The Ultimate Gran Fondo Bike

Bianchi's new Infinito CV is undoubtedly a race bike. The Italian bikemaker's Oltre XR.2 road bike may take center stage at races like the Tour de France, but whenever Bianchi-sponsored racers face rough roads, you'll see them aboard an Infinito.  This is important to note, because while the last decade has seen bike companies create comfort-oriented road bikes to complement tough-as-nails race bikes, the Infinito seems to make no performance sacrifices.

 

The CV in its name stands for Bianchi's CounterVail technology, a system of working vibration damping materials between the carbon-fiber layers of a frame. This smoothens bumpy roads, which is indeed more comfortable, but also makes you faster. It's the sort of the design that for mortal cyclists makes the ideal big-ride bike for gran fondos, centuries, and day-long adventures.

Any doubters of the Infinito's speed can look to Stage 5 of the 2014 Tour de France — a day defined by eight miles of bone-jarring, Napoleon-era cobblestone paths. The Dutch team Belkin swapped its racers' Oltres for Infinitos and saw star Lars Boom claim the stage after dropping eventual Tour winner Vincenzo Nibali. Bianchi also says that many of its riders switch to the Infinito during stage races — like the Tour, or the Giro d'Italia — on any day when climbing and sprinting are less important.

In developing the Infinito, Bianchi aimed to create a race bike that left cyclists feeling fresher at the end of a ride — whether they're headed for a finish line or café. So our ultimate test of the Infinito came on a bucolic all-day autumn ride up and down the Hudson River Valley over a 140-mile route.

The pure distance, a new one-ride record for this tester, wasn't the only difficulty. Nearly half of the miles were off-road. Much of the mileage was packed dirt roads and hard gravel paths, but the first unpaved section followed a loose-rock mountain bike climb and the final singletrack retraced a long-closed aqueduct path into New York City.

On the approach to our lunch stop at Peekskill Brewing, our ride crested a smooth dirt climb and dropped into a steep, winding, pitted descent. That CounterVail construction, along with a slightly longer wheelbase, wider tires, and a taller headtube, provides more than a forgiving ride, it also gives the rider greater control at all speeds. The Infinito's handling remained true to its race bike design, nimbly cutting around potholes, while maintaining traction and balance through loose, rocky corners. 

As the day wore on, we did indeed feel surprisingly fresh. At 100 miles, typically long past the time we're ready for a sandwich, shower, and nap, we still had energy for the new-to-us trails ahead. Even as we pulled into Manhattan for the final leg of the 10-hour ride, we could still sprint to beat red lights or keep up with the flow of yellow cabs. We arrived home tired, but the Infinito delivered on its promises.

One year after the initial launch of the Infinito CV, the only change to the line is the addition of a Shimano Ultegra Di2-equipped model with hydraulic disc brakes. Bianchi says the disc version is otherwise identical save for rear spacing to accommodate the brakes.

Bianchi offers a bare frameset and five build options, starting with the Infinito CV Ultegra Compact (tested) for $4,600. The 11-speed mechanical drivetrain proved as durable as the bulletproof frame, and the easier compact gearing makes spinning up steep, off-road inclines significantly more pleasant for the average cyclist. 

Don't let the greater comfort and control of the Infinito CV fool you. It's a race bike ready to perform, whether you're a regular rider out for a weekend shop ride, or you're a pro tackling the world's hardest races. [$4,600; bianchiusa.com]