Bianchi is 130 years old this year, and is celebrating that with a collection of five steel-framed machines. The Vigorelli takes its name from Milan’s historic velodrome – home of the hour record from 1935 to 1967 and host to a Led Zepellin concert-turned-riot in 1971.
Highs: Gorgeous frame, refined fun ride
Lows: Basic seatpost, average brakes
In classic style, the tubes are largely round, apart from oval chainstays and a subtle teardrop shape to the down-tube, with the gently sloping top tube offering a more current feel.
A straight 1 1/8in aluminium steerer tops the carbon-bladed fork, which includes Kevlar to dampen vibration. It closely resembles Bianchi’s late 90s fork, with curved blades flattened on the inside and scalloped on the outside.
A bianchi complete with rack mounts. whatever next?: Robert Smith
A Bianchi complete with rack mounts. Whatever next?
The frame resurrects a number of familiar features that are included for aesthetic rather than performance reasons, such as forged rear dropouts and the peg for a frame-fitting pump behind the head-tube.
The mech hanger is non-replaceable, but as it’s made of steel it can be bent carefully. The external seat clamping collar with double-sided seatbolt is also a familiar sight, though the micro-adjusting seatpost clamp may be too simple. One concession to modern design that we are grateful for are the down tube cable stops.
There’s no getting away from the extra mass that comes with chromoly steel – though this bike’s weight would’ve been considered competitive in steel’s heyday. The Vigorelli has no racing pretensions, a fact borne out by its rack mounts – but would you haul luggage on this?
A bike whose gorgeous Celeste paintwork and vintage Bianchi graphics drew admiring glances and rose-tinted grins not just from oldies, but even from younger riders.
You won’t win races on the vigorelli, but you will win a lot of admiring glances:
You won’t win races on the Vigorelli, but you will win a lot of admiring glances
Much is said about the feel of steel and its inherent smoothness. Yes, the Vigorelli sports a carbon/Kevlar fork and 25mm tyres, but it’s like having inbuilt damping in an entirely different way to a good carbon frame. It just feels more lively and informative, as if it’s reading the road surface like braille.
There’s a connection there that entices you to just sit and spin, as that’s what the frame seems to want. You can mash a big gear – or stand up and sprint – but acceleration is more of a firm waft than an explosion. It does still cover ground efficiently, climbs keenly and descends with assuredness, but scores more for refinement than performance.
Celeste green and pump pegs under the top tube. bravo!: Robert Smith
Celeste green and pump pegs under the top tube. Bravo!
The rear end is a little firm, but not harsh, and the polished alloy bar’s narrow diameter feels slim after modern equivalents, but along with the stem and seatpost, is a retro nod.
A silver Campagnolo groupset and handbuilt clinchers would have really set it off, but that would be a different price bracket, and Shimano’s 105 does deliver its customary faultless performance.
The non-series chainset lowers cost but works well, and the wheels though unexciting proved willing and reliable. FSA’s brake calipers feel fine, but lack the bite usually offered by 105, reducing high-speed confidence.
This is a bike that’s seemingly more about style than substance, but actually has both in spades. It’s no racer, but an enjoyable and rewarding ride from the very soul of cycling.
This article was originally published in Cycling Plus magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.