The Bianchi Infinito CV Athena is an endurance bike with race pedigree that incorporates aero-space technology to create a smooth ride. The Infinito CV aims to find the balance between comfort and performance, producing a lightweight frame that is every bit as stiff as the Italian brand's Specialissima and Oltre XR2 race bikes, with the added comfort of countervail technology and relaxed geometry.
Who’s it for: Performance seekers that value comfort.
What we like: Lightweight, stiff frame that resembles a performance race bike. Clever tech.
What we don’t: Premium price for middling Campagnolo parts and Fulcrum wheels.
The Infinito CV from Bianchi was first seen at Paris Roubaix all the way back in 2013 and sits at the top of Bianchi's Coast to Coast (C2C) range of Gran Fondo bikes built for all day riding. Ex-pro and Classics specialist Juan Antonio Flecha famously said the Infinito CV was "The best bike I ever rode!" after riding it across the famous cobbles of Paris-Roubaix. So good in fact he ended up riding the Inifinito CV not only in the Classics races, but throughout the season.
The Infinito CV features the standard 'relaxed' geometry, wider tyres and compact gearing for all-day riding that other endurance bikes do, but the Infinito CV takes rider comfort one step further with aerospace 'Countervail Technology' that claims an '80% increased vibration cancelling capacity'. The Infinito was the first of Bianchi's road fleet to get the space age technology, which has since been implemented to their time trial bike the Aquila and award-winning lightweight climber the Specialissima.
Most endurance bikes will have some form of in-built compliance to aid comfort beyond running larger tyres. Normally this is a type of suspension system or another add-on to reduce vibration from the road and improve rider comfort. Bianchi have taken this idea to the next level with their ‘Countervail Vibration Cancelling Composite Technology’. Commonly referred to as 'CV', the technology was created in collaboration with Materials Sciences Corporation and has been used in NASA’s aerospace operations.
The technology is based around integrating ‘viscoelastic material’ into the carbon composite material of the bike's frame which reduces vibration. Straight away there are some obvious benefits from taking this approach. The first is there is no need to add any suspension system or additional damping features to a bikes frame, reducing the amount of interference to the intended aim of the frame.
Weight is also reduced because again there is no extra material or structures required. And thirdly, Bianchi claim the introduction of the viscoelastic material ‘cancels vibration while increasing stiffness and strength’ to the frame.
This combination is said to improve the bikes handling as there is less vibration and greater stiffness. It should also reduce rider fatigue and improve comfort, particularly important for long distances or rough roads.
The Infinito CV Athena comes with 25mm Vittoria Rubino Pro tyres but easily has clearance for 28mm tyres. A traditional compact crankset is in place, a 50T/34T on the front and an 11/27 cassette on the rear. The geometry also somewhat mirrors that of other endurance bikes, with a longer headtube and stack measurement, but shorter reach and shallower headtube angle.
Geometry of 55cm frame - Oltre XR2 / Specialissima / Infinito
*Headtube: * 145mm/ 145mm / 170mm - Infinito is 25mm higher
*Reach: * 388mm / 388mm / 381mm - Infinito is 7mm shorter
*Stack: * 545mm / 545mm / 567mm - Infinito is 22mm taller
Headtube angle: 73.5 / 73.5 / 72 - Infinito is 1.5 degrees more relaxed
The Infinito CV aims to put the rider in a more upright position, a feat easily achieved with less reach and greater headtube length (measurements of -7mm and +25mm respectively), highlighting the differences between Bianchi’s endurance bike and the racier Specialissima and Oltre XR2.
What we thought: The good
There's a lot of 'good' about this bike, which you would expect from the prestigious Italian brand. The frame is stiff, stiffer than you would expect from a pure endurance bike, and although the CV technology doesn't turn each road surface into hot-mix, it does enough to make you think the investment is worth while. It also weighs in at 7.44kg with a bottle cage (without pedals), an impressive figure in the endurance bike category.
So, how about this aerospace 'Countervail technology', is it legit or just great marketing?
