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Road Gear

Quick Look: Bianchi Oltre Black EPS

The Velo tech crew reports early impressions of Bianchi’s electronic-equipped top-end road model

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Bianchi is the world’s oldest surviving bicycle manufacturer, a title in which the manufacturer takes a great deal of pride. The Italian company’s latest and greatest, the Oltre, has been the flagship road model since last year (replacing the 928), and took teams like Androni-Giocattoli to grand tour stage wins in 2011. This year, riders from three top teams are swinging their legs over the Oltre: Colombia-Coldeportes, Androni-Giocattoli and Vacansoleil-DCM.

Needless to say, when Bianchi offered us a chance to ride the latest Oltre Black, equipped with Campagnolo Record EPS, we jumped at the chance. Here are our initial impressions after unboxing, building, and heading out for a maiden voyage. Check back in a few weeks for a more in-depth review.

First impressions

The celeste team graphics might be a bit flashy for the average rider, but the special edition Oltre Black that we received is much more subtle and still carries some special touches from component providers FSA and Campagnolo.

The Oltre Black goes from fab to fabulous with the addition of Campagnolo Record 11 EPS — a group that is quickly becoming an editorial favorite here in the office for its positive shift action and good looks. The new groupset has been one of the most talked about new products in early 2012 with its low weight and flashy Italian design.

Out of the box, the bike was easy to assemble. Bianchi shipped the drivetrain assembled, eliminating the need to “play” with the uninstalled EPS parts. All we had to do was adjust the bars, attach the front wheel, and turn on the EPS, which is done by removing a small magnetic stick from the battery. From there, tuning the derailleurs is easy and done by holding two small buttons near the thumb lever for six seconds and then micro-adjusting the alignment of the derailleur using the shift levers — a much easier process to accomplish while riding than holding the tiny button on Di2’s “brain” box.

At 15.0 pounds the Oltre Black is barely legal, and swapping out the aluminum-railed Fi’zi:k Antares saddle for a saddle with carbon rails and losing the Eurus clincher wheels in favor of some carbon tubular hoops put this rig well into the “too light for competition,” segment. Given the $12,900 retail price, it is a bit disappointing that the Oltre doesn’t come out of the box under 15 pounds, however.

Out on the road, the Oltre offered a plush ride, though not as stiff and responsive as some of the other race bikes we’ve had in recently. The Record EPS made for confident shifting under load, and never having to think about the front derailleur makes returning to a mechanical drivetrain hard. Acceleration is good, and with the addition of some race wheels, the Oltre would feel much more like a WorldTour race bike.

On first look, the Bianchi Oltre is attractive and the EPS drivetrain performed flawlessly. The build is a solid WorldTour-level mixture of Italian parts, but it comes with a price tag.

An American in France

What’s it like to be an American cyclist living in France? Watch to get professional road cyclist Joe Dombrowski’s view.