My Bianchi Bikes

Hello and welcome to Squadra Celeste, a fan site for Bianchi bicycles. It is true that I have a fondness for Bianchi. My first real racing bike was a Bianchi, a late ’70s Specialisima, much like this:

Photo from Jay’s Benson Fong
Bianchi Specialissima

Since then, I have owned many bicycles. And now, nearly 30 years later, once again I am riding a Bianchi. This time it’s a more modern machine, a 2012 Bianchi Infinito

 

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Santa Cruz, November 2012

Santa Cruz is a GREAT place for a cycling vacation. This past weekend, I packed up the Element and made my way into Santa Cruz, arriving on Saturday afternoon. ‘Twas a splendid weekend, with temperatures in the upper 70s and low 80s. And, being “off season” meant that finding an inexpensive motel was exceedingly easy. I stayed at one of the Super 8 Motels on Riverside. There are two on the same block, but this one is closer to the Boardwalk and referred to as “Boardwalk West”. For me, it had all I really needed. A comfy bed, a fridge, microwave and free wifi. Is this the Four Seasons? Nope. But, it is comfortable, clean and way more than adequate to start and end some good rides.

Shortly after my arrival, I suited up and went out for a quick spin, heading up the coast toward Wilder Ranch. The return along the West Cliff Road was spectacular. So many people out enjoying the sunny and warm November day.

The next morning started well. I made my way over to Linda’s Cafe for a really nice breakfast. More about that soon. Then I headed back to the motel, where I filled my bottles, suited up and made ready for what would be a great day on the bike.

Rumor had it that there was a 9:30 group ride leaving from the Bay View Hotel in Aptos. Being less than familiar with the area, I thought that hooking up with that ride would be the way to discover a good route. I left the motel at about 9 am, figuring that I should be able to get there easily by 9:20 or so. And, in fact, I arrived at the Bay View at almost exactly 9:20. There was a group of 4 cyclists in the parking lot, so I rode up asking if this was the ride. It turns out, they said, that the group ride had departed about 9:10, so it was probably a 9:00am ride. No worries.

For a moment, I contemplated going on a solo ride, wondering where I might go on this glorious day. I didn’t have long to ponder, as this kind group of cyclists quickly asked if I’d like to join them. In just a matter of moments we were underway.

I was more than content to follow this quartet of friends as they lead me over the smooth roads that covered these opening miles. Jan “the answer man”, Cathy, Patrick and Mary were basically local, in from the Monterey area for the day to add variety to their cycling routine.

After a brief foray through twisting and undulating topography, we rolled through a flat and fertile agricultural landscape. Vast expanses of strawberry fields and farms a plenty lined the road as we made our way to Corralitos.

The next 9 miles or so were predominately uphill on Eureka Canyon and Highland Way. These roads are not wide and there isn’t much in the way of a shoulder. And on that day, there just wasn’t that much traffic. I can say, without a doubt, that I absolutely saw more cyclists out there than cars.

Eureka Canyon is a great climb for cyclists. There are long winding stretches where it just isn’t steep and so it doesn’t feel too challenging to keep a big gear rolling. Then, there are some shorter, steep pitches that test the legs. But, these aren’t overly demanding and thankfully, they are followed again with stretches of minimal severity. Kathy, I believe, called it a “forgiving climb,” and I think that sounds about right.

After the first few miles, the pavement displays its age with potholed pride. There are definitely areas where it is rough and the road demands attention and respect. Even so, for a Sonoma County kid like myself, who is used to riding on roads that are more pothole than pavement, these roads in the Santa Cruz area would barely rank in terms of roughness.

From the summit, we were treated to a fast and fun descent that took us back down toward Aptos. These 7 miles were just incredible. A skilled rider would nary touch the brakes, as the well maintained road sweeps its way through one gentle bend after another.

At the bottom of this descent our rolling quintet become 1 and 4. Since I started my ride in Santa Cruz and wanted to meander back, I opted to turn right on Laurel Glen Rd. Jan, Kathy, Patrick and Mary continued straight toward cerveza and sustenance. They had asked if I would like to join them. While I opted to add a bit of mileage, I realize that this is one of the things I love about cycling. That scarcely a few hours before, I was but a stranger to them. There are things that happen on the road – the camaraderie, the sense of accomplishing something together, the miles spent just talking. And soon, strangers are friends.

To Jan, Kathy, Patrick and Mary, thank you for being such cordial tour guides. I hope the end of your ride was excellent and I hope you had as much fun as I did. I hope to see you all again.

