It’s gotta be the paint!
Bianchi Specialissima review
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Whether it’s Ferrari’s Rosso Corsa (“Racing Red”) or Bianchi’s Celeste, Italian brands have intertwined signature paint colors with their identities like no others. They are instant visual cues that, to those in the know, make the breath quicken, the hairs on the neck stand tall. Of course, it’s not the color in and of itself that excites (though we’ll send what remains of our last crit prime gift card to anyone who genuinely dislikes the Celeste color) but what the color is inseparably associated with: premium performance. That’s why when a Bianchi Specialissima showed up at our door in all its Celeste glory, we couldn’t wait to get it right back out the door onto the local trails.
A longtime part of the Bianchi lineup, the Specialissima is an all-around race bike solution meant to excel in almost every performance situation, from chasing down breaks to attacking around alpine switchbacks. To that end, it’s lightweight—just 750 grams for a painted size 55 frame equipped for disc brakes. The fork adds 370 grams to the total. You could save 80 more grams by opting for lightweight black paint, but you’ll have to weigh that against the mental advantage that having the best-looking bike in the bunch provides in the Celeste version. Beyond the low weight, Bianchi has also drawn on many features of its Oltre aero bike to win the battle against the wind. Cable routing has gone internal, along with an integrated cockpit, and the tube shapes have been tweaked to cheat the wind. But despite the modern design changes the profile remains relatively classic looking.
The technology in the Specialissima goes much deeper than what’s apparent on the surface. Inside the carbon layup, Bianchi includes viscoelastic material, which is part of its CV vibration-canceling system designed to create a smooth ride. The Bianchi CV has a dual benefit of increasing stiffness to a level becoming of a pro-level race bike while simultaneously making for a stronger frame.
Bringing things back to the surface level, Bianchi has incredible attention to detail down to the bottle-cage bolts, threads, and all, matching the frame finish. Even the handlebar tape and wheel logos match the frame. And in a move that also enhances the aesthetics of the frame, it includes a physical head badge rather than one that’s painted on—it’s a detail that surely adds a few grams but one that we love. A thru-axle lever that detaches and can be used on either the front or rear wheel is another nice touch.
Built up with the latest generation 12-speed Ultegra Di2 with compact gearing, an FSA integrated cockpit and seat post, Fulcrum Racing 400 DB alloy wheels mounted to Pirelli P ZERO Race tires, our test bike came in at 16.74 pounds (7.59 kilograms) without pedals or cages. It costs $10,000 as built.
In the pursuit of quick reactions and “pro-level” handling, it’s not uncommon for high-end bikes to overshoot the mark, becoming squirrely, almost like riding along on the blade of an ice skate. Not the Specialissima. Its precision handling is exactly what we want out of a proper race bike: reactive yet predictable, offering confidence and control during any high-speed deviations, crosswinds, or sharp switchback descents. It’s a bike we can put our full trust into in any situation, which means more focusing on the ride and less on what the bike is going to do.
The “all-around” designation means a bike needs to benefit every kind of rider and every riding situation, from climber to sprinter. The stiffness quotient required of a high-end bike is there in droves. No effort is lost, whether dancing up a climb or going full gas to catch the next group. It’s not without small faults, however. The flip side of the stiff ride is that there’s more road chatter on the front end than we would like.
We suspect that the wheel/tire choice is holding this frame back in this department. Upping the tires to more than 26mm (the maximum rated tire size is 28mm) would smooth the ride out somewhat, as would wheels with a rim wider than 17mm internally, which feels somewhat antiquated in a world where many road wheels are at 25mm. The alloy Fulcrum wheels certainly perform well for their cost but for a bike in this price bracket, we would like to see some lighter, more modern carbon-fiber wheels.
Component nit-picking aside, Bianchi’s rich racing heritage and know-how shine through on the Specialissima. Anyone on the search for some Italian flair, backed up by bona fide performance, will find it in the Specialissima.
PRICE & WEIGHT: $10,000 as tested. 16.74 lbs (7.59kg) (w/o pedals or cages).
Build: Shimano Ultegra Di2 12-speed (50/34, 11–30); Reparto Corse by FSA Compact cockpit; Reparto Corse by FSA K-Force Light seat post; fi’zi:k Antares R1 saddle; Fulcrum Racing 400 DB wheels; Pirelli P ZERO Race 26mm tires. bianchi.com