The Oltre XR has been the main race bike of the Vacansoleil-DCM team for almost a year, Thomas De Gendt taking third on his XR in last year’s Giro. Now available to mere mortals, we wanted to see if the XR is a worthy successor to the original Oltre. We tested the Dura-Ace model, but it’s also available with Campag kit, or as a frameset.
Its swoopy new frame and matt and gloss black finish give it stunning looks, but below the surface Bianchi claim a 20 percent increase in rigidity and 30g weight saving. While both figures are impressive, the former is more relevant, as with a claimed frame weight of 895g it is already competitively light, and Bianchi say this bike wasn’t designed for lab tests but to perform on the road, where its 6.61kg (14.57lb) won’t exactly hold you back.
Close-up look at the Bianchi Oltre XR
Settling in to the saddle, it was immediately apparent that this is one for the flexible, stem-chewing racer, the short head tube positioning us long and low. Picking up speed in the rolling lanes, we began to revel in the XR’s immediacy. The massive aero-shaped down tube, BB30 shell and deep muscular chainstays ensure that drivetrain watts go nowhere but the rear wheel, and acceleration is snappier than a baby alligator.
The frame’s high modulus carbon fibre incorporates carbon nano tube technology. Its cylindrical micro structures are designed to prevent cracks, and are claimed to be 20 percent tougher than normal fibres.
The chunky head tube area is bolstered by Bianchi’s X-TeX cross weave lattice, extra strips of carbon added to increase rigidity, and works with the 1 1/8in to 1 1/2in tapered steerer and slippery straight fork for accurate tracking when heaving uphill and incisive turn-in on descents.
Deep chainstays are efficient – and come with Celeste green detailing
A 190g aero seatpost with concealed clamp has the benefits of a seatmast without the pain of cutting it to length. There’s no pain on long rides either, because Bianchi’s flat Ultra Thin Seat Stays flex vertically but are laterally stiff, largely cancelling out annoying road buzz and big hits.
Shimano provide the mechanicals, with the agile C24 wheels driven by 11-speed Dura-Ace. Its dual density hoods feel great, the shift lever throw is shorter, rear change is snappy and more positive than before, the front change is simply amazing and the cam action callipers are powerful with fine modulation. It’s more than just an extra sprocket, lifting the performance of the whole bike.