For an endurance bike proclaimed to damp vibration, what better place to test ride than the cobbles of Paris-Roubaix? For our First ride on the new Bianchi Infinito CV, we rode from Lille, France, to the course, which we followed all the way into the Roubaix velodrome.
The new frame uses Countervail, a viscoelastic material developed between Bianchi and Materials Science Corporation (MSC) that is embedded structurally in critical areas of the frame and fork – although Bianchi wouldn’t say where. The Countervail is designed to cancel vibration before it reaches the rider, not through a suspension movement, but by viscoelastic damping. Read more about the technology in our earlier report on the material here.
Setting off on paved roads out of Lille, the Infinito CV felt like a refined top-level road bike, with nothing to suggest it was that far removed from some other fast road machines, although – and it sounds cliché – it did feel very smooth. Our test bike was spec’ed with Campagnolo Chorus, Fulcrum Racing Speed XLR 50mm carbon wheels, 25mm Veloflex tubulars, an FSA carbon finishing kit, including a large diameter 34.6mm seat post, and Fizik Aliante saddle. We weighed our machine, including a bottle cage but no pedals, at 7.14kg (15.74lbs).
Knowing we’d be heading for the cobbles, the choice of deep carbon rims had us fearing an impending trip to the dentist’s chair to replace some fillings, and even though 25mm tubs are quite forgiving, they had between 5 and 6 bars (73-87psi) of pressure in them. So as we swung on to our first sector at Cysoing, we were hoping that the Countervail would prevail over normal physics.
The Infinito CV isn’t engineered to have any abnormal frame movement. There are no flexy tubes or stays, the oversized seat post, as mentioned, defies conventional thinking, and the straight fork is fairly slim with aerodynamic features and a heavily tapered steerer tube. Everything pointed at us getting a kicking on the cobbles.
To be fair, we did. But — having ridden four of the current crop of endurance bikes on some of the same cobbles just days before — we know that a kicking is mandatory, whatever you ride. The point is, no one rides gnarly cobbled roads every day, and Roubaix is an extreme test. Even so, over the pavé, the Bianchi Infinito CV was easy to keep on the crown of the road, and the usual feeling of hands chattering on handlebars was absent. This made maintaining control, braking, changing gear and, helpfully, seeing the road ahead, far easier.
The Infinito CV has relatively standard geometry, tube shapes and pedaling stiffness characteristics. The difference is in the viscoelastic Countervail material
Yes, we still had to grip firmly, and it’s no magic carpet ride, but as time and the cobbled sectors wore on, we were increasingly surprised. The Countervail concept has something almost mythical about it – it can’t be seen, it doesn’t move, we just know it’s in there somewhere. Countervail is a carbon layer that weaves the fibers in a way that promotes shear, which is the viscoelastic effect that cancels vibration.
Our speed waned in the brutally rough pavé of the Carrefour de l’Arbre sector. Our bottle rattled out, but everything else remained resolutely on track.
By the time we arrived in the Roubaix velodrome we had a good impression of the Infinito, and a few fast laps of the velodrome proved that it was a snappy race bike, too, happy to mix it in the sprint.
The most interesting stretch of road was a few kilometres of graded tarmac, where the top layer had been milled away for resurfacing. The resultant scarred surface was like riding across a super-sized metal file, with mostly uniform indentations from the teeth of the milling drum. On any normal carbon road bike we’d expect a high level of road buzz that would be felt through the hands, seat and feet, but the Infinito CV was in its element here, and even though we could certainly feel the texture of the road, it didn’t upset the ride. We felt that portion of the route to be most representative of real world riding, and the best example of the CV material in action.
The Infinito doesn’t float over cobbles — no bike does — but it does seem to take the edge off rough pavement
There is definite merit in the Countervail-infused Infinito, but anyone expecting a eureka moment on their first rough section of road will be disappointed. Countervail is playing the long game, and the Infinito CV is a race bike whose performance isn’t compromised in any way by additional comfort-inducing features. After almost three hours and plenty of cobblestones, we ended the ride without any aches and pains from numbed fingers or seat, and still felt relatively fresh. We’d like to test it further with some alternate wheels, and back to back with a different bike, but our initial impressions would suggest there’s something in it — we’ll just never know where.