The story behind a 1987 Team Issue G.S. Bianchi Piaggio Weinmann, Reparto Corse built, Columbus SLX Bianchi X4 race bike.
In April 1985 I'd just completed my second race ever in Italy, somewhere near Viterbo, in the week of racing leading up to the Giro della Regione and the Gran Premio della Liberazione. After the race a few of us went into a bar near the finish line for a coffee, inside we were confronted by an enormous black and white picture of Fausto Coppi which overwhelmed the dimly lit timeworn space. I'll never forget that moment, I was in awe of the fact that what I was seeing was real, a new favourite memory. Fausto may have passed away twenty five years earlier, yet here he was living on, a legend who'd raced on a legendary bike. In the minds of the locals Fausto hadn't gone anywhere, he was still with them. There could have been a picture of the pope, or current riders like Argentin, Moser and Saronni on the wall in that bar. At the time if it had been back here in Australia, in one of the RSL or bowling clubs it would have been a picture of the Queen, or in a pub a Cold Chisel tour poster. Such is the sway of the legend of Fausto Coppi, no current star, pope or identity was going to take pride of place in this Italian bar in 1985. A couple of years later there I was in Switzerland, at the head office of the Swiss Bianchi importer, pulling on a G.S Bianchi Piaggio team jersey, at the 1987 team launch photo shoot - for a moment I paused and remembered that bar in Italy and the legend of Fausto.
The thirst for knowledge about how bikes were, back when steel was still the most common material for racing frames, is on an upward trajectory. Events like L'eroica have helped fuel an un-slaked thirst for imagery and details about old steel bikes. As an example - Matt's current restoration project of a 1986 Kenevans - Milo team time trial bike and his dogged quest to seek out every detail, shows the degree of interest in old bikes and the stories of the people who raced them. Matt has left no stone unturned, he's checked for old photos, exact match of paint colours, the original groupset, team kit, who rode the bike and the racing stories that go with it. Even "New Old Stock" doesn't fulfill the requirement for the sought after aged patina, used parts become paramount, in order to re-create a machine with a pedigree via it's history. The very act of faithfully collecting these used parts attaches a faux provenance to these new-born machines. In light of this I've decided it's time to share some stuff about my old steel race bikes. Reticent to ever post anything about my time as a racing cyclist, now goaded on by friends, I dug up a handful of images, of a year spent racing on the Swiss team Bianchi Piaggio Weinmann - there are precious few images from an entire season of racing in 1987! Who knows, the info contained here might just help someone somewhere with more authentic information for their Bianchi restoration project, that's the aim anyway.
In Switzerland the winter of 1986 -1987 was one of the coldest on record, the Bodensee froze over and it was possible to walk across the ice to Germany. I'd never photographed bicycles before, yet on the 31st of January 1987 after the Bianchi team launch, I felt compelled to go outside in sub-zero temperatures and do my best to take some snaps of the Columbus SLX - C Record Bianchi. With the history attached to these celeste coloured race machines and the honour roll of those who'd raced on them, a couple of pictures of the bike, prior to the season long beating it was about to receive, seemed appropriate. For my part I'd unwittingly participated in one small act that would ultimately lead to a career as a professional photographer, a quarter of a century later culminating in the creation of Velo Aficionado - which has now seen me engaged in photographing bikes!
Bianchi Piaggio Weinmann in Switzerland was an Elite Amateur team, racing in the Swiss ARIF (13 races in the 1987 national series) championship, lots of pro-am races, crits and international races like the Tour of Austria. Sponsored by the Swiss Bianchi Piaggio importer and Weinmann, the Swiss Bianchi team was organised independently of the Italian pro team, yet raced in the same kit as the Italian pro team (G.S Bianchi Piaggio - 1980 to 1984). Many well known Swiss riders had raced for Bianchi throughout the five years prior to 1987, including Richard Trinkler. The year 1987 was a pivotal year for the Swiss Bianchi team, it was the final year of a six year sponsorship deal and the final year the traditional G.S Bianchi Piaggio kit would be worn in racing anywhere in the world. They'd kept the G.S Bianchi Piaggio kit alive in Switzerland for a further three years than the Italian squad. Looking back now it's pretty cool to know I'd raced alongside some amazing riders on that team. I was probably also the only Aussie ever to sport the traditional G.S Bianchi Piaggio colours in competition, that go with the steel era , and on a bike that today makes some get a bit twitchy and all gee'd up as they think about the possibility of finding and restoring one.
Late in 1986 Reinhard Ahlmann our DS, took the measurements for my new custom bike along with those of the nine other riders and sent them off to Bianchi in Italy. A couple of months later our custom team bikes were delivered at the team presentation. On that day in January 1987, no one cared about which model the bikes were, they were team machines - the best that Bianchi could manufacture, and the only thing on our minds was the exciting season of about eighty races that lay ahead.
