If you only want to ride a bike from the oldest manufacturer still in existence, then you should look no further than the Oltre XR4 Campagnolo Super Record.
In 2013 Bianchi started weaving Countervail, a vibration-damping viscoelastic material, into the carbon fibre of its road frames. The first Countervail model was the Infinito, aimed at the spring Classics.
The material worked its way into all of the company’s premium offerings, including the superlight Specialissima road race bike, with each subsequent Countervail bike riding better than the ones that came before. Bianchi’s newest road frame, the aerodynamic Oltre XR4, tops them all for most of our testers.
The Oltre XR4 is positioned as an all-around model for road racing and riding. In designing the bike, Bianchi was careful to pay attention to overall performance, not only watt savings, intending to craft a frame that, above all else, would be comfortable. The theory: If you aren’t fighting a harsh ride, you will go faster. Adding Countervail helped engineers meet that goal.
I rode the Oltre XR4 in and around the hills bordering Lake Iseo in Lombardy and then back at home. Both regions abound in old roads, strong winds, broken macadam, and routes that serpentine around farms (plus, in Italy, medieval-looking villages paved in a mosaic of multicoloured blocks).
It is easy to forget the Oltre XR4 is an aerodynamic bike, both in looks and its ride. If you’re in love with Bianchi’s heritage, you’ll appreciate that the frame utilises subtle tube shaping to give the bike a classic look. And on the ride, the characteristic, severe aero-bike feel is totally absent.
The only other aero model I’ve ridden that comes close in terms of suppleness is the Trek Madone 9-Series. The XR4 feels even nearer to the feathery light but noticeably less rigid Bianchi Specialissima road race model in terms of ability to soak up and deaden road noise and chatter. Despite all of that smoothness, the bike absolutely flies.
Under normal riding conditions - just riding along or doing a bit of tempo work - the XR4 is smooth; small vibrations are hushed by the comfort that Countervail brings to the ride. I also had plenty of opportunity to lash the bike, playfully charging town-line sprints on group gallops and tackling short, punchy hills. Frame stiffness is respectable, whether you’re driving the bike around bends (there’s little flex through the front triangle) or flogging it in a sprint.
The geometry and length put the rider in a good position for fast riding, without sacrificing balance and comfort. Head and seat angles fall just to the sedate side of aggressive and a long and low layout means you can hunker down and really drive it. In Australia, the Oltre XR4 is available only as a frameset (costing $7,299), allowing you to customise to your heart’s content on your dream build.
The Oltre XR4 is a great example of what a modern aero bike can be: fast, smooth, good-looking. If you’re still asking why this is the Bianchi to buy, here’s your answer: A bike like this doesn’t just happen. It was born of Bianchi’s passion for pushing the design envelope and a relentless commitment to improvement. The Oltre XR4 is the best example of that mission in Bianchi’s lineup.- Mike Yozell
NO, DUMMY, IT’S GOTTA BE STEEL!
Bianchi Pista. $1,099
Okay, got it: You want a steel bike from one of the oldest builders. This strong-but-lightweight fixed-gear classic remains true to its track cycling heritage with a steeper seat angle, steeper head angle, shorter fork offset and higher bottom bracket.