Skip to main content

Bianchi: At Lakeside Bicycles since 1997

At 128 years Bianchi is the world's oldest continuously operating bicycle company.  Having recently signed a new contract with the Italian marketing agency Vitesse there is ample reason to anticipate some really interesting anniversary products.

History: We found what appeared to be a loose translation of an Italian history of Bianchi.  On the one hand it was REALLY enthusiastic, on the other it was virtually incomprehensible.  The following is our best effort at a meaningful version of a loose English translation of a simultaneously comprehensive and remiss Italian history of Bianchi.


It was in 1885 that Edoardo Bianchi, then 21, opened his small bicycle manufacturer in Milan, at via Nirone.  From the beginning a his company was distinguished by it's focus on innovation and quality.

His first major design was to reduce the size of the 'Penny Farthing' front wheel, lower and move the pedals below the saddle,  and apply Vincent's recently invented drive train to attach the pedals to the rear wheel..  The advantages of this new design extended from an elimination of the acrobatics previously required simply to mount a bicycle and maintaining balance.  In addition, it was now possible to optimize gearing by taking advantage of different front and rear gear tooth counts.  Edoardo eventually further reduced the size of the front wheel.  With the introduction of the  'Safety', the foundation of all modern bicycle designs was born.

The "Little Blacksmith", as he was called, moved his workshop from via Nirone to a larger facility on via Bertani.  In 1888 at this new location he produced the first bicycle to take advantage of the tyres recently invented by the Scottish veterinary Dunlop.

In 1895, Edoardo BIanchi was invited to Court, at Villa Reale in Monza.  Queen Margaret had heard bout his original bicycle and was eager to learn how to ride.  In recognition of this signal honor, Banachi created, especially for the Queen, the first lady's bicycle.

From the very beginning Edoardo Bianchi had been keenly aware of competitive cycling and took advantage of the sport as a test-bed for his various technical advances before taking them into production.  In 1899 his first international sport success came when Tomaselli won the Grand Prix de la Ville de Paris on a Bianchi.  This marked the beginning of the the most distinguished and venerable collaboration between industry and sports and has fuelled the growth of an enterprise which was born just four years previously as a workshop, but was going to become one of the most important industries in the world. 

1900 - 1920

In 1901 Edoardo Bianchi introduced the first bicycle featuring a cardan joint transmission.

In 1913 he invented the first front wheel brake system

By 1914 Bianchi was a famous and distinguished manufacturer producing in that year:  45,000 bicycles, 1,500 motorbikes and 1,000 cars. 

In 1915, Bianchi produced a bicycle for the Italian Army, equipped with wide-section tyres,  a folding frame and suspensions on both wheels.  This original model was employed by the Royal Light Infantry Corp. the "Bersaglieri", who used it as an off-road vehicle from the Alps to the African desert.

Somewhere in all this, the details lost in the mists of legend, Bianchi's signature color "Celeste was born.  It may have been the color of the Italian Queen's eyes.  It may have been the color of Milan's evening sky (?).  It may have been the result of mixing random colors in an urgent response to wartime shortages.  In any case, by the end of the First World War Celeste had become Bianchi's signature color.  And so it remains. 

The three Bianchi logos from 1913

1920 - 1935

Bianchi's successes in manufacturing continued to parallel its success in sport.  Celeste bicycles continued winning important races around the world.

Bianchi's first great champion, whose name remains forever bound to bianchi's history was Constante Girardengo.  By 1935, with 50 years of history and experience, Bianchi was one of the great industrial companies of the day, producing over 70,000 bicycles a year.

Manufacturing success did not divert Bianchi's devotion to competition, finding their ultimate expression with the mythical career of Fausto Coppi.

1939 squad of Leoni, Lunardon, Bini, Gosi, Olmo, Bailo, Romanatti, Marabelli, and Bergamaschi

1935 - 1955

Fausto Coppi began his career with Bianchi in 1940, with his first victory at the Giro d'Italia.  He followed this with the world hour record in 1942 and in 1947 with a world championship in pursuit and a second Giro d'Italia.
Coppi won his first Tour de France in 1949, when everyone guessed he was out of the game after a crash during the Saint Malò stage resulted in a huge time gap.  Instead he managed to gain an hour over the little Frenchman Marinelli, who was wearing the yellow jersey of the race leader (Take that Floyd Landis and your stinking drug induced 9 minutes), and to catch up with Bartali, who finished second over 11 minutes behind.  Coppi was the first ever rider to win the Giro and the tour in the same year, an accomplishment which physiologists had previously been judged to be impossible.  In 1949 he won his second World Championship in the pursuit.
In 1952, the Tour organizers tried to enliven the Grand Boucle race by introducing special prizes while Coppie again took both the Giro d'Italia and Tour de France.  In 1953 he won the World Road Championship and his 5th Giro d'Italia.  His style and successes during these years set a standard of racing which has subsequently only been approached by Eddy Merckx (5 Giros d'Italia and 5 Tours de France) and Beernard Hinault (3 Giros d'Italia and 5 Tours de France). 
     Fausto Coppi didn’t want to win a lot; rather he wanted to win “in a good way”. He was one of the few riders, in all the cycling history, who succeeded in achieving his aim.

1955: Bianchi squad: Milano, Coppi, Gismondi, mechanic Pinella De Grandi, Gaggero, Favero, Carrea, Filippi

1970 - 1995

In 1973 Bianchi won it's second World Road Championship, ridden by Felice Gimondi (a genuinely nice guy).  Two more World Road Championships followed in 1986 with Moreno Argentin (another nice guy) and in 1992 with Gianni Bugno (That is where we got the great big Campagnolo banner).

In 1982 Bianchi intorduced their first European BMX specialty bikes.

In 1984 they introduced their first Mountain bikes in cooperation with Bianchi USA.

