Specialissima is the name Bianchi has reserved for the very best of its best machines throughout the brand’s 137-year history.
The last Specialissima made a big impression on me back in 2016. It was a bike so, well, special that I successfully argued for it to become ‘Superbike of the Year’. It was all skinny, round tubes and featherweight materials (not to mention rim brakes). It looked and rode like the classic it became.
This Specialissima, a contender for our 2022 Performance Bike of The Year crown, is a very different-looking beast.
Firstly, and most obviously, it’s disc-brake equipped. It also, though, brings aerodynamics into the equation, using plenty of what Bianchi learnt from the Oltre and its Grand Tour stage-winning credentials.
Up-front, there’s a head tube that’s shaped almost to a point, which the fork crown meets seamlessly. The fork legs flatten and bow away from the front rim, reducing turbulent air and increasing tyre clearance into the bargain.
The front end is topped with FSA’s clever ACR bar-and-stem system, which routes all cabling through the bar, stem and down through the head tube. It’s not run-of-the-mill FSA, however, it’s Bianchi’s bespoke Reparto Corse iterations of FSA’s top-grade components.
The seat tube is gently aero-shaped too, and the rear stays follow the same subtle shaping, although they eschew the trend for all things dropped stay and meet the seat tube and top tube at an aero-tuned junction, replete with hidden clamp.
If you think all this shaping and styling, plus the addition of disc-brake fittings, adds weight, then the Specialissima chassis should surprise you. At just 750g (size 55cm) with a 370g fork, this is one very light basis for a superbike.
If you are of the full weight weenie persuasion, then you could forgo the classic Celeste colour (sacrilege in my eyes) and opt for the ultra-light black finish, which shaves a further 80g from the chassis.
As well as the classic Celeste colourway and the lightweight black option, Bianchi offers a ‘mermaid scale’ greenish blue, or you can choose from myriad custom colours through the Tavolozza custom programme.
The frame features Bianchi’s CV technology in its composition. This refers to countervail, a material Bianchi developed with US-based composites expert Material Sciences Corporation for the original Infinito CV that debuted at the 2014 Paris-Roubaix.
This patented material is produced by taking high-grade carbon fibre and using a viscoelastic material that’s sandwiched between hi-mod carbon layers in a unique layup.
Under testing (both on-road and in the lab), measurements have shown that the countervail material reduces the length of vibrations from the road surface by up to 80 per cent.
Bianchi Specialissima Dura-Ace Di2 specifications
The price and status of this bike means it’s all top-level components too.
Firstly, it showcases Shimano’s new 12-speed semi-wireless Dura-Ace Di2. This drives Vision’s grand-tour proven SC40 tubeless carbon wheels, wrapped up with Pirelli’s range-topping P Zero 26mm tyres.
The stem and bar are made in collaboration with FSA, with the Reparto Corse FSA stem crafted from 3D-forged and CNC’d 6061 aluminium and the bar made from UD (unidirectional) weave carbon.
Finishing things off is a Reparto Corse FSA K-Force light UD carbon post, topped with Fizik’s carbon-railed Antares R1 saddle.
The drivetrain mixes a 50/34 compact chainset with an 11-30 cassette. The new Dura-Ace shifts with the same accuracy as 11-speed Di2 was famed for. Shimano claims that front-derailleur shift speed is greatly reduced.
When you’re dealing with a fraction of a second reduced down to a slightly smaller fraction of a second, that’s quite hard to judge.
What I will confirm, however, is that the derailleur shifts impeccably. Even when out of the saddle and going for it, the derailleur never grumbles, drags or does anything beyond getting the chain from one chainring to the other.
The semi-wireless setup means the bike looks incredibly clean and slick. Though, with the ACR system and the frame design, you wouldn’t have seen the wires anyhow.
With both Shimano and SRAM now adopting wireless, I wonder how long it’ll be before bikes such as the Specialissima have no holes in the frame at all. The blanking plates being used throughout the frame do stand out from what is a very slick-looking bike.
The Vision SC 40 carbon tubeless wheels are excellent. They feel taut and responsive, and at 1,590g a pair they’re reasonably lightweight.
The rim, at 40mm deep and 25.5mm wide, is well shaped to match road tyres and the 19mm internal width is a great fit for the 26mm-wide Pirellis.
The SC40s are a £1,000 wheelset though, and on a bike that retails at over £11,000 you could rightfully argue that the Specialissima deserves something a little more special.
Bianchi Specialissima Dura-Ace Di2 geometry
The Specialissima is undoubtedly a performance bike. My 59cm test bike came with a 575mm stack height and 398mm reach. When you add in the 120mm stem and 20mm offset of the seatpost, it results in a bike that’s long and low.
It’s worth bearing in mind that this is certainly a bike designed for a racing mindset rather than recreational riding.
Parallel 73-degree angles are classic race-bike stuff, and the 43mm fork offset makes for a trail of 59mm. These are numbers that suggest a fast-handling bike, and those suggestions certainly bear fruit.
|Seat angle (degrees)||74.5||74.5||74||73.5||73.5||73||72.5|
|Head angle (degrees)||70.5||71.5||72||72.5||73||73||73|
|Seat tube (mm)||426||452||481||500||520||540||560|
|Top tube (mm)||515||525||535||550||560||575||585|
|Head tube (mm)||105||110||125||140||155||175||195|
|Fork offset (mm)||43||43||43||43||43||43||43|
|Bottom bracket drop (mm)||58||58||68||68||68||68||68|
Bianchi Specialissima Dura-Ace Di2 ride impressions
Within minutes of being astride the Specialissima, I knew I was onto something very good. The chassis beneath me was all at once stiff and responsive, yet it feels lively – something that’s often amiss when it comes to flyweight stiff carbon bikes.