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Team Swift – Cycle With Champions

Yesterday, the 29th of October, was the annual Cycle With Champions, which is the Team Swift primary fundraising event. If you haven’t heard of Team Swift, they are an excellent organization, committed to the development of junior cyclists. They have one of the best cycling programs for juniors in the country and coach Laura Charameda has worked hard to routinely produce great cyclists and well rounded young adults.

a few current members of Team Swift

There are so many reasons why cycling is a beautiful sport and rides likes this are but one. With most sports, fans don’t get the opportunity to participate with stars and celebrities. Imagine paying a few dollars and getting to play baseball with Buster Posey and Brendan Crawford. It just doesn’t happen. Thankfully cycling is different. And, events like Cycle With Champions allow cyclists of nearly any ability the opportunity to meet, greet and ride with cycling greats. While the attendees vary from year to year, a list of past and current celebrity visitors reads like a who’s who of American cycling greats and legends. “Fast Freddy” Rodriguez, Chris Horner, Lucas Euser, Steven Cozza, Gavin Chilcott, Scott Nydam, Ryan Eastman and more.

photo of a recent Cycle With Champions

Cycle With Champions is a well thought out and well run event. One can preregister for either a long or short route. Additional registration is generally available the morning of the event. This year, one could choose between a 30 or 50 mile option. The start and finish was at the very well maintained Sonoma Day School. Cyclists and attendees signed in for the event in a lovely courtyard. Ample food and hydration options were laid out on well organized tables. And cyclists were able to attend to their “business” in clean, well stocked lavs. This was a far cry from a row of porta-pottys in the middle of nowhere.

The BMC Service Course truck and two of their team cars were on hand, lending an air of authenticity to the morning. Several other team cars were visible in the parking lot, including the Team Swift van. Between the charming wine country grounds of the school, the gorgeous Sonoma County scenery in the background and all the team cars, it felt like a fun mix between a European fondo and century ride.

The ride itself started at roughly 9:30. On his three-wheeled motorcycle, Richard Stone lead the way, keeping the pace controlled and the group together. I found myself mid-pack, content to sit in the group behind the predictably smooth wheel of Gavin Chilcott, the GM of BMC Racing.

Sitting mid-pack


Nearly as many behind me as there were in front


Over the first 8.5 miles, the pace was conversational and it remained gruppo compatto. Hard to imagine that with so much potential power up front, the pace was incredibly tame. The purpose of the ride, of course, is to encourage people to come out and, as the name suggests, cycle with champions. And these opening miles provided that opportunity. Nearly everyone rode comfortably together until the first stop, a photo-op on Wohler Bridge.

After the paparazzi got their fill of photos, we all clipped back into our pedals. At this point, the group was ready to separate. When the faster riders attacked the small rolling hills on Westside Road, the once large group had become a series of smaller cooperative collectives.

It would be hard to imagine a more picturesque locale than Sonoma County. And on a day like yesterday, the views of vineyards and mountains that one sees from Westside Road are spectacular.

Riders were then treated to a nice snack at the Seghesio Winery in Healdsburg.

After more riding, we returned to the Sonoma Day School for a well deserved feast, courtesy of Arturo Ibleto’s Pasta King. Arturo understands a cyclist’s appetite and makes pasta the way I like it: abbondante e molto delizioso

To wrap it up, the Team Swift Cycle With Champions is a great ride for a great cause. Every year the turn out is great, the riders have fun, the weather is almost always stellar and it is just a great day on a bike. Whether you are a Sonoma County local or just looking for an excuse to visit, consider doing this ride. You don’t have to keep up with the pros, just show up, have fun and feel great knowing that you are supporting America’s best youth cycling program. Hope to see you next year.

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Check out small_realm’s beautiful bianchi

small_realm’s beautiful bianchi
small_realm’s photo on flickr

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Chaingang. Out in the hills by Sebastopol

The Chaingang, enjoying a nice Friday afternoon ride.
Check out Tom’s Bianchi Infinito

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Cyril’s Beautiful Bianchi Infinito

photo of Cyril’s Bianchi Infinito
at the Suisse Italian border

Many thanks to Cyril for letting me post this pic of his beautiful Bianchi Infinito

 

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Wine Country Cyclery and great ride from Sonoma

My ride today started and ended at Wine Country Cyclery in the town of Sonoma. Jeffrey and Matthew played the roles of gracious host and uber-mensch, allowing me to park in their lot, use their changing room, fill my bottles with water and tires with air. In short, the shop proved to be an excellent location from which to start and finish a great ride.

