Bianchi recently launched the Oltre XR3 — a cheaper version of the XR4 — which sees much of the race-ready technology trickled down from the bike that has already been ridden in a number of successes this season.
The Italian brand invited us to the launch of the new bike and I'm ready to report back on what I thought about this all-round aero race machine.
The claimed weight of the frame is 1,100g (+/-5%) with the fork coming in at 370g, and without pedals my bike weighed 7.92kg. This build, as pictured, is priced at £3,299.99.
The XR3 is also available in Dura-Ace/Ultegra, 105 and Chorus builds, coming in at £4,599.99, £2,799.99 and £4,199.99 respectively.
What is Countervail?
The XR3 is equipped with something called Countervail. In short, Countervail is a ‘viscoelastic’ material — which doesn’t completely solidify — that sits between the carbon layup and is said to reduce the amount of vibrations that reach the rider from the road by up to 80 percent.
Bianchi has exclusive use of this material for its bikes.
While implementing such a technology on what is a very race-oriented aero road bike may seem odd, Bianchi claims that the reduction in vibrations results in less fatigue, therefore allowing riders to maintain an aggressive — and more efficient — position for longer than would be possible on a harsher bike.
We’ve spent a lot of time on Bianchi bikes equipped with Countervail and Warren Rossiter — who crowned the Bianchi Specialissima, which uses Countervail ‘Superbike of the Year’ last year — has found the supposed wonder-material to be very effective in helping to reduce vibrations.
Bianchi Oltre XR3 first ride impressions
I've only had a chance to ride the XR3 for a very short time so far, so I’m reluctant to make any bold claims about the overall effectiveness of Bianchi’s use of Countervail.
However, my test loop did include a good mix of both rough and smooth surfaces and the XR3 did a great job of ‘dulling’ road chatter — I’d liken the sensation to dropping 10/20psi from your tyres.
However, on bigger hits — of which I had more than a few while riding blind in a very tight bunch along narrow and pothole heavy roads — the XR3 definitely feels like a race bike, with the chunky chainstays and beefy aero fork doing nothing to aid the comfort of the bike.
The comfort of the front end was also somewhat let down by the paper-thin bar tape and slightly wooden feeling house-brand compact bars.
While swapping out the handlebars for a preferred model and re-wrapping them with more cushy tape should be within the capabilities of even the most ham-fisted mechanic, this just goes to show how much of a difference a quality cockpit can make to the overall comfort of a bike.
However, at the expense of comfort — and inline with the experiences Jamie Wilkins had when testing the XR4 for sister site 220Triathlon — the XR3 feels superbly stiff out of the saddle.
With seemingly every other bike on the market being built with ‘pencil-thin’ seatstays (how many times have you heard that phrase thrown about?) in an aim to improve rear end compliance, Bianchi has flown in the face of fashion by speccing the XR3 with very stocky seatstays.
Bianchi claims that it was able to increase the size of the seatstays without forgoing any comfort thanks to the use of Countervail in the frame. As well as improving stiffness under pedalling, this is also said to improve braking power compared to mounting on skinnier stays.
Unlike the XR4, the XR3 doesn't use direct-mount brakes, but instead the best-in-class Campagnolo brakes matched with this stout placement provided more than enough stopping power among an often nervous bunch as we traversed the worst potholes that North Somerset could offer.
The bike also carries over the aero seatpost and integrated seat clamp from the XR4.
I was quite taken by the variable setback head of the seatpost. By flipping the saddle rail clamp around, you’re able to create a near time trial like fit if you're partial to hurting yourself doing such things.
Bianchi Oltre XR3 first ride conclusions
I have no doubt that with the trickle down aero tweaks from the XR4, the XR3 is a true race bike that will perform well under even the most powerful of rider. But, if you’re expecting a truly compliant and forgiving ride, you may want to look elsewhere.
The first production run of the XR3 is due to begin imminently and the bikes are available for pre-order now, with deliveries expected late June. International pricing is still TBC.