memories of bianchi factory a brand so steeped in cycling history that tifosi the world over know it for one thing - the company color Celeste

It was a gray and rainy day when the RBA caravan pulled into the parking lot of the Bianchi factory. Luckily, fresh memories of a fine dinner the night before in the upper (old) town of Bergamo with RBA's resident gourmand, Tim Maloney, prevented the glum weather from getting me down.

Besides, we were at the gates of the fabled Bianchi factory - a brand so steeped in cycling history that tifosi the world over know it for one thing - the company color Celeste. As our factory guide (Product Manager) Lars Svalin told, the color was originally derived from the eye color of Queen Margherita of Savoy whom Mr. Bianchi once delivered a bike to.

Founded over 120 years ago in 1885 by Edoardo Bianchi himself and the later day home of such racing icons as Fausto Coppi, Felice Gimondi, and Marco Pantani to name but a few. Bike building at the current factory was begun in 1960. Although the landscape of large buildings looks all but under used these days, inside one large building there is a whole lotta bicycle building going on. In fact, the main building is split between all the bikes that are assembled from Asian made frames and all the bikes that are hand built from scratch. Within the latter you'll also find their QC center, a custom fit room and of course the famous Reparto Corse race shop. In a separate wing there's a small gallery of historical artifacts and a variety of business offices. But, on to a virtual factory tour of Bianchi Bicycles.

The racing exploits of Fausto Coppi were what put Bianchi on the map and due reverence is paid to the Italian champion throughout the factory. This is the bike he rode at the 1953 World Championships in Lugano.

Lest we forget that during the years  1897-1967 Bianchi made some really cool motorcycles as well. The poster on the wall was easily one of the coolest images in the whole factory...where was the gift shop?

With a gallery of past champions on the wall looking on, this guy came all the way from Russia to get personally fitted to his Bianchi by Mauri Giacomo. Mauri started working at the factory when he was 16 and has been fitting riders to their bikes for over five decades.

The assembly line of the Asian made frames pumps out about 175 bikes a day (versus the 55 frames on the handbuilt side). Our hosts divulged some cool trivia regarding the inside code behind the Bianchi 928 model name which breaks down as follows: the 9 and 2 come from the years 1949 & 1952 when Coppi won the Tour de France and the 8 represents the year 1998 when it was won Marco Pantani.

This is a computer aided frame jig where all the geometry gets punched into the compter which then creates the custom angles on the jig. It takes about 20 hours for each custom frame to be made. This particular bike was built using Pro rider Manuel Soler's geometry but with a different size frame.

Carbon is king sure, but Bianchi still  has some share in the titanium and steel market and the higher end versions are welded at the factory.

Stacks of the radically shaped Chrono TT bike work their way through the production line.

Talk about an Italian power couple, where Colnago teams with Ferarri, Bianchi has an exclusive deal to produce the Ducati line of road and mountain bikes.

What color of Celeste did you want that frame in?

Here's a nice pre-Celeste fixed gear Bianchi circa 1885 that should remind the modern day fixed gear gurus - it ain't nothing new and it was much more of a challenge back in the day!

Here's the tube to tube carbon wrap process taking place - one frame at a time.

 Like every bike bike company these days, Bianchi has a room dedicated to test machines.

Much like the time I was touring the Pinarello factory and Fausto Pinarello said that I would find some old race bikes upstairs from the race shop, only to find a treasure trove of two-wheeled jewels, the same thing hapened at Bianchi. Squeezed tight up in the rafters were some fantastic old TT and road bikes. Buried in the back here was a rainbow striped Y-frame bike once ridden by Gianni Bugno.

One of the most radical TT bikes we've ever seen was stacked in the rafters. Can you imagine the UCI official's reaction when this bike with dual disc brakes was rolled into tech inspection?

 As unconventional as the disc brakes are, how about the steering system that mounts directly to the forks?

Never one to court publicity, Cipo (r) made sure that his farewell was as extravagant as possible. (Bettini photo)

Talk about an Italian power couple, where Colnago teams with Ferarri, Bianchi has an exclusive deal to produce the Ducati line of road and mountain bikes.


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