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REVIEW: Bianchi Infinito CV Recommended

by Nick Gregory

Price £3,500.00
Size 57cm
Colour Black/ Celeste
In the era of clichés, what Bianchi has perfected is "comfort without compromise." The Infinito CV represents the zenith of the road bike industry at present, offering the perfect combination of performance, comfort, style and stability.

As institutions within the sport of cycling go, Bianchi is right up there with the most iconic and prestigious. The oldest current bike manufacturer in the world, it resides in the upper echelons of the sport's history alongside riders such as Merckx, Anquetil and Hinault, the summits of the Tourmalet, Ventoux, Galibier and Stelvio, and the Monuments of Liège, Flanders and Roubaix.

The famous Bianchi celeste colour (a turquoise-green-blue) has itself become as renowned within the sport as the pink of the Giro, the yellow of the Tour, or the rainbow stripes of World Champion. 

Founded in 1885 by Edoardo Bianchi, the company spent the first 40 years of the twentieth century producing cars and motorcycles, alongside its more notable form of two-wheeled transportation. Fiercely proud of its Italian roots, the collective palmarès of Bianchi saddled riders is astonishing: 12 victories in the Giro d'Italia, 19 in Milan - San Remo, 16 in the Giro di Lombardia and 5 Road Race World Championships, to highlight but a few. 

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One man, above all others, is synonymous with the eagle-clad celeste bicycle: the Campionissimo - Champion of Champions - Fausto Coppi. Throughout the 1940s and '50s, Coppi, the greatest cyclist Italy (and many would argue, the world) has ever seen was responsible for placing Bianchi centre-stage in some of the most iconic images in cycling history. Famed for epic breakaways in the high mountains, and his fierce battle with compatriot and rival, Gino Bartali, Coppi alone amassed five wins in the Giro, two in the Tour, a World Championship title, five victories in the Giro di Lombardia and three in Milan - San Remo. 

In the '70s it was Felice Gimondi who flew the celeste flag for Bianchi, and following in the footsteps of the greats, next came the flawed genius of 'Il Pirata' - Marco Pantani. The notoriously meticulous Italian climber rode a Bianchi in his Mercatone Uno days. In 2003 there was a brief reprisal of Team Bianchi, led by the German, Jan Ullrich, before the squad went on to become Liquigas-Bianchi. The Milan based bike manufacturers returned to top-level sponsorship with Vacansoleil-DCM, and this season are supplying the bikes for Belkin Pro Cycling. 

The Bianchi of today is built upon "innovation, exclusiveness, quality, design and passion," and with the recent success of Belkin rider Bauke Mollema at last year's Tour de France, and Sep Vanmarcke in the Spring Classics, it seems only a matter of time before a celeste frame is back atop the podium in one of the sport's biggest races. 

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It was at precisely one of these races, or rather the sportive version the day before, that I got the opportunity to put the Bianchi Infinito CV through its paces. As you might have gathered from the protracted introduction-cum-essay, I've been a Bianchi admirer for some time, but had never had the chance to ride one. Paris-Roubaix is known as the 'Queen of the Classics', and few places conjure as much fear in the minds of cyclists as the cobbles - or pavé - of northern France. However, the Infinito CV was built with exactly this terrain, and more specifically, this race in mind. 

One man who made a name for himself in 'the Hell of the North' was Juan Antonio Flecha. The Spaniard excelled on the cobbles, and brought the curtain down of his career at Paris-Roubaix last year, where he finished 8th aboard the Infinito CV and declared it the best Classics bike he'd ever ridden. The day after my haphazard attempt, the aforementioned Mr Vanmarcke would also claim a highly impressive 4th place riding a slightly higher specced version of the very same bike. 

What all this tells us, before I give my significantly less-qualified verdict, is that both Bianchi and the Infinito CV itself have pedigree and reputation on their side. 

Now sorry for the spoiler alert, but I'm afraid all I can offer is very much more of the same. This is, without doubt, the most technologically advanced, comfortable, high-performing - sod it, the best - bike I've ever ridden. Oh, and it looks fantastic. 

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On the basis of much research conducted by men in lab coats (with ping pong balls, if the video below is anything to go by) Bianchi ascertained that long term exposure to vibration causes muscle fatigue, discomfort and impaired performance. Their solution - developed in conjunction with Materials Sciences Corporation - is Countervail: Vibration Cancelling Composite Technology. 

