Bianchi Infinito XE Ultegra Disc review
The XE model aims to bring the Infinito to a wider audience with a more friendly price tag, but what does it sacrifice along the way?
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In the Infinito XE, Bianchi has sought to bring the endurance race model to a new audience via a lower entry point to the range. Interestingly, the lack of Countervail doesn't seem to have had a huge impact on the comfort of the ride, and the Infinito XE offers a stable and confidence inspiring experience. However, even with a wheel swap it wasn't as nimble and quick footed as we'd like - with its portly weight likely to be a factor.
Nice blend of comfort with enough range in the geometry
Wheels a let down
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Bianchi's Infinito XE aims to please the rider looking for an all-rounder on two wheels: something that'll perform in a Gran Fondo of epic distance proportions without lacking the quick footed agility required in a race bike.
The name XE stands for 'Extra Endurance' - but don't be fooled into expecting a sit-up-and-beg experience from Bianchi: this model actually shares its geometry with the range topping Infinito CV, which means it's been optimised for World Tour level one day classics.
Whilst the name might suggest a more upright position, the XE guise we have on test here is designed to bring the family to a new audience with a more affordable price tag. An Ultegra Infinito XE comes in at £3,200, a notable chunk off the range topping CV at £4,600 with the same groupset. It's still far from an entry level bike though: you'd be more than justified in expecting an excellent ride for over £3,000.
What's been slashed is the Countervail (CV) technology - the NASA aerospace tech which uses viscoelastic resin to cancel out a reported 80% of vibrations. The frame is a tad heavier too, coming in at 1100g with a 420g fork - a touch more bulky than the 1020g/390g on the Infinito CV.
The geometry remains comfortably in the 'endurance race' realm - my size 50 came with a stack/reach of 539 and 375mm and a lengthly 988mm wheelbase.
This is relaxed when compared to the likes of the Oltre, Bianchi's all-out aero racer - boasting a much more agressive stack/reach of 498/385 and a nippy 983mm wheelbase.
To put all this in perspective, with all the spacers below the bars I could achieve a pretty 'heads up' position, but I still didn't need to completely slam the Infinito XE to reach the same bar height as that on my custom geometry race bike, and I could have achieved the same reach of I'd opted for a comically long stem.
Bianchi has specced a streamlined front end, with ovalised alloy spacers creating an aero aesthetic and perhaps saving a couple of watts for the marginal gains crew. However, if you're going to drop the front end, you'll need to chop the steerer since any spacer chimney looks particularly unsightly in this shape.
The in-house creation uses a tapered head tube (1 1/8” upper bearing to 1.5” lower bearing) to provide stability at speed and when braking, and all of the cable routing is internal, creating clean lines and also keeping muck and grime out.
Taking cues from the general direction of tech evolution, the Infinito XE is built to house disc brakes only, with flat mount calipers and thru axles front and rear - 12x100m at the front and 12x142mm at the back.
Whilst we tested our model with the 28mm Vittoria Zaffiro Pro Slick tyres specced, there's actually space for rubber up to 32mm - which in my mind is more than enough for some gravel riding and light off-roading, if you should be so inclined.
The Zaffiro's are fitted to Fulcrum Racing 900 disc brake wheels - and if this is the bike for you, I'd recommend swapping the wheel/tyre combo straight away.
The tyres felt relatively quick on the road, but did gift me with my first puncture in months. It was a wet day, and I did take the 'creative' way home, I'll admit. But more crucially, with the original wheels, my initial impression was of a stable but underwhelming and fairly sluggish ride. A wheel swap gave way to a much more lively and an all round greatly improved experience.
The Infinito XE felt planted and confident on winter roads, with 28mm tyres affording me plenty of leaning room on wet corners.
Blasting along on flat tarmac, the frame soaked up much of the buzz from the road - in this bike you're getting a really plush ride, and even through the Countervail tech is gone, this shone through notably when I swung my leg back over a thoroughbred racer after a few weeks on the XE.
Unlike other endurance models on the market, the Infinito XE doesn't create its comfort via stringy looking seat stays - but there is a particularly aesthetically pleasing twist as the seat stays meet the top tube and a certain boxiness which, though perhaps creating issues elsewhere, tells a story of chunky reliability.
It's quite unavoidable that at 8.8kg, the Infinito XE is a bit portly, and this showed on the hills. I never felt particularly like I was 'on a good day' when riding this bike, and jumping out of the saddle for sprint efforts, though stiff and stable, it failed to reward me with the dancing nimble gait I look for in a dream bike.
Since the XE is designed to be a Gran Fondo pal before a racer, this is forgivable, and the stability and certainty in handling was really welcome on December club runs when there's simply no need to bring a gun to the knife fight. I just wouldn't recommend this bike if you're looking for a machine you can race as well as enjoy on long days out.
One shining feature for the Infinito XE is its fully matching groupset. Where many brands will offer savings through swapping the likes of the chain and cassette for cheaper alternatives, Bianchi has been true to its word. Shifters? Ultegra. Chain? Ultegra. Cassette? Ultegra - 11-30, with an Ultegra 50/34 compact chainset, which is more than enough for the hills in my neck of the woods.
Despite no particular aero boasts around the Infinito XE, you also get a streamlined Reparto Corse Alloy seatpost, with the kind of hidden aero bolt and rubber cover usually found on much more expensive models.
I swapped the Selle Royal SR saddle without trying it, but if you happened to get on with it, Bianchi has a nice colour match going on via celeste stitching.
The bottom bracket is PressFit, I detected zero flex in the area but maintenance wise this won't go down so well with the threaded only brigade. The disc rotors are 160mm in diameter; the system was pleasantly fast stopping, and I never found them overly grabby, instead mourning their loss when I swapped back on to a rim brake pony.
Finally - from an aesthetic point of view, this is a great bike to choose if you're particularly fond of receiving compliments from complete strangers. There's something about a Bianchi - perhaps it's the heritage, maybe it's just in the celeste tones, but when aboard a bike from the Italian stallions I've always found my unsolicited bike kudos rate to dramatically improve.
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Michelle Arthurs-Brennan is a traditional journalist by trade, having begun her career working for a local newspaper, where highlights included interviewing a very irate Freddie Star (and an even more irate theatre owner), as well as 'the one about the stolen chickens'.
Previous to joining the Cycling Weekly team, Michelle was Editor at Total Women's Cycling. She joined CW as an 'SEO Analyst', but couldn't keep her nose out of journalism and in the spreadsheets, eventually taking on the role of Tech Editor before her latest appointment as Digital Editor.
Michelle 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 1904rt.
Michelle is on maternity leave from July 8 2022, until April 2023.
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