It accelerates with ease, as you’d expect a 7.1kg bike to, and when it comes to heading upwards the light weight makes it a mean companion. The handling is simply wonderful.
The steering requires so little effort because the front end is weighted perfectly. It means you can dart in any direction, so navigating through a busy pack or swiping between hazards on poor roads is never a challenge. It’s so responsive that such manoeuvres are all part of the fun.
With its light weight and rapid handling, the Bianchi is so far, so very superbike. It’s exactly what I’d expect of a bike of this calibre.
What’s less expected, however, is just how wonderfully composed and smooth the Specialissima is at all times. Often with a light, stiff bike and one running just 26mm-wide tyres (when it seems the roadie world has gone mad for big rubber), the trade-off is a rough, jarring ride on anything but the most pristine of road surfaces.
This Bianchi, however, glides over rough tarmac without complaint. Its ability to track straight and nullify vibrations makes this one of the best bikes to be riding when the road heads downwards.
It’s one mean climber too. I’ve ridden bikes in this year’s Bike of the Year designed with bigger tyres and comfort in mind that don’t handle the knocks as well as this brilliantly realised Bianchi.
Bianchi Specialissima Dura-Ace Di2 bottom line
With the Specialissima’s latest guise, Bianchi may have moved away from the origins of classic lightweight design by introducing some modern aerodynamic styling. For some, that may be a step too far from the purity of its predecessors.
However, it’s still a very handsome machine and one that absolutely doesn’t disappoint when it comes to the most important factor – the ride.
It’s a bike that’s all at once fast, flighty and incredibly nimble, yet composed and confident when riding on sub-optimal surfaces or pushing yourself to the limit.
It’s a bike I found myself wanting to live up to, not a bike I felt like going for a bit of a cruise on. It’s a bike I wanted to get up to speed and keep it there for as long as possible.
It’s a bike that, knowing you’ll be riding it in the morning, you’ll concentrate on getting a proper rest, eating well and turning down that beer or wine with dinner. You’ll want to be at your best to make the most of what’s one of the best bikes I’ve tried in a long time. It’s long, low and luxurious, and I’m smitten.
Even with all of my gushing accolades for the Specialissima, it’s one very, very expensive bike. It is stacked with great kit and a superb drivetrain, but some elements could be better.
The Vision wheels are super, but you can find them on bikes for much, much less. I would have expected Vision’s flagship Metrons on the Specialissima, if we’re staying on brand.
I could, however, live happily with the SC40s if it meant riding this chassis every day.
Performance Bike of the Year 2022 | How we tested
Whether you’re riding up or down hills, in a straight line or through tight corners, jostling for positions in a bunch or simply going for that KOM you’ve always dreamt of, the best performance road bikes are wicked-fast and inspire confidence. They should make you feel a little bit like Tadej Pogačar, even if your legs can’t back it up.
With that in mind, we challenged the contenders primarily to an onslaught of technical, hilly routes and fast-paced rides around south Bristol.
Given most riders don’t have a fleet of bikes or a professional mechanic at their beck and call, we also considered how easy each bike is to live with and service.
Can you customise the fit or are you stuck with what comes as stock? Are the deep-section wheels usable in all conditions, or will windy days have you questioning how much you want to go out on a ride? Is it comfortable enough for a long day in the saddle when the roads are less than perfect?
All of the bikes featured in this year’s Performance Bike of the Year test are at the upper end of the pricing scale, with premium groupsets and parts showcasing the best contemporary equipment, but most are also available in cheaper specs if your budget doesn’t stretch as far.
Our Performance Bike of the Year contenders are:
- Bianchi Specialissima Dura-Ace Di2
- Cervélo R5 Disc Force eTap AXS
- Lapierre Xelius SL 9.0
- Merida Scultura Team
- Scott Addict RC10
|Available sizes||46, 50, 53, 55, 57, 59, 61cm|
|Headset||FSA NO.55R 1.5"/ACR/Bianchi|
|Tyres||Pirelli P-Zero Race 26mm|
|Stem||Reparto Corse by FSA NS ACR 120mm|
|Shifter||Shimano Dura-Ace Di2|
|Seatpost||Reparto Corse by FSA K-Force Light SB25 UD Carbon 25mm offset|
|Saddle||FiZik Antares R1 carbon|
|Rear derailleur||Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 12-spd|
|Handlebar||Reparto Corse by FSA Compact UD carbon 44cm|
|Bottom bracket||Shimano SM-BB92-42b press-fit|
|Front derailleur||Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 12-spd|
|Frame||Specialissima Disc carbon|
|Cranks||Shimano Dura-Ace 50/34 Hollowtech II 12-spd|
|Chain||Shimano Dura-Ace 12-spd|
|Cassette||Shimano Dura-Ace 11-30t|
|Brakes||Shimano Hydraulic disc brakes with RT-MT900 centre-lock 160mm rotors|
|Wheels||Vision SC40 TLR disc brake carbon|