THE BIANCHI X4 CODE
Borne of technological advancements, carbon may have found it’s place at the head of the line, presenting the rider with fun factor plus. There’s no doubt that a modern carbon race bike delivers an exhilarating ride, especially for those who seek the simple pleasure of belting full tilt, up and down a twisty road as fast as their legs will carry them. Yet more than ever steel is still the choice for many bicycle aficionado’s. Often described as works of art, steel bicycles evoke a sense of history and passionate involvement, with the very notion of cycle sport. Modern day artisan steel bike building workshops are springing up all over the globe and old steel bikes are being collected and re-purposed. Amongst these nuovo steel bike aficionado’s there are the velo brand, collector devotees. For the dedicated Bianchi collector, the Bianchi X4 is high on the list of must have bikes, the problem that comes with this highly prized rare steel, is that they don’t come up for sale very often. Also thin on the ground are solid facts about this enigmatic Bianchi team machine.
When it comes to the question of exactly what a Bianchi X4 racing bicycle is, the answer is concealed in an array of variations. It’s almost as if X4 stands for a code which defies those who choose to try and break it. Such is the sway of these revered Bianchi machines, last week when I posted the epic blog about the Bianchi X4 Team Issue bike, I was drawn into continuing to answer the question of how the very special Bianchi X4 came to be.
Even the name X4 Bianchi is an elusive target. First there’s the X3, then to find the genesis of the X4 we have to look back at history and the century between 1885 and1985, ending in the centenary year of the Bianchi brand – 1985. To celebrate one hundred years of racing, a special machine befitting of the company’s proud tradition and racing heritage was conceived. The Centenario had to be different to all Bianchi machines that had gone before it.
“This limited edition masterpiece has been created for those who want to celebrate our anniversary with an innovative symbol for the next 100 years of achievement”.
The Centenario featured some subtle changes along with shared characteristics with it’s predecessors, plus some very lavish embellishments with almost every part receiving the touch of the pantograph. It’s the subtle changes we’re interested in here, as some were transferred to define the X4.
1. First is the seat stay attachment style. Previously the seat stay ends on models like the Mondiale were flat and finished with chrome. The new seat stays received a rounded style, almost bullet shaped, on the X4 they were painted not chromed.
2. The X4 chromed fork crown received special treatment with the Bianchi crest emblazoned into the top and the word Bianchi pantographed into the side of the crown. On some variants the forks and crown were painted black. The 1987 catalogue describes the fork crown as, Columbus SL with investment cast chromed engraved fork crown. Some later versions of the X4 received an internally lugged fork crown, including this 1988 Bianchi X4.
3. The X4 was constructed from either Columbus SLX or SPX.
4. Finally the head tube had the Bianchi crest engraved into it to form the Bianchi special head badge.
The X4 bike described in the 1987 US catalogue is a very different spec from the team issue Bianchi which I received at the end of January 1987. The team bike was meant for racing, it did not come with a pump peg, did not receive special engraving on many components – just the head stem and special frame engraving and it did not receive the special anodizing to the chain rings.
Here’s a couple of examples of models destined for retail sales.
X4 Bianchi Specification – 1987 - from the US Catalogue (Note the use of both C-Record and Super Record)
Bianchi Black and Silver pro rims with Vittoria CG tubular tires the X-4 is accented with expensive Bianchi Pantographing. Team Issue SLX/SPX frameset featuring full C Record Group with Bianchi special anodization. Handlebars are hand stitched in Celeste Almarc leather.
Size and Colour 51, 53, 55, 57, 59, 61cm Celeste
Frame Details Columbus SLX/SPX throughout, Bianchi investment cast B.B. and lugs, front derailleur braze-on, Bianchi engraving, 2 bottle mounts, pump peg, chrome plated Campagnolo fork ends, chrome plated right and left chainstays.
Fork and Headset Columbus SL with investment cast chromed engraved fork crown, Campagnolo C Record
Brakeset Campagnolo Super Record. C Record pantographed levers – aero kit.
Handlebar and Stem 3T Competizione Aero, 3T AR84 pantographed.
Crankset Campagnolo C Record pantographed anodized chainrings 53/42T
Pedals Campagnolo C record
Saddle and Seatpost Selle Italia Super Turbo. Campagnolo Super Record.
Hubset and Spokes Campagnolo C-Record. Alpina Inox.
Freewheel and Chain Regina CX silver 13-23T. CX silver.
