The Oltre’s previous XR, XR1 and XR2 iterations toyed with aerodynamics, but the XR4 has gone all the way. Bianchi borrowed the hourglass head tube and outward curving fork legs that reduce turbulence between fork and front wheel from its Aquila CV time trial bike, and the fork crown matches the shape of Campagnolo’s direct-mount brake.
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Further minimising frontal area is Vision Metron’s 5D integrated aero carbon bar and stem, with its broad, forward-swept tops, stubby stem and internal cabling.
Settling in to the lever hoods, the XR4 feels stiff and purposeful. Pressing on the pedals doesn’t produce flex through the bottom bracket, or those deep rims, your torque just makes the CULT ceramic bearing-equipped wheels spin faster. If you’ve got the legs to accelerate, then the XR4 is game.
Tubeless tyres and modern clinchers are quick, but there’s still something classy about the feel of a tubular tyre. The 25mm Vittoria Corsa Graphene-infused tubs have a supple ride and good grip, and corner quieter than their clincher cousins.
Bianchi’s exclusive use of Countervail (CV) within its frames is an ongoing story. This is the fifth Bianchi to include the NASA-developed viscoelastic carbon material, which is embedded into the carbon layup. It’s claimed to cancel up to 80 percent of road vibrations, so reducing muscle fatigue, improving control and helping you maintain an efficient position for longer while making the structure stiffer and stronger.
The XR4 is stiff, solid and largely unrelenting; it’s a sprinter’s dream, and climbs like a Sherpa. When you hit bumps, broken tarmac or potholes, you still feel them as you would on a normal bike, but the following high frequency vibration, like the resonance of a bell after it’s been struck, doesn’t happen. Countervail truncates vibrations, and the sort of constant vibrations you feel on a corrugated surface are reduced to individual bumps.
The swept-forward bar is intended to naturalise your wrist and arm position, but will depend on personal preference — I found it a little more comfortable when climbing, but also recognise the design’s rigidity benefits too. The drops are nicely shaped and sprinters will appreciate the lack of bar near their wrists when giving it the beans.
Super Record EPS is a luxury. High on rarity value and shift performance, I’ve always preferred the EPS inner shift lever to its mechanical cousin’s, and it’s a joy to use.
The Bora 50 wheels catch a little more wind than shallower rims, but it’s not a nasty surprise. The sideways nudge is a little more definite, but even over 30mph on gusty country lane descents, both rider and wheels remained composed. Braking is pretty good too, not class-leading, but well above average, with good initial bite and predictable retardation.
With the sort of handling and pace to satisfy a top pro, and a build to satisfy the fattest of wallets, the Oltre XR4 is about as complete a race bike as anyone could wish for. No box is left unticked, and no finish line is safe, but is it worth its price tag? If you have the means, it’s going to come down to head versus heart, and the Oltre XR4 certainly has the heart.