Classic Lightweights UK
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The Bianchi Paris-Roubaix
After Fausto Coppi’s spectacular win in the 1950 Paris-Roubaix race riding a Bianchi equipped with a Campagnolo single lever back pedal gear Matt Newton of Middlesbrough imported a number of similar models in 1951 for devotees in the UK who wanted to emulate the great ‘campionissimo’. The bike had been previously sold in Italy as the ‘Folgorissima’ but this boost in publicity ensured its relaunch as the Bianchi ‘Paris-Roubaix’.
As sole distributor, Newton offered through dealerships in Britain the Bianchi Paris-Roubaix as a complete bicycle or as a frameset in two sizes; 22 ¼”(57cm) and 23¼”(59cm). However, because these measurements were taken from the centre the bottom bracket to the top of a tall seat lug, the frames were in reality smaller than stated in the literature. Centre to centre the larger frame measures 57cm on both the seat tube and top tube. The wheelbase depended on which gear was engaged, although on average it is around 41”. This would be much shorter in low gear when the splined rear axle moved forward along the 19 teeth to engage the largest sprocket. The literature stated that the rear ends could be ‘used in the same manner as any normal forward dropout’, but many had the teeth filed off to accommodate a standard hollow axle with a quick release mechanism.
In common with Italian bicycle makers such as Cinelli, the seat tube on the Bianchi was sleeved for extra strength that required an unusually small seat pin; 25mm in diameter.
The frame set with its distinctive integral head set was offered with the unique Bianchi steel chainset with three ‘B’ cut-outs in the chain wheel (image below right). This was supplied with either a 48 toothed 1/8” or a 49 toothed 3/32” ring. The complete bike came with ‘Bianchi’ steel bars and stem (made by Cinelli?), Aquilla 'sic' saddle, Universal brakes (type 51), Nisi rims on Bianchi hubs (made by FB or Campag?), shod with Pirelli ‘Gran Premio’ tubulars. A four-speed freewheel by Regina was specified but five-speed versions were known about. All machines imported by Matt Newton have six figure numbers stamped at the front of the seat tube lug and begin with 286 or 288.
The bicycle illustrated has a Magistroni double chainset with early Simplex Competition front changer, which at first glance may seem inappropriate. However, the photograph of Coppi with Maurice Diot on their lap of honour at the Roubaix velodrome in 1950 shows the former riding a spare bike with what appears to be a similar gearing arrangement.
By 1954, Bianchi listed the Paris-Roubaix bicycle as a five-speed version of the Campione del Mondo and carried the much-improved Campagnolo ‘Gran Sport’ gear that required no acrobatic skills to operate it.
(note: folgore = lightning in Italian but cannot refer to the gear change which is slow when compared with the Simplex Tour de France and the Super Champion Osgear)
The Bianchi Paris-Roubaix described above. More details of the gear in Classic Components > Campagnolo
© 2006 Classic Lightweights