The Bianchi Oltre XR1 is a really fast bike that features most of the aero characteristics the Italian manufacturer developed for the XR2, its bigger sister on the aero line. However, with a price budget of £3,000 you would expect a slightly better spec, particularly regarding the wheels, which are not at the level of the rest of the bike.
Not a full Ultegra
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Not all Bianchi bikes come in celeste, unfortunately. But at the same time, the spirit and the technology of the historic Italian manufacturer is well held in its core, rather than in its colour. And fortunately, the Bianchi Oltre XR1 has everything in the right place to make you appreciate a great ride on a real piece of cycling tradition.
And even though Bianchi just released its new aero model - the Oltre XR4 - this older model would still be the good compromise for a cheaper, but high-quality and well-performing bicycle.
The Bianchi Oltre XR1’s frame is the little brother of the XR2 one, used by the LottoNL-Jumbo pro team. The XR1 has many aero features like the lipped fork, its slender head tube and the integrated seatpost clamp. Bianchi has also tried to limit weight with the bike sitting pretty at 7.76kg. Too bad our test bike didn't come in celeste, but this option is available.
As Bianchi used the same mould to layer the carbon-fibre for the XR2 and XR1, its design is the same and the only real change the kind of carbon-fibre used to produce the frame. Which is cheaper, for the happiness of your wallet, but still high-end. In fact, it retains many features of the upper level one, like rigidity and lightweight.
Unfortunately, the Bianchi Oltre XR1 doesn’t have a complete Shimano Ultegra groupset, but its set-up is finished with a FSA Gossamer Pro brakes, which however had performed very well through the test. Another disappointing downside of this bike is the wheelset it comes with, as it is definitely lower in quality if compared to the frame. The Fulcrum Racing 7 LG (£170 their retail price) are aluminium wheels for everyday use, not a description that matches the Oltre's intended market.
As many of other aero bikes (or bikes that are "aero inspired"), also the Bianchi features an internal routing cables that leave the frame free and clean to better cut the air. In terms of gear, at the same time, the Oltre XR1 features a 11-28t cassette and a 52/36 chainrings; while both the bar and the stem comes from Reparto Corse. As you can see, the budget - which is definitely not a low one - has gone mostly to cover the frame's budget. Of course, You'll always have scope to upgrade, but the price will then rise considerably.
The Bianchi Oltre XR1 felt fast after only few miles and its responsiveness was very good both cornering and downhill. At a high speed the bike is perfectly balanced and confidence-inspiring. Its low overall weight is means it climbs well and feels lively out of the saddle, but the wheels work against this to a certain extent. The handlebars on the Oltre are the traditional round shape instead the more aero and ergonomic versions we now see more and more often, and I didn't find it super comfortable if compared to other bikes specifically built for climbing.
Even though the wheelset was a bit disappointing for its performances and for the cost of this bike, the overall qualities of the Bianchi Oltre XR1 were definitely maintained. Also on the flats, where normally wheels make a huge difference, the Oltre felt super smooth at all times. The flex of the wheels, and the loss of power, was more evident when accelerating or sprinting.
The quality and performance of the Oltre are unquestionable. The bike is fast, stable and perform well uphill, downhill and cornering. It definitely has one of the best frames you can get for this price. To get the real maximum from this bike you would need to fit it with different wheels, but the price - already significant - will be out of the range for many.
For more details visit the Bianchi website (opens in new tab).
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Nick Busca is a freelance cycling and triathlon journalist. He is also a certified triathlon coach and personal trainer.
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