Bikes of the Bunch: Bianchi Oltre XR4

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In this edition of Bikes of the Bunch, Shu Chong Tang tells us about his new Bianchi Oltre XR4 — not the first Bianchi he’s owned.

This bike was a totally unexpected surprise for me; a huge shock with enormous sentiment. It was a gift from my father-in-law and one that he surprised me with while on a trip. It was one of those moments: wrong place, tight schedule, ungodly retail times, a corner shop and a surprising outcome. It was an eventful day.

I’ve always had a thing for Bianchi. There’s something about the brand, it has a cult of its own, like the famous CAAD-cult. One thing is for sure: most Bianchi owners have a passion for the bikes.

Having had an Oltre, Oltre XR2, and an Infinito CV, I suppose it was a no-brainer to get a XR4! Each model has been nothing but surprising and an absolute joy to ride. I have owned many other brands, but every time I hop onto one of those brands, it seems I return to Bianchi. And having studied a lot of pictures of the XR4, I was sure that this bike was going to be something special.

Frame/fork: Bianchi Oltre XR4
Bars/stem: Vison Metron 5D integrated
Groupset: Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 with CeramicSpeed Oversized Pulley Wheel System
Wheels: Enve 4.5, DT 240s hubs
Saddle: Specialized Power
Pedals: Shimano Dura-Ace
Bidon Cages: Elite
Bar tape: Supercaz

I have loved Campagnolo since 2012 (after I switched over from DA 7900) and have Campagnolo mechanical groupsets on my other bikes. In my opinion, it just works beautifully compared to Shimano’s mechanical groupsets. However, I wanted to try something new for this build, something I wasn’t familiar with. Hence, I decided to give Shimano Di2 a shot.

I was overwhelmed with how the build came together. The groupset seems to really integrate with the frame so there’s no messy, fussy cables all over the front end of the bike. Just the sleek, organised Di2 configuration.

Di2 is certainly entertaining to use. I’m still not 100% used to the non-mechanical movements, and I will need to familiarise myself further with Shimano’s hoods as I much prefer Campagnolo’s shape. At least one thing’s for sure: the CeramicSpeed oversized pulleys add a lot of bling!

The Enve 4.5 wheelset was something I decided would be a new addition to my wheel collection. Having read rave reviews about these, I was dead-set on having a pair myself. Sure enough, they hold true to the reviews. I chose DT 240s over Chris King as they are easier to service and really, I’m not a sucker for Chris King hubs.

So, how does it ride? Amazing. Stupidly stable and fast, yet comfortable. I really can’t explain it; it’s one of those bikes you have to get on and experience. The handling of the bike is so much sharper than any other bike I have owned. I remembered one of the first corners I took on the bike: like a hot knife into butter, there was no hesitation from the bike.

I can’t say the XR4 is an improvement over the XR2 because it’s a totally different bike. Having had many bikes over the years, I’d put the XR4 in the category of an all-rounder. While it doesn’t excel on the climbs like my Cervelo R3 does, it sure as hell doesn’t beat me up like my Specialized Venge. Holding speeds requires much less perceived effort however it’s still responsive for a heavy masher on inclines. It’s also amazingly stable in windy conditions, and overall, pure enjoyment to ride.

I look forward to many more adventures with my XR4. It holds a lot of sentimental value and I find it a privilege to be able to ride such a beautiful machine. This is one of Bianchi’s first fully-fledged aero bikes and I must say, they have designed a wonderful piece of art. I regard it as one of those bikes one can ride and have hours of endless fun on it.

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