Tires and Rims Vittoria CG, Bianchi Speciale.
Miscellaneous Campagnolo C Record toe clips, straps, water bottle, pump, stitched leather bar wrap.
Weight (Approx.) 21 lbs 9.5kg
The speed bicycles 1988 example almost replicates the 1987 catalogue spec for retail Bianchi X4′s, except for the internally lugged fork crown. 1988 X4
Also for 1987 Bianchi boasted of the quality workmanship put out by two north Italian bicycle artisans working in the reparto corse division, Osvalso Bettoni and Pietro Fanzanga. Bettoni had raced for the Bottechia squad and finished the 1977 and 1978 editions of the Giro di Italia.
“Our resource is the Northern Italian bicycle artisan. Day in day out individuals like Pietro Fanzaga and Osvaldo Bettoni make Bianchi bicycles for you as well as riders like Moreno Argentin.”
Here’s an example of the scarcity of the X4 styled line of Reparto Corse bikes. There were fourteen reparto-corse Argentin’s imported into the L.A area in 1987, as the following advertisement attests. These examples probably built by or under instruction from Fanzanga and Bettoni.
THERE ARE ONLY TWO WAYS TO OWN AN EXOTIC TEAM ISSUE BIANCHI
Just after the World Championships last year our three L.A. area pro bike shops inquired about the possibility of obtaining two dozen team bikes exactly like the one Moreno Argentin rode to victory in the World Championships, “impossible” was the reply, “his bike was made in the Reparto Corse team workshop and such bikes are never sold. Besides, who would want such an expensive and exotic racing machine?” It took two trips to Italy to convince Bianchi to sell us their entire annual extra production from the Reparto Corse workshop – 14 bikes, each is exactly like Argentin’s, right down to the black chrome finish, engraved headtube and factory re-worked Campagnolo components. These 14 very special bikes are available now for $2896 complete with documents certifying authenticity.
There are two ways to obtain these exotic team issue bikes built in Bianchi’s “Reparto Corse” workshop, qualify for the bianchi Pro Team or visit one of our three shops.
You could sum up the general style of the Bianchi X4 FRAME by simply referring to these four frame details.
seat stay end attachment style | fork crown engraving style and finish | Columbus SLX or SPX |engraved head tube
Not forgetting the expansively engraved pantographed consumer versions. These consumer bikes output like a dogs breakfast with no rhyme or reason to the endless variations in detailing, as if each one was at the whim of the entire production team on any given day. Some with outer rear brake cable guides, some routed internally. Different decals, mostly the dark blue with gold detail, but others were used, like my team bike, with plain dark blue. Different lug variants for the head tube to down tube (main bar) junction. Different fork crown treatments, mostly externally lugged and one 1988 version internally lugged. The seat stay attachment is consistent with only one version of the word Bianchi inscribed in the script style font, although then painted in either gold or dark blue. Then there’s four variations in the pantograph styling of the rear brake bridge alone, including the use of either dark blue or gold paint.
1. X4 singly pantographed in the right side of the rear brake bridge.
2. The word Bianchi pantographed in a script style font on the right side of the rear brake bridge.
3. The word Bianchi pantographed in a simple font on the right side of the rear brake bridge.
4. The word Bianchi pantographed in a simple font on both sides of the brake bridge.
To further complicate identification of the X4, there were the variants with black forks, head tube and rear triangle, sometimes referred to as the Argentin model. The special Team Issue bike Moreno Argentin won the 1986 world championship on, which was marked and engraved as a Centenario, is a far cry from the pristine Centenario’s found hung in museums and private collections. Argentin’s black and celeste painted team bike is devoid of most of the embelishments of the polished cabinet enclosed Centenario’s. Apart from the black paint and it’s special engraved name, for all intensive purposes the 1986 Argentin team bike is the same as a celeste coloured X4 team machine, conceived for one purpose – racing.
Then there’s the Mondiale from 1985, later versions of the Mondiale received the same fork crown as the Centenario and X4 variants, yet the Mondiale retained it’s flattened seat stay attachment, was constructed from Columbus SL or SP and a Bianchi decal for the head badge rather than a pantographed head badge. Thus creating a remarkably similar looking machine to the X4.
All this means just one thing. By the time you’ve got your hands on one of these elusive steel Bianchi race machines, then successfully navigated the expansive list of variants, finally deciphering the Bianchi X4 code. Your very special Bianchi is bound to be unique.