The Bianchi Oltre XR4 Disc is a fabulous race bike, offering speed and agility, aero features and an excellent ride quality alongside the power and consistency of hydraulic disc brakes. This bike is a real star!
- Pros: Stiff frame, smooth ride, agile performance
- Cons: Others beat it on value for money
The Oltre XR4 Disc is a bike that you'll always find yourself looking for an excuse to ride. Even when the weather is damp and dreary, as it has been for a lot of the winter test period... sod it! Let's just head out into the hills to check how it gets on with slippy climbs and wet descents.
We've reviewed the rim brake version of the Oltre XR4 previously, and we loved it. This version picks up where that one left off, providing the same pro-level performance with the addition of disc brakes.
Loads of brands have added disc brake versions of existing rim brake models over the past few years, and it's always more complicated than just adding some extra mounts to the frame and fork.
Whereas the rim brake version of the Oltre XR4 has a 1 1/8in upper headset bearing and a 1 1/4in lower bearing, the disc brake version is 1 1/2in top and bottom. This is because Bianchi uses FSA/Vision's new ACR System.
ACR stands for Aerodynamic Cable Routing and it involves an integrated cockpit (a one-piece handlebar and stem) and a specific (although standard sized) headset.
According to Vision, "By using standard headset dimensions, the system maintains frame strength and, by routing cables through the headset, it also safely preserves a round steering column that is free of drilling. Additionally, brands have the flexibility to utilise a single frame design at a variety of spec levels simply by adjusting cockpit and headset selection."
Here's a quick video to show you how it works.
The gear wires and the brake hoses run internally through both the handlebar and stem sections. Then there's a little channel at the front of the spacers and top cover of the headset through which the rear brake hose and the wires (if you go for a Di2 spec) can travel down into the frame. Those spacers are split – each one is made up of two separate parts that lock together around the fork's steerer tube for ease of adjustment. The spacers and the headset cap, like the FSA 1 1/2in headset, are custom, designed specifically for the XR4 Disc.
The front brake hose slithers into the top of the steerer tube and drops down to the fork leg. As well as keeping everything out of the airflow, this results in a really clean appearance.
If you choose a mechanical groupset, Bianchi runs the cables externally between the centre of the bar and ports at the top of the down tube.
In use, the handlebar/stem is excellent. It feels stiff when you're on the drops and the top sections, flattened for aerodynamics, make for comfortable handholds when you're climbing.
Bianchi hasn't had to change the geometry much to accommodate the disc brakes. I usually take a 57cm bike but in Bianchi's unusual stated sizes it's a 59cm. The 59cm Oltre XR4 Disc comes with a 540mm seat tube, a 575mm top tube, a 175mm head tube and 73-degree frame angles. Those figures are identical to those of the rim brake model. The stack height is 575mm and the reach is 398mm – again, virtually the same.
The only real difference is out back where the chainstays are a touch longer – 412mm versus 409mm on the 59cm model – leading to a slight increase in the wheelbase: 1,005mm rather than 1,002.5mm. In use, you won't notice such a subtle difference. I certainly didn't (and I've ridden the rim brake Oltre XR4 loads).
The geometry is race-focused, of course. Our review bike came with 35mm of headset spacers to bring the front end up, giving a slightly more upright riding position than I'd ideally have. If this was your bike you could ditch at least some of those spacers and cut down the steerer tube for a more aggressive setup.
The Oltre XR4 Disc uses 12mm thru-axles front and rear and, like the vast majority of new models, it takes flat mount disc brakes. Bianchi claims a frame weight of 990g (+/-5%, 55cm version) and a fork weight of 420g. That compares with claimed weights of 980g (+/-5%) and 370g for the rim brake model – so the disc frameset is 60g heavier.
Our Oltre XR4 Disc hit the road.cc Scales of Truth at 7.8kg (17lb 3oz). That's considerably more than the 6.53kg (14lb 6oz) of the rim brake model that we reviewed, of course, but we're not comparing like with like. That bike came fitted with a top tier Campagnolo Super Record groupset and Campag Bora Ultra 50 Dark tubular wheels, whereas this review bike is built up with Shimano's second level Ultegra Di2 groupset and Fulcrum Racing Quattro DB clincher wheels.
Like the rim brake model, the Oltre XR4 Disc is a lovely, lovely bike, jumping into action with no fuss whatsoever.
First, there's the frame stiffness. The central part of this frame is solid. Get out of the saddle and slam those pedals with everything you've got in a quad-busting sprint and it's still solid.
