In its new XR4 guise, Bianchi’s Oltre has come of age. Thanks to its new superlight sibling, last year’s Specialissima, the Oltre is finally free to be a full-gas aero bike.
Speed was the goal during this bike’s development and Bianchi approached it from two directions. The first was aerodynamics, the highlights of which include a more slender, tapered head tube with an air-piercing ‘nose’ and a reduced 1.4in lower bearing; a new bowed fork that reduces pressure caused by forward rotating spokes fighting incoming air in a small space; and a new profile for the down tube and seatstays.
The Oltre XR4 is claimed to save 20W at 50km/h over the XR2, which itself wasn’t a slow bike. Five of those watts are attributed to the new Vision 5D one-piece handlebar and stem, which is fitted to all but the Chorus- and Ultegra-equipped entry-level models. The bar can be added to those and to the frameset for an extra £550 but it can’t take clip-ons, so it’s a false drag-saving for triathlon.
The second path to speed was comfort. Bianchi is proud of its Countervail vibration damping technology, and say it’s used in the Oltre XR4 to enable you to hold an aero position for longer and feel fresher when you pull on your running shoes.
The Oltre XR4 is available in eight complete builds with mechanical and electronic versions of Campagnolo and Shimano groupsets, plus SRAM Red eTap. Each build has at least one optional upgrade wheel and the top models can be specced with a Rotor INpower crankset. Our test bike is the mechanical Super Record version, upgraded with Campagnolo Bora Ultra 50 tubulars in place of Fulcrum Racing Zeroes, pushing the price into five figures. Vittoria Corsa G+ tyres and a carbon-railed Fizik Arione R3 complete a thoroughly lavish build.
Beautiful but compromised
In this spec, it’s beautiful. But it’s also compromised. The tubs are very light, stiff and the dry braking is exceptionally good, but their skinny V-profile lacks speed and stability in anything but calm conditions.
The 25mm Vittorias are excellent but too wide for the rims. Super Record shifts with an exquisite crispness, but the thumb lever is awkward to reach and stiff, so it’s too easy to multi-shift down the block. This bike’s 50/34, 11-27 gearing would suit a very hilly event but we’d prefer a less gappy 11-25.
The frameset is fantastic. It’s stiff under hard efforts, the handling is balanced and neutral, and it’s compliant, though the 25mm tyres do lots of the work on poor surfaces. The bar has pleasingly long drops but no Garmin mount, can’t take clip-ons and comes in limited sizes. The Fizik saddle isn’t suited to tri use but the post to which it’s mounted is – you can flip the head from +25mm setback to -10mm for a glute-friendly forward position.
The Oltre XR4 could be a great tri bike for all types of events but we wouldn’t choose this build.
Go for the Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 or SRAM Red eTap build with Zipp 404s and the Rotor power meter, spec a normal bar, add clip-ons and then fit them with satellite shifters to enjoy push-button changes from your aero position.
Now that would be spectacular.
Verdict: Fast, light, comfortable, adaptable and very tri-friendly, but costly 90%