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Bianchi Sprint Ultegra 2020 review

1 May 2020
Verdict:

A resurrection of a 1970s classic, the Bianchi Sprint is a great all-rounder at a competitive price

Cyclist Rating: 
Price: 
£2,800
For 
• Comfortable ride • Ability to fit 32c tyres • A classic frame shape with clean lines
Against 
• To keep price down, wheels have been compromised

When the Bianchi Sprint launched in April 2019, Cyclist made the claim that the Italian brand had released ‘its most affordable bike ever.' For less than £2,000 you could purchase a bonafide celeste Bianchi (or black like the one reviewed). It would be a full carbon frame and offer no compromise on that Italian elegance we've come to expect from the brand.

Granted, the £2,000 model got you a Shimano 105 rim brake groupset and alloy rims, but even the higher specced version is priced easy on the wallet.

Fully equipped with Sram Force AXS disc, the Sprint is still only £4,300 and for the Ultegra disc-specced model Cyclist reviewed you are still only looking at an outlay of £2,800.

For that price, you'd be hard-pressed to find any full carbon frame fully fitted with Shimano Ultegra disc, let alone from a brand with a heritage as rich and reputation as respected as Bianchi.

Putting two and two together, the combination of competitive pricing, carbon frame and good components suggests that something would have to give with the Bianchi Sprint but, as Cyclist found out, that's not quite the case.

Buy the Bianchi Sprint Ultegra here for £2,800

Comfort is key

The Sprint is actually the resurrection of a previous steel racer Bianchi manufactured in the 1970s. While it shares the same paint job, the modern take is very much a bike for 2019, as Andrew Griffin of Bianchi UK explains.

‘Recent developments in discs and tyre width gave an opportunity to create something new,’ says Griffin.

‘The Sprint is the result of that; an updated frame that takes wider tyres and redesigned tube shapes and construction for an improved ride quality while maintaining an already competitive weight.’

The Sprint has acted as a replacement for the outgoing Sempre Pro model that previously occupied Bianchi’s middle-tier and, like Griffin stated, has taken the opportunity to catch up with the current trends of road bikes.

The Sprint Ultegra disc frame can handle 32mm tyres (the rim version accepts 28mm). Fitted with mudguards, the disc version can still take 28mm tyres. These tyres come wrapped around Shimano RS170 disc alloy wheels with 12mm thru-axles.

Bianchi has also dropped the seatstays and opted for a 155mm headtube with a 73-degree head angle (56cm frame) for a bike that’s on the racier side of endurance without giving you a bad back or the experience of riding on an upright shopper bike.

In fact, the ride quality is delicate and, to my mind, is a setup that is perfectly suited to the longest days in the saddle, excelling most on long climbs.

At 8.84kg (without pedals), it’s not the lightest bike on the market, but with the combination of 'a bit of racy alongside a lot of comfort’ I felt planted in the saddle, leant over the front end enough to really push hard when necessary but not to the point of discomfort and early-onset fatigue which can be a fine balance on longer efforts.

It also helped that Bianchi has opted to fit the Sprint with a mid-compact 52-36 chainset paired with an 11-32 cassette which, for me, the perfect gear combination.

Plenty of size on the front rings to torque up the watts with the option of a 32t bailout when it all gets too much. While the Sprint suited the long climbs, I did find it lacking at times on the steep, shorter ascents.

The Sprint Ultegra weighs in at almost 9kg which could be lower if it wasn’t for the Shimano RS170 wheels and the Reparto alloy components used.

There’s no doubting their reliability but they are heavy and slightly laborious, something that comes to fruition on steep ascents and when rolling along in a fast paceline. You notice that the wheels offer neither aero or weight benefits.

Ultimately, to achieve the sub-£3,000 pricing, Bianchi was always going to compromise and has done so with the wheels. And it’s always worth noting that an after-market purchase of some carbon wheels would bring performance on leaps and bounds. But sold-as-seen, there’s no denying that these wheels do peg the bike back a little.

Bianchi’s choice of wheels is not to say the Sprint has compromised wholesale on being a race machine, however.

The frame is plenty stiff under load and the reshaped tubing provides better ride quality, while without the countervail technology of the top-end Speciallisima, does take design cues from its more expensive sibling at the bike’s front end, including direct steering.

This borrowing of design made for a bike that handled above its station, taking corners in descents with a smoothness that urged you to release the brakes and trust the bike.

Glimpses of real quality like this explain why Bianchi believes the Sprint is versatile enough to double up as a comfortable endurance model and lightning race bike.

Labelling the Bianchi Sprint an endurance bike would probably be the most accurate description but there are clear flashes of why this could also be a race bike, or at the very least, your flashy sportive bike.

And if racing is no bother to you, then that’s no problem, because, for the money, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more rounded bike than the Bianchi Sprint Ultegra.

Pricing and Specs

The Bianchi Sprint comes in four specifications ranging from £2,000 to £4,300. The model reviewed is the Sprint Ultegra disc and retails at £2,800. For £2,200, Bianchi offers the Sprint Ultegra as a rim bike option.

The entry-level option at £2,000 is rim brake and specced with full Shimano 105 and Shimano RS100 wheels. An extra £500 will buy you the Sprint with hydraulic 105 disc and Shimano RS170 disc wheels.

Top of the charts for Bianchi is the Sprint Force eTap AXS disc which utilises Sram’s new wireless 12-speed second-tier groupset and comes sold with Fulcrum Racing 600 disc wheels. This particular option will cost £4,300 and is arguably the best deal of the lot. Notably, the Bianchi Sprint does not come specced with Campagnolo in the UK.

Buy the Bianchi Sprint Ultegra here for £2,800

Spec

Frame Bianchi Sprint
Groupset Shimano Ultegra disc mechanical
Brakes Shimano Ultegra disc mechanical
Chainset Shimano Ultegra mechanical (52-36)
Cassette Shimano Ultegra mechanical (11-32)
Bars Reparto Corse Compact
Stem Reparto Corse Alloy
Seatpost Reparto Corse Alloy
Saddle Selle Royal SR
Wheels Shimano RS170
Weight 8.84kg (56cm)
Contact bianchi.com

All reviews are fully independent and no payments have been made by companies featured in reviews

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