The front end is equally impressive. Lean the XR4 over as hard as you dare, the tyres scrabbling to grip the road surface, and the steering is spot on. You'll have a lot of fun chucking the bike around on sinuous descents too, the easy-to-control brakes getting you out of bother if you do overcook it in a tight turn.
The Oltre XR4 Disc is just as good on the ups. We've certainly reviewed disc brake bikes that are considerably lighter but a couple of pounds really doesn't make the difference to climbing prowess that some people would have you believe. Stand up on the pedals and everything feels very efficient.
One feature that has definitely grown on me is the forward sweep of the Vision Metron 5D ACR Disc Integrated Aero bar/stem (that reminds me, I should try to negotiate payment by the letter). From the centre point of the stem section, the flattened tops curve forward 10 degrees. This means that when you rest your hands up there for climbing, your elbows stick out slightly, as if you've only taken up road cycling in the last fortnight. Vision claims that this makes for easier breathing. I'm not 100 per cent sure about that but I definitely find this position a little less cramped than usual, and a little more comfortable on the arms and shoulders.
The other big feature of the Oltre XR4 is its smoothness. Bianchi will tell you that this is down its Countervail (CV) technology. For those who haven't been paying attention, Countervail is something that Bianchi has introduced to several models over the past few years. I've explained it many times previously so I'll let Bianchi do the honours here:
"Bianchi collaborated with Materials Sciences Corporation to develop our innovative and exclusive application of the patented Countervail integrated vibration cancelling system for cycling. Scientific studies prove that long term exposure to vibration, typically absorbed by the rider, causes muscle fatigue and discomfort, resulting in reduced performance.
"With its patented carbon fibre architecture, Countervail carbon material, embedded within our unique Specialissima, Oltre XR4, Infinito CV, Aquila CV and Methanol CV carbon lay-up, immediately cancels vibration while increasing the stiffness and strength of the entire frame."
Of course, there are a whole load of factors that affect a bike's feel, from frame geometry and layup to fairly simple things like tyre pressure and the type of handlebar tape used, and my backside isn't so finely tuned that it can discern the exact role that a particular 'carbon fibre architecture' plays in the feel of a bike, but I do find the Oltre XR4, in both its rim brake and disc brake versions, to be among the most buzz-free race bikes out there.
This is, though, still very much an aggressive race bike with sharp reflexes so don't expect the deep, soft comfort that you get with some endurance road bikes.
You get a full Shimano Ultegra Di2 groupset right down to the cassette, without anything swapped out to make way for something cheaper, and it's excellent stuff. I'm fortunate enough to ride both top-level Dura-Ace Di2 and second-tier Ultegra Di2 on a regular basis and there's nothing between them in terms of function, Dura-Ace just coming in a little lighter.
The Oltre XR4 is available in four different builds, the other three being based around Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 (£10,000), Shimano Dura-Ace mechanical (£8,000) and Campagnolo Super Record (£9,400) groupsets. They all have 52/36T chainsets, the only difference in gearing being that the Campag model has an 11-29T cassette whereas it's 11-28T with the Shimano options.
Different wheels are also available, depending on the option you choose. Fulcrum Racing Quattros came fitted to our Ultegra Di2 model. These have 40mm-deep carbon rims to offer an aero advantage without being so deep that they become a handful in blustery conditions. They're great wheels: strong, stiff, and a reasonable weight considering their medium depth and 24.5mm outer width. They do add £1,000 to the price over the Fulcrum Racing 418s, the other wheels you could opt for if you wanted to save some cash or if you already have a bling set of wheels you'd like to use (we had the 418s on the Oltre XR3 Disc that we reviewed).
The only part of the build that I really couldn't get on with was Bianchi's own bottle cage! It might be superlight but I found getting a bottle out of it way more difficult than it should be, to the point that I would question whether I was really thirsty before committing to the job. Small point, I know! I'll move on...
Priced at £7,700, this version of the Oltre XR4 Disc is among the more expensive Shimano Ultegra Di2-equipped disc brake road bikes out there, although you can get the same bike with Fulcrum Racing 418 wheels instead of Fulcrum Racing Quattros over £1,000 cheaper at £6,650.
The Vitus ZX1 CRi Aero Disc Ultegra Di2 that we reviewed last year was just £3,199.99, although that's an unusually low price for a bike with this level of componentry.
Giant's Ultegra Di2-equipped Propel Advanced Pro Disc is £4,899, Specialized's Tarmac Disc Pro is £6,000 and Cannondale's new SystemSix Hi-Mod Ultegra Di2 is £6,500. The Trek Madone SLR 7 Disc Project One is £7,550, although you have a degree of customisation there.
