Saturday, November 1, 2014

2015 Bianchi Intenso Ultegra 11sp Compact - review

I have about 500 miles on this bike, it’s broken in, and it’s been back to the shop for it’s initial derailleur tuning so I think I can review it now. Let’s start with the superficial because lets face it, the first thing that attracts us to a bike is it’s looks. The 2015 Bianchi Intenso 11 Speed Compact is beautiful. My neighbor said it looks like a work of art and he’s right. It’s a sparkly celeste blue so it really stands out and looks unique. The tube shapes and lines look cool too. I like thinner top and down tubes and this bike has them. The top and head tubes have some aero-styling but the downtube is good old fashioned round. The seat and chainstays have some interesting twists to them and they also look different from the norm.  I assume this is where the compliance is created and they do a fantastic job. The only catch is because of the twists, attaching a cadence sensor is tricky.

Aside from being gorgeous, this bike has a lot going for it. At $2700 you get a lot of bike for your money. The shifters, derailleurs, chain, and cassette are all Shimano Ultegra 11 speed. I know there’s some criticisms to be made of the new 11 speed groupsets and I was very happy with the “old” ten speed groupsets but pretty much every new bike from every brand is now coming with 11 speed. It’s here to stay so we best get used to it. That being said, I’m happy with the Ultegra 11 speed drivetrain on this bike. I appreciate the slightly narrower shifters because I get a better grip and hey you get an extra gear with 11 speed. If the groupset proves to be more finicky than my ten speed (that hasn’t happened yet) I’m not worried because I have a very competent bike shop (Bike Bistro) that’s alway willing to make an adjustment.

Bianchi downspecs the Intenso with FSA brakes but they’re not bad. Sure they’re not as good as Ultegra but where I live (flat Florida) brakes are not paramount. Most of the other components are also FSA which is a brand I’m very familiar with and trust. The seat post is alloy which I prefer. Yes carbon would be lighter and possibly absorb the bumps better but this bike is already very light and I’m not a weight weenie anyways. It’s plenty light for my needs and where I live. There’s no hills around here. This bike also absorbs road chatter like a champ so I don’t a carbon seatpost for that. I’m not sure a carbon seatpost would even add much there. I just rode this bike 68 miles and about half of those miles were on the roughest roads I’ve ever seen and I felt great. No pain, no vibrations, and no standing out of the saddle to avoid bumpy patches. Bianchi touts the kevlar in this bike so perhaps there’s more than just marketing hype there. Lastly, I like an alloy seatpost because I don’t have to baby it so much. There’s less concern about over-tightening and slippage and you don’t have to use that carbon grip paste stuff.

I love that the Intenso has an English threaded bottom bracket, the FSA Megaexo crank is great, and the Fulcrum wheels are a step above your average stock wheels. This is a true do-it-all bike. It can climb (I’ve tested it extensively on some big bridges), it can sprint, and it can cruise. Bianchi markets it as their endurance bike but they describe it as comfortable without sacrificing speed. It’s not as upright as some sportive models but not as racy as a true racing bike. That’s exactly what I was looking for and it delivered. I’ve already set several PRs on it and I wasn’t in pain afterwards. Is it possible to have a racy endurance bike.? Yes and this bike is proof.

I only made three changes to the stock bike. I swapped the stock 120mm stem for the same stem in a smaller size (110). I have it flipped at -6 degrees but with the full stack of spacers it’s not really that aggressive. I tried it flipped to +6 and that was too upright. I also gave the stock San Marco saddle, which is very nice, to my wife. She’s been searching for the right saddle and it turns out that she loves this one. I’m a die-hard Fizik Antares fan so I won’t use anything else. Because I put my black Antares saddle on the bike I had to change the white Bianchi cork handlebar tape to a black Fizik Performance tape. Also, I just had to put a Bianchi dominatrix “master says faster” sticker on the seat tube. Google this sticker. It’s awesome. All in all this is an almost perfect bike that is very tough to beat at this price point. I think Bianchi has a winner here and I bet we’ll be seeing more of them on the road.

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