One of the most sought-after vintage road bike manufacturers, Bianchi has earned a cult following through innovative design, high-quality manufacturing, and a distinct (and beautiful) aesthetic.
The Italian manufacturing giants are one of the oldest producers of bikes still around today, dating all the way back to 1885. A vintage Bianchi road bike is instantly recognizable, with top-notch tubing, Italian componentry, and most of all, the iconic “celeste” color that has inspired so many to become die-hard fans of their unique aesthetic.
With numerous cycling legends riding Bianchi vintage bikes to iconic victories, they’re not just pretty frames. Over the years, Bianchi has contributed massively to the design of modern bicycles through innovation and original design features.
But what makes Bianchi such a renowned manufacturer? And what are the most iconic vintage Bianchi road bikes?
Don’t worry! We’ll give you the lowdown on all-things celeste in our ultimate guide to vintage Bianchi bikes. In this article, we’ll be talking about:
- A Brief History Of Bianchi
- What Makes Bianchi Vintage Bikes So High-Quality?
- 4 Of The Most Iconic Vintage Bianchi Road Bikes
Ready to learn all about vintage Bianchi road bikes?
Let’s get started!
A Brief History Of Bianchi
Founded by a fresh-faced 20-year-old Italian engineer, Edoardo Bianchi, initial production was limited to surgical instruments and penny-farthings. Eventually, Edoardo’s horizons were broadened with the production of a cutting-edge new type of bicycle.
By reducing the diameter of the front wheel, and making use of a chain to drive the rear wheel (then a recent French innovation), Bianchi had produced an incredibly stable bicycle, one which didn’t require the balance of a gymnast to remain in the saddle. This was one of the first ‘safety bicycles‘, essentially the prototype for what would later be adapted into racing bikes.
Bianchi bicycles began earning international recognition even prior to the 20th century. They were ridden to a number of prestigious victories, including the 1899 Grand Paris Prix, won by Giovanni Tomaselli on a Bianchi bicycle.
The success of Bianchi continued into the early 20th century, with Carlo Galetti riding to victory on his Bianchi steed in the third edition of the Giro d’Italia, in 1911. Not only that, but the rider who placed second was also riding for Team Bianchi.
Shortly after their first victory in Il Giro, “Bianchi Celeste” was born.
First appearing in 1913, the iconic blueish-green color (or “sky blue with shades of green”, as Bianchi put it) later became a defining feature of many Bianchi bikes. With Bianchi staying true to their roots, many modern Bianchi bikes still come with a stunning Bianchi celeste paint job, which is still arguably the most recognizable color in the peloton.
Since then, Bianchi has produced a vast number of famous bicycles throughout the ages, earning them one of the most loyal fanbases of any manufacturer. But it’s not only amateurs loyal to the brand, many cycling legends have found themselves drawn to Bianchi; Fausto Coppi, Marco Pantani, and Mario Cipollini to name a few.
What Makes Bianchi Vintage Bikes So High-Quality?
There are many things that make Bianchi road bikes special; the aesthetic, the history, and the high-quality manufacturing in particular. Bianchi made partnerships with many other industry-leading companies to add to the quality of their bicycles.
Staying true to the high-quality Italian manufacturing, most Bianchi bikes since the 1930s have come equipped with Campagnolo componentry – music to the ears of any Italian bike purist.
Campagnolo is the oldest of the “big three” bicycle component manufacturers, and like Bianchi, have a long history of innovation, contributing some of the most important technologies to the cycling world. For example, founder Tullio Campagnolo invented the revolutionary Cambio Corsa mechanism, which later led to the development of both the quick-release system and the derailleur.
Many vintage Bianchi road bikes came with cutting-edge Campagnolo tech. Since the first Super Record groupsets were introduced in 1973, most top-range Bianchi bikes have been equipped with Campag’s flagship groupset. Prior to this, Bianchi bikes were some of the first to feature a parallelogram rear derailleur, with Campagnolo’s ingenious ‘Gran Sport’ derailleur in 1949, a combination ridden by the great Fausto Coppi.
Columbus Steel Tubing
During most of the steel-frame era, Bianchi had a partnership with Italian steel tubing manufacturer Columbus, remaining true to their Italian bike purism. The manufacturing process of steel tubing for bikes is remarkably complicated, and Columbus performs the most complex part of the whole process: the butting and shaping.
Many cheaper bicycles in this era came with “straight-gauge” tubing. This means that the tubes are the same thickness throughout the entire length, which saves money and time as it requires a simpler manufacturing process.
“Butted tubes”, however, are of different thickness in different places. This allows the joints and areas of greater stress in the bike to be stronger, and areas requiring less strength to be thinner – and therefore lighter.
Most higher-end vintage Bianchis were constructed from Columbus’ chromium-molybdenum (CrMo) steel tubing. These were drawn out to different thicknesses and strengths to match the style of each individual bike. Two very common iterations of this tubing were the SL and SP tubes, which signify different thicknesses of the tubing.
