Bianchi Oltre Vacansoleil Ultegra Di2 £5500

Semi-aero, super-fast performance

BikeRadar score 4/5

The pale turquoise Celeste colours of Italian bike-maker Bianchi have been a distinctive presence in the pro ranks for decades. This year it’s the Dutch Vacansoleil-DCM team campaigning their bikes, and they couldn’t ask for a more cultured yet calmly super-fast bike than the semi-aero Oltre.

Ride & handling: Smooth and confident for solo speed or group work

While the bar is relatively short in reach and drop, the Oltre itself is a proper performance-shaped frame. It’s not massively stretched or dropped at the front end, but it’s certainly business-like rather than a scenery spotter. While the wheelbase is slightly shorter than most, the handling is obviously a well-honed performance balance suited to confident speed. 

A more relaxed head angle syncs with the reinforced head tube for a totally drama-free steering setup. Even when wooded descents turned wet and leafy, flood wash threw gravel across the roads or we just tucked and dropped down eye-watering descents, the Oltre never got nervy. 

The compact bar encourages you to drop your elbows down and really go for the gap, making the Oltre one of the most confident bikes we’ve ridden. The wheel depth is enough to reduce headwind effect without being obviously gusty or slow to turn either.

While some bikes handle well but throw it all away in terms of ride quality, the Bianchi feels as well sorted through shorts, mitts and shoes as it does when banked hard into a tightening corner with a wall waiting eagerly at the exit. 

The Italian company’s more sportive-oriented bikes have always had a distinctive buoyancy and playfulness about them. While it’s been tightened up for racing, there’s definitely still an element of that in the Oltre.

Unsurprisingly, given the heavy wheels, it doesn’t have the instant snap of stiffer bikes, but any metres lost are soon sucked back in within a few crank turns. The Bianchi applies its power smoothly, but with a quiet purpose that carries on building where more dragster, firecracker bikes start to get chattery and choppy. This trait becomes particularly obvious on rougher or steeper roads, where tenacious traction is at a premium.

Its ability to iron out momentum and morale-sapping creases becomes more obvious – and advantageous – the further you ride. The need for a decent punch when you put the power down means it’s not as bouncy as Bianchi’s Infinito cruiser, but there’s definitely more butterfly float in the bee-sting mix than most race bikes. Add the ultra-composed character, quietly confident speed gain and sustain and it’s a fantastic bike for fast solo miles or gradually thinning down the group on a pack ride or race. 

Frame & equipment: Lightweight chassis with mid-level spec

The Oltre is definitely in the curvaceous camp, with smooth aerodynamic lines enhanced by curved wings on the back of the fork crown and fin-style seat tube and seatpost. The big down tube flows through and past the oversized BB30 bottom bracket shell and on into oversized chainstays to keep the driveline direct. 

The aptly named Ultra Thin Seat Stays (UTSS) are wafer-thin strips of carbon, while the bottom bracket sleeve and rear dropouts are alloy. The use of internal cross-weave X-Tex reinforcement in the head tube and carbon nano tube enriched resins mean the chassis is impressively light.

As well as different Shimano and Campagnolo kit complete bike options (the Vacansoleil-DCM team use a Dura Ace/FSA mix), the Oltre frame also comes in two versions for conventional or Di2 cabling. 

Our Ultegra Di2 version has a more snag-prone cable from the bar to the mainframe, but the down tube battery placement keeps it clean and protected. The shifting performance is also smooth and accurate once you’ve got used to where the paddles are. The significantly larger motors of the Ultegra mechs (compared to Dura Ace) add bulk and weight though, and there’s currently no auxiliary sprint option.

The FSA SLK Light chainset is as weight-saving as the name suggests though, and the broad arms and BB30 bottom bracket spindle are nice and stiff. They’re not particularly light but the mid-section FFWD wheels are stiff, with accurate handling. The San Marco saddle adds more Celeste to the mix, while FSA provide the alloy cockpit. The bar is narrow and with little drop even for a compact bar.

This article was originally published in Triathlon Plus magazine, available on Zinio.

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