What is Bianchi Countervail (CV) Technology?

Fancy bikes need fancy technology and Countervail is some of the most advanced damping going in the bike world. Crankboutique explains.

Technology In Short

Countervail technology is an integrated frame material that Bianchi uses in its carbon fibre bikes to improve comfort. With its roots in the US military, Countervail is integrated into Bianchi’s carbon fibre frames to reduce road feedback and vibration and therefore improve comfort and efficiency.
  • Manufacturer: Bianchi / Material Sciences Coporation
  • Technology Type: Suspension, Compliance
  • Availability: Proprietary – Bianchi bikes only
  • Cost: N/A. 
  • Current Road Models: Infinito CV, Oltre XR4, Specialissima

What is Bianchi Countervail?

It may seem like we’re obsessed with compliance and suspension technology here on Crankboutique – and that’s because we are. With UCI regulations limiting the ability of technology to make an impact on the pro peloton, the last bastion of incremental gains is making things more efficient. Broadly speaking there’s two key ways that the bike manufacturers are approaching this – aerodynamics and compliance.

Aero applications are broadly all approached the same way in terms of  frame shaping and integration. The fascinating thing about the compliance race for us, is that all the major manufacturers are approaching the problem in different ways although there’s two different schools of execution. The first is mechanical which Specialized and Trek are using with their Future Shock and IsoSpeed systems. The second is material which is how Bianchi and Cannondale approach the challenge with their Countervail and SAVE frame building approaches.

While Cannondale’s SAVE system is proprietary technology, Bianchi’s Countervail (CV) technology isn’t and is a product of Material Science Corporation (MSC) originally designed for the US military. CV isn’t an exclusively carbon fibre technology and is actually a proprietary viscoelastic material and method of weaving together different materials (including carbon fibre) to reduce vibration Initially it was designed to improve acoustics – specifically exploring ways of improving Sonar Domes for US Navy ships.
The sonar dome on a US Navy shipping showing the materials.
Sonar on military ships provide a vital function for attack and defence and the domes that house the equipment are located on the bow of naval vessels. Of course these domes can’t be built of steel like the rest of the hull as they have to be acoustically “transparent”, i.e. the material needs not to impede the function of the sonar. Incorporating the sonar in the ships hull would result in loss of sensitivity and transmit greater vibrations and interference from other parts of the ship:
The dome is generally made of composites, plastics and rubber as these materials don’t interfere with sonar transmission and the vibration damping qualities help to improve the capabilities of sonar. Countervail technology was created with this function in mind, providing a new material to help improve the sonar performance of US military ships by providing a new materials approach. While the technology was developed for the military some of its first applications were in sport – specifically skiing where a material that can reduce feedback and vibration has obvious benefits to the comfort of the skiier and overall performance. Bianchi saw these demonstrations and approached MSC with a partnership to get this technology into its carbon fibre bikes.

For a high performance bike, CV has almost the same benefits as for a high performance ski. For a high performance bike  one of the key desirable traits is to be as stiff as possible (highly inelastic), to transmit as much rider input as possible to the wheels via the cranks. The challenge with stiffness is that on rough surfaces vibrations reduce the ability of the wheel to transmit power to the surface and introduces rider fatigue. Incorporating a viscoelastic material like Countervail into a bike frame means that a bike transmits less vibrations without compromising on stiff meaning a faster and more comfortable ride. Bianchi and MSC have claimed a 50-70% reduction in frame vibration in a CV frame compared to a non CV frame and in it’s introductory year in 2014, an Infinito CV was powered to a Tour de France stage win on the brutal cobbles of Belgium.
Initially CV tech was limited to endurance bikes like the Infinito, but has no spread across the Bianchi range including the Oltre XR4 and Specialissima.
Bianchi’s fantastically 90s video introducing the key concepts of Countervail.

Peloton TV’s test of the Infinito CV vs Belgian cobbles.

Does Bianchi Countervail Work & How Has it Been Reviewed?

We would love to say that we’ve ridden more Bianchis than we have, sadly that’s just not the case. It’s very hard for us to comment objectively on the performance of the technology so we’ll leave that to the professional opinions below, having said that, there’s a general consensus that CV equipped bikes are pretty comfortable. e.

2019 Bianchi Infinito CV Review

As we know, vibration is one of the factors that leads to fatigue, so combining this ‘vibration cancelling composite technology’ to a proven endurance platform is a no-brainer. With this day’s ride – around 25km of very gradual climbing, followed by roughly 10km of serious ascent, another 10km of false flat, followed by a final brutal uphill 10km to the highest through road on the continent – the Infinito CV felt absolutely at home.

2019 Bianchi Oltre XR4 Disc Review

The front- and rear-end harmonise well and provide good manoeuvrability combined with superb cornering stability. Thanks to this character the Bianchi feels sure-footed and inspires tons of confidence – with the safety-belt comes an airbag! The frameset is stiff and only offers minimal compliance. Whilst this means that bigger knocks will travel straight into your body almost unfiltered, most of the smaller high-frequency vibrations are taken care of by the good damping qualities of the carbon-resin blend. The aerodynamically-shaped carbon seat post provides additional comfort through its compliance.

Bianchi Oltre XR3 Potenza Review

More techy stuff from a bike company? Not quite. Bianchi is the only bicycle manufacturer to use it, but Countervail was originally developed by the American company Materials Sciences Corporation and has been used by NASA in aerospace applications, so you’d like to think it works.

Bianchi’s Countervail combines carbon fibres with viscoelastic resin, to cancel “80 percent of vibrations while increasing the stiffness of its carbon frames and forks”. The Oltre XR3 is stiff, which is evident as soon as you accelerate, with no obvious flex apparent through the tapered 1 1/8-1 1/2in fork or frame, which has deep chainstays and a massive bottom bracket shell, but this efficiency is balanced with Countervail’s comfort-boosting smoothness over rougher surfaces.

Are There any Known issues with Bianchi Countervail?

Aside from a fork recall in 2017, there are few complaints about the actual frames – honestly, who complains about owning a Bianchi?