For a steel bike of the era, the Bianchi was a delight to ride. The next best steel frame I'd owned years later was a Serotta, so I geuss these are my two personal favourite steel bikes.
Who knows where this bike ended up, it was common practice to sell team bikes back in Australia at the end of the season. Frank Conceicao at Albion Cycles onsold the Bianchi for me, it could still be floating around the eastern suburbs of Sydney. So if you happen to find a celeste coloured Bianchi with Weinmann brakes, or one that matches the bike pictured - if you're curious - drop me a line, you may well have an old team bike.
What is it with this bike and the 31st of January. The team launch in 1987 was on the 31st of January, I had a huge crash off that bike at Berowra Waters in Sydney on the 31st of January 1988, and this post after way too long working on it, is by chance ready to publish on the 31st of January 2013.
It's pretty obvious that people are very passionate about the Bianchi brand. One manifestation of this is the outpouring of questions and answers in forums, with so many trying to identify and date their own Bianchi. Out of curiosity I did track down the nearest Bianchi model to the one I'd had as a team bike, from the catalogues of 1986 and 1987.
So here's some notes intended to help with the identification of the best match - the Specialissima X4 1986-1987.
A German price list, of 2nd January 1986 lists the Specialissima X4 as the "Race Sports Model - Professional racing frame built using Columbus SLX CroMo tubing, Campagnolo Groupset C-Record, with brake set Campagnolo Super record. Gear changers - derailleur 12 speed C-Record. In sizes 50-63 cm. Paint Celeste." Another Japanese catalogue of 1987 shows the exact same bike, including the Turbo Campione del Mondo celeste saddle, the same one on my bike.
If you're restoring a 1980's Bianchi and not certain why there are many variations in the brake sets used, and reckon your X4 should have the Campag delta brakes, think again, some thought they weren't up to the task for racing, see this excellent summary at Classic Lightweights I'm guessing the German importer specified swapping out the C-Record delta brakes for the Super record brakes because it was widely known that the delta's weren't popular.
This post should also serve as a caution for those seeking to re-create exactly what's printed in an old catalogue, or exactly what someone told them the bike should look like. A couple of things to remember, a catalogue only serves as a guide, from there the variables are innumerable. Team bikes were simply adaptable race machines. As an example one of my Bianchi team mates crashed mid season at the tour of Austria, the celeste forks were replaced with black forks, if you found that bike today you'd be scratching your head wondering what model it was because it was fitted out with black forks. By the way the forks were bent right back in that crash and no sign of damage to the frame. Also as we were sponsored by Weinmann, if any of these team bikes showed up today, they wouldn't match the catalogue version if found with the Weinmann Carrera 400 brakes and Weinmann Carrera rims which were fitted, as Weinmann sponsored the team also. The German importer insisting on Super Record brakes on it's 1986 version is another example. Custom orders at the factory, customer preferences when ordering in store, many model variants of the same model at the factory, plus changes made over the last quarter of a century, accounts for the many variations seen today.
The head badge was engraved into the head tube, the frame was Columbus SLX, the bike was team issue complete with 1986 Colorado Springs World Championship decal, and the group set (apart from the Weinmann Carrera 400 brakes and Weinmann Carrera rims) was 1st gen Campagnolo Corsa Record. Pantograph detailing on the head stem and frame. Engraved top-eyes are painted, not chromed. Lugs, fork crown and BB all investment cast. This all matches the German price list description of a professional racing frame - January 1986.
These models received plain dark blue Bianchi decals in 1987.
Pista Super Leggera Squadra Campione d'Italia Specialissima Giro
The X4 was separated from other models by colouring the bottom "wing" portion of the decal in gold. Interestingly, our X4 team bikes of 1987 were finished with the plain blue decals, and no pump peg. Making these ten 1987 team issue X4's just that little more unique.
Finally take a look at the fork crown - if you look carefully through all of the Bianchi catalogues for each year, you begin to see the evolution of the treatment of the fork crown. There were subtle changes every couple of years in deference to the changing fashions in frame design.
For comparison I found these pictures of Moreno Argentin on his team bike from 1987.
Also see Moreno Argentin's Centenario from 1986. I saw this bike at the Zurich bike show during the twelve months after he'd won the race in Colorado. I'd never forgotten the wire holding the brake cables apart. You can plainly see the wire in these images where the bike was on display at Milano airport in 2008. Argentin's Centenario. Check out the image of Argentin above, and you can see the same personalised accessory on his 1987 team issue machine.
This post will be updated from time to time. Have your say - add your commentary,expert advice, criticism, add photos, catalogues, technical specs all encouraged, just send a PM to firstname.lastname@example.org. The aim of this post is to create a resource for everyone.
