Signature: Celeste Color
The history of Bianchi Steel Bikes
Bianchi’s storied history as a major Italian bicycle manufacturer began as long ago as 1885, when the young Eduardo Bianchi opened his first bicycle works in Milan. Bianchi was an early exponent of the philosophy that success in competition would increase sales of Bianchi bikes, and offered prestigious sponsorship deals to the greatest professional cyclists of the era. A few years later Giovanni Ferdinando Tommaselli rewarded the company with their first famous international victory when he won the 1899 Grand Prix de Parigi (Paris Grand Prix) upon an early Bianchi Pista bicycle.
The Bianchi name continued to be represented at the highest level of international cycle sport throughout the twentieth century, with great champions such as Costante Girardengo, Giuseppe Olmo, Fausto Coppi, Felice Gimondi, Moreno Argentin, Gianni Bugno and Marco Pantani all having chalked up multiple wins atop Bianchi racing bicycles.
Olmo won four stages and two individual time trials in the 1935 Giro d’Italia upon a Bianchi Strada bicycle equipped with a three speed gear change by Vittoria-Margherita, ultimately finishing second overall to Gino Bartoli. In 1952 Fausto Coppi won both the Giro d’Italia and the Tour de France on a Bianchi road bike utilising the Campagnolo Gran Sport component group with the original cable operated parallelogram rear derailleur, which was introduced in 1949. He rode to a consecutive Giro d’Italia victory in 1953, once again riding a Bianchi painted in their distinctive ‘Celeste’ livery.
Two decades later in 1973 Felice Gimondi beat Maertens and Ocaña to become the road racing World Champion in Barcelona, riding a 10.1 kilogram Bianchi racing bike with a twelve speed Campagnolo Record groupset and helically-butted Columbus tubing. By 1986 Bianchi had managed to reduce the weight of their top competition machine by a further third of a kilogram, and Campagnolo now provided fourteen gears, which helped Moreno Argentin ride to victory in the road World Championships in Colorado Springs. In 1998 Marco “il Pirata” Pantani took two stage wins in the Giro d’Italia en route to overall victory, atop a 6.9 kilogram aluminium framed yellow/Celeste Bianchi Pro Team road bike constructed from Dedacciai tubing and featuring an eighteen speed Campagnolo Record gruppo.
Bianchi’s unique selling proposition
Known for their distinctive and unmistakeable signature ‘Celeste’ turquoise-green paint colour, the top Bianchi frames have always exhibited simple styling, in combination with a certain cleanliness in design detail, and traditionally excellent build quality. By the 1970s Bianchi had evolved into a sizeable company producing all sorts of mass-produced bicycles, but continued to operate an artisanal Pro shop. Of most interest to the collector are that select minority of bikes which were manufactured by hand in this specialist racing department. It was here that professional riders could work closely with the Bianchi craftsmen, who themselves could call upon the design talents of suppliers Columbus and Campagnolo, combining to great effect over many decades.
Marco Pantani in particular took great advantage of the possibilities offered by the Bianchi competition department, purportedly requesting as many as thirty frames per season, each differentiated by minuscule differences in geometry, in his ceaseless quest for the perfect bike and thereby the winning edge.
Bianchi frames tend to be well looked-after due to the high quality of their manufacture, and frames from the golden era are still in very high demand. A vintage Bianchi steel bike in top condition is always a welcome addition to the collection of the discerning collector, and not surprisingly the marque is always abundantly represented at popular nostalgia events such as L’Eroica, both in Tuscany and around the world. A good example of the marque will retain its value, as the popularity of the brand shows no sign of waning.
Top Bianchi models in the 1980s
Bianchi Super Corsa – with full Campagnolo Super Record groupset, Campagnolo dropouts, Columbus SL tubing, 3ttt bar and stem, Regina chain and freewheel, and Bianchi celeste paint.
Bianchi Super Leggera – with mixed Campagnolo Super Record / Nuovo Record groupset, Campagnolo dropouts, Columbus SL tubing, 3ttt bar and stem, Regina chain and freewheel, and Bianchi Celeste paint.
Bianchi Super Pista – top model for the track, with full Campagnolo Pista groupset, Columbus SL tubing, Campagnolo dropouts and track ends, and Bianchi celeste paint.