Here's a little clip to highlight what CV technology is all about and its intended benefits
The CV technology seemed to work the best on roads that weren't smooth, but weren't overly rough either. The kind of roads you'd get on a popular main road without a shoulder. The small road vibration you would feel on these roads was gone, but there was no discernible difference on rough roads. And when I say 'rough' I'm not describing Paris-Roubaix, rather, country roads that have been broken up by Semi's and extending tree roots. The standard endurance features - long head tube, longer wheelbase, wider tyres - made these roads more comfortable, but no more so than running a lower tyre pressure would have. The shock and vibration from harsh roads is still there, proving the 'vasoelastic' material has its limits. The CV technology came into its own on fast descents, again on relatively smooth roads, by reducing the small amount of vibration that can unsettle your confidence.
The frame is exceptionally stiff under power and had it not been for the long headtube which created an exaggerated upright position to what I'm used to, it could easily be mistaken for a pure race bike. Although it wasn't designed to sprint, it handles the job nicely. Getting out of the saddle and giving it plenty, it responded immediately and felt snappy. It didn't seem to take a lot of effort to get up to speed and I didn't think once that my power was being wasted.
I had the same impression when sitting down and driving hard. The power transfer is good and it carries speed well enough, as long as you continue to put the power down. Unlike an aero frame and deeper wheelset of a modern race bike, there's no free speed here.
The Campagnolo Athena groupset falls into the 'good' and 'bad' category. One thing Campagnolo do right is the ergonomic hoods. The unique design is the most comfortable set-up for all day riding and provide the closest thing to a natural wrist and hand position of all the groupsets in my opinion. The feel, comfort and control achieved as a result of the curved hoods that shift inboard is unmatched.
The Fulcrum Racing 5 wheelset and Vittoria Rubino Pro 25mm tyres are serviceable as an accompaniment for the Infinito CV. The rims are 23mm wide making the tyres measure an actual 26.2mm in width, creating a solid and stable foundation. As much as the CV infused frame can reduce road vibration, running these tyres at 80-90psi is responsible for a lot of the bikes comfort.
The colourway and paint job on a bike is always a topic of debate. For Bianchi it seems there is really only one option, Celeste green. The unmistakable Bianchi colourway is present on the Infinito CV frame but rationed out, unlike other models which are solid Celeste. For true Bianchi lovers, its Celeste or nothing, but for everyone else, the colour can be too one dimensional. The gloss black frame with splashes of Italian green, white and red is a hit and far less polarising than the aforementioned solid minty green.
What we thought: The bad
The shifting on the Campagnolo Athena groupset is ok without being remarkable, but with the bike's retail price at AU$6,299, it should be remarkable. Having ridden the top-tier Super Record and Record, Athena is a large step down in terms of shifting speed and quality. The feel at the levers is a little spongy, lacking that real punch that the higher end groupsets offer. Shifting with Record and Super Record is immediate and firm, both traits that were lacking with the Athena groupset. If you have your heart set on the Infinito you'll be glad to hear it is available in multiple groupsets, the full Campagnolo line up, but Shimano Ultegra and Dura-Ace as well.
Additionally, it's worth noting that the Athena groupset from Campagnolo is going to be discontinued and replaced with the new Potenza at the end of 2016. This is not a bad thing in itself as compatabile spares will remain easily available.
As mentioned above, the price tag of AU$6,299 leaves one expecting a little more bang for their buck. There's no denying there is a prestige in riding such a reputable and historic racing brand, but I can't help but want more value given the density of quality endurance bikes within this price range. The Fulcrum Racing 5 wheelset is a very reliable choice, but at almost 1,700g they're quite heavy. Athena is serviceable but Chorus would make this bike amazing. The endurance bike market has many options at this price point that offer disc brakes and carbon clinchers or disc compatible wheelsets that are lighter. The Infinito CV has them all covered in terms of overall weight and stiffness, but it comes at a price.
It wouldn't take much to completely fall in love with this bike. It has the stiffness of a race bike, the comfort of an endurance bike and a fit that can easily be manipulated to achieve either. It would be a sound choice regardless of your riding style or discipline assuming budget isn't a hindrance.