) inside the carbon fork, dampening out some of the buzz.
The bikes start at £750, with Shimano Claris, and top out at £1,250 with Shimano 105. The road models use Vittoria Zaffiro tyres in 25c, whilst the All Road model, which features Shimano Sora with mechanical discs for £1,000, features 32c Kenda Kwick Tendril rubber.
Concluding our review of the Shimano Sora version, we commented: “The basics are all present with the Bianchi Via Nirone 7. The ride quality of the exceptional frame is ace, but the slightly lacklustre components like the wheels, tyres and brakes not only bring the weight up but hurt its handling a little bit.”
Bianchi Intrepida and Bianchi Impulso (endurance)
Unlike the families above, the Interpida and Impulso options have just one model each to their name. They’re also ‘endurance’ as opposed to ‘endurance race’ in geometry – resulting in a taller head tube and shorter reach.
The lack of models within this family probably says all there is to say about the brand’s interest in the slower-paced end of the endurance scale.
The Intrepida enjoys a carbon frame, coming in at £1,500 with a Shimano Tiagra groupset. The Impulso is the aluminium option, featuring Campagnolo Centaur at £1,300.
The direction of these models is perhaps hinted at with the introduction of the Impulso All Road.
This family boasts two models, which both sport a rather modern-looking barcode graphic. Both options – £2,000 for Shimano 105 and £1,500 for Shimano Tiagra – use hydraulic disc brakes and come with 35c Kenda Flintridge rubber that will roll over, well, all roads.
Bianchi Aquila CV Time Trial bike
Bianch’s Aquila CV time trial bike is an agressive beast. Available in sizes Extra Small to Large, the Small enjoys a stack and reach of 492/403. Though we’ve yet to put one to the test at CW we reckon you can expect a decent drop.
The Aquila’s tube shapes provided the inspiration for frames like the Oltre – so of course you get aero shapes including an hourglass shaped head tube, bowed forks, plus an integrated bar and stem set up using Bianchi’s own custom handlebar design.
Countervail technology is present, as is represented in the £5,500 price tag attached to the Shimano Ultegra model.
Bianchi Zurigo Cyclocross bike
Perhaps Bianchi feels that light off-road use is catered for with its Impulso and Via Nirone 7 All Road models, because there’s just one cyclo-cross option: the Zurigo Disc.
The aluminium frame comes with a carbon fork, alloy seatpost and mechanical Avid brakes with Shimano Tiagra shifting. The tyres are Kenda’s aptly named 35c Happy Mediums and the built bike comes in at £1,350.
Bianchi Pista Sei Giorni and Bianchi Pista Steel
The Pista models are both singlespeeds, but with very different objectives.
The Pista Steel uses butted steel and comes with a flip-flop hub, so it can be ridden as a singlespeed as opposed to fixed. The Sei Giorni comes with an aluminium frame, and is designed to be used as a track bike – though both models come initially specced with 48T chairings and 16T rear cogs, which creates a rather small 82in gear that would need to be swapped for the boards.
With RRPs of £850 for the Steel and £950 for the Sei Giorni, the models received 7 and 6 out of 10 respectively when we put them to the test – both losing marks for being a bit heavy and underspecced for the price.
Bianchi makes some thrilling geared road bikes which have dwelled more in the 9/10 arena when reviewed. Those looking to invest in a Bianchi might be better off shopping within the brand’s specialism; we’re not sure its focus is quite so well placed in the singlespeed arena.
Last but not least, the L’Eroica couldn’t be ignored. The traditionally built frame acknowledges the history of the brand with lugged Columbus Zona tubing, albeit double butted, plus down tube shifters for the 10-speed Campagnolo groupset.
The tyres are Vittoria Rally 25mm tubulars, set on Ambrosio Montreal wheels.
This bike is fit for riding the Tuscan classic, L’Eroica sportive, and costs £2,700.