Buyer’s Guide 2017: Bianchi Oltre XR.4
If you’re reading this review, you’re either window shopping to kill some time at work or you’re getting ready to race at an elite level, because those are the two reasons Bianchi’s Oltre XR.4 exists. The iconic celeste paint job sets the stage for what is ultimately another knockout for…
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If you’re reading this review, you’re either window shopping to kill some time at work or you’re getting ready to race at an elite level, because those are the two reasons Bianchi’s Oltre XR.4 exists. The iconic celeste paint job sets the stage for what is ultimately another knockout for Bianchi, but as is the case with the Italian company’s other Countervail creations, be ready to cut a big check for the Oltre XR.4, an aero beast that excels in all conditions, even steep, sustained climbs.
Despite its oversize aero tubing, the Oltre is far from jarring. We credit that to Bianchi’s Countervail technology, which adds a viscoelastic material to the carbon layup that supposedly reduces vibrations significantly. Carbon additives seem to be the wave of the future, and Bianchi rode that wave early. We tested Countervail on Bianchi’s lightweight Specialissima and came to similar conclusions: Countervail seems to damp vibration without creating a dead, disconnected road feel. We like it a lot.
The Oltre even surpassed expectations on steep and sustained climbs. You won’t feel bogged down by it, especially given its featherweight status (A mere 14.24 pounds rivals some of the best all-around bikes on the market). It seems to effectively blur the line between an aero bike and an all-rounder. But the longer the climb went on, the easier it became to wish for a different handlebar/stem combo that was more dialed to my fit. Such is the struggle with integrated cockpits.
On high-speed descents, the Oltre hedges toward locked-in steering, which can be problematic in tight, twisty switchbacks, but is a boon on long straightaways and fairly wide-open curves. It’s the only time the Oltre really strayed from all-around characteristics. You’ll have to do some coaxing in tight turns, but in everything else the Oltre feels confident and predictable, likely due to the 72.5-degree head tube angle.
Despite its tepid lab test results, we were immediately impressed by the Oltre’s explosiveness off the line. It’s possible Campagnolo’s excellent Bora Ultra 50 wheels are a contributing factor here. After a few hard pedal strokes, the Oltre starts to rip, and keeping it up to speed is nearly effortless until the crosswinds start howling. The big surface area of the down tube and seat tube will remind you that you’re on an aero bike in the early Spring breezes.
The build is worthy of that celeste frame; our test model came with Campagnolo Super Record drivetrain and Bora Ultra 50 wheels. Vision’s Metron handlebars are integrated, as is the current trend in aero bikes. Integrated cockpits tend to be hit or miss when it comes to comfort, and the Metron bars were no exception. The hoods seemed placed just right during sprints and pedaling at tempo, but getting a comfortable grip on the bar tops proved to be a challenge at times. And the cables aren’t totally integrated, so it’s best to measure the true aero benefits against your comfort. Like most integrated cockpits, the Metrons lack much adjustability.
Ultimately, this bike is the cream of the aero crop, but let’s face it: You just don’t need it at this price point. The Oltre XR.4 is Bianchi’s top of the line offering, but even for an elite race bike that price tag is sky high — troppo caro, as the Italians say. Your wallet would roll its eyes at this review if it had them. You’re in luck, though, because the tech trickles down to less expensive models such as the Oltre XR.1 Ultegra Di2, which will run you $4,499. That’s still pricey, but it’s attainable for an excellent bike you can take to your local races.