Bianchi has history, and more of it than several of the industry’s biggest brands combined, so it’s fair to say the Italian firm knows how to make a good bike. It’s also fair to say that although there have been a few misses over the years, Bianchi has been on a roll recently, with an array of exciting and innovative models.
This does of course beg the question, just how exciting can an alloy bike be? Well, in this case the answer is: exciting enough to make it a contender for Bike of the Year 2016 in our sister mag Cycling Plus's recent roadie mega-shootout.
Old-fashioned good looks
The Freccia Celeste’s triple butted tube dimensions look quite restrained and classical alongside some of the beefy carbon competition, and its sloping top tube design and short head tube give old school race bike looks – if you take old school to be the late 90s – and with good reason, as Bianchi has revived the EV tubeset that saw Marco Pantani to victory in the 1998 Tour de France. As for the colour, well it doesn’t get more Bianchi than Celeste, to the extent that it comprises half of this model’s name.
Welds are tidy but visible – and the alloy frame's performance puts some carbon ones in the shade
Our 55cm frame has a titchy 145mm hourglass head tube, so for the rider after an intermediate setup that’s not too aggressive and not too leisurely, it might be worth going up a size if top tube length allows. That, or embrace a stack of spacers.
The top tube has strengthening ribs along each side, creating a rounded diamond profile, while the down tube has continuous organic curves, ovalised vertically at the head tube and rotating through 90 degrees to brace the BSA bottom bracket shell. The chain stays are slim, tall and straight, with no bridge, and the seatstays are round, pencil-thin and very elegantly curved.
All of the welds are neat, if bold, and twin cable stops are the only interruption to the classy lines, sitting proud beneath the down tube, quite close to the front tyre, so road spray may mean the screw-in adjusters need more regular maintenance.
The Bianchi marque is going through a bit of a purple patch just now
The component spec is good, although only the levers and derailleurs are Shimano Ultegra, with a 105 cassette, and FSA’s new Gossamer Pro crankset. Fulcrum’s Racing 7 LG wheelset sports 23mm wide, 28mm tall rims, with an asymmetric rear, and are ably stopped by Bianchi’s own smart Reparto Corse brake callipers.
The cockpit and saddle look to be obvious cost cutters, but San Marco’s eRa perch has a good shape, supports well, and offers useful comfort. The bar and stem are rigid enough for enthusiastic sprinting, and the drops are deep and spacious for big hands, although we found Bianchi’s own bar tape to be quite slippery. The sloping frame leaves plenty of the 27.2mm Reparto Corse carbon seatpost exposed, which is a sure way to add comfort.
Frisky yet balanced ride
The Freccia Celeste doesn’t have race bike reflexes, but is a lively ride, feeling like a frisky puppy, always wanting to charge up the road. We felt instantly at home, well balanced, and the positivity only grew from then on.
The FSA Gossamer Pro crankset looks strong and has stiffness to match
The gearing range of 52/36 up front and 11-28 out back suited us well, and gives a good spread of gears without any big jumps, and with Ultegra in the most important places, shifting is slick and precise. That Gossamer Pro crankset has a strong look, with strong performance to match, and plenty of rigidity.
After two hours, we were still revelling in the superb ride quality, making the Freccia just a fantastic place to be while ticking the miles off. It goes far more quickly, and feels far more lively than its spec sheet and overall weight would suggest.
The handling is crisp, and it doesn’t matter whether you spot a mid-corner bump and can’t avoid it, or see it and want to change line, neither is a problem. The Freccia’s bump and vibration absorption is better than some carbon frames, and makes it very easy to forget you’re riding alloy.
There’s a satisfying directness evident when standing on the pedals, and a very connected feeling that is often missing from carbon frames. From the stiff crankset via the external cup bottom bracket to the Fulcrum wheelset, in isolation none are outstanding, but together they create a positive, rewarding ride. Acceleration isn’t the most urgent, but it’s no slouch, willingly gaining speed and easily sustaining it through constantly undulating lanes.
The sun shone on our test period, but with this frameset, a good build and any roads you care to point it at, the Freccia will shine no matter what the weather.