Bianchi Sempre Ultegra£1,900.00

A bike for all rides

BikeRadar score4/5

Sempre is Italian for ‘always’ and the name fits with a bike that Bergamo-based Bianchi claim is at home in a race, sportive or anywhere else you want to ride.

It sits in the company’s race-ready B4P range – ‘Born for Performance’ – below the pro level HOC and all-new HOC Oltre race bikes, and above the alu/carbon 1885.

The Ultegra-equipped model we’ve tested tops the Sempre series and is aimed at the market occupied by the likes of Trek’s 4 Series Madones.

Ride & handling: At home on quick blasts, long day-rides, and anywhere in between

The Bianchi's frame feels remarkably sharp when pushing the pedals. It’s direct, nimble and so quick to respond to your input that the bike pulses forward with every pedal stroke. This means that out-of-the-saddle sprints and quick direction changes can be performed without drama or any untoward movements.

The responsive front triangle is matched by a rear that does a remarkable job of smoothing out rough surfaces, offering comfort levels rarely seen on a bike that’s ready to race. In fact, the Sempre is as comfy over the rough stuff as most top-end sportive bikes – we’re thinking Specialized Roubaix or Bianchi’s own Infinito – but without the relaxed geometry or taller head tube.

Our 59cm test bike’s 130mm stem gave a fast and flat position which felt great on shorter blasts, but over longer distances we didn’t feel as compromised as we initially thought we might, testament to the Sempre’s great frameset.

The Sempre lives up to its claims as a bike for all times, as the frameset is such a wonderful performer that it was easy to lose hours riding it. On more than one of our quick Saturday morning blasts we didn’t want to stop riding and these rides ended up stretching out into the late afternoon.

Bianchi sempre ultegra: bianchi sempre ultegra

Frame: Classy looking carbon monocoque with a taut yet comfy ride

The Sempre is based around a monocoque frameset made of Bianchi’s proprietary nanotech high modulus carbon fibre. Bianchi claim a nano carbon structure eliminates voids in the carbon and resin where potential fractures can occur over the life of the frame, and creates a stiffer structure than non-nanotech carbon structures.

The oversized down tube and seat tube morph into diamond tube shapes and meet at the large bottom bracket shell – compatible with oversize BB30 standard bottom brackets – to create an extremely elegant shape, and a taut feel. At the rear, the deep chainstays and very thin triangular profile seatstays meet in a monostay shape at the brake bridge and eliminate most of the vibration from the road.

Equipment: Decent Ultegra, FSA and own-brand kit, but deserves a wheel upgrade

Most of the drivetrain is Shimano’s well proven Ultegra matched to a BB30 FSA Gossamer compact chainset (Shimano don’t offer a BB30 compatible chainset), with FSA also supplying the Gossamer brakes. The latter are colour co-ordinated with the frame’s Reparto Corse livery, but though they offer excellent stopping power they don’t have quite the same feel as Shimano’s excellent Ultegra equivalents.

The aluminium bar and stem and carbon post are also from Bianchi’s Reparto Corse range, while the saddle is Selle San Marco’s narrow anatomic shaped Ponza Arrowhead. It’s not one we’ve tried before but its high density, deeply padded heel and nose make for an extremely comfortable perch.

For a bike equipped with Ultegra we were a little underwhelmed to see the Sempre sporting Fulcrum’s Racing 7 wheelset. They’re good wheels for the money, and for 2011 there have been some upgrades – they’ve shed a few grams, they’re colour co-ordinated with Celeste, and the white graphics and white spoke highlights are all very classy looking – but the performance just doesn’t match the frameset and drivetrain.

We also tried the Sempre with a high-end wheelset from Mavic and the bike performed as well as just about any of the high-end bikes we’ve ridden this year in terms of comfort, performance and inspiring confidence. If Bianchi can keep to the estimated price of €2,290 (around £1,900 at time of writing) for the Ultegra spec tested then it’s fully worth the money. But perhaps even more inviting and better value are the Veloce or 105 models at €1,990 (c£1,650).

Sculpted bottom bracket combined with oversized bb30  chainset keeps the sempre taut when cranking quickly: sculpted bottom bracket combined with oversized bb30  chainset keeps the sempre taut when cranking quickly

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