Vintage and Modern
This Bianchi was made in a time when bike technology was revolutionising how bikes were made and ridden. Gone are the downtube shifters and non-aero brake levers, the five speed freewheel and chromed forks; what we have instead is integrated gear shifting, a 9 speed cassette, wider handlebars as well as more efficient brakes and derailleurs for a better ride all round. The frame of this bike, in the classic celeste colour of Bianchi, is a simple affair which straddles both the modern and vintage eras. There are no stamped fork crowns, no chromed stays or ornate lugs; instead it has vertical dropouts, curved fork crowns and internal cable routing.
It’s in the Details
Yet Bianchi have not done away with the workmanship and artistry of the vintage period, as the nice long pointed “window” lugs testify. It seems a sort of “tip of the hat,” a deferential nod as it were, to the great age of steel frame building. I like the fact that this bike is dressed in new technology of the late 1990’s, but it has a steel frame full of reminders of the past age. And this is what makes it such a fine ride; it has the qualities of both old and new, stirring up the pride of owning a prestigious marque but also offering a new experience of modern cycling.
In the Shop
This is a pretty big bike, 60cm from centre to top, with a 58cm top tube elongated with a long stem. It weighs around 21lb, not particularly light but this Veloce was not made for professional racing and wasn’t on the first page of the Bianchi catalogue. Rather, it was a good mid-range Bianchi, a bike with Campagnolo components and topped off with a superb Mavic wheelset. It would have been the perfect bike for someone looking for something more than a mass produced Raleigh or Peugeot of the time. I remember seeing these Bianchi bikes when I was at university in 1998, on my way to a lecture on a miserable winter morning. I would pass my local bike shop which always displayed these beautiful Bianchi bikes in its shop window. Who wouldn’t dream? I dreamed of owning one, but I always thought they were out of my league.
On the Road
Technology moves so fast that this generation of 9 speed bikes could seem really dated for the Millennials. For the younger generation? I have no idea what Generation Z makes of anything pre-2000. But for me, on the road, this is a great bike, sturdy and strong, sure-footed and forgiving too, more so than say, an aluminium Cannondale CAAD 3. The Campagnolo shifters are not as precise and quick as modern shifters, but they are far superior to the likes of Shimano’s 105 and RSX that were introduced a few years earlier. The Mavic 500 hubs spin as smoothly as any I’ve ever encountered, and the wheelset is light and a work of art. The Bianchi has no granny wheel, no triple or compact crankset, and its 52/42 chainrings are of traditional fare. You have to work harder to get up the hills, but it’s a blast to ride, and can pick up speed easily.
Condition and Ownership
This bike had just one owner before me, and it is obvious that the bike had been stored indoors and lightly ridden. Unusually, there are few marks on the main tubes, few enough to make me think it was a bike purely ridden for leisure. The stays have their chips, as all stays do, but look at the tubes of this bike and their finish; quite remarkable for a 20 year old bike. I don’t know if the Mavic wheelset was original to the bike or if it was an upgrade, but it was a good choice. What’s more, the bike had Mavic 440 SSC brake calipers fitted, which I swapped out for Shimano 600. I love the combination of Campagnolo and Mavic. This bike hasn’t aged at all!
Undersold for £250!
• 1997/8? Bianchi Veloce, Steel Lugged Frameset
• 60cm CroMo Frame, 58cm Top Tube, Vertical Dropouts
• Campagnolo Veloce Shifters 2 x 9
• Campagnolo Veloce Crankset 52/42
• Campagnolo Mirage Front and Rear Derailleurs
• Campagnolo Seatpost
• Cinelli 1R Stem and Handlebars
• Mavic 500 Hubs
• Mavic Mach 2 Tubular Rims
• Vittoria Pro Team Kevlar 700 x 22 Tubular Tyres
• Mavic Headset
• Shimano 600 Brake Calipers
• Selle San Marco Saddle