According to Bianchi:

"Traditional passive damping of the frame using superficial rubber inserts and isolators are only marginally effective compared to the integrated carbon Countervail system, developed by Bianchi and proven in the extreme conditions of NASA aerospace operations. With its patented carbon fiber architecture and viscoelastic material, Countervail carbon material, embedded within our unique Infinito CV carbon lay-up, immediately cancels vibration while increasing the stiffness and strength of the entire frame." 

Whilst all of this NASA level testing might seem to run contrary to the commonly held view of Bianchi being technologically-averse sticklers for heritage, the net results are quite astonishing. The innovative layering process can reduce high frequency road buzz by up to 75%, which not only benefits handling and comfort, but at the high-performance end the increased rigidity also improves peak power output over long distances. 

It is, unequivocally, more than just another marketing sound-bite. Unlike frame inserts or micro-suspension - that have always had a slightly DIY bodge job feel to them - Countervail is structurally integral to the frame, not an afterthought. 

It's not just the Countervail technology that contributes to the improved ride though; the more relaxed frame design and C2C geometry (taller head tube and longer wheelbase) is built with long-distance comfort and stability in mind. The Fi'zi:k Aliante saddle that comes as standard is also a real treat for the derrière. 

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The Infinito CV can handle both mechanical and electronic shift systems - the one I tested stayed true to its Italian roots and featured the Campag Athena 11sp set up. Another key factor in the bid for comfort, particularly on the cobbles of Roubaix, is tyre width. Here the CV doesn't disappoint either, with room for a 28mm on the rear. Unfortunately, despite the advice of 2004 Paris-Roubaix winner, Magnus Backstedt, I didn't have time to alter my 25mm set up, but would have undoubtedly noticed the benefit if I had. 

The only area in which the Infinito CV perhaps struggles is dealing with bigger impact hits. This is a result of the fact that the Countervail technology - and the bike as a whole - is targeting the reduction of high frequency road buzz, and for this to be fully effective a wider seatpost is needed to disperse the vibration. Consequently, bigger hits are felt more directly; however, unless you make a habit of riding through potholes this shouldn't be too much of an issue. 

To take it back to my experience in Roubaix - it was only when I picked a bad line, or slowed down dramatically on the worst of the cobbled sectors (Arenberg, Carrefour etc.) that this became noticeable. At greater speed, on the best available line, the high frequency reductions more than made up for it. 

Now, I'm conscious that if one was to purchase an Infinito CV, 99% of the time it wouldn't be ridden on the route of Paris-Roubaix. I must confess I only had the bike for the weekend, but if anything, it was even more impressive on the commute around London, to and from collection/ drop off. These - unlike the cobbles of France - were roads I know well, and as a result I had much more of a benchmark by which to judge the CV. As I say, the focus is on high frequency vibrations, and for once the furrowed tarmac of the capital felt like velvet. 

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Conclusion

In the era of clichés, what Bianchi has perfected is "comfort without compromise." The Infinito CV represents the zenith of the road bike industry at present, offering the perfect combination of performance, comfort, style and stability. 

Riding 50km of Paris-Roubaix pavé is never going to be comfortable, but the Infinito CV definitely made it significantly more bearable. Countervail actually does what it claims, and does it to an extent that no review can do justice. Being of a naturally cynical disposition, this came as a genuine surprise to me, as I'm sure it will many of you, especially as there's no external indicator of how this black magic is performed. 

Despite returning it nearly two weeks ago, I keep finding myself - like some sort of love-struck sixteen year old - thinking about it from time to time, trying to work out its mystery. Admittedly, there may be an element of first (Bianchi) love involved, and to make my debut aboard as fine an example as the Infinito CV in an environment as iconic as the cauldron of Roubaix no doubt only heightened the dreamy haze, but to pass it off as mere infatuation would be to do the bike a disservice. 

The true genius and appeal of it stems from the fact that it is, in many ways, the ultimate contradiction: racey yet comfortable, stunning yet practical, historic yet technologically advanced. When all's said and done, it is essentially two bikes at once - and two exceptionally good bikes as well. When put like that, the price tag is an absolute steal. The Campionissimo would be proud.





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