Nine months in with the Bianchi Sempre Pro and I’m feeling rather smug… I’ve not had any mechanical issues, the bike still runs like a dream and, most importantly, I’ve not turned into a hunchbacked mutant. In fact the Sempre has proven to be more comfortable than its predecessor the Cannondale R700.
Over the past few years road bike hype has been reinvented by the sportif, and there’s enormous pressure on non-pro cyclists to get a ‘sportif’ bike… I know, one of my close friends is a victim of Giant’s Defy hype. The thing is we’ve been riding and tweaking bikes for over a hundred years, and there’s not a lot to change really. When you look at the miles our fathers were doing every week as they commuted to work on ‘old-fashioned’ racers with flat top-tubes, you have to wonder how they made it to a respectable child-rearing age… unless of course those bikes weren’t as bad as we’re now being told.
The point is, my Sempre is a mirror of the geometry that Bianchi use for the Oltre and that’s the bike that they supply to the pro-tour teams. The Sempre hasn’t got a noticeably slopey frame or a high head-tube, instead it’s just dead racy. So before you build a shortlist of bike options around Sportif bikes, take a good hard look at the race bikes.
To check the sizing of the Sempre, I took a spin on a blinged-up Oltre. It cost £15,000 and would have been lovely for a day (or two?) until it either broke (because it was so highly strung that the local roads would have hurt it) or it threw me in a ditch (again because it was so highly strung that my reflexes couldn’t cope with the potential performance). As it is my Sempre is the same size and shape, but it has a beautiful temperament with a wicked hidden soul – by that I mean you ride the Sempre for hours on end and still feel pretty good at the end, but by ‘eck does it shift if you put your mind to it.
Coming back to my lucky mate, why didn’t you get a TCR… or a Sempre?
On a practical note, it may not be the Campagnolo that I’d hoped for, but the Shimano Ultegra 6800 has been smooth day-in-day-out. I never expected to need 11 speeds, but it does make for silky smooth riding – note, there’s some chain rub when in the big rings front and rear, but those clever people at Shimano have included the ‘microshift’ which drops the front derailleur slightly to the left to reduce this… clever chaps.
In terms of changes, the only one I’m considering is the handlebars. The stock bars have quite thin tubes on the drops and I’d like something a bit broader to grab hold of. The obvious solution is to add a layer of bar-tape or some gel cushions, but changing the bars appeals.
The only problem was the explosive puncture of one of the original Hutchison tyres – there were never destined for longevity and the ride home with a hole in the tyre was cautious. The biggest problem this has created is what tyres to put on the Sempre? As the tyre gave out in late summer, it’s currently running on Gatorskins, but I’m leaning back to Vittoria for my 2015 rubber, Open Paves maybe?