We take a look at Bianchi’s new/old L’Eroica bike, which was on display at the recent Cycle Show in Birmingham

There has been a huge rise in the popularity of vintage bikes and events over recent years, spurred on by the famous Eroica extravaganza. Sharing the name of the aforementioned retro cycling event, Bianchi’s majestic L’Eroica model was on display at the recent Cycle Show in Birmingham’s NEC. At first glance, the L’Eroica, complete with its celeste green livery appears every bit the vintage original. But it isn’t.

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A closer look reveals that it is in fact a replica, brought up to date with modern manufacturing touches. Based on a 1952 Specialissima, the Italian brand wanted to steer clear of the original name, insisting: “The Specialissima will always be reserved for the most technologically advanced bike that sits at the top of our range.”

Classic celebration

Lugged Columbus frame is top quality

Lugged Columbus frame is top quality. Photo: Daniel Gould

The L’Eroica is the only new machine officially sanctioned for use in Eroica events, whose regulations require all participants to ride bikes manufactured before 1987. The Eroica event is a celebration of classic bikes, great wine, delicious food, and all things Italian. Riders mount vintage machines with toe-clips and down-tube shifters to ride over the course’s beautiful country roads and tracks.

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Is the new bike all style over substance? Well, Bianchi has gone to great lengths to make this new/old bike authentic and every bit as good as the original. The frame is a lugged construction, using Columbus Zona tubing, with resplendent chrome stays and fork ends that contrast really nicely against the Celeste green.

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Campagnolo was also part of the project, contributing special front and rear derailleurs that are modern in construction but designed to look vintage, with old-style Campag logos.

All-weather assurance

Retro components, modern functionality

Retro components, modern functionality. Photo: Daniel Gould

Other vintage-style (but modern) bits include the embossed three-arm spider crank, quill stem, Campagnolo brake levers and Dia Compe down-tube shifters. Incidentally, down tube shifters are compulsory in the Eroica rulebook. There is Velo cotton bar tape, 32-hole Ambrosio Montreal tubular rims, with attractive large flange hubs and tan side-walled tyres that look every bit the part.

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It doesn’t stop there. The brakes are Dia Compe centre-pull and appear to offer generous tyre clearance — ideal for Eroica events where unpaved roads and strade bianche sections often require larger-volume rubber. A Brooks Team Pro Classic leather saddle adds an element of classic British chic. Crucially for many fans, the L’Eroica is manufactured in Italy.

British Brooks saddle suits the bike to a T

British Brooks saddle suits the bike to a T. Photo: Daniel Gould

To prevent the market being flooded and every other person at the Eroica riding one of these bikes, Bianchi is releasing only limited numbers: just 25 in the UK. The different frame sizes will be 50, 53, 55, 57, 59, 61, 63 with a 13-29t cassette and a 48/36t crankset.

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The decision to fit a 10-speed cassette is intriguing. It offers great versatility, but will leave some purists, who might have preferred fewer sprockets, questioning the bike’s vintage credentials. Incidentally, the Eroica rules don’t state anything about the number of gears on the rear wheel.

UK pricing is yet to be confirmed, with Bianchi suggesting to us £2,000-£2,500. Available at the end of 2015.

Our take

Purists may be dismissive of a replica. Others may be disappointed that you do not get a complete Campagnolo groupset. But with the price likely to be around £2,000, it is hard to criticise, especially when it looks this good.

Bianchi has cleverly identified a gap in the market, and a bike like this is great way of making superb events like the Eroica more accessible to a wider audience.

With more and more people wanting to participate in vintage events, there are simply not enough vintage bikes to go around. In short, Bianchi has done a great job in creating a bike that encourages people to appreciate the heritage and heroism of our great sport. And that can only be a good thing.

  • cahern1968

    You know somebody is going to try and hack that system.

  • Mal Pearson

    Is it SRAM who are bringing out a wireless group? That must open up possibilities…….

  • cahern1968

    Just imagine the consternation that could be caused by a more tech savvy modern joker who figured out how to change electronic gears remotely.

  • Mal Pearson

    Rob, you’re right about the 116PCD cranks in the 1980’s. I should have recalled, since I’ve still got a Campag Victory crankset on a 1990’s built 531c frame. Actually the smallest 116 ring size is 35t, my bike has 35t – 50t rings.

  • Mal Pearson

    Hey, I remember seeing that in front of me on a hill in a road race, one rider got beside another who was using Campag bar end levers,stuck his knee out and knocked the lever into top gear position.

  • SeanMcCuen

    only pretentious poodles need apply. and don’t forget your wool jersey.

    the brakes are kinda’ cool, though.

  • Chumply Chummunderson

    Are all cyclists Daily Mail readers??

  • cahern1968

    Oh the fun times of some joker riding up beside you and changing gears for you, try doing that with the modern electronic shifting.

  • Rob H

    My 1980s Gipiemme chainset is 116BCD which allows a 36T chainring. Campagnolo Record of that era is the same spec. 52/36 works well.

  • Morten Reippuert Knudsen

    Agree – Simplex retrofriction is the best there is. Better than any indexed downtube shifter. I was i Giaole two weeks ago on a Koga-Miyata Full Pro 1987 with 1.gen Athena groupset 1987/88 and simplex retrofriction shifters + moderen 10 speed chain, chainrings and casette. The spimplex performed very well with a moderen 10 speed cassette. My prevouis steel rig was equiped with campy 10 speed downtube/barend shifters and moderen 10 speed derailures and the same 10 speed chainrings, chain and casette – the Simplex on the 1987/1988 derailures outshifts moderne 10 speed indexed shifting with matching derailures by a large margin.

  • Stevo

    Simplex retrofriction levers were actually pretty good. They weren’t indexed, but the shifting resistance felt at the lever was low in both directions, and they never slipped.

  • Mal Pearson

    Apart from TA touring setups for road bikes I don’t recall any 1980’s or earlier chainsets having rings smaller than 42. Are the downtube shifters friction or indexed? 6 and 7 speed friction shifters were bad enough, I dread to think how imprecise 10 speed shifting would be.

  • cahern1968

    It used to be a 42-52 crankset with a 13-18 or 13-21 freewheel on racing bikes back in the eighties. But how can something be vintage when it has all modern parts and frame?

  • Robin Mainwaring

    I don’t see any rider actually riding the bike with the seat that high for that size. Not quite sure what they were doing in the bike setup but if I saw a bike setup like that at a club ride I would assume the chap had bought the wrong size bike and that he was currently waiting for a new longer stem in the post. I was also puzzled by the gearing, retro usually means trying to push stupidly big gears and yet the top combo of 48/13 is decidedly under geared for a lot of long rangy descents.

  • Stevo

    48/36 seems a bit of an anachronism, as does having the seat so much higher than the bars.

  • James Cooper

    Campagnolo brake levers????