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The Bianchi Oltre XR2 is a lightweight race-bred machine that's very, very fast. It's a humdinger of a bike. If you have big ambitions and a loaded wallet, you should check it out seriously.
The Oltre XR2, as the name suggests, is the newly updated version of the Oltre XR that we reviewed here on road.cc just over a year ago.
We loved that bike and at the time summed it up as: 'A lightweight speed machine that's stiff enough to stand up to the most powerful of sprinters; it absolutely flies.' The XR2 is similar, but more so.
What's so good about the performance? Well, the Oltre XR2 is outstandingly responsive. It accelerates super-fast, exactly as you'd expect of a bike that mixes it at the very highest level. Vacansoleil-DCM rode it in the second half of 2013 and Belkin will be using it, along with the Bianchi Infinito CV and a new time trial machine, during this coming season.
When you want to increase your speed the Oltre XR2 jumps into action with a ridiculous amount of energy, making it that little bit easier to get away or close down an attack off the front. That's partly down to its light weight. Our complete review bike (minus pedals) in a non-standard build weighed in at just 6.62kg (14.6lb). Once you add pedals into the equation, that's about on the UCI's 6.8kg minimum weight limit for racing.
That limit isn't going to be relevant to most people, but it does give you an idea of the kind of bike we're talking about here. The Oltre XR2 is made from UMS40 and CN60 ultra high modulus carbon fibre and Bianchi claim a frame weight of 895g (+/-5%, 55cm frame) and 355g for the fork. You can get your hands on lighter framesets, but not that much lighter. The Oltre XR isn't going to look tubby in any company.
Our review bike came built up with Shimano's top-level Dura-Ace groupset in its mechanical guise, Fulcrum's 55mm-deep Racing Speed XLR wheels, a Fizik Arione saddle and a carbon stem and handlebar from FSA. That's all excellent lightweight stuff, although you could shed a few more grams with a bit of judicious planning if you really wanted to.
The 'XR' in Oltre XR2 is short for 'extreme rigidity-to-weight ratio' and the rigidity part of the relationship is arguably even more impressive than the weight. Bianchi reckon that they've dialled in extra rigidity over the already very stiff Oltre XR, and that's the impression you get when riding this bike. You can put as much power as you like through this chassis and it just won't bow. Jump on the cranks with the bike in a massive gear and at an improbable angle and the bottom bracket stays perfectly steadfast. Pump your quads until they scream on a short power climb and it's a similar story.
Bianchi have gone with a BB386EVO bottom bracket standard this time, although our review bike came with a Shimano Dura-Ace chainset plugged in there, with a 24mm-diameter axle. The nearest standard model actually comes with an FSA K-Force Light BB386 Evo Carbon chainset with a 30mm alloy axle for even greater stiffness.
Either way, BB386EVO allows Bianchi to produce a super-wide down tube and a bottom bracket shell width of 80-81mm rather than the 68mm you get with a standard system. Essentially, they can increase the surface area here to stiffen things up while actually lightening the bottom bracket. Plus, BB386EVO allows you to fit virtually any current chainset that you like.
The head tube area is equally stiff, the Oltre XR2 featuring a tapered design in common with pretty much all other top-end race bikes out there these days. As well as the widening of the head tube and the fork steerer that the 1 1/2in lower headset bearing allows, Bianchi use their X-Tex technology to provide more rigidity.
This comprises extra carbon strips moulded into the frame in a grid pattern both in the head tube and around the bottom bracket. It covers 3-4in either side of those areas, up the seat tube and down tube from the bottom bracket, and along the top tube and down tube from the head tube. The idea is that Bianchi can boost rigidity in the areas where it really counts without adding the weight that a uniform thickening of the walls would involve. You couldn't really want for more stiffness than you get here... at least, I didn't. Although it's lightweight (see above), the Oltre XR2 is as stiff as a big old aluminium warhorse, that front end staying resolutely straight however hard and fast you slam it into tight downhill bends.
One other thing that the Bianchi designers concentrated on with the Oltre XR2 was aerodynamics. The previous design had slim-legged forks and an aero-profiled seat tube and seat post. Those details have been retained but the new fork has a down tube integrated design. In other words, the fork crown now fits neatly into a step where the head tube and down tube join so that it doesn't extend the size of the bike's frontal area (just look at the picture to get the idea; it's a whole lot clearer).