This really is a great race bike. You'll find lighter bikes and you'll find bikes that beat it on price, but the Oltre XR4 Disc offers a sparkling ride. It's quick, agile and very smooth. Add in an excellent electronic groupset and hydraulic disc brakes and this is a fabulous proposition.
Pro-level race bike with fast reactions, a smooth ride and excellent braking
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Bianchi Oltre XR4 Disc
Size tested: 59cm
About the bike
List the components used to build up the bike.
Frame Oltre XR4 carbon w/Countervail, mechanical/electronic shifting compatible, headset 1.5", BB92 bottom bracket, disc brake internal cable routing, flat mount caliper, thru axle 12x142mm, sizes 47-50-53-55-57-59-61cm
Fork Bianchi Full Carbon w/Countervail, 1.5in integrated head, Disc Brake internal cable, flat mount caliper, thru axle 12x100mm
Headset Fsa Orbit, 1.5in, specific for Metron ACR integrated handlebar
Shifters Shimano Ultegra Di2 ST-R8070 2x11sp Hydraulic disc brake
Rear derailleur Shimano Ultegra Di2 RD-R8050 SS 11sp
Front derailleur Shimano Ultegra Di2 FD-R8050
Crankset Shimano Ultegra FC-R8000 52x36T, Hollowtech II
BB Shimano SM-BB72-41B
Chain Shimano Ultegra CN-HG701-11, 11sp
Sprocket Shimano Ultegra CS-R8000, 11-12-13-14-15-17-19-21-23-25-28T
Brakes Shimano BR-R8070
Wheels Fulcrum Racing Quattro DB
Tyre Vittoria Rubino Pro G+ Isotech graphene 700x25
Stem Included w/handlebar
Handlebar Vision Metron 5D ACR Disc Integrated Aero bar, material UD Weave Carbon, drop 125mm, reach 80mm, Di2 compatible,Ext: 100x400mm-47/50cm, 110x420mm-53/55cm, 120x420mm-57/59cm, 130x440mm-61cm
Grips Black soft Microfiber tapes w/shockproof Eva-139
Seatpost Oltre Full Carbon Aero; clamp with alloy head adjustable and reversible
Saddle Fi'zi:k Arione R3 k:ium
Rotor Shimano SM-RT800 Center Lock, diam. 160mm
Waterbottle Bianchi Loli 600ml
Water bottle cage Reparto Corse Carbon
Tell us what the bike is for and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about the bike?
It's a top-level race bike. You don't have to race it, of course – you might use it for sportives or just riding fast with the local chaingang, or whatever – but it's designed for racing.
Where does this model sit in the range? Tell us briefly about the cheaper options and the more expensive options
The Oltre XR4, in its rim brake and disc brake guises, is on Bianchi's top level alongside the Specialissima. Whereas the Specialissima is designed to be lightweight, the Oltre XR4 (like the other Oltres) is designed to be more aerodynamically efficient.
Frame and fork
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
The frameset features Countervail technology, designed to reduce vibration (see the main text for more details).
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
The geometry is virtually the same as that of the rim brake version. As you'd expect of a race bike, it puts you into quite a low and stretched riding position.
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
Bianchi sizes its bike differently from other brands so consult its geometry tables closely. The 59cm bike that I rode, for example, has a 575mm top tube and a 540mm seat tube.
Riding the bike
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
It's a smooth feeling bike, even with high pressure in the 25mm tyres. This is one of the Oltre's strengths.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
This is another of the Oltre's strengths. It feels very stiff both around the bottom bracket and at the front end of the frame.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
It certainly feels very efficient.
Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so was it a problem?
None, it misses by a whisker.
How would you describe the steering? Was it lively neutral or unresponsive? The lively side of neutral, certainly.
Shimano Ultegra Di2 is pretty much as good as Dura-Ace but a chunk cheaper.
Wheels and tyres
They're a decent weight for their depth. You can get much lighter options, but then you'd take a hit on aerodynamics.
Tell us some more about the tyres. Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the tyres? If so what for?
Vittoria Rubino Pros are designed as all-rounders rather than as race wheels. They're more about durability than speed. They wouldn't be my first choice.
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes
Would you consider buying the bike? I certainly would.
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes
How does the price compare to that of similar bikes in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
You can certainly buy Shimano Ultegra Di2 equipped bikes – including many with disc brakes – quite a bit cheaper, but you get a very high-quality frameset here.
Use this box to explain your overall score
Performance is a definite 9 and although value is lower, I still think the Oltre XR4 Disc does enough to warrant a 9 overall.
About the tester
I usually ride: My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding
Mat has worked for loads of bike magazines over 20+ years, and been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. He's been road.cc technical editor for eight years, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. We send him off around the world to get all the news from launches and shows too. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a past winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer.