Wednesday, August 14, 2013

My Bikes: Bianchi Team Issue

Some bikes mean more than others. At best they carry stories, hold memories and impact how you live your life. Others, well, you ride until it gets knackered, or you get bored, and you move on. This bike more than most falls into the former category.

As far as stories go, it was an auspicious start. Having scoured the small print of Cycling Weekely circa 2002 for used road frames that I thought would build up nicely to make my first proper road bike, I distinctly remember my drive across country through the rain into the flatlands of Norfolk to pick this up. But the drive there was nothing compared with the drive home. Stopping at a McDonalds for a milkshake pick me up (yes, glamorous) I recall a lady returning her chips because she had found a finger nail clipping in her deep fried French Fry. Nonchalantly, the cashier took the fries back and asked if she wanted a fresh pack. Amazingly, the woman accepted. McSh*t, or more specifically, a desire to avoid McSh*t, will forever be associated with this bike for me. And Norfolk...

Anyhow, back to the bike- when I picked the frame up, I had no idea of the color or quite what I was buying, but I'd figured it was a top end frame from a few years back (1998- a replica from Pantani's EPO & Coke fuelled wonder days), so it should be good enough for me. The colour was something that grew on me as my cognisense of the rather iconic status of Bianchi, and of course Pantani, grew. Bear in mind that at this time I was a mountain biker first. Actually, scrap that, I was an unfit year out graduate student looking to get back on a bike first, a mountain biker second (check the pedals...) and a roadie, well, a distant third. Or thirteenth.

I built the frame up with a Campagnolo base of 10 speed Centaur / Chorus, doing my research on what upgrades were worth the extra, and what was not. The wheels were a close out deal on Campagnolo Nucleon tubulars- some of the nicest aluminium rimmed wheels I've owned. And so began a love affair with Campagnolo and tubulars. Over the past decade God knows how many $$$s I've spent pursuing these love affairs?!? Who knows, if I'd landed on a fully built deal with 105 and clinchers it could all have been quite different. Actually, who knows, maybe I'd have given up road riding on the premise of exposed cables and an inferior road feel? ;-)

But as it is, this bike was very much the start of me getting properly into road riding- I rode my first Etape on this bike. I rode my first road race up in Scotland on it (finishing second) and I learned to really suffer on a bike. My back went through an 'evolution' adapting to the roadie position, with the occasional road side pavement spasm. But adapt I did, and my road position then is pretty much the same then as it is now. For how much longer I can hold it I don't know, but I'll try...

One thing I never realised about this bike until it was gone was just how good the handling was. It might have been scandium, but somehow the light tubes had a real resilience to them that soaked up road buzz more than any other aluminium frame I've owned. The low BB also gave the bike a great cornering feel that I've since learned to be a distinct attribute of Italian bikes from this era, and one of the reasons they are so famed for their handling.

Sadly, all good things must come to an end. And so the end of this bike co-incided with me colliding into a white van in Glasgow. One seperated shoulder and a protracted court case later, the dead Bianchi was consigned to hanging on a wall in my parent's shed in Gloucestershire- a crack at the head tube junction testimony to the front end impact. A couple of years later Marco Pantani died (from powdered cocaine, not crack cocaine as I understand it), and with his death the value of an intact version this bike probably shut up. Which is a shame, but somehow the value of this machine to me has grown in my memory over the years since, for lots of other reasons beyond Pantani.

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