Bianchi Infinito

Bianchi Infinito

The contemporary road bike isn’t really a single thing. Not like the way a road bike was a thing 20 years ago. We knew what we were talking about. Production bikes fell in a fairly tightly defined range. But now, with today’s race bikes, fondo bikes, aero road bikes, rando bikes and more, it’s hard to know just what someone is talking about when they say “road bike.”

The Bianchi Infinito CV is a refreshing return to an easy-to-define concept. It’s a road bike the way we used to think of a road bike. The geometry and fit wouldn’t have been surprising in 1989. It’s the sort of bike you could race, or not. You could do any group ride you wanted, tour Europe, enter your first road race, win a crit or explore back roads.

 

In that, the Infinito is a refreshing return to the notion of, if not all-purpose, then multipurpose. It’s as simple and direct an answer to a bike shop customer wanting a road bike as one might find.

And yet, this is one of the most challenging reviews I’ve ever undertaken in my life. The Bianchi Infinito CV is unusual in that it uses a technology called Countervail to dampen vibration. Trying to reduce vibration is not unusual. We know that cutting the road vibration that reaches a rider can reduce fatigue, leaving you fresher not only at the end of a ride, but for the rest of the day.

Countervail
Unlike some of the other solutions added to bike frames to cut vibration, such as Zertz or other add-on technologies such as piezoelectrics, Countervail is a pre-form material added to the layup of the bike, so that the solution is integral to the construction of the bike. Live demonstrations I’ve seen of the technology suggest that it is remarkably effective.

What Countervail is is a viscoelastic material that comes

Here’s the scary, frustrating thing: this review was largely complete more than a year ago, hell, within five miles of rolling out on the Infinito. With a BB drop of 68mm and a trail of 6.1cm, the Infinito handling was calm and relaxed. The 25mm Vittoria Rubino Pro tires helped add a layer of comfort compared to many production bikes that still roll on 23mm tires.

I’ll get more into the geometry later, but what this adds up to is a bike that you wouldn’t mind riding a double century on, if you were so inclined.

Sensation
I’ve made a big deal over the years of riding bikes that deliver high-frequency vibration to give me a sense of the road surface and the actual traction of the tires on that surface. What takes place as my body responds to the input is essentially unconscious as it happens to quickly to be entirely deliberate, but it is a matter of a response learned over years.

When I’ve ridden bikes that don’t offer that same level of sensitivity, I’ve noticed that I haven’t been as aggressive in corners, though I’m often less fatigued at the end of a long ride. As a matter of preference, when I’ve ridden a frame that weighs north of 1kg I’ve noticed that the bike simply doesn’t feel as lively. It lacks the snap of the lighter frames, as well as that feel. Think gardening gloves vs. surgical nitrile.

In riding the Infinito I’ve been stymied. It’s a bike that doesn’t transmit the same level of high frequency vibration as bikes like the Scott Addict and Felt FR, but it’s not dead either. I’ve described some bikes as feeling like a block of wood. It’s about the worst thing a bike can do to the ride experience in my opinion. Okay, truly bad handling is worse, but I haven’t run across a bike that handles that poorly in nearly 20 years. So feeling like lumber is as bad as it gets.

And here’s the thing about the Infinito: anything you do to reduce vibration in a carbon fiber frame typically shaves off the high end first. As you go to greater and greater lengths to stamp out vibration, the lower harmonics are what is silenced last. I found myself going back and forth between the Infinito, my Felt AR FRD and an older open-mold bike with that decidedly more dead feel.

It’s hard to do blind testing in bicycles. Nearly impossible, in fact. When it comes to wheels and bikes trying to disguise them becomes laughable very quickly. It’s my practice to set the bikes up as similarly as possible, then go do short loops, and do as many as possible. There comes a point when I forget what I’m on and that’s when the real insights come.

There never came a point when I was inclined to mistake the Infinito for the open mold bike with a 1200g frame. But trying to define that difference has proven to be as difficult as trying to date in high school. Yes, I was shy. But I did date, which is to say that it’s not impossible to describe the difference. My sense is that the Countervail reduces a broad spectrum of frequency vibration, but it doesn’t cancel all vibration out. But that buzzing you can feel on a rough road is decidedly less pronounced, making rougher roads feel distinctly smoother.

Whatcha got?
The Infinito Ultegra goes for $3799, and while there are less-expensive Ultegra-equipped bikes on the market, I love the Infinito because it doesn’t scrimp. This frame is first-rate. The wheels are Fulcrum Racing 5s, and the bar, stem and seatpost are Bianchi’s own Reparto Corse; the bar and stem are alloy, while the seatpost is carbon fiber. Mounted to that seatpost is a Fi’zi:k Aliante saddle, one of my favorite saddles ever and one that tends to work with a broad spectrum of butts.

Unlike a number of bikes in this category, Bianchi traded in the racing gearing for something more usable. A compact (50/34) crankset is paired with an 11-speed 11-28 cassette. I also love that they included a chain catcher on the seat tube. Sometimes the little things, amiright?

The only upgrade the bike needs is to move from the Vittoria Rubino Pros to a better 25mm-wide tire. At least the Rubino Pros wear like a ponderous film.

