BIANCHI OL­TRE XR3 POTENZA

£3299.99 › Pro race-in­spired aero road bike from sto­ried Mi­lanese brand

Cycling Plus - - ROAD TEST -

In the foot­steps of Cinelli and Wilier comes the real old boy of Ital­ian cy­cling, Bianchi, born in Mi­lan back in 1885. Its dis­tinc­tive Ce­leste green bikes have been rid­den by the likes of Fausto Coppi, Marco Pan­tani and Jan Ull­rich, but the com­pany isn’t rest­ing on its rac­ing lau­rels. Bianchi bikes are presently be­ing rid­den by the Dutch Lot­toNLJumbo team, with Pri­moz Roglic rid­ing a Bianchi Ol­tre XR4 – our test XR3’s slightly snazz­ier and marginally more ag­gres­sive big brother – to vic­tory in the very moun­tain­ous 19th stage of this year’s Tour de France, which is a fine achieve­ment for an aero bike.

At first glance the Ol­tre XR3’s price looks a lit­tle on the high side for a bike with Cam­pag­nolo Potenza and mod­est Ful­crum 7 wheels typ­i­cally found on much less ex­pen­sive bikes. But be­neath the Bianchi’s Ce­leste sur­face lies its se­cret: Coun­ter­vail tech­nol­ogy. More techy stuff from a bike com­pany? Not quite. Bianchi is the only bi­cy­cle man­u­fac­turer to use it but Coun­ter­vail was orig­i­nally de­vel­oped by the Amer­i­can com­pany Ma­te­ri­als Sciences Cor­po­ra­tion and has been used by NASA in aerospace ap­pli­ca­tions, so you’d like to think it works.

Bianchi’s Coun­ter­vail com­bines car­bon fi­bres with vis­coelas­tic resin, to can­cel ‘80 per cent of vi­bra­tions while in­creas­ing the stiff­ness of its car­bon frames and forks’. The Ol­tre XR3 is stiff, which is ev­i­dent as soon as you ac­cel­er­ate, with no ob­vi­ous flex ap­par­ent through the ta­pered 1 1/8-1 1/2in fork or frame, which has deep chain­stays and a mas­sive bot­tom bracket shell, but this ef­fi­ciency is bal­anced with Coun­ter­vail’s com­fort-boost­ing smooth­ness over rougher sur­faces.

Aero cre­den­tials are ev­i­dent in its head-tube, seat­post and the wing­pro­file seat-tube with its dra­matic rear wheel cut­away. In spite of this

Be­neath the Bianchi’s Ce­leste sur­face lies its se­cret: Coun­ter­vail tech­nol­ogy

the weight, un­der 8kg for a lar­gish frame, is de­cent, with the re­sult that this climbs and de­scends very well in­deed. It’s at its best on long rides, where the Coun­ter­vail will keep you more com­fort­able for longer. Coun­ter­vail isn’t de­signed for big­ger bumps, and doesn’t take the sting out like Trek’s IsoSpeed de­cou­pler or Lapierre’s damper. It also means the XR3 doesn’t re­quire the skinny seat­stays many man­u­fac­tur­ers use to quell vi­bra­tions.

The full Potenza groupset works fault­lessly, the 52/36 chain­set and 11-29 cas­sette of­fer­ing the gears you need for all but the steep­est climbs. The Reparto Corse-branded stem and bar are fine, while the car­bon aero seat­post and Selle San Marco sad­dle com­bine to do an ex­cel­lent job of keep­ing you com­fort­able on a very stiff frame. You can also flip the seat­post’s head clamp to ad­just be­tween 10mm and 25mm off­set.

How­ever, the Ful­crum 7s are an en­try-level wheel, and while fine, their non-aero de­sign leaves them slightly out of place on a £3000 aero bike. You also might want to swap the bar tape for some­thing plusher, as the Ol­tre’s is de­cid­edly skimpy and slip­pery! The tyres are far from bud­get op­tions, with the 25mm Vit­to­ria Ru­bino Pros fea­tur­ing graphene for ex­tra punc­ture pro­tec­tion and greater longevity.

Bianchi has de­liv­ered a great­look­ing aero road bike. It’s fast, de­scends beau­ti­fully and copes with poor roads very well, but we’d like to have seen bet­ter, aero wheels.

Be­low The ta­pered head-tube is in­spired by the racy XR4 Bot­tom That CV is im­pres­sive, Bianchi’s Coun­ter­vail tech­nol­ogy pro­vid­ing ad­di­tional com­fort

It’s at its best on long rides, where the Coun­ter­vail will keep you more com­fort­able for longer

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