My Bianchi Veloce

It’s All About Love

{moszoomimglink:Bianchi}All foolish things are born of love. But fortunately some fun things are, too. In this case, I was head over heels, and one of the conditions for the love to be successful was to spend a lot of money on a bike.

Some of you snobs will think that Bianchi Veloce is nothing expensive. But to me, the investment was enormous. After all, I had a perfectly functional bike (a twenty year old Nishiki of unspeakable incompetence)!

City Bikes

I went to the bike shop in the maniacal mood of the freshly-in-love, and was told to go to City Bikes in the Marina. A small store on the richer side of the city, CB now specializes in custom frames for the wealthy. Still, the owner (?) is a really nice guy that genuinely loves cycling. Not like the other ones for whom cycling is a pain they have to endure: this one smiles all the time, always has a cheaper option if you start panicking in front of your loved one, and constantly chats about his weekend rides.

We started at Seven. No, not the number, the manufacturer. He had such a beautiful custom Seven with a Chorus gruppo. The only thing I understood was: “$5.000.” We swiftly shifted down to the choice whether I wanted my Bianchi in aluminum or steel. I tried aluminum, found quickly it looked ugly (yes, I am ashamed of myself now) and went for the steel frame.

From there on my only choice was color (baby blue or yellow?). Everything else was decided by a quick confabulation between my eternal idol and the City Biker. Two weeks later I picked up a yellow bicycle that cost more than all my other six bikes combined.

Oddly Enough, It Was Worth It

I sat on the thing, and the first thing I noticed was the sudden pain between my legs. “Get used to it!” was the comment. I tried unsuccessfully not to fall when stopping at an intersection, and then not to fall when I started again. I would ignore red lights and stop signs, and would try to make my panic look cool. I don’t know if it worked.

Eventually I made it, and I started getting the hang of it. The new lightness allowed me to climb steep hills like a goat on an escape path. The effortless shifting made me finally switch from uphill down without costly interruption. And the yellow Bianchi looked really neat.

We Were A Good Couple

My Bianchi and I became inseparable. Even after my American idol looked to me more and more like one of the early candidates from the show on TV, I would ride more and more. First it would be a ride to the beach from the apartment, a measly 5 miles through the Presidio. Then, on weekends, I would go across the bridge to Conzelman road and think that was as far as a human being could make it.

Bianchi and I became good friends. He would sit in my apartment, not relegated to the garage any more. I would tend to its wheels and spokes on the weekend. I would clean its chain and gears. And I would ride. I moved down the Peninsula, and I would ride. Solitary rides on the weekend, with other bikers zipping around me, shouting: “On your left!”

First Accident

The Bianchi had a fateful first accident. I was riding with the love-of-my-life on Ocean Boulevard in the City, when a guy opened the door of his truck and hit me on the side. I fell down, my helmet cracked, my back was in severe pain and the bike, alas, had had no visible problems.

Seeing the helmet crack reminded me that it could have been my head just as well. Not a good feeling. Whenever I see some sport on Foothill without a helmet, I think of cracked heads, not of Pantani.

The End

There was a second accident. I was commuting to work, and a guy in a red VW rabbit was speeding around the corner. He hit me, but fortunately at such low speed that my bike remained standing. He got out of his car, shouted at me that he had had a green light (like the green phase of that light is long enough to let me get through the intersection), and zipped away again. I had enough time to see his Lockheed-Martin badge.

The frame was slightly bent at the rear hub. The derailleur was pressed against the cassette, and I could unbend it only with major force. And a few days later, the braze-on front derailleur falls off in mid-ride. I spend two weeks trying to find a clamp to replace it – everyone tells me they can’t order the part. Only the last guy I talk to at Palo Alto Cycles simply walks over to the repair station, grabs one from a huge bag, hands it over to me and just asks if I know how to mount it.

As an aside, this simple gesture of kindness moved me to buy my next bike at PAC. These were some of the most well spent $0.02 in the history of biking.

Ratings

Here you are:

Component Brand/Model Rating (1-10) Comments
Frame and fork Bianchi Veloce 7 Good value for your money! The Veloce frame and fork are sturdy and reliable. They are fun to ride and gave me no problems, even after repeated accidents. Only downsides: weight and braze-on parts.
Gruppo Campagnolo Veloce 6 Ok. If it hadn’t been for the pleasure of the thumb shifter, this one wouldn’t have gotten a passing mark. I love the user interface, but the shifting prowess of the Veloce is really not there where it should be. Up or down, you’ll always miss a shift. And the front derailleur is made of material so weak that even the slightest misalignment will bend it out of shape. My fault? Maybe. But you would think in a gruppo in that price range there would be no excuse for materials that are not sturdy enough for a beginner.
Wheel set and hubs Mavic XP 21 7 Actually, even this finicky rider with a loud, opinionated mouth found these wheels quite satisfactory. They are heavy as a sumo wrestler, but they are reliable and strong. And their rims are very smooth, leaving no option for splinters to stick.
Stem and saddle Bianchi 6 Blue collar parts, for sure. I would definitely upgrade the saddle, no matter what your other costs are.

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