Perfect race foundation.
Bianchi's Oltre XR4 Road Bike Frameset is the go-to frame for LottoNL-Jumbo. Even on the big mountains where we would expect riders on the uber-lightweight Specialissima, the team calls on this frameset to get results on the sport's biggest stages under riders like Kruijswijk, who we're certain is due for a grand tour win in the coming years. We're not sure if the team prefers this frame because of its all-around package of comfort, lightweight, and aerodynamics or the fact that building up the Specialissima to be UCI compliant would require a boatload of added static weight; regardless, this frameset is a fixture at cycling's highest levels.
Before we get into the frame's specifics, we owe a shout-out to Bianchi for shipping bikes like the Oltre XR4 as framesets. The industry is replete with box bikes that feature downgraded components at wheels and cranksets, but we still appreciate the age-old art of building a bike exactly how you want it. Bianchi rewards that DIY approach, and building the Oltre XR4 up yourself means that you'll get everything you want, exactly how you want it—at least as far as the build goes. As mentioned above, though, the geometry and construction of the frame itself is all up to the likes of the guys on LottoNL-Jumbo.
Since the development and feedback on the XR.4 come from the world's most accomplished, knowledgeable, and discerning experts on how a bike should feel, we think this frame is pretty 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 in 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 XR.4 is very, very fast. This Oltre is responsive enough to challenge every sprint thanks to its oversized tubeset, pressfit bottom bracket, and high-modulus carbon fiber. Those traits that would typically make a frame harsh, but the Countervail technology is designed to muffle high-frequency road vibrations in order to counter the bike's stiff efficiency. The frame loves the open road and crushes the flats, and even on punchy hills or long, grueling mountain passes, the Oltre XR.4 never leaves us feeling like we would want a lighter bike—again, reference Kruijswijk's ultimately ill-fated heroics at the 2016 Giro on the XR.2, which was the XR.4's predecessor. 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 XR.4 does carry a few extra grams than your typical climbing frame (the Specialissima weighs ~200g less), it inspires more confidence at high speeds and while diving into turns in crits. The muscular tubeset channels every watt into forward propulsion, sans any turbo lag, encouraging attacks and contesting every prime. The only time we see Lotto-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 XR.4'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 XR.4 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 quell 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, is 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 rider 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 top pros
- Racing geometry suitable for every spirited ride
- Carbon lay-up with Countervail damps road noise
- Aerodynamics informed by motorsport technology
- Oversized tubes for responsive handling and efficiency
- Direct-mount brakes provide superior stopping power
- Few colors are as synonymous with cycling as Bianchi's celeste