The Bianchi Oltre XR4 fits its superbike status right down to the carbon derailleur - it's a fast and aggressive aerodynamic race bike, but Bianchi's use of space age 'Countervail Technology' means there's a welcome addition of comfort in there, too.
What sets this bike apart is that it provides the best of two conflicting worlds: comfort and aerodynamics, without making sacrifices on either - which is why we chose it to sit among the Cycling Weekly Editor's Choice bikes of 2017 - a privilege afforded only to the best bike we've tested all year.
The Oltre XR4 was updated for 2017 with a focus on aerodynamics and comfort.
Bianchi claims the model can save a rider 20-watts at 50kph when compared with the predeceasing XR2. The redesign added 85g to the frame weight (in a size 55), but in terms or raw speed the slippery frame can outrun the added grams.
Wind cheating attributes are noticeable - the down tube curves to meet the rear wheel, Vision Metron 5D handlebar and integrated stem look set to cut through the air with knife-like precision, and chunky tube profiles at the fork and down tube present clean lines.
Five of the 20 saved watts are attributed to the handlebar. The all carbon construction results in a velvet smooth ride, but its stiffness means that it really packs a punch when you get out the saddle - the front end acting as one unit as opposed to thrusting from side to side as a standard set-up might.
Handling is on point - offering precision with an edge of daring: on test we felt like it was more a battle of our own skills vs the bend of the road – there was no doubt the bike could always handle it.
The chunky down tube and bottom bracket shell no doubt add to the quick-footed accelerations which make this clearly a race-winning worthy machine.
'Comfortable aero bike': an oxymoron?
‘Comfortable aero road bike’ has long been considered an oxymoronic phrase, but Bianchi has aimed to provide the answer using its ‘Countervail Technology’ party trick – a frame treatment that aims to offer a notable element of spring over even the roughest of surfaces.
Countervail technology was developed by Bianchi and has been proven in the “extreme conditions of NASA aerospace operations” so it’s really space-age stuff. Experts discovered that they could embed a layer of countervail viscoelastic material across the frame, using a unique carbon-fibre architecture. It’s claimed that this increases vibration cancellation by 80 per cent – a lofty assertion.
Regardless of the actual percentage saving in comfort, it’s undeniable that the result is a ride that dampens out the worst of road buzz and thus leaves a rider fresh to make the most of the wattage savings on offer.
The Oltre XR4 was designed to be a race bike – and its geometry is aggressive. The head tube on our 50cm frame measured 110mm and stack and reach stood at 499/384: the drop to the bars was notably lower than that of most steeds in the average bike shop.
Dressed in the best
This isn’t necessarily a bike created with a focus on value for money – unless you place a high value on having the very best money can buy.
The Oltre XR4 is available dressed in a range of different guises, with groupsets from Campagnolo Super Record to Dura-Ace and SRAM Red eTap. Almost all of the built specs sit at the higher end of the pricing structure but framesets can be purchased, too, for £3,300.
Our model came in at £8,350, with a groupset which featured Campagnolo Super Record shifters and Record brakes. The top-end Italian groupset performed as expertly as expected, notably the Record brakes were so sharp they could almost rival the stopping power of disc brakes – at least in the dry.
Fulcrum Racing Zero wheels were dressed in Vittoria Corsa tyres, in 25mm – and inflated to 80psi these certainly leant a hand to the comfort factor provided by the Countervail tech.
Bianchi has fitted this model with Rotor INpower cranks – deserving of a review in their own right, and a set that offers a stiff platform for quick accelerations.
The seatpost is locked into place using a small wedge at the clamp, hidden from the wind, and obviously all cables are tucked away inside the frame while a custom Garmin or generic computer mount can be fitted at the front.
If it's just too much, there is the Bianchi Oltre XR3 which still enjoys much of the same tech, with a few features missing - such as the bar and stem integration - resulting in a price drop.
Brand new for the Oltre XR4 is the option to customise your new bike using their Tavolozza colour configurator. The custom paint job scheme allows up to 2,000 colour combinations, which will be applied by hand in Italy.
Michelle Arthurs-Brennan is Cycling Weekly's Tech Editor, and is responsible for managing the tech news and reviews both on the website and in Cycling Weekly magazine.
A traditional journalist by trade, Arthurs-Brennan began her career working for a local newspaper, before spending a few years at Evans Cycles, then combining writing and her love of bicycles first at Total Women's Cycling and then Cycling Weekly.
When not typing up reviews, news, and interviews Arthurs-Brennan is a road racer who also enjoys track riding and the occasional time trial, though dabbles in off-road riding too (either on a mountain bike, or a 'gravel bike'). She is passionate about supporting grassroots women's racing and founded the women's road race team 190rt.
She rides bikes of all kinds, but favourites include a custom carbon Werking road bike as well as the Specialized Tarmac SL6.
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