We take a look at the beautiful Bianchi Specialissima, one of the most famous bikes in the world
The Bianchi Specialissima is one of the, if the most famous bikes of all time, and in this case we strongly recommend that you do meet your heroes.
Razor sharp handling and a raw ride quality make the Bianchi an addictive bike to ride, landing it a spot on our Editor’s Choice list.
A true icon of cycling, the Bianchi Specialissima sits atop more cyclist’s wishlists than any other bike. Its sleek, celeste carbon frame, with its flowing lines and round tubes stand it out from a peloton now filled with aggressive aero shapes or boxy tube sections. It’s a classic looking bike that, in looks at least, has avoided the march of ‘aerodynamic’ progress and the aggressive geometric shapes it brings with it.
It would be unfair to say that the Bianchi hasn’t given aerodynamics a thought. An integrated fork and frame prove that to be untrue, as do the sleek lines around the seat tube and top tube junction, it’s just that compared to more recent racing bikes, it seems less concerned by it. Besides, the Bianchi Oltre XR4 takes care of aero duties.
However, what it lacks in slippery shapes it more than makes up for with raw performance, and there’s a stiffness in the carbon frame that many brands would try to dampen. It arguably borders on harshness, and I did find on my local loops that, despite Bianchi’s Countervail technology, I could feel more road buzz than when I rode them on the Specialized S-Works Tarmac Disc.
If you can handle it, this spirited ride translates as a real feeling of speed and when the stiffness is coursing up from the wheels and through the frame the Bianchi truly feels like a bike with spirit. It also has the added benefit of letting the bike excel on the climbs, and getting out of the saddle on a 10% climb in the Surrey Hills rewarded me with direct forward movement. It’s aided by the bike’s 6.6kg which truly classifies it as a climber’s bike.
I’d happily rank the Bianchi as one of the finest descending bikes I’ve ridden, holding its own against the Cervélo R5 and S-works Tarmac. Its aggressive geometries turn any descent, no matter the gradient, into a grin-inducing thrill ride. Every turn becomes a test of nerve as you resist grabbing the brakes. Leaning the bike over in the bends you can really feel how direct the bike’s handling is.
In particular, a 145mm head tube length makes the Bianchi feel particularly aggressive and very nimble on the descents, as does the relatively short wheelbase.
Now, I’m not denying that there is a certain romance to riding a Bianchi Specialissima with Campagnolo Super-Record, and many would argue that it’s the only way it should be ridden, but the truth of the matter is that I prefer Shimano Dura-Ace. I think it’s more of a performance groupset and the better partner to the racing frame because of it. Besides, it’s also a couple hundred quid cheaper than a Super-Record equipped bike so, dare-we-say-it, better value because of it.
The shifting never skipped a beat and the rim braking was excellent, although it would be improved if the Bianchi frame could accommodate dual pivot brakes. I’d also love to see a disc brake version of the Specialissima as I think the more powerful brakes would compliment the aggressive frame brilliantly.
At least the Bianchi was shod with Fulcrum wheels, a sister company of Campagnolo. More specifically, the bike came with Fulcrum Zero Nite wheels – the top tier of Fulcrum’s aluminium wheel range. In fact, the wheels come with much of the same technology as Campag’s wheels, including Rim Dynamic Balance – where the valve and hole is balance by similar weight on the other side of the rim – as well as Momag, where the spokes are placed using a magnet, removing the need for rim holes, improving safety and strength.
They’re stiff and roll brilliantly, and other than their slightly heavier weight I couldn’t notice difference between these and carbon wheels of a similar depth – so much so that I had to double check the rims.
The Vittoria Corsa tyres extend the Italian influence even further and they are brilliantly supple and very fast. My 25mm tyres sat well on the Fulcrum rims and the combination was fast and grippy. It’s worth noting that they’re not the strongest tyres, nor do they last that long, although I some how managed to avoid punctures despite riding through UK Autumn conditions.
If, for some incomprehensible reason the Celeste blue isn’t to your taste then it is available in black or a custom paint job via Bianchi’s Tavolozza scheme.
The Bianchi Specialissima is a truly special bike, where beautiful good looks are balanced with a raw, stiff frame