The idea, of course, is to manage the airflow better in order to reduce drag. By how much, though, we couldn't tell you. Bianchi don't make any claims of the 'x seconds faster over y miles' variety – not that we take too much notice of those claims anyway – and I sure as hell couldn't tell you from riding the bike out on the road.
Whether you go for mechanical or electronic shifting, the Oltre XR2 frame is exactly the same, so you could swap from one to the other easily. Go for a Campagnolo EPS electronic version and there's a little port close to the bottom bracket that allows you to recharge the internal battery without the need to remove it from the frame. It's a neat little touch. Of course, the Campag Super Record EPS version isn't going to come cheap. It's £9,950, so you're not going to get it on a Cycle to Work scheme, that's for sure.
In terms of comfort, the Oltre XR2 can't live with something like Bianchi's Infinito CV which has impressed everyone with its buzz-damping qualities, but the flattened and super-skinny seatstays do seem to take the sting out of the tail. At least, you don't get rattled around too much or shaken to pieces every time you cross a patch of rough Tarmac. I found the Fizik Arione saddle very comfortable too with its carbon braided rails, although as we all know, one man's seat is another man's poison. Or something like that.
If you're after more comfort, you could always go for 25mm tyres rather than the 23s fitted as standard on all the XR2s (except the two disc versions which do get 25s to increase the size of the contact patch with the ground). Our review bike actually came with Veloflex tubulars. These are almost universally popular but I found them really slippy in the wet – although that's pretty much irrelevant because none of the production versions of the Bianchi come with them specced.
Anyway, the point is that the XR2 is reasonably comfortable in race bike terms and it doesn't look for any excuse to skitter about over damaged roads although, unsurprisingly, it's not as forgiving as something like the Infinito CV or a Cannondale Synapse, for example. If you point it at potholes, rather than letting you off with a warning, it's going to remind you not to make a habit of it.
The Oltre XR2 is available in a grand total of nine different versions, so there's something there for all the family — as long as your family is pretty wealthy. Two of those are actually Oltre XR2 Disc models, each with a disc-specific frame and fork, obviously.
Of the rim brake options, the least expensive complete bike is the Campagnolo Chorus-equipped model at £5,000. As I mentioned, our review bike didn't come in a standard build but it would be priced at about £6,800. There is a Shimano Dura-Ace-equipped model with an FSA K-Force Light BB386 chainset and Fulcrum Racing Zero Dark wheels. Ultegra, Ultegra Di2, SRAM Red and Campagnolo Super Record builds are available too.
As I said right at the start, the Oltre XR2 is an exceptional bike. It's right up there with the very best in terms of all-out performance, and if I had unlimited funds it would certainly be on my very short shortlist for my next purchase. Lightweight, rigid and very, very fast, it's an absolute peach.
Lightweight, rigid and very, very fast, this is an exceptional race-bred bike.
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Make and model: Bianchi Oltre XR2
Size tested: 57cm
State the frame and fork material and method of construction. List the components used to build up the bike.
The Bianchi Oltre XR2 is made from UMS40 and CN60 ultra high modulus carbon fibre
Groupset Shimano Dura-Ace
Wheels Fulcrum Racing Speed XLR
Tyres Veloflex tubulars
Saddle Fizik Arione R3
Handlebar FSA K-Force
Stem FSA OS99
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?
This is an all-out performance bike designed for riding fast.
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
It's a road race geometry.
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Very much. I didn't want to give the bike back
Would you consider buying the bike? It would be on a very short shortlist
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Undoubtedly
Anything further to say about the bike in conclusion?
Average out the 9 for performance and a 7 for value and the overall value would be 8. However, performance outweighs value on a bike of this price... so it's a 9.
Age: 43 Height: 190cm Weight: 75kg
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 been in cycling media since 1996, on titles including BikeRadar, Total Bike, Total Mountain Bike, What Mountain Bike and Mountain Biking UK, and he has been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. Mat has been road.cc technical editor for over a decade, 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 winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer. Now over 50, he's riding road and gravel bikes most days for fun and fitness rather than training for competitions.