Oltre XR4 Disc Road Bike Frameset
Here at the office, we love all the bikes we sell and we try not to play favorites too often, but something about Bianchi bikes makes it our pick of the litter with its road bike offerings. Great looking, sublime ride qualities, and a list of palmarès that other brands can only dream of, Bianchi bikes are steeped in tradition yet continue to develop and evolve in a sport where speeds are only getting faster and the difference between first and second is often just the width of a tire. Its Oltre is the epitome of a road race machine and is the go-to frame choice for Team Jumbo for every race except the brutal cobbles of Roubaix. Even on the high mountains, where we would expect GC riders on the uber-lightweight Specialissima, the team calls on the Oltre as its superior aerodynamics trumps chasing grams. So perfect is the Oltre that our only niggle would be its lack of disc brake compatibility, something we've been enjoying more and more, and with the Oltre XR4 Disc Road Bike Frameset that all changes. You can now own and ride one of the world's fastest road bikes with the power and modulation of disc brakes adding the confidence to slow it down from any speed, in any weather condition.
Before we dive into the frame's specifics, we want to commend Bianchi for offering the Oltre XR4 as a frameset. It's typical to find these wonderbikes with downgraded components and substandard wheels to hit certain price points, so it's refreshing that we have the ability to build up a dream bike exactly as we want to or the ability to transfer parts over from another build. This particular frameset does come with a matching aero seatpost with an adjustable setback of -10 to 25mm and the excellent Vision Metron Integrated bar and stem in size-specific lengths and widths to further its aerodynamic profile. All in all, it’s a World Tour winning fuselage with the exact geometry and construction the pros on Team Jumbo receive.
Bianchi is rich with racing experience and it takes this feedback into consideration when developing its frames and the XR4 is no exception. By partnering with teams that race at the highest level, framesets get pretty well refined and while we'd like to think that we can exploit the bike's potential like these pros, the fact is we never will; however, the upshot is we know we don't have an excuse with our equipment. Something about riding a pro-level bike and knowing that our equipment is the same as theirs makes us want to ride harder and longer.
The ride of the XR4 is very, very fast. This Oltre is plenty responsive to encourage challenging every sprint thanks to its oversized tubeset, pressfit bottom bracket, and high-modulus carbon fiber layup. Those traits typically make a frame ride harsh, however, Bianchi's patented Countervail technology is designed to quell high-frequency road vibrations in order to counter the bike's stiff efficiency. The frame loves the open road and absolutely crushes the flats, however, its right at home devouring punchy, classic-esque bergs or long, grueling mountain passes alike and the Oltre XR4 never leaves us feeling like we would want a lighter bike. No matter the terrain, the bike inspires us to ride aggressively and step on the gas, much like a high-end sports car.
While the Oltre XR4 does carry a few extra grams than your typical climbing frame (the Specialissima weighs in around 200g less), it helps inspire more confidence at high speeds and while diving into crit turns. The muscular tubeset channels every watt into forward propulsion, sans any turbo lag, practically begging for attacks and contesting every prime. As we mentioned above, the only time we see Team Jumbo riders deviate from this rig is when opting for the Infinito on the northern classics where running wider tires is almost mandatory.
Compared to previous versions of the Oltre, the XR4's different tube shapes produce a claimed increase of 20 free watts by simply reducing drag. The tools Bianchi used to achieve this range from the usual (Computational Fluid Dynamics software and wind tunnel testing borrowed heavily from the Aquila TT frame) to the decidedly unusual (fluorescent paint applied in the wind tunnel that mapped the flow of air across the frameset's body).
Bianchi says the paint trick—borrowed from the aero-obsessed motorsport industry—represents the first time that this technique has been used in developing a bicycle frame. We say that it's borderline criminal to spoil a Bianchi paint job with glow-in-the-dark slop. Those drag savings do go some way toward assuaging our umbrage, though, and even to the naked eye, the frame presents a noticeably reduced leading edge to the wind, with the head tube, in particular, bearing a remarkable resemblance to Bianchi's Contre-la-montre bike, the Aquila CV. And anyway, when unspoiled by wind-tunnel test paint, the paint job does provide the perfect modern homage to what may be the most beautiful color in cycling, Celeste.
As mentioned above, the XR4 incorporates Bianchi's much-lauded Countervail vibration damping technology. Countervail is a proprietary viscoelastic carbon layer in the frame that soaks up vibrations and road noise without compromising stiffness. Countervail was developed for NASA by Material Sciences Corporation, a US-based firm. The tech has also proven itself as an important laminate in tennis rackets, helping to reduce vibrations while returning serves that often reach north of 130mph.
Bianchi's been using Countervail in its endurance frames for some time to reduce the harshness of long rides over rough terrain. It quickly learned that it's actually a perfect addition to all of its frames including the aerodynamic line. Remember not too long ago when a sub-1,000g road frame was the holy grail? Well, the Oltre hits that mark in addition to being one of the most aerodynamic in the peloton and has the comfort for 5-hour stages and 3-week long tours. How's that for a holy grail?
Countervail also improves the rider's aerodynamics by increasing comfort, letting you stay in a more aero position for longer. By limiting the punishment of road vibrations and taking some of the sting out of getting low into an aerodynamic position, you can ride faster and for longer. Its common knowledge that the majority of drag comes from the rider's position, so we're on board with this train of thought. We also appreciate that the tires won't chatter across the pavement when pushed hard, contributing to instability and speed wobbles that force us to slow down and cost control and confidence. Countervail lets you descend with authority so you can maintain the gaps you work so hard for on the climbs.
- An all-around road racing frameset proven by Team Jumbo pros
- Racing geometry suitable for fast training and racing
- High-mod, UD carbon lay-up with Countervail damps road noise
- Aerodynamics influenced by motorsport technology
- Oversized tubes offer responsive handling and efficiency
- Disc brakes provide awesome stopping power and modulation
- Includes seatpost and Vision Metron integrated bar and stem
- Bianchi's Celeste is iconic and beautiful