Bianchi - The company that created the modern bicycle
Founded in 1885, Fabbrica Italiana Velocipedi Edoardo Bianchi, commonly known as Bianchi, is the world's oldest bicycle manufacturing company in existence. In addition to bicycles, it produced motorcycles from 1897 to 1967.
The birth of the company and the modern bike
1885 – At the age of 20, Edoardo Bianchi opened his first workshop in Milan. In those years, in addition to repairing traditional velocipedes, he produced surgical instruments, ball bearings and much more. But soon Bianchi revolutionized the aesthetics and functionality of velocipedes and created Safety, the first bicycle equipped with wheels of equal size with steel frame. The first modern bike.
1888 – After moving to a larger workshop, also in Milan, Bianchi introduced further innovation. Inspired by the invention of Scottish vet John Dunlop's tube, Bianchi built the first bicycle with wheels equipped with an air chamber.
The end of the century and the beginning of many sporting victories
1895 – Bianchi's fame continued to grow so much so that he was invited to court in the Royal Villa of Monza. Queen Margherita had heard of his bicycles and wanted to learn how to use them. Bianchi designed a frame for that meeting that was compatible with the bulky skirts of the time, and so he created the first women's bicycle.
Bianchi, however, did not produce only bicycles. Between the late '90s and the early '10s, he started the production of tricycles, with and without engines, motorcycles and cars, but despite good sales at the beginning, these products never had the success of his bicycles. This caused losses to the company and Bianchi had to liquidate all other products in the mid-1960s, following a major economic crisis.
Bianchi bikes, on the other hand, continued to be successful, and Bianchi soon understood the importance of cycling competitions. So he created the Racing Department. In 1899 Giovanni Fernando Tomaselli won the Grand Prix de la Ville in Paris on a Bianchi bike. This is the first in a series of great successes.
Sporting successes and new patents soon led Bianchi to become one of the world's leading companies.
1901 – Bianchi patented the Cardan joint for bicycles.
1913 – He also patented the front brake. Also, that was the year that the "Bianchi Green" first appeared on the Bianchi bikes, the iconic colour of all models since the 1940s (a thick white-blue teal).
1915 – Bianchi designed a military bicycle suitable for various types of terrain for the Royal Army’s Bersaglieri, with large section air wheels, folding frames and suspension on both wheels. A true prototype of modern Mountain Bikes.
The War Years
The period after the First World War was conducive to the development of the market for cycles and motorcycles. In fact, between 1924 and 1938, there are almost 200,000 bikes sold per year, and most of them are Bianchi bikes. This increase in sales, however, didn't continue after the Second World War, which became a real moment of crisis for the cycling sector, and in particular for Bianchi.
1946 – Edoardo Bianchi died in a car accident and his son Giuseppe became the new president of the company.
In the mid-60s, Bianchi was hit by an economic crisis that forced the company to liquidate all the non-cycling production departments.
1967 – The management of Bianchi passed to the industrialist Angelo Trapletti, who, along with the brothers Luigi and Giancarlo, bought the company in 1972.
1980 – Bianchi joined the Piaggio Group.
1982 – BMX bikes designed for young people were introduced in Europe, enabling large off-road developments.
1984 – In collaboration with Bianchi USA, the first Mountain Bike was officially born.
1987 – Bianchi acquired the Austrian brand Puch.
1990 – The Bianchi Spillo was born, a new product that definitively established the parameters of the modern touring bicycle.
1995 – Bianchi revisited the city bike models through a 'City Project' aimed at the application, for the first time on bicycles, of futuristic frame structures made with new ergonomic parameters.
1997 – Bianchi was acquired by the Swedish group Cycleurope AB, of which it is still a part today.
In addition to his production successes, sports also helped to increase Bianchi's international fame. Over the years, many world cycling champions achieved victories riding on Bianchi bikes. Costante Girardengo was the first to tie his name to the Bianchi bicycles.
1947 – Fausto Coppi left the Legnano Team to join Bianchi, became the World Champion of the UCI Track Cycling World Championships and also won the second Giro d'Italia.
1949 – Coppi also won the first Tour de France despite his fall in the Saint Malò stage. He was also the first to impose himself in the same season at the Giro and The Tour and became the World Champion of the UCI Track Cycling World Championships for the second time.
1952 – Coppi won the Tour de France and the Giro d'Italia again, and in 1953 he became the World Road Champion and won his fifth Giro d'Italia.
1973 – Felice Gimondi won the second World Road Championship for Bianchi, to which will be added that of Moreno Argentin in 1986 and that of Gianni Bugno in 1992.
1990 – Bianchi started being interested in mountain biking in addition to classic road races.
1991 – Bruno Zanchi was MTB World Champion in Down Hill.
1996 – Dario Acquaroli was MTB World Champion in Under 23 Cross Country.
1998 – Marco Pantani won the Giro d'Italia and the Tour de France.
(1) Edoardo Bianchi
(2) Bianchi Rodi
(3) Bianchi Rodi - a detail
(4) Bianchi Rodi - a detail
(5) Fausto Coppi, Tour de France 1952
(6) Marco Pantani