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road.cc Superbike of the Year 2016-17

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The road.cc Superbike of the Year 2016-17 is the Bianchi Oltre XR4, a lightweight race bike that puts in a superb performance. It's agile and mega-stiff with pin-sharp handling, and it's comfortable enough that you can thoroughly enjoy long rides rather than counting down the miles until it's time to get off.

The Oltre XR4 is the latest Bianchi model to get Countervail technology, Countervail being a viscoelastic material that’s embedded within the carbon-fibre structure of the frame and fork. The idea is to cancel vibration while increasing stiffness and strength.

We can’t say for certain how much influence the Countervail has outside the lab and on the road but we can tell you that the Oltre offers a ride with a marked absence of vibration. Everyone who rode our review bike said the same thing unprompted. There's just a bit less flutter than usual coming though the contact points.

Bianchi has updated the shapes of the frame tubes over those of the Oltre XR2 as a result of CFD (computational fluid dynamics) and flow visualisation. Bianchi says the XR4 has a '20 watt power gain' over the XR2 at 50km/h (31mph). In other words, the power needed to hold 50km/h on the XR4 is 20 watts lower than the power needed to hold 50km/h on the XR2. Five watts of that is down to the new Vision Metron 5D combo handlebar/stem while the frame is said to be worth 15 watts (bear in mind that even the pro peloton doesn't average 50km/h).

Some high-end aero bikes can flex quite a bit as manufacturers shed grams but Bianchi hasn't made that mistake here, and this is a lightweight bike. Our complete 57cm model hit the road.cc Scales of Truth at 6.53kg (14.4lb). Once you've added pedals, that puts it round about the UCI's minimum weight limit for racing.

The Oltre XR4 feels superbly efficient around the bottom bracket despite its low weight. It's a similar story up front where the steering is excellent, giving you the courage to slam the bike hard into corners and jump about in a group of riders knowing that you'll end up exactly where you want to be. No sketchy reactions, no dicey moments, just fantastic handling whatever the situation.

The Bianchi Oltre XR4 really is a superb bike, picking up where its predecessors left off. It's lightweight, reactive and very smooth, and if Bianchi's claims are to be believed, it's highly aerodynamically efficient too. If you have money in your pockets and racing on your mind, this is one of the very best.

We reviewed a super high-end version of the Oltre XR4 with a Campagnolo Super Record groupset and Campag’s Bora Ultra 50 Dark wheels. There’s no such thing as a cheap Oltre XR4 but complete bikes start at £4,700.

Why it wins The Oltre is lightweight, quick to react and very, very smooth; this is a superb pro-level race bike



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