Saturday, 7 November 2009

Bianchi 'bikes are a fine thing - with or without an engine

The gym's too dull, running kills your knees, and riding motorcycles doesn't get rid of pizza-pounds. Cycling's the answer, and a chance to relish yet more fine Italian machinery. My choice is a Bianchi 120th Anniversary special, customised with Brooks saddle and bar tape. The metallic grey paint is a change from the traditional Celeste racing blue-green, and doesn't shout "race me, race me" when I'm just pottering around the Pewsey Vale.

Edoardo Bianchi started making bicycles in 1885, adding motorcycles to his range 12 years later. Innovations and first-seen-on stuff peppered both ranges, and although it's the bicycles that are famous today, give up some time to remember the motorcycles.

Tazio Nuvolari rode Bianchis to GP wins, and there were also victories in the Motogiro and Milano- Taranto. Lino Tonti designed Bianchis, Bob McIntyre took a second place in the Dutch TT on one, and worlds speed records were set. So what went wrong?

The usual Italian thing. Every penny went on racers and lightweight road bikes. By the mid 1960's buyers wanted big, fast road bikes and Bianchi's cupboard was bare. RIP.

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