1952 Justin Road suite 118
Highland Village, TX 75077
Bianchi Specialissima: Your Momma's Combat Boots.
Daniel Hayes, 3/2016
This bike is a bird:
A beautiful, understated, fast, stiff, fast, lightweight bird. I saw my first one in person at Interbike in Vegas. There were two on a rack, a black and a celeste one. They looked like two falcons blinded on a perch as I walked up. I love when you walk up to a nice bike which from a distance looks marvelous, but with every closing step are gifted with a new appreciation as you realize that the finer details do not disappoint. I even approached cautiously, like you'd approach a falcon. My finger grazed the top tube just as a rep materialized and introduced himself. I yanked my hand away as if I'd been caught in a cookie jar.
You can see the celeste in the catalog, online and in magazines, but each Bianchi kind of gets its own treatment of the color. The Specialissima gets its own hue, Celeste Fluo. It's also applied in a matte so neutral it dulls all the sounds in the room: A hypnotic and lush evenness that when you snap out of its trance you'll dazedly wonder how long it's been since you last blinked. The lettering and logo are painted, not decals: black on the celeste, celeste on the black. There's a video review somewhere out there that talks about the color choices as, "You can buy it in black... but don't." Well you CAN buy it in black. In fact, it's unbe-flippin'-lievable in black too; same even smooth coat. It looks as though it was powdered with pure charcoal dust. But if Bianchi wanted to move a single unit of those black ones they should have never let anyone see it in this celeste. It isn't like the series of Endurance Race geometry bikes Bianchi populates its line with. It's not even like the Oltre. The design doesn't give itself over to the degree of... flourish... many of their other frames do. The peacocks just want to stalk the yard. This one wants to rain death and destruction down on anything too slow to get away. It is in every way a machine.
On the 55 cm frame the top tube is longer by 1 mm, the seat tube by 25 mm, than those of the Oltre XR2. These subtle changes give a more classical feel to the ride which, coupled with the fact that the frameset weighs in at 780 g (!!!) one would expect the ride to sputter and chatter down the road like a Volkswagen with a missfiring engine. That's where the Countervail comes in. Countervail is a viscoelastic carbon resin which among other functions, primarily contributes to the dampening of vibration. The Infinito, Bianchi's signature endurance geometry road bike is known for its use of the material, as enhancing comfort over the long miles is the primary goal of that class of frame. The Specialissima doesn't use much. It is focussed on improving handling and control in high speed circumstances. It quiets the ride, improves handling in the corners, grants control in eyeball-searing descents.
Let me go back and clear the air a bit. I am not aggressive like this bike. I am slow, stiff and round. I never feel the pangs of competitiveness when someone whips out from behind me and hammers off down the road. I've never even been in an official race, and though may occasionally sprint for a signpost with friends, I'd gladly give up and let them win if it looks like I might exert enough to tax the remainder of the ride. I don't even use a computer or app of any sort because I just don't want to concern myself with those things when I'm out in the countryside. I'm an old fogey before my time. The Specialissima is aggressive and lightweight. It wants to beat everything it looks at. It gives a shit where I mostly don't, which is utterly wonderful. The geometry and feel is for someone who wants to race and win, someone who wants to climb like a goat and descend like a guillotine.
The rep is on about availability and options. Terms. Shipping. He talks about the how the Countervail is used to enhance handling and control on descents. I idly finger at the thin cable tether attaching the frame to the stand. This keeps it from flying away. I'm not listening very closely. Soon I realize that he's stopped talking as well. He stares intently at the frame and caresses the top tube. He shakes himself out of the daze and looks self consciously at me. We laugh and go our separate ways, both glancing back at the two bikes perched on the stand as we depart.