I pulled into Sonoma at about 10am, drawn to the town center in need of coffee and a place to change clothes. As it was mid-week in autumn, parking was not overly competitive and my Honda found a nice spot right in front of the Sunflower Caffe and Wine Bar. Too early in the day to enjoy the locally corked libations, I heeded my need for caffeine and ordered a very tasty soy latte to go. The first few sips were enjoyed whilst lazily window shopping along the perimeter of the town square. But, once that latte was no longer precipitously full and down to a safe driving level, I got back in my car and sought this particular cyclist’s equivalent of Clark Kent’s telephone booth.

It took no time at all to locate the ideal spot to change clothes and ready myself for riding. Wine Country Cyclery is about a block and a half west from the Sonoma Town Square and is clearly visible from the street. All signs bode well for this Bianchi lover. Not only was the shop proudly displaying the Bianchi colors, but, believe it or not, the shop shares a parking lot with the Grazia Bianchi Salon.

Entrance to Wine Country Cyclery

Once inside, the shop revealed itself to be an open, inviting and well stocked store. Jeffrey attentively made me feel welcome. We chatted a bit and then I continued to look around, soaking up the environment. I was glad I had chosen this spot to get ready, in part because of the nice Bianchi bikes they have hanging, but also because I just needed a few things, like a CO2 cartridge and some energy food. And, of course, they had what I needed.

While looking around, I spied shoes from Sidi, a great pedal selection, a very neat GoPro camera and accessory display, as well as cool looking wheels and clothing. And yes, Bianchi bikes!

beautiful Bianchi Sempre

More Bianchi bikes hanging
Volpe, Brava, Campione
very nice!

It was close to 11am by the time I suited up and hit the road. It had been nice to chat and visit the shop, but I was eager to pedal. In less than a block and a half, I was on a quiet road and was soon on a bike path heading to the edge of town.

Starting in Sonoma meant that the climb of Cavedale Road was readily accessible. The climb begins less than 4 miles from the start of the ride and I wasn’t exactly warmed up. Even so, Cavedale Road is epic cycling. The pavement is pretty bad, but there are very few cars. In the first half mile I saw two cars, but I didn’t see another car for the next 7.5 miles.  The ascent of Cavedale Road tilts upward for about 5 miles before carving back down to an intersection at the top of Trinity Road.

A right turn onto Trinity Road and the smooth pavement is a refreshing change from the potholes and gravel that was Cavedale. There is a mile or so of virtually flat road before the VERY VERY twisty descent, which leads down to an elevated valley. As one passes the intersection of Trinity Road and Dry Creek Road, the road name changes from Trinity Road to Oakville Grade Road and from that intersection, there is a short climb on beautifully smooth pavement. As one reaches the 930 foot summit of this small climb, Napa Valley comes into full view over 800 feet below. With smooth pavement, fairly long straightaways and gradients in excess of 15%, the Oakville Grade invites speed. However, I recommend keeping it safe. Please don’t go too fast.

It doesn’t take long to plummet down to the numerous flat roads and smooth pavement of the valley. There were very few cars on Oakville Cross Road, making it a nice way to get across to Silverado Trail. The Trail has a wide shoulder, making it a seemingly ideal road for cycling, but there are a fair amount of cars. I get tired of the sound of passing cars, so I turned onto Yountville Cross Road and made my way to Yountville.

It was time for more coffee and a snack, so I stopped at the Yountville Coffee Caboose where I got an apple turnover and espresso. The pastry was really yummy and the espresso had just the right crema on top. Molto bene! It was only a quick stop. Then back on the bike, through town and onto Solano Avenue, toward Napa. While I was on Solano Avenue, I saw Jeff riding this nice Bianchi:

Solano Avenue isn’t the most inspired piece of pavement, but with a nice shoulder and surprisingly little traffic, it is a great way to get from Yountville to Napa. To make it more interesting, I turned onto Orchard Avenue to get over to Dry Creek Road.

The astute among you may recall that I mentioned Dry Creek Road earlier, while we were still up in the elevated valley, before the descent of Oakville Grade. If making a shorter loop is what you want, then sure enough, you could just head down Dry Creek Road from Trinity Road. You’d roll almost directly to the town of Napa.

From Napa, I dead reckoned my way around the western edge of town and over toward the Carneros region. The moment that Highway 12 is crossed, Duhig and Ramal Roads provide views that are a definite contrast to what is seen in Napa Valley. Napa Valley has more European scenery, twists and turns, hills with wineries and, of course, the mountains. The Carneros region, while still undulating, has just enough elevation to see vast expanses to the south and the San Pablo Bay. There is a stark and wind-swept beauty to it. And, perhaps because it is not in the heart of either Napa’s or Sonoma’s wine tasting spheres, there was very little traffic.

