Yesterday Bianchi proclaimed “Aerovolution is now”. What prompted it to splash such a bold portmanteau across its website (opens in new tab)? The glitzy launch of the Oltre RC, the storied Italian marque's first hyperbike, that's what.
In order to go beyond the realm of the ordinary superbike, the all-new Oltre RC - which is the first complete frame/component platform designed and manufactured entirely by Bianchi according to the brand - is claimed to be an “unprecedented” aero bike.
It has Air Deflector technology which Bianchi explains is inspired not only by motor racing but also by aerospace and architecture. This is a world-exclusive, patent-pending technology that “simultaneously reduces the drag against the frame and amplifies the work done by the handlebar by protecting the low pressure it creates for the legs.”
It consists of two duct-like intakes either side of the head tube.
As for the handlebar, “Harness the Vortex” is the strapline.
The new aero cockpit is one of the most impactful and revolutionary aspects of the Oltre, according to Bianchi. “The cavity in the centre generates a vortex behind it that reduces the air pressure and resistance hitting the athlete’s legs, so less power is needed to create more speed.”
Don’t listen to us, says Bianchi. The numbers speak loudest. It has supplied figures that it says compare the new bike with the previous Oltre XR4, which made our Editor's Choice list in 2017 (opens in new tab). And these are:
-17.1 watts at 50kph
-5.1% CdA in crosswinds
-45 seconds over a distance of 40km
6.85kg in size 55
+30% advantage over the best aero race bikes (opens in new tab) on the market in variable wind conditions
Yes, 30% faster than the best aero race bikes on the market sounds like a lot - but Bianchi doesn’t name the competitor bikes it tested the Oltre RC against and there's no white paper supplied either.
Further, “each detail of the Oltre is considered, analysed and refined, amplifying the efficiency and power of every pedal stroke. From the down tube to the seat post to the dropouts, every marginal gain has been harnessed.”
At that point most keyboard warriors were already in attack mode, and this was even before the price of the hyperbike had been revealed: prices start at €13,800 (£11,200 or $13,500) depending on groupset choice.
“Oh look! It’s my brain. I never knew my eyes could roll back that far,” commented Jim Potter under the Facebook launch story posted by our counterparts at Cyclingnews (opens in new tab).
“Alternative headline: the new Bianchi Oltre has a marketing department-inspired gimmick in the head tube,” said Gareth Davidson.
“The bicycle industry is ridiculous,” was Fenton Scruggs’s verdict.
“Designed to make bikes go faster… off the shelves,” wrote Shaun Wallace. The British former pro track rider knows a thing or two about superbikes: he raced the legendary Lotus 108 in the 1992 World Track Championships before Chris Boardman rode it to Olympic gold - ironically a bike that itself generated its fair share of indignant letters to the editor of Cycling Weekly at the time.
CW's resident aero expert and data scientist Tom Epton's take on the Bianchi Oltre RC is: "I think the idea of the inbuilt air channels is legit. It's a trickle down from F1. But the reality is, and I'd be interested to see some data, this type of thing saves very few watts. Way less than a change of position. So it's a poor investment from a £/W perspective."
To be clear, we haven't seen or ridden the Oltre RC. And to be fair to Bianchi, the Italian brand not only has a long history - it has been producing bikes since 1885 - but it also has a history of innovating. Who (of a certain age) could forget the full-suspension 'mixte' Bianchi ridden by Johan Museeuw in the 1994 Paris-Roubaix?
Bianchi, just like Colnago, Pinarello and the other 'iconic' Italian brands, has its devotees. A few years back we interviewed a superfan who has 17 Bianchis (opens in new tab).
We ourselves have also reviewed Bianchis (opens in new tab) very favourably in the past.
And for many, the name will be forever associated with Marco Pantani (opens in new tab), winner of the Tour de France in 1998 who died aged 34.
And finally, as one of the commenters pointed out, bike manufacturers have to fight hard for their market share and if nothing else the Oltre RC certainly does look a little different from all the other aero bikes designed in wind tunnels.
The Bianchi Oltre RC is not the first new bike of recent times to raise the ire of the internet and it won't be the last: Trek’s new Madone, the one with the triangular section missing from the seat tube, caused - and still continues to cause - a fuss.
We'll bring you our full review once we get hold of an Oltre RC.
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