In recent years Bianchi have kept a fresh yearly line-up of bikes through simple tweaks and cosmetic changes. The 2007 range was highly developed, but it could be criticized for falling behind big brands Scott and Specialized and falling short of the technical innovations of smaller companies such as BMC and Cérvelo.
The engineering design team have realised this, and throughout product launches and shows last year they hinted at major changes for 2008. Well here they are. and this is in no way cosmetic. Each range has been thoroughly overhauled from the ground up.
HoC Frames (Hors Category)
Bianchi's HoC 928's are at the pinnacle of the range with race bred geometry, light carbon being the order of the day. The HoC Carbon 928 SL UD now sits atop the composite race bikes with an all new high modulus uni-directional carbon monocoque design.
The carbon itself is of the Nano-tech variety (ala Easton and BMC) re-sculpted low weight drop outs and a new oversized BB shell to improve stiffness throughout the transmission. The frameset's tubing is reworked with a triangulated top tube which flows into a more ovalised box section at the seat tube, this flows into the seat stays - a la specialized's Tarmac and Wilier's Cento. The downtube starts in a more conventional round section but increases in diameter and ovalizes at the reworked BB area.
All these design tweaks combined with the new material and the dropping of the 12k weave outer layer of previous incarnations has given the 928 SL UD a very competitive weight of just 900g (55cm). Combined with a new 300g SL fork, this is a seriously lightweight chassis. The test bike we rode in the Bergamo hills (specced with Campag's Chorus and Zonda wheels) came in at a complete weight of a touch over 7 kilos/15.4 pounds - light enough in anyone's book, and remember this is no superbike component spec, more what most of us would use day to day.
Aboard the 928 the first thing you notice is the weight, this is one light bike. Climbing on the 928 felt nimble and quick, and out of the saddle stomps up steep sections were remarkably free of any stresses. No wandering, no flex, just forward motion. Once the climbs had been conquered, descending felt planted and in out of the saddle sprints, quick direction changes were instant and without drama. This tester would have preferred a wider bar, even though the 42cm Deda Campione has a great traditional bend and nicely oversized diameter, but that's a small niggle.
I had no expectations of comfort as bikes of this ilk are usually all about efficient transmission of power and can lead to a rather harsh and eyeball shaking ride over rough surfaces, so I was pleasantly surprised at the comfort level of the 928 SL. It's not quite in the league of a titanium bike or, for that matter a Time VXR, but it's certainly much better over harsher surfaces than most of the US bikes I've tried and those from the other big Italian marques.
Bianchi will also continue to offer the Aluminium FG Lite C (It a racers favourite in Italy) with its exclusive Hyperalloy construction (a mix of alu, magnesium and with Bianchi's patented structural foam injection (which increases the strength of the
The B4P has a new bonded T-Cube design carbon frame, which uses a more conventional tube construction as opposed to the monocoque HoC. The T-Cube design eliminates the use of lugs and therefore the B4P for 2008 has seen a significant drop in frame weights - down to the kilo mark for a 55cm model. The new oversized BB design (similar to the HoC) has increased the stiffness by 25 percent over the previous model.
The B4P range is topped by this beautifully sandblast-finished 3al/2.5v titanium beauty, double butted ti throughout with reparto corse specific profile tubing. For safety's sake the tubing is completed with the patented structural foam injected core.
Also in the Reparto Corse range of Bianchi bikes is a fully custom option. Bianchi Individual offers carbon bikes (the T-Cube process on the B4P range) in any geometry you require, even offering the opportunity to dial in your own personal characteristics of the material (stiffness or comfort).
The B4P range starts with the 1885 series a triple butted hydroformed aluminium frame with all new high modulus carbon fibre seat stays and smooth quality weld finishing throughout.
This is fast becoming Bianchi's most popular race range with its relaxed sportive derived geometry and supple ride characteristics its certainly an excellent choice for the distance rider.
The range topping 928 carbon C2c is as with the HoC's a fullmonocoque design using a mixture of HM carbon, combined with high strength carbon and a more elastic Kevlar composite used on the fork and seat stays. It works with the Kevlar fork and seat stays to give an incredibly smooth ride. The only bike that's come close is Specialized's excellent S-Works Roubaix with its Zertz inserts, although in this rider's opinion, the Bianchi offered a greater balance of comfort and stiffness.
Let's go off road!
Bianchi introduced the carbon monocoque Oetzi just 3 years ago and for '08 it's had a radical upgrade. It now uses the same Nano tech carbon as the HoC road machines, has a redesigned seat stay and BB, but still retains its v-brake bosses for the lightweight freaks. High impact resistant carbon is used in areas that can have potential impacts (downtube, chainstays etc) but the use of the HM Nano material keeps the weight down to a very respectable 1.2kg for the frame.
The all new Camos full sus XC/Marathon machine is an all new concept for Bianchi. With an HM carbon front-end mated to an alu dual
pivot rear, the Camos also features Carbon dual spring chainstays. These stays are profiled into a thin slither of material which acts as a leaf spring providing 80mm of travel (all perfectly controlled with a DT airshock). The chainstay assembly can be removed, flipped and reattached using the 5 Allen head mount points. This alters the characteristics from soft and supple to a stiffer, more resistant feel. The two prototype test rigs available were set up in both configurations and there was a marked difference between the two.
The all-up weight of the Camos frame of 2.4kg and a complete bike (in XT/LX) build of 13kg (28lbs) make this a real contender for the coming year.