One weekend I headed down to Philly for a ride with some old friends. Among the things I love about that city is its vibrant bike culture. Everywhere I looked, on the lanes and paths as well as the roads, there were people on bikes—kids and parents, college students, all ages and sorts of adults riding for every reason from sport to transportation to recreation. I saw bikes locked everywhere, too—hoopties and whiskey-runners, BMX and road bikes, repurposed mountain bikes, and, as in every big city these days, fixies. Many of these fixed-gear bikes were Bianchi Pistas, the model that, with some smart marketing behind an eye-catching all-chrome frame, became the de rigueur vehicle of the hipster-fixie craze starting around 2004. I was riding the Bianchi Infinito CV Ultegra Di2 Disc Compact you see here, an $8,000 machine that pushes the boundaries of modern race technology. But my Bianchi and those Pistas aren't so different. Both are emblems of how cycling's oldest and most vaunted brands keep reinventing themselves to remain relevant and exciting.
Bianchi, which has been around since about 1885, lays claim to being the world's oldest continually producing bike company, and to being one of the first to install derailleurs and pneumatic tires on bikes—big technological advances at the time. Until the past few years, however, it seemed to me that, at least judging from the company's presence in America, Bianchi's biggest accomplishment was catching the wave of fixie obsession. The geared bikes were never bad, and the race bikes were on pace with other companies, but for most of my cycling life, Bianchi had evoked respect and near reverence instead of "not bad."
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Di2 and hydraulic disc brakes mean much less maintenance is required.
Internal routing keeps the lines clean.
Good for long days, bad roads, and long days on bad roads
Lars Boom rode a rim-brake version to a win in Stage 5 of this year's Tour de France.
WEIGHT: 18.0 lb. (54cm)All of that changed with the Infinito CV Disc. This is my third time testing a version of the bike, and each year its ride has become more refined and tuned—and the tech has moved forward. As with the previous models, this one has a monocoque frame on which engineers paid intense attention to tube shape. Cables, wires, and hydraulic lines are all routed internally. (If you choose a model with Campagnolo EPS, you even get dedicated mounting points for the internal battery without compromising one of the water-bottle mounts—and a predrilled hole for the charging port.) The disc-brake calipers bolt on via integrated post-mount fittings, with the rear one tucked neatly onto the chainstay.
The first Infinito I tested incorporated Kevlar into the carbon at the fork ends. This muted some road noise, helping me stay loose and relaxed on long days. The next model, and this one, use something Bianchi calls Countervail technology. It's a viscoelastic material layered in with the carbon that, Bianchi says (while refusing to divulge exactly how) is able to cancel some vibrations. Indeed, on long days over my region's most unfavorable roads, the bike proved comfortable.
As the name implies, the Infinito Disc is built around the new style of brakes. (How long until those become expected enough that companies release bikes with names something like Infinito Rim?) Shimano's hydraulic R785 discs are great stoppers and showcase what discs can do for your riding—more control, more speed into corners, and more confidence in the wet. With Ultegra Di2 and FSA making up the rest of the components, reliability and great shifting are a given. The chainrings are a climbing-friendly compact 34/50. Riders who want to swap to standard or midcompact rings can do so by replacing chainrings instead of the entire crank.
I loved the wheels—once I swapped tires. In a departure from the norm calling for pre-built wheels, Bianchi chose Shimano's excellent HB-CX75 hubs and laced them to 17mm wide (internal) Vision Metron40 carbon rims via 28 bladed spokes. They were durable and snappy, lending extra control and precision.
Labeled 25mm, the Hutchinson Fusion tires historically round out significantly narrower when mounted. On the wide Vision rims, however, they measured just a forgivable squeak under 25mm, and the extra volume added some suppleness to one of the stiffer casings on the market. Still, in combination with the 40mm-deep rims and the high spoke count, the tires helped transmit more buzz than I knew was necessary. The Infinito has clearance to handle up to a 28mm tire. I swapped to a 25mm Vittoria Rubino, and suddenly the bike was filtering out the road but still allowing a pleasant amount of feedback.
Bianchi is a venerable brand emblematic of eleganza, a legendary name that builds bikes imbued with destrezza and connects you in some way to Fausto Coppi, Gianni Bugno, and Marco Pantani. That's always been true. The difference is that the Infinito is a great bike right now—fun to ride, capable, and interesting. Some other brands just might catch up in a few seasons.