COMPONENTS for the Bianchi 1987 Team Bike - Specialissima X4
Frame Dimesions Seat Tube ctr to ctr 61.5 cm Top Tube ctr to ctr 60 cm Seat Tube angle 72.5 degrees Head Tube angle 73.5 degrees Tubing - Columbus SLX Professional Super Butted Group Set - Campagnolo 1987 Corsa Record
Front and Rear hubs - Campagnolo 1987 Corsa Record Rims - Weinmann Carrera made in Belgium for Singles / Tubulars (Note : The Bianchi Sammontana team bikes were fitted with Ambrosio Synthesis rims, consumer X4's were generally shipped with Mavic GL 330 rims and a special Bianchi Servizio Corse rim was reserved for X4 promotional bikes at trade shows and dealer displays.) Spokes - Alpina Inox Brakes - Weinmann Carrera 400 Freewheel- Regina CX silver 12, 13, 14, 15, 17, 19 (Swapped 19 for up to 26 T for some races) Chain - Regina Extra CX Headset - Campagnolo 1987 Corsa Record Italian Thread Down tube shift levers, Campagnolo friction - shield engraved - Corsa Record 1987 Front derailleur - Campagnolo C Record 2 Gen 1987 Rear Derailleur - rare Campagnolo Corsa Record sometimes known as 1.5 Gen, parallellogram shield engraved same as Gen 1, cage open type eventually adapted for Gen 2. Cranks - 1987 Campagnolo Corsa Record - first year printed logo released, instead of shield engraved logo on cranks -172.5 mm 53 T - 42 T Bottom Bracket - Italian thread Campagnolo Corsa Record 111mm axle length 1987 Pedals as supplied - Campagnolo Corsa Record 1987 with Campagnolo Celeste toe straps. Pedals - used for racing - early LOOK white pedals. Seat Post - Aero 180mm - 1987 Corsa Record Alloy Handlebars - 3T Competizione "Aero" 44's (Alternative bars fitted to Bianchi X4's were ITM Italia) 3TTT STEM (Attacco) Mod. 84 Code AR84 Also known as LA Record 84 1986 version - Bianchi pantographed 110 mm (Alternative stems fitted to Bianchi X4's were ITM 400) Tyres - Clement Criterium, variously swapped with Vittoria CX singles. Saddle - Bianchi Celeste coloured Selle Italia - Super Turbo "il - Campione del Mondo" Bar tape - Ambrosio Bike Ribbon- Celeste, it's a shame but these team bikes didn't have that beautiful ALMARC leather fitted! Frame Pump - Celeste Silca with Campagnolo pump head / tip. Bidon / Water Bottle Cage Reg - Italy Black plastic and aluminium. Alternatively used Specialities TA. The classic light weight tried and true reliable model, still in use in the 80's.
English and German version of a team launch article for the above image.
G.S Bianchi Piaggio Weinmann 31st January 1987. New faces, but under the long proven management of the Elite-Amateur-Sportgruppe Bianchi-Piaggio-Weinmann. From left to right - Reinhard Ahlmann (Sportlicher leiter), Marco Diem, John Rossi, Andreas Clavadetscher, Marcel Stäuble, Claudio Vincenz, Robert Cobcroft, Philippe Perakis, Roger Baumgartner, Ralph Käiser, Thomas Brändli, Hansjörg Meier (Masseur). Not in picture - Hans Untersaunder (Mechanic)
Sixth season for the GS Buchser Bianchi-Piaggio-Weinmann
New team - a new challenge.
Under completely new circumstances the traditional team, Bianchi-Piaggio-Weinmann begins it's new season with sport director Reinhard Ahlmann from Buchs. The practically newly appointed team, however, won't be spared the challenges of road racing.
Influenced by previous Bianchi stars like Richard Trinkler Arno Küttel, Jan Koba, Niki Rüttimann or Laurent Vial, these riders the very image of the blue-white Bianchi colors. However looking at the mass training camp of professional cyclists in the Swiss elite scene gathered last Sunday, this season is shaping up to look completely different. So finally, who can take over the legacy of these professional "cracks" remains to be seen.
Opportunity for the young riders.
With Thomas Brändli (Birmensdorf), Marco Diem (Elgg), Claudio Vincenz (Buchs) and Marcel Stäuble (Frick) the experienced veterans, followed by the Swiss French - Philippe Perakis (Moudon) and John Rossi (La Chaux-de-Fonds), the neo elite Roger Baumgartner (St.Margrethen) and Ralph Kaiser (Le Mont-sur-Lausanne) and the Australian Robert Cobcroft, together with the sporting director Reinhard Ahlmann are ten young, motivated and victory hungry riders, who are willing to step into the breach in the great tradition of the Buchs sport group.
Although it will not be easy, for example, to replace a Richard Trinkler, but should one or another rider come to the fore, they will appear on the podium.
Huge Racing Programme
The riders have already made praparations, for some time now for the new road season. For example, Claudio Vincenz has trained in Spain, while the majority of the team have trained at home for the new season, which began last Sunday in Lugano and until the end of September will see about 80 races.
Bianchi has always been one of the top three teams in the ARIF Championship, and will focus with extensive devotion on these 13 most important races of the major Swiss road race championship.