We take a look at the beautiful Bianchi Specialissima
The original Bianchi Specialissima was made famous in the 1950s by multiple Grand Tour winner Fausto Coppi. The latest incarnation is the Italian company’s flagship climbing bike and is the sister/brother to the Oltre XR4, Bianchi’s aero bike and weapon of choice for the LottoNL-Jumbo pro team.
This is possibly the most beautiful and elegant bike that money can buy. Should Bianchi’s signature celeste not be to your taste, you could have it in any other colour you want thanks to the Tavolazza custom frame builder on Bianchi’s website.
There is also a rather tasty matte black version with celeste logos, pictured below. There are loads of lovely little details, such as celeste bottle cage bolts and seatpost clamp.
This latest version has a claimed frame weight of just 780g and an all-carbon fork weighing in at 340g.
These weights put the Bianchi Specialissima at the forefront of lightweight frame technology, alongside other such mountain goats as the 750g Merida Scultura Team Edition and the 690g Trek Emonda SLR.
However, what’s great about this bike is that the weight isn’t even the main selling point.
Although it is not designed as an endurance bike, the Bianchi Specialissima shares the same Countervail anti-vibration technology as its cobble-devouring brother, the Bianchi Infinito CV.
This is a technology that is claimed to have been developed for NASA, whereby layers of the Countervail material are built into the high-modulus carbon layup of the frame and forks, which aims to improve comfort.
But despite this vibration-dampening technology, a quick glance at the Bianchi Specialissima’s geometry is enough to confirm that this is a pure race bike, even if its classic round tube shapes make it stand out from the aerofoil tube shapes that now dominate the bunch.
The original Specialissima we reviewed at the end of last year was specced with Campagnolo Super Record, but in 2017 the Super Record version retails at an eye-watering £8,900, whereas the £8,300 of the Dura-Ace 9100 version we have here arguably offers better value.
Fulcrum Racing Zero Nite wheels are shod with excellent 25mm Vittoria Corsa G tyres. They are excellent hoops but for this price we would expect something lighter (or more aero) — these weigh over 1,500g.
You get the full Dura-Ace groupset though, with no skimping on parts. The chainset is compact 50/34t and the cassette an 11-28t.
The rest of the components on the Bianchi Specialissima are all high-end and Italian through-and-through.
FSA’s top of the range K-Force Light finishing kit is used for the seatpost, stem, and bars, while the saddle is a carbon railed San Marco Aspide.
As you would expect from a bike costing £8,300 and weighing 6.6kg, the Bianchi Specialissima is incredibly stiff and incredibly responsive and is a complete pleasure to ride.
Of course it’s in the hills where the Bianchi Specialissima really excels.
The excellent power transfer combined with the low weight makes for a bike that bounds up steep gradients, making this one of those bikes where you hit the toughest slopes of a climb and look down to see you’ve still got a couple of gears in reserve.
To really put the Bianchi Specialissima to the test, I took it to the Lake District and set about riding up the fearsome Hardknott Pass.
With a max gradient of over 30 per cent, Hardknott is a horrific road that will fill even the most nimble of mountain goats with apprehension. Fortunately the Specialissima left me feeling that I had chosen the best tool for the job.
In such an extreme climbing environment the Bianchi excelled and I was even able to smash my previous best Strava time. OK, so I was still minutes off the KOM, but still…!
And down the other side of climbs, this bike is just as good. The handling is excellent, with an agility that means you can have great fun attacking descents, flying to the bottom to look around to see that your mates are trailing behind in the distance, struggling to keep pace. Bianchi has done an excellent job with the geometry.
Road surfaces in the Lake District are often not the best, but the Bianchi Specialissima copes very well at reducing buzz and vibration from grippy tarmac. It isn’t on the same bump-reducing level as the new Specialized Roubaix, but for rough roads it is superb. Especially so when you consider it is a race bike.
There’s no avoiding the fact that for most people £8,300 is a hell of a lot to be spending on a bicycle, so for this sort of money you are going to be expecting a dream bike – and that’s exactly what the Bianchi Specialissima is.
Yes, it could come with lighter or higher-spec carbon wheels (although if you’re spending this much money on a bike then you’ve probably got some of these lying around at home anyway), but this is the sort of bike that is a joy to ride, putting a smile on your face every time you jump aboard.
The Bianchi Specialissima is very special indeed.
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.