Strong, light, and cheap: choose two. That was Keith Bontrager’s oft quoted approach to bike components. When it comes to bikes, a similar rule can be applied to ‘stiff, aero, light or comfortable’. It’s rare that you can have all four – in fact, three is quite a stretch: but Bianchi have aimed to provide exactly that heady mix in the shape of their Oltre XR4. Just don’t expect ‘cheap’ to fit into the blend, too.
The Bianchi Oltre XR4 is an aero road bike, with a frame weight of 980g. It’s as stiff as an old oak tree that put its roots down a century or so ago, yet somehow the frame maintains the comfortable characteristics you might expect from a magic-carpet: the combination seems like a contradiction until you try it.
The Oltre XR4 was first unveiled in July 2016 – it’s the fourth edition in a series – and follows the XR2 (there is no XR3 – the XR1 was the more cost efficient version of the XR2 so hold that thought on when the XR3 will arrive). In the redesign, Bianchi have focused on aerodynamics and comfort – the former proven in a wind tunnel and the latter apparent on our test rides.
To get the elephant out the way – Bianchi do offer female specific bikes with updated handlebars, stem and saddle options for women. The brand sponsors several female athletes, and in the UK they’ve put their weight behind the Bianchi Dama Road Cycling Team. The Oltre XR4 is not available with a women’s specific fit – but it does come in seven sizes, right down to a 47cm frame. The 50cm frame we tested came with a 90mm stem, and 40cm handlebars – I’d usually choose 38cm bars but the set up was more than adequate and the narrow shifters largely made up for the excess width. The built bike did sport a Fizik Arione saddle, which I swapped immediately (me and that saddle have history and it’s not pretty).
The key areas that Bianchi have focused on in their Oltre resign are aerodynamics and comfort. In fact, these two qualities underpin the model family as a whole.