With Italian style and smooth handling, this Bianchi Sempre Pro Ultegra sets up a long day nicely.
Classic Italian bike manufacturer Bianchi makes a whole range of road bikes including several in the comfort oriented C2C range. The direct equivalent to the other bikes here – the carbon-framed Infinito CV Ultegra – costs a cool £4,100 though. That means we decided to look at the distinctively smooth Sempre Pro Ultegra to see how mileage friendly a more racey option can be.
WORDS Guy Kesteven PHOTOS Russell Burton
FRAME AND FORKS
Bianchi might have made its legendary name with steel bicycles since 1885 but its current carbon frames are as up to date as anyone’s. The Sempre Pro uses a monocoque moulded mainframe to give particularly smooth lines that flow from the tapered head-tube to the bulged press fit bottom bracket. Gear and brake lines are sucked neatly into the frame along the way before angled, rectangular rear stays extend back to the rear wheel. Nothing obviously in your face, just subtle stylish lines picked out with streaks of Bianchi’s trademark Celeste pale turquoise paint. No less than seven different sizes from 47 to 61cm give a very finely tuned fit range too.
As the name suggests, this Sempre Pro gets Shimano Ultegra 11 speed gears turned with an FSA Gossamer chainset to make the most of the BB30 bottom bracket. The brakes are FSA too while fellow Italians Fulcrum supply the smooth spinning and durable Racing 7 wheels wrapped in fatter than average 25c Vittoria Zaffiro Pro training tyres. Bianchi’s own bar, stem and seatpost, with Celeste bar tape complete the build but even a free bottle and cage can’t disguise the fact it’s relatively pricey for the parts you get.
With a shorter headtube than the other bikes here the Bianchi naturally has a lower, more connected to the ground feel straight away. Add a long stem and stable geometry that Bianchi and other Italian brands have been gradually evolving and honing for over a century and the Sempre has real presence and surefooted confidence. There’s less sway and swerve when you’re swinging it through a chicane style corner, or sprinting or climbing out of the saddle too. That adds more confidence at the edges of the riding envelope but even compared to Shimano rim brakes, the Gossamer rim brakes are soft and lacking in feedback and modulated power compared to the hydraulic discs here. Interestingly the rim brake wheels aren’t any lighter than the rim brake wheels of the Giant and Specialized. In fact as they don’t have rotors and bolts/centrelock rings in the centre it’s fair to assume that most of that extra weight is in the rims where it creates the most inertia. That’s borne out by the road feel as the BB30 Gossamer crank has to work equally hard as the other bikes to get the Bianchi moving despite it being the lightest complete bike on test. That’s not to say it’s sluggish, it’s perfectly acceptable in terms of acceleration and altitude gain, but it’s interesting that it doesn’t feel obviously more liberated when you’re changing pace or elevating.
As a counter to that it doesn’t feel significantly more harsh or rattley on rougher surfaces either. That’s because while it might lack the full on CounterVeil woven damping technology of the specifically smooth Infinito it’s still a comfortable cruising chassis. The 25c Vittoria tyres help to take the edge off more angry asphalt too and the Fulcrum wheels are renowned as glide enhancing rolling stock. Add the cutaway centre saddle and good quality colour matched Celeste bar tape and the Sempre Pro is definitely a cultured companion to share long rides with.
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