Bianchi also deserves a huge nod for offering the Infinito in a whopping eight sizes. You just don’t run across that. Six sizes, maybe, but eight? The sizes go like so:

47: 51.5cm top tube, 36.8cm reach
50: 52.5cm top tube, 37.3cm reach
53: 53.5cm top tube, 37.5cm reach
55: 55cm top tube, 38.1cm reach
57: 56cm top tube, 38.6cm reach
59: 57.5cm top tube, 39.1cm reach
61: 58.5cm top tube, 39.2cm reach
63: 59.5cm top tube, 39.7cm reach

The reach numbers show that Bianchi still designs around top tube length rather than reach, and while the jumps in reach distance aren’t exactly linear, the good news is that you don’t run into any bikes where seat tube angle and top tube length have conspired to give a small bike more reach than a bigger size in the run. I still run across that from time to time.

I’ve been riding the 57 and with 3cm of stem spacers included for building right out of the box, it was easy to achieve a great fit in less than 10 minutes.

No agenda
There were days when I took the Infinito out for long, easy rides, sometimes over roads that were new to me. I had flashbacks to bikes I was riding in the mid-1990s, bikes without a particular agenda handling-wise. You could ride them up or down anything and they remained calm, poised. You might not get through that opening between two riders, but you could go into a turn four abreast and not be terrified you’d die. I’ll take it.

This is one of those bikes that simply doesn’t have the reputation it deserves, which is all the more amazing given what a great job they did with the paint schemes. Were I working in a bike shop, I’d want to be a Bianchi dealer, and I’d take a long position on this bike, knowing that I could sell it to anyone who wasn’t looking for their be-all, end-all dream bike. All it would take is one test ride.

Final thought: I like that we still associate understated grace with class.

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11 comments

  1. Peter

    Great review, my first bike was a Bianchi Veloce – I’m really interested in countervail, especially on their MTB hardtails. Wonder how you think it’d work out in those situations… And any word as to longevity of that sort of solution?

    And, you going on a BMX ride with that positive seat angle? 😉


    1. Author
      Padraig

      I can’t help but think that when you consider what happens while riding a mountain bike that Countervail is a bit like putting your finger in a hole in a dike while water is cresting over the top. That said, I could see how every little bit helps.

      In my research on Countervail I’ve not come across anything that suggests it would decrease the lifespan of the frame.

  2. Nik

    “What Countervail is is a viscoelastic material that comes”
    This is this a truncated sentence fragment. Presumably something went missing ?

    Also, that construction “what X is is a Y” seems unnecessarily awkward. Why not write “X is a Y” ?

    Some people just love this stuff and take it even further, saying “what it is, is that it is …” Please don’t.

  3. Ricky

    Nik,

    Your pint is?

    Most people aren’t exoerts in proper english!

    Let it be and focus on the more important things in life.

    Namaste

  4. Brian E Ledford

    re: “I’ve described some bikes as feeling like a block of wood.” I’m now kinda curious if you’ve ridden the renovo or Cio bikes. It would be interesting to know whether a wooden frame feels like a block of wood…


    1. Author
      Padraig

      I once spun a wooden bike around in a parking lot. I wasn’t willing to ride it more than that. As to the ride quality, it felt even worse than what I’ve described wood feeling like. So I guess this means I’ve been giving wood more credit than it deserves.

  5. Mike E.

    “when I’ve ridden a frame that weighs north of 1kg I’ve noticed that the bike simply doesn’t feel as lively”
    “There never came a point when I was inclined to mistake the Infinito for the open mold bike with a 1200g frame”

    Bianchi doesn’t list the frame weight, but based on your comments I’m assuming this isn’t a sub-1kg racing like frame? Do you happen to know the actual frame numbers?


    1. Author
      Padraig

      No, I don’t have that information. I estimate that the frame is right around 1kg, based on my experience.

  6. Dan C

    My primary bike was one of the first Infinito CVs shipped to the US, so it now has 30,000 miles on it. It has held up very well, given the hard usage over the last 3-4 years.It has seen me through a couple of 1200K brevets with little more than a bit of short term hand numbness. Most of the riding that i do is over fairly rough chip seal with the occasional cattle guard thrown in. I can tell when entering or leaving a stretch of chip seal, but don’t really notice it in between. It really is comfortable all day and deep into the night.

    I only have 2 issues with the Infinito. The first is the press fit bottom bracket, which I’ve replaced with a compatible threaded BB. And the second is that with my Campy Chorus build, there is very little tire clearance. I can run with 25s, but just barely. Neither 28s nor fenders are a possibility, at least not standard fenders. Aside from those 2 issues, it has been a dream bike.

  7. Craig

    I built up a disc version of this bike a year and a half ago. Excellent fun bike. Feels more like a race bike than my Roubaix, but not quite as smooth on rougher roads. A fast bike though!

  8. Rick

    I bought my Infinito in 2014 (with external threaded BB) and it has been a great bike. It took over main duties from an older Roubaix which now primarily serves on the turbo trainer. The only change I made was to the saddle as I am more chameleon than bull. Went through the Fizik custom program to get one that matches nicely. Have been running Vittoria G+ 28mm tires with latex tubes at 80/ 85 psi. Great ride!

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