Back in the south-eastern outskirts of Sonoma, I made my way along under-utilized roads. On Burndale, Pearson and Hyde Roads, I saw no cars. I SHOULD have followed Hyde-Burndale Road to get closer to Denmark Street, because I ended up further along Napa Road than I wanted. But, no harm, no foul.

By the time I got back to the shop, my Garmin displayed 56 miles and 3,958 feet of climbing. The shop was alive and thriving at the time of my return, so I chose to duck out quietly, leaving them to help their customers. Thanks again to Jeffrey and Matthew for allowing me to use Wine Country Cyclery as my home base for the day. It ended up being a great day!

Here is a map of my route for October 11th

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A Visit to West County Cycle Service

Sebastopol, California is the thriving hub of an area known as West County and home to a small, yet truly legit shop known as West County Cycle Service. Visitors to the shop are greeted by a Patrick Amiot sculpture, a friendly reminder that you are indeed in Sebastopol.

Patrick Amiot sculpture
Entrance to WCCS

While this is a relatively new location for WCCS, the collection of cycling artifacts makes this a fun museum for any cycling fan. Vintage bikes hang on the wall and interesting, occasionally anachronistic components adorn the central display.

Nick, owner of WCCS

Exotic? Erotic? or just plain cool!

The shop is run by Nick Sanders and staffed by Kenny and Jay. Collectively, there is a lot of mechanical and overall cycling experience here. The history feels real. During my short visit, I saw a number of cyclists come in to get their needs met.  Several roadies swung by, gathering tubes and supplies or to schedule work on their trusted steeds. Also, a mom and son pedaled in on mountain bikes. It’s the kind of shop where it feels that everyone is welcome.

When I arrived, there was a Bianchi Brava in one of the work stands and several more Bianchi steel road bikes on the floor:

Bianchi Brava

Bianchi Imola in front of Bianchi Volpe

These Bianchi steel road bikes represent incredible value and provide an excellent ride quality on the typically rough roads of Sonoma County. The Volpe is one of the most lauded of the touring bikes, as it is truly a go-anywhere bike. With knobby tires and a full compliment of rack and fender mounts, the Volpe is ready to tour, commute or straight-up take you where you want to go, on or off pavement.

Nick also has some very cool, casual, comfort style bikes from Bianchi:

Bianchi Cortina comfort bikes
casual elegance, courtesy of Bianchi

The Bianchi Cortina is a wonderfully adept machine, equally at home on the bike path or bedecked in baskets, as an efficient errand bike. The Cortina can get you there in upright comfort and style.

West County Cycle Service has ample bike parking, is close to coffee and food, and is across the street from a substantial parking lot, all making it an ideal spot to start and finish West County rides. If you are looking for a convenient location to start and finish a Willow Creek or Coleman Valley loop, or wanting to try some of the Bianchi steel road bikes, then WCCS would make a great destination.

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Jonathan’s Bike Shop

While I was in town for Levi’s Gran Fondo, I visited a relatively new shop in Santa Rosa, CA, a Bianchi dealer by the name of Jonathan’s Bike Shop. I’ve known Jonathan for years, having worked with him at Dave’s Bike Sport back in the 90′s. Since then, Jonathan has owned and operated several shops in the greater Sonoma County area.

As I approached his shop, it became quickly apparent that Bianchi was a featured brand at Jonathan’s shop. Celeste is prevalent and Bianchi abounds in this beautifully adorned shop.

Welcoming entry way of Jonathan’s Bike Shop

Immediately inside the shop, there proudly sits one of the new Bianchi Vertigo bikes. In fact, this Vertigo is one of the first in the country, so I was thrilled that Jonathan let me pull it off the wall. If a person were looking for great value in a comfortable performance road bike, then this would be the bike to consider. The Bianchi Vertigo is built for the rider who wants the geometry and superior handling of the Bianchi Infinito, yet at a more budget friendly price.

Bianchi Vertigo – Beautiful, Comfortable, Affordable
A study in budget friendly elegance from Bianchi

Jonathan has a good selection of Bianchi road bikes on the floor. The 2013 models are beautiful and it is nice to see so much celeste! Built and ready to test-ride, he has a great range of Bianchi bikes. His line starts with the Via Nirone7, which is a beautiful and affordable bike.

