The new Bianchi Aria is an efficient aero road bike that's more accessible than any of the brand's Oltres. It's responsive and direct and handles sharply.
Bianchi's Oltres have always done really well in road.cc reviews. The only issue is that the cheapest complete Oltre XR1 is £2,699.99, the Oltre XR3s start at £2,799.99 and you won't get an Oltre XR4 for less than £5,200. The Aria is hardly a budget option but it does bring Bianchi's aero bike range down to a more affordable (yes, it's all relative) level.
The first thing you notice when riding the Aria is just how punchy it is and how ready to respond to increased effort. I went back and double-checked the weight of our 57cm model – 8.25kg (18.19lb) – because in use it feels a lot lighter and more chuck-aroundable than that.
The oversized bottom bracket shell (it's home to a press-fit 86.5 x 41 BB) holds everything in check well when you crank up the power, while the tapered head tube (1 1/8in upper bearing, 1 1/4in lower bearing) and full-carbon fork prove similarly solid at the front end. I couldn't detect any flex either when cornering hard or throwing the bike around on steep climbs.
One of the Aria's other attributes is easy manoeuvrability. Some aero bikes are good for straight-line speed but they're single minded and don't much like to deviate from that. The Aria is more than happy to flick from one line to another to navigate through a group or avoid something unexpected in the road.
The Aria boasts many features designed to reduce drag, the most obvious being the fork legs and frame tubes that are slim and deep-section. The fork crown is integrated into the frame, the down tube is dropped with a slight cutaway around the front wheel, and the seat tube is cutaway around the rear wheel.
Bianchi says that the design of the slim seatstays was inspired by that of its Aquila time trial bike. These meet the seat tube low down to reduce the frontal area and manage the airflow in the rear brake area. The seatpost has an aero profile and comes with a wedge-type clamp that's recessed into the top tube.
Bianchi says that the bike 'has been heavily inspired by our extensive wind-tunnel testing and cooperation with pro riders', although it doesn't say whether the Aria itself has been subject to CFD (computational fluid dynamics) analysis or taken to the wind tunnel, and doesn't put any specific figures on the bike's aero performance.
We don't have access to a wind tunnel and we're not in the business of guessing, so the furthest I'll go is to say that lots of tried and tested aero features are present and correct here.
With most of the drag when riding coming from you, the rider, rather than the bike, it's important that you get into an efficient riding position, and the Aria is designed to help you do that. Clearly, there wouldn't be much point going to the trouble of developing aero tube shapes and then having the rider sit bolt upright in the saddle.
The Aria is available in eight different sizes from itty bitty 44cm right up to a big ol' 61cm. I've been riding the 57cm model (I'm actually between Bianchi sizes; I could do with a 58cm Aria but there's no such thing) which has a 570mm effective seat tube (it would be 570mm if the top tube was horizontal) and a 560mm effective top tube. The head tube on this model is 155mm, which is certainly short.