In 1987 Bianchi acquired the Austrian bicycle manufacturer "Puch"

In 1990 Bianchi began design of a prototypical 'City' bikes, the Bianchi Spillo which has become the basis of an entire new range in the industry.

In 1991 Bruno Zanchi, riding a Bianchi Mountain Bike became MTB World Downhill Champion.

In 1993 Dario Acquaroli won the MTB World Cross Country Championship.

1992 - Preasent

1998:  The Year of Triumph.  The year Marco Pantani, "The Pirate"  leaves every one in the dust in the Giro d'Italia and then again in the Tour de France.  A performance believed to be doubly impossible, because of the speeds and levels of intensity being raced and because it was accomplished by a "pure climber".

The Year Stefano Garzelli, Pantani's trusty friend and faithful team-mate inaugurates his notable career with a win at the Tour of Switzerland.

The Year Marco Velo won the Italian Time Trial Championship as well as numerous MTB cross country and downhill  victories racing for the Martini team.

1999:  Fate, in the form of the UCI, intervenes as Marco Pantani appears poised to do a double at the Giro d'Italia.  With a 5 minute 38 second lead and after winning 5 stages, with one mountain stage remaining the UCI cobbled together an unconvincing case that the Pirate might (or might not) have shown signs of doping and expelled him from the race.  In protest the entire Mercatone Uno-Bianchi walked away from the race. The events of the 1999 Giro permanently blackened the reputation of the UCI and confirmed what was to later be proved in the Lance Armstrong case:  that the UCI is outstanding as the major font of immorality in professional bike racing.  On a happy note, Martini Racing team members Dario Aquaroli, Dadia De Negri and Gregory Volloet dominate MTB racing in Europe.

2000:  Garzelli gets the win in the "Jubilee Tour" flanked by Pantani, for the umpteenth time Velo wins the Italian championship against the clock and Martini Racing continues to dominate the MTB scene.

Bianchi-Motorex team member Jose Hermida "el Torito" pulls together the World Championship, the World Cup and the European Championship.  Vollet takes the Franch National Championship and Acquaroli seals off all contenders to triumph in the Cross Country National Championship.

2001:  There is a win for Marco Velo in the French National Time Trial race, but it is the MTB team which stands out.  World Cup or European Championship, it makes no difference for Jose Antonio Hermida and Julien Absalon.  On his debut, the Spaniard is second among "Elites" as well as in the World Cup, and he also gets a win in the European Championship.  The Frenchman wins the World Cup in Under 23 and then gains the France Cup and triumphs at the European Championship.  Both win their respective national championships.  In Italy, junior rider Nicoletta Bresciani captures another national title with Quadroni and Lanteri also outstanding.

2002:  The Bianchi-Coast union stirs emotions, the team captained by Alex Zulle collects 21 wins with 7 for Zulle alone including the Tour of Switzerland.

Motorex-Bianchi has another brilliant season lead by Felice Gimondi and directed by Massimo Ghirotto.  The 'Boys' take 21 wins including the World Championship and Under 23 Cross Country European Championship and a triplet of wins in the Allianz cup for Absalon and the Elite European Championship for Hermida.

2003:  After 19 years Bianchi is again the primary sponsor of a professional team.  Jan Ullrich leads the Bianchi Coast team in the Centennial Tour de France staging an impressive challenge to Lance Armstrong handing him his first time trial defeat since 1999.  In the off-road area, the Absalon-Hermida-Dietsch threesome extends Bianchi Motorex in Europe and worldwide.  Marco Villa excels on the track winning the Italian Championship and the Aliverti women's team captures 10 wins.

2004:  Bianchi celebrates 120 years of pure 'passione celeste' with a brilliant season.  With Julien Absalon, Bianchi scores a double with the MTB Cross Country Olympic gold and the World Title in Les Gets.  Thomas Dietsch wins the Silver at the Marathon World Championship in Austri and captures the gold medal at the Marathon European Championship.

On the road, Alessio-Bianchi team member Magnus Backstedt triumphs on the cobbles of the Paris-Roubaix.  Cristian Moreni wins the Italian Championship and assists Paolo Bettini in the Olympics and follows up with a win at the Worlds in Verona.

A member of the Swedish Grimaldi group since 1997 the Bianchi brands (Bianchi, Legnano, Puch and Chiroda) have combined with Cycleurope (Monark, Crescent, DBS, Kildemoes, Everton, Micmo and Gitane) to offer an unmatched range in the two-wheel market.

Today Cycleurope commands the most advanced operative synergies involving prestigious European companies of which Bianchi remains the flagship.  The strategic investments of the group maintain to major aims:  the development of highly-advanced products and the establishment of Bianchi as a dominant international brand.

Road:  12 Giro d'Italia, 3 Tour de France, 19 Milano SanRemo, 16 Giro di Lombardia, 7 Paris roubaix, 4 Liege-Bastogne-Liege, 5 Fleche Wallonne, 4 Amstel Gold Race, 4 Grand Prix des Nations, 2 Vuelta de Espana, 2 Tour of Switzerland, 2 Tour of Germany, 4 World Road Championship, 6 World Track Championships speed and pursuit, 2 Vuelta Pais Vasco, the one and only UCI Pro Tour, 2 Ghent Wevelgem, 11 Italian Road Championships, 1 Belgium Road Championship, 1 French Road Championship, 1 Omloop Het Volk. 

MTB:  Athens Olympic Gold, 9 World Championship, 10 European Championship, 4 World Championship XCO, 2 World Championship XCM, 33 Italian Championship.  Riders have included the likes of: Fausto Coppi, Felice Gimondi, Marco Pantani, Jan Ullrich, Giuseppe Olmo, Gianni Bugno and Carlo Galetti among others.