SP tubes are thicker and therefore stronger, so are more suited to heavier riders and larger frames but paid the price of some additional grames relative to SL tubes. Starting around the late ’80s, new variations, SLX and SPX were released, which included added reinforcement at the butted ends.
These tubes were – at the time – cutting-edge technology in the world of bicycle frames. If you find your vintage Bianchi bike comes equipped with a Columbus decal stating the use of ‘SL’ or ‘SP’ steel, it’s likely to be a high-quality vintage frame.
4 Iconic Vintage Bianchi Road Bikes
Of course, there are countless stunning vintage Bianchi road bikes, but here are a few that stand out as particularly memorable.
#1. Bianchi Campione del Mondo (1953)
The Campione del Mondo (“Champion of the World”) is one of the most iconic vintage Bianchi road bikes, ridden by the Campionissimo (“Champion of Champions”) himself, Fausto Coppi. Coppi won the Tour de France and the Giro d’Italia on this bike’s predecessor, the Paris-Roubaix, which was very similar in design to the Campione del Mondo.
The frame is, of course, painted in Bianchi celeste, and the bike came with a number of impressive features for the era. This gem of a vintage Bianchi bike was equipped with one of the first integrated headset and handlebar systems, designed by Edoardo Bianchi himself, as well as the very first parallelogram derailleur systems, in Campagnolo’s flagship Gran Sport drivetrain.
The Campione del Mondo frame gets its name from Coppi’s legendary 1953 World Championship victory, following a grueling seven-and-a-half hours of riding and a legendary solo attack, in which he was riding this bike.
Unfortunately, this is a difficult bike to get your hands on. Having said that, when they do become available, they tend to be a little more reasonably priced than some other vintage Bianchi bike models. If you’re lucky, it’s possible to find this stunning bike in decent condition for around $1500.
#2. Rekord 748 (1978)
This one, unlike the others on the list, was not a top-of-the-range Bianchi when it was released. However, it remains a stunning vintage Bianchi road bike that’s a little more attainable for cyclists without an unlimited budget.
Released in the late ’70s, the Rekord was another classic Bianchi celeste frame, crafted from Columbus steel, with a number of beautiful and unique features. Bianchi’s “pantograph” fork crown and cranks are one example, while the Rekord 748 came with the next iteration of Campagnolo’s famous Gran Sport gearing (not-very-imaginatively named “Nuovo Gran Sport”).
Although not a flagship bicycle, it’s well-known as an example of a bike with a classic Bianchi aesthetic, while retaining reliability and durability. Another thing that sets this bike apart from the others is the availability of the model. It is not uncommon to find this bike in decent condition second-hand for under $1000, often with the original components.
A great model to start your vintage Bianchi bike collection!
#3. Centenario (1985)
Arguably Bianchi’s most iconic vintage road bike to date, the Centenario is one of the most collectible vintage steel bikes of all time.
The Centenario was essentially a special-edition variant of the revered Speciallissima X3, released to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Bianchi’s founding. The Specialissima was renowned for its incredible ride quality, as well as its stunning appearance.
The Centenario did not disappoint, it has one of the most beautiful frames of any steel bike from the era. With a metallic black finish and Bianchi celeste detailing, the frame was made from Columbus SLX tubing, shaped into a beautiful geometry that provides a legendary ride quality. If that wasn’t enough, it came entirely equipped, from crankset to hubs, with Campagnolo’s flagship C-Record components.
This, again, is a very difficult bike to find. Its status as a “dream bike” for any serious vintage bike collector has made it extremely in demand. Throw in the fact that Bianchi only produced 1500 of this limited edition frameset, and you’ve got the perfect cocktail for a bike that will set you back a small fortune.
#4. Mega Pro XL (1998)
One of the best-known Bianchi vintage bikes, the Mega Pro XL was released in 1998 and was used by cycling legend Marco Pantani to win both the Giro d’Italia and the Tour de France.
The frame was then released as the limited edition ‘Pantani 101’ to consumers, named to commemorate Pantani’s epic victories in 1998. Marco Pantani is known as one of the best climbers cycling has ever seen.
To fly up the mountains as he did, you need a pretty light bike, and the Mega Pro XL frame was only 850 g! Even by today’s standards, this is ridiculously light, and the bike helped Pantani take the Mountains Classification at the Giro too.
The frame itself is entirely aluminum, in a complementary color scheme of yellow and Bianchi celeste fade, with the yellow to match the team kits of Mercatone Uno (Pantani’s team at the time). The details of this frame really make it stand out, with an original ITM yellow stem to match, made specifically for this model. It also included Campagnolo Shamal wheels, the first-ever factory deep-section rims used at a Grand Tour.
In addition, it came equipped with Campagnolo Record Ti, a full titanium, high-quality groupset, with an upsettingly low gear range. Pantani typically used the bike with a standard 53/39 crankset paired with a brutal 12/21 cassette, making his ridiculous climbing skills even more impressive!
This is another very rare bike, but due to being only 25 years old, might come a little cheaper than the Centenario. This bike seems to sell from most vintage dealers at around $3000-$5000, depending on condition.