Bianchi Via Nirone7

And, one of my favorite bikes on his floor is the Bianchi Infinito. This bike is so well sculpted and is so elegant, yet more importantly, it is the best handling comfort road bike available. The slightly taller head-tube provides positional comfort for rides of any length, while the high-modulus and nano reinforced carbon combined with strategically placed kevlar smooth out the roads. This is an amazing bike.

The beautiful Bianchi Infinito
sculpted elegance
comfortable performance
“molto bene”

Jonathan’s shop carries a complete selection of shoes, helmets, clothing and tires. He has some of my favorite brands including Bianchi, Vittoria and Castelli. And I gotta say, his shop is just gorgeous. Check out these lovely wooden tool chests, absolutely stylish and completely appropriate for this well appointed shop.

Lovely Wooden Tool Chests

This shop, while somewhat small, has been laid out very nicely. If you are looking for a road bike in the Santa Rosa area, then do yourself a favor and visit Jonathan’s Bike Shop.You’ll be treated to excellent customer service. And the beautiful neighborhood behind the shop provides a nice location for a real test-ride.

I am really glad I checked out this shop. I always like going into shops, especially shops that carry Bianchi bikes. I was happy for Jonathan that he had built such a nice shop. Well done!

 

 

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Levi’s Gran Fondo 2012

What an AMAZING day. What an epic ride.

A Bianchi Infinito, at the start. A good choice for this epic ride

While this may have been a casual day of cycling for Levi, most of the 7000 plus cyclists in attendance were going to find the courses a bit more challenging. The topography alone is enough to make any ride in Sonoma County potentially grueling. With three routes (the Piccolo Fondo, the Medio Fondo and the Gran Fondo) to choose from, participants chose just how much they wanted to push themselves.

C2C is “Coast to Coast”
today we saw the Pacific…
A LOT of it

Yes, the courses were demanding. Yet, the energy of the day was something to behold. There is little that compares to being amongst so many other cyclists at the start. There were many very fit riders there, that’s true. Some had done a lot of preparation just for this event.

At the start of the 2012 Levi’s Gran Fondo
Facing the start line
Taken from several hundred riders back

At the start of Levi’s Gran Fondo 2012
Facing the remaining 7000 cyclists
Taken from closer to the front

The longest and most challenging of bike rides begins with a single pedal stroke. At 8:00am, the gun went off. The cyclists, many of whom had been on the line since close to 7:00, began to turn their pedals. What had been a contained sea of color, had now become a flowing mass.

Once out on the open road, alliances formed and strangers would become friends as groups of cyclists would work together for efficiency and camaraderie. Riding alone, while always an option, isn’t necessarily the easiest way to complete a ride like this.

The organizers did a great job of providing frequent and well stocked rest-stops.

2012 Levi’s Gran Fondo
Rest-stop at Cazadero

Here is an interactive map of the Levi’s Gran Fondo Route:

Pedaling With Levi

Pretty sure this Bianchi rider enjoyed his Fondo!
Photo courtesy of Bob Cullinan
Thank you, Roberto! Grazie Mille!

For those wondering whether to do this event, or any other fun ride, I say “Do it!” Thousands of people can’t be wrong! And besides, doesn’t it look like these guys had fun?

Course Marshalls for
2012 Levi’s Gran Fondo
Enjoying a deserved beer
Thank you New Belgium

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Bianchi Infinito

Several months ago, I purchased a Bianchi Infinito. The one I got was the 105 equipped model. As the astute among you will soon discover, I am something of a Campy guy. It’s just a preference. I removed the Shimano components and installed a Campy Record group that I had “just laying around.” I also installed a white carbon bar from Edge Design.

57cm Red and White Bianchi Infinito

Initially, $2699 may seem a little steep for a Shimano 105 equipped bike. After all, most other brands have some way less expensive 105 equipped carbon bikes. But, this is one of those situations where you have to really look at what you are comparing.

Bianchi does NOT produce a watered down version of their top-notch ergonomic road frame just to deliver a bike at a lower price point. Bianchi offers the Infinito with several build options. No matter which component group you select, you’d be getting the same top quality frame. How many companies can claim that their 105 equipped bike has a professional quality frame that has been ridden in the Giro d’Italia!

Like so many products these days, acronyms abound. We’ve got BAT and K-VID to start. Bianchi’s Active Technology and Kevlar Vibration Isolation Device do their part to reduce road vibration and rider fatigue. The Infinito provides a comfortable riding position over longer distances with taller headtube and slightly longer chainstays. This bike is Gran Fondo comfy, yet fully capable, with verifiable podium places in the Giro d’Italia and Spring Classics.

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