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RBA Test: Bianchi Sempre

January 31, 2013
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You know the story: Edoardo Bianchi’s namesake company was founded in 1885, making it the world’s oldest bicycle manufacturer still producing the goods. And over the years the Italian brand has played a prominent role in elite-level bike racing, having been the bike of the great Fausto Coppi and other cycling superstars over the past few decades. So it should be no surprise that Bianchi continues its support of professional cycling, with three teams having competed on Celeste-colored beauties during the 2012 season: Vacansoleil, Androni Giocattoli and Colombia-Coldeportes. But while those first two outfits ride Bianchi’s priciest Oltre, the boys of Colombia-Coldeportes do the deed on the lower-tier Sempre. So that’s the story, but the question is, why?

‘Bianchi already had two teams riding the Oltre,’ says Bianchi’s North American sales manager Jim Stevenson. ‘And because the Sempre is a raceworthy bike, also, we wanted to showcase that.’ The Colombia-Coldeportes team began as an initiative from the Colombian Institute of Sport (Coldeportes) in late 2011, with the intention of creating a team that could compete at cycling’s highest level,
similar to the Cafe de Colombia team of the late 1980s. ‘The Colombian people hope to relive the myth of the golden age of Colombian cycling in the 1980s and ’90s due to the extraordinary performances by Lucho Herrera and Fabio Parra,’ says the team’s press officer David Evangelista.

‘It’s a matter of national pride. The people are hugely proud to have a real Colombian team competing in Europe alongside the strongest riders in the world.’ Part of the ‘myth’ of Colombian cycling involves climbing, and Colombians have long been renowned as some of the best pure climbers in the world. ‘There’s almost no flat areas in Colombia, so many upcoming riders live some 2500 to 3000 meters above sea level,’ says Evangelista. ‘And because most can only afford bicycles for transportation, cycling is incredibly popular, and that’s why many Colombians are suited to climbing at high altitudes.’

So Bianchi wanted to promote a race bike besides its Oltre, and the Colombian-Coldeportes project proved a worthwhile showcase for the Italian brand’s ‘other’ race bike. The good news for the consumer is that, like the Oltre, the Sempre frame, which Colombia-Coldeportes uses, is a production model.

Unlike some brands that produce various versions of the same frame with different levels of carbon fiber, Bianchi produces only one Sempre, and it’s the same one found on each build option. The monocoque Sempre frame’s most noteworthy feature is Bianchi’s proprietary Nano Tech technology, which, in addition to utilizing sheets of carbon fiber to form the tubes, also includes the use of powdered carbon mixed into the resin to help strengthen the overall frame structure without adding extraneous weight. Key differences between the Oltre and Sempre include the former’s proprietary aero seatpost and a tapered, 1 1/8-inch to 1 1/2-inch head tube. The Sempre do with a non-tapered, 1 1/8-inch variety.

The team bike of Colombia- Coldeportes is not a standard build from Bianchi. For starters, the paint scheme is custom, with a Colombian flag motif gracing the fork blades and seat stays. The 2012 season saw the Coldeportes team’s Sempres built with mixed drivetrains of (old) SRAM Red shifters and derailleurs and an FSA K-Force crankset. A major sponsor of Coldeportes, FSA also provided cockpit components, as well as TC50 tubular carbon wheels from the company’s Vision brand. Hutchinson provided the Carbon Comp rubber, while a customcolored saddle came from Fizik and bottle cages came by way of Elite.

Long before we ever put the Sempre through its paces, any doubts about the model’s performance credentials were alleviated by Coldeportes’ successful 2012 campaign. One particularly memorable highlight came on the Mount Baldy stage during the Amgen Tour of California, when Coldeportes’ John Darwin Atapuma shadowed Chris Horner up to the queen stage’s summit finish, only to be nipped at the line by a surging Robert Gesink. Atapuma’s teammate, Fabio Duarte, went on to finish third that day and earned a fifth overall for the Tour. The Sempre we received came straight from the Colombia-Coldeportes team, having been ridden by Jarlinson Pantano in the Italian classic Strade Bianche before he came down with a season-ending illness. His loss was RBA’s gain, however, because it’s an unfortunately rare occurrence when we’re able to put the hammer down on a bona fide pro’s bike.

Despite the lack of a non-tapered head tube, the racer types among us adored the Sempre’s front-end stiffness. A 1 1/8-inch steerer would seem a bit outdated for a high-end race bike, but Bianchi’s engineers made sure to add a healthy amount of carbon fiber to the head tube area to allow for powerful sprinting and quick accelerations up climbs. A BB30 bottom bracket and tall, straight chainstays ensure adequate power transfer, while sculpted seat stays allow for plenty of road-chatter deflection without giving the bike a soft ride.

Bianchi bills the Sempre as a ‘raceworthy’ bike, but also as a bike with incredible versatility, and we agree. As a race bike suited even for non-professionals, the Sempre performs well, providing a stiff ride that’s well suited for a variety of events, if not ideal for any one in particular. It’s the same story when talking about comfort: The Sempre provides a compliant ride that’s more forgiving than many other ‘raceworthy’ bikes, but it’s by no means a plush endurance bike.

? Perfect for pros and joes alike, Colombian or otherwise
? Not the stiffest, not the comfiest
? Really, 130 years of heritage

Price: $1999.99 (frameset)
Weight: 15.6 pounds
Sizes: 50, 53 (tested), 55, 57, 59, 61cm
For more info visit Bianchi


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