Throughout Bianchi’s illustrious history, the Specialissima nameplate has been exclusively reserved for its best lightweight bikes. The all-new Specialist was first revealed back in late 2020 with the biggest news being its move to disc-brake-only configuration – something we’ve seen employed en masse among all major manufacturers. While this would have undoubtedly brought with it a weight penalty, Bianchi’s engineers have managed to retain all the feathery attributes that have made it such a popular bike among enthusiasts and professionals alike by improving the frame structure and carbon-fibre recipe – and you can feel this through its underpinnings.
A bike as pedigreed as the Specialissima pictured here needs to be respected and tested in equal measure. As a result, we set out to establish just how good it is – not only at overcoming gravity but at descending tricky switchbacks and devouring flat and choppy terrain, too.
The test bed? You guessed it. The leg-sapping topography that makes up the Surrey Hills region.
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Design and aesthetics
The Specialissima is available in three distinct colourways: Celeste (pictured here), greenish-blue and ultra-light black, the latter of which saves 80g owing to a paucity of paint. It looks absolutely superb in Celeste, a color that dominates most of the frame real estate owing to the hologram-like mermaid scale Bianchi keyline wordmark on the downtube. In terms of design, the tube profiles have been reshaped with chamfered edges, and all the cabling has been tucked inside the frame, resulting in improved aerodynamics and lateral stiffness – attributes borrowed from the Oltre platform.
Despite the improved lateral stiffness and disc-brake mount reinforcement on the rear triangle and fork, Bianchi quotes 750g for a size 55 frame. That’s pretty feathery by modern standards and fairly impressive considering the new frame architecture has been constructed using Countervail vibration-damping technology. That said, it’s still fairly dainty in appearance with frame angles and shaping that harks back to the round-tubed climbing bikes of yesteryear. In fact, unlike some of its rivals that can accommodate a wide range of tire widths – the Merida Scultura Team has room for 30mm – the Specialissima tops out at 28mm.
In terms of the geometry numbers, the Specialissima is a pure-bred race bike. On my 55cm test bike, the head-tube and seat-tube angles are practically parallel to each other at 72.5- and 73.5-degrees respectively, placing you directly over the bottom bracket and allowing a more aero riding position. It’s all very racy – a fact further illustrated by the 43mm fork offset and 59mm trail number which makes for an incredibly nimble and lively performer.
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Specifications and build
As you’d expect from a bike of this caliber, the Specialist is a handsomely appointed bike and features Italian-only componentry. While the range spans a host of build options including Shimano Dura-Ace and Ultegra Di2 12-speed and SRAM Red eTap AXS, our bike has been built around a Campagnolo Super Record EPS groupset. A compact 50/34T crankset drives an 11-29T cassette via 172.5mm carbon cranks – it’s a stunning assembly and the perfect companion for this particular build.
As a result, the Campag paraphernalia is complemented by a stem, bar and seatpost arrangement designed in collaboration with FSA. Dubbed Reparto Corse, the CNC-machined 6061 aluminum stem clamps down on a unidirectional carbon-fibre bar. It’s all very light, foregoing the chunky trends in favor of slimmed-down architecture. A carbon Fizik Antares R1 saddle clad in Alcantara rounds off the touchpoints.
Perhaps the item most at odds with the rest of the build is the Fulcrum Wind 40 DB wheelset. While relatively lightweight and adequately for the job at hand, something more premium and more in line with the groupset is what’s expected here – perhaps something from the Bora WTO range. In fact, it appears as though the entire range is lacking in the wheel stakes with Vision being the other provider.
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Ride, handling and performance
As previously mentioned Bianchi has made a concerted effort to dial as much of the learnings from the Oltre into the new Specialissima and the results are tangible. Having spent time on the previous version, the new Specialist is head and shoulders above its forebear when it comes to ride compliance. Of course, this is largely down to the Countervail frame tech but this has done little to affect the racy character of the bike. If anything it feels livelier and more hungry to clock up miles at speed. At a smidgeon over 7.2kg, it’s naturally very comfortable when the road points upwards and accelerates without hesitation.
