Bianchi Gets (Very) Special: The Specialissima
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The bike is called the Bianchi Specialissima and it costs $14,000. To say the bar is set high for the latest Bianchi is an understatement. But Bianchi has been on a bit of roll lately. The Oltre proved that the venerable Italian brand could make a race bike to rival any manufacturer and the Infinito CV showed that Francesco Moser isn’t the only Italian who knows how to conquer the cobbled classics. So what is the Specialissima (which translates as “very special”)? With frame weight under the magic 800- gram barrier, it’s clear this new bike is a climber, but is it worthy of the price? Is it “very” special?
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The Specialissima looks every bit the Italian super bike, but with traditional lines. The top tube is almost dead flat, no contrived curves are explained away with marketing slogans; the stays are svelte; the down tube is enormous; and the fork blades are straight and aggressive. With celeste green making sweet love to its tubes, it’s as “Bianchi” as a bike can get. Naked carbon is an option, as are custom colors with Bianchi’s Tavolozza project—but don’t bother. If Coppi were alive today, he’d ride it in celeste.
The Specialissima wears its technology on the inside. Countervail is an “integrated vibration canceling system,” which means a layer of damping material is sandwiched between the carbon layers to help the entire structure better absorb and eliminate high-frequency vibrations before they can rattle your teeth, sapping energy and betraying handling. Our experience with the Infinito CV showed us it’s more than smoke and mirrors, and Lars Boom showed us during stage 5 of the 2014 Tour de France that the technology works on the truly rough stuff too. While light climbing bikes don’t need to perform on cobbles, they have a lot to gain by increasing comfort. They are nervous, high-strung beings that need to perform hour after hour during huge mountain stages. Going light means hi-mod carbon, which is stiff; it also means big tube shapes, which are stiff; and it means thin tube walls, which transmit every nuance of impact and vibration. By slipping Countervail into the mix, Bianchi has been able to go as hi-mod, as thin wall and large diameter as it pleased, knowing Countervail would smooth it all out and help riders stay fresher.
The Specialissima’s geometry is taken directly from the Oltre with a low, aggressive rider position and a slightly longer wheelbase, which adds up to a confident, open road racer. Our size 59cm was 13.8 pounds on the scale with Campagnolo Super Record EPS and Fulcrum Zero carbon clinchers. A frameset alone can be had for $5,000 and a Dura-Ace Di2 build is $12,500. Premium Italian has never been synonymous with inexpensive.
The weight of the frame was immediately noticeable, and the Specialissima has that light and nimble feeling, without being squirrelly. Despite its 13.8-pound weight, it has an incredibly smooth and stable ride. Diving into corners you’ll forget you are on a lightweight climber because the Bianchi Specialissima tracks like a beefy crit bike. This is the Countervail at work. It doesn’t have the rocket- ship feeling we get with the new Madone or Tarmac in full-gas sprints, but it is certainly speedy enough that we would not hesitate to choose it for any race profile.
When the road tilted up we had our “Ah-ha” moment. Seated, high-cadence efforts felt amazingly efficient. Shifting up and getting out of the saddle with high torque and low cadence, you could feel the bike doing everything in its power to help you get up the mountainside quicker. While we would still classify this bike as an insanely good climbing bike, it happens to do everything else extremely well. It’s true, a few other bikes deliver similar ride quality for less, but none deliver the same Bianchi magic.
The Bianchi Specialissima rider wants ferocious acceleration
in the mountains that doesn’t translate into a nervous and unstable feeling in the corners or over rough roads. You might want to take your climbing bike to Roubaix and you don’t mind paying for that Bianchi magic.
AS TESTED: 59cm
WEIGHT: 13.8 lbs without pedals or cages
THE BUILD: Campagnolo Super Record EPS, Fulcrum One Carbon Clinchers, FSA K-Force Bar and Post with OS-99 CSI stem, Selle San Marco Aspide Superleggera Saddle, Vittoria Rubino Pro Speed tires MORE: bianchiusa.com