The improved shaping of the tubing – read: aero – and cableless cockpit has helped with its slipperiness and boosted its aerodynamic efficiency as a result. This means the Specialist feels as urgent on flats as it does on climbs or rolling terrain. With a front 50/34T chainring configuration driving an 11-29T rear cassette, the gearing favorite climbs over flat terrain. As a result of this, it feels somewhat under-geared but is still able to munch away at the horizon line, albeit at a much higher cadence. As far as handling goes, it’s one of the livelier bikes on the market – able to change direction with ease and corners almost telepathically. The Pirelli P Zero Race 26c tires are sublime and, despite needing to run higher pressures than the tubeless equivalent, fostered impressive levels of grip across both wheels.
The Fulcrum Wind 40 DB wheels did a stellar job and the gloss-varnished aesthetics look superb against the Celeste frame but feel this bike could have been specced with something more exclusive. In terms of performance, there was some flex during out-of-the-saddle accelerations and descending at speed, but behaved on the whole. I just found them somewhat at odds with the balance of the build, especially considering the five-figure asking price… The Campag Hydraulic Disc are some of the best I’ve sampled, delivering crisp and precise stopping power, and incredibly detailed modulation control. I did feel the Campagnolo 03 AFS 160mm front/rear rotor configuration was a bit overkill – especially given its lightweight credentials – but then again the descending confidence afforded by this set-up is superb.
A high-end bike of this nature is never going to come cheap and before passing judgment on the stratospheric £12,578 / €12,314 sticker price, it’s worth noting it’s by no means intended for the everyday rider but rather the purist or professional. It’s a superbike designed for winning races and excelling in the high mountains of grand tours – it’s an absolute pleasure to ride. It’s fast, precise and nimble, and delivers one of the better ride qualities in the segment thanks to the advancements in the carbon-fibre layup and tube shaping used in its construction.
Factor in its svelte Italian styling cues, trademark Celeste paintwork and well-balanced geometry, and it’s hard not to fall in love with it. While it is highly scored over our testing benchmarks, it could have done even better if it came fitted with something a little more premium than the Fulcrum Wind 40 DB wheels featured on our build. Is it a deal-breaker though? No, not at all. The Bianchi Specialistsima Super Record EPS is a genuine challenger for the best lightweight bike crown. It’s simply brilliant.
How we test
For information on Cyclingnews’ testing protocol and how our scoring system works, see our how we test page.
|Design and aesthetics||A stunningly designed bike blending contemporary frame material and construction with classic geometry and color theory. Faultless||10/10|
|Components||Top-drawer Italian components such as Campagnolo Super Record EPS feature heavily in the build. It’s ultimately let down by a wheelset that’s not in the same league||8/10|
|Performance, handling and geometry||Fast, balanced and nimble in all situations, the Specialissima can do everything asked of it and more||9/10|
|Weight||Coming in at 7.25g, it’s not very heavy for a disc-brake-equipped bike but could have been lighter||9/10|
|Value for money||It’s pricey and that’s going to be hard to swallow for most enthusiasts but after considering its purpose, spec level and superlative riding performance – it’s undoubtedly going to find favor with cyclists looking for a pure and unsullied bike experience||9/10|
Logbook: Bianchi Specialistsma Super Record EPS
- Temperature: 10 to 29 degrees
- Weather: Dry, windy, sunny
- Road surface: Mixed surfaces
- Route: Tarmac, B roads, rolling topography
- Rides: 18
- Mileage: 1026km
Tech Specs: Bianchi Specialistsma Super Record EPS
- Price: £12,578 / €12,314
- Frame: Specialissima Disc carbon w/Bianchi CV
- Size: 55cm
- Weight: 7.25kg (actual without pedals)
- Groupset: Campagnolo Super Record EPS
- Crankset: Campagnolo Super Record ultra-torque CT TI Carbon 50/34T
- Cassette: Campagnolo Super Record, 11-29T
- Wheels: Fulcrum Wind 400 DB
- Tires: Pirelli P Zero Race 26c
- Brakes: Campagnolo Hydraulic Disc
- Bar: Reparto Corse by FSA Compact HB-RK-222S/CCH/Di2
- Stem: Reparto Corse by FSA NS ACR
- Seatpost: Reparto Corse by FSA K-Force Light SB25
- Bottle cages: Elite Custom Race Plus
- Saddle: Fizik Antares R1