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The Maryville Riviera

The bicycle, on first glance, is obviously heavily themed in a quaint ye olde fashion, good looking for a girls bike and probably a heavyweight. Its large mud guards, colour matched everything and enclosed chain guard give it a very solid appearance. Lifting it proves the hypothesis – however it’s ever so slightly lighter than it looks.

Hub Dynamo

Nice and appropriate alloy pedals

There are plenty of bells and whistles, including the very useful hub dynamo, rear light, leather sprung saddle and white wall tyres on 650b rims that I believe are worth their weight in safety, control and comfort. The rod brakes, newspaper holder and rear wheel lock looked to be exceptions and not something I believed would add to the efficiency or practicality of the ride.

Light and newspaper holder

Rod set-up is pretty

Brake levers are incorporated into the handle bar – very swish.

My first ride was at night and my initial impression was that the bike felt light and nimble, it was well geared, the lighting was OK without turning night into day,  quick enough without being fast, and relatively comfortable for a bicycle that is too small for me. It soaked up road bumps nicely, but had a few rattles that needed ironing out. To be fair the bike had just traveled 800km in the back of a largely unloaded removal truck so had probably had the stuffing shaken out of it, but with the rattle and the light feel through the handle bars it felt strangely like riding a pressed tin toy.

rear wheel lock

Where the brake pads meet the rim.

My second ride in light morning rain to pick up an espresso provided more feedback from the bicycle. Again it felt nicely geared, but if anything the handling felt a little to light for my liking. Braking hard resulted in a lot of heavy chatter from the front brakes and not much stopping power. I’m thinking a brake pad upgrade or fine tuning the rods to remove all the slack from the system may help, however my gut feeling is that at least some of the chatter will remain due to brake arm flex. Standing up on the pedals to get the bicycle up an incline produced plenty of rubbing and flex so I sat down again. I’m probably 3 or 4 inches too big for the bicycle so I was pushing it a little to see how it would handle the extra pressure. Our local park is pretty churned up from being renovated with new kids play equipment so it provided a chance to check out the off road handling. Over mud, gravel and bumpy ground it was very good – a product of the sensible tyres, light steering and low gearing. This bicycle, devoid of rattles, would handle the cobbled streets of Europe quite nicely.

When pushed the bicycle doesn’t respond solidly, but climbing hills and hard riding isn’t the point of the bicycle. It’s a cruising bicycle that is capable and comfortable when the surface gets uneven. A three speed hub would increase the speed of the bicycle, but I wouldn’t suggest riding the bike too hard with any extra weight because of the limitations of the rod braking – so it may not handle commuting with kids on board. Its recommend retail is above $1500Aus and for that you get a hub dynamo, reasonable lighting, brooks saddle and a double powder coated, fully lugged, hand built steel frame that has a nice feel to it – not bad value – but I’d want to effect some changes on the standard set-up. First port of call would be upgrading the braking and shedding some weight, but perhaps that’s just a personal preference.

The bicycle gave me an experience of using 650b wheels and 650x35a tyres. I’m not sure I’m a convert, but as part of this set-up they certainly seemed to handle uneven ground pretty well. Food for thought.

The Bicycle Thieves was made in 1948 and is a classic of Italian cinema.

It is set in a post war Italy where work, food and simple conveniences are hard to gain, and harder to keep. The plot revolves around a man and his search for a stolen bicycle and draws you into his hopeless struggle to retain, and make something of his slim chances of providing for his family.

Essentially the movie isn’t about bicycles, but is worth watching anyway, it is that good! The acting from these unschooled actors would put many current, fame engorged actors to shame with the power they bring to the simple and direct dialogue and plot. The important place cycling had in the Italian culture is strongly evident from the scenes that show the everyday cycling culture around the action of the movie. More broadly speaking, the portrayal of everyday life in Italy seems very authentic and so the movie also provides a window into a lost world of suits, fortune tellers, markets, whore houses and homes.

The Bicycle Thieves has been broadly critically acclaimed and very much worth the time and effort to track down and watch. It’s a little melancholy but those were dark, grim times for Italy, made even more grim by bloody bicycle thieves.

The Bianchi Pista is a compromised track racer, a feisty, but broken thoroughbred. Tamed for fixie fascination and single speed simplicity it’s now road ready.

Bianchi Pista Specification:

FRAME: Bianchi Cr-Mo (steel) butted
FORK: Bianchi Cr-Mo, 1″
HEADSET: VP-A34C, 1″
CRANKSET: FSA Tempo, 48T
CHAIN: KMC Z50
CASSETTE: Shimano SS-7600 fixed, 16T
BRAKES: Reparto Corse, front & rear
WHEELS: Maddux Track F15
TYRES: Hutchinson Nitro 700 x 23
STEM: Bianchi alloy
HANDLEBAR: Premetec 4002R Steel, Chrome
BAR TAPE / GRIPS: Velo VLT-004
SEATPOST: Bianchi alloy
SADDLE: Charge Bucket
PEDALS: Wellgo

Before getting on the bike you notice it’s good looks. The one I rode (pictured) was the standard chrome pista. The chrome finish isn’t really for me, but having said that, it suits the bike’s Italian origins. While being showy, Bianchi have the racing pedigree to back up all that flash. I think the light green¬†Pista Via Condotti is probably the prettiest of the variations on this theme.

Reclining Bicycle

Lifting the bike you notice that this is a traditional double butted steel frame. It’s not the lightest bike of its type but the supple feel of the bike more than makes up for the weight once you are on the bike. The feel through the handlebars is agile and intuitive, without being quick. The responsiveness is a product of its short wheel base, track geometry and engineered tubing profiles throughout. It’s not a bike you need to man-handle – you can really place it neatly and it responds well to changes in weight distribution. everything you’d expect from the bikes’ DNA. It’s not a fast handling or twitchy bike, it tracks well in a straight line and also responds to steering input – a nice balance.

Bicycle Photo

3/4 view

I found the 48 by 16 chain wheel and sprocket set-up to be pretty good once I’d been upwind and down wind on the bike, hills were a challenge, but this is a single speed and so no surprises there.

One of the compromises for the purists is that the bike has front and back brakes as original equipment. I found these to be good with plenty of feel without being amazing. Given the price tag perhaps you could expect more from them.

I am not a regular drop bar rider but found these to be pretty good on the bike. This is probably as much due to having the bike set-up well as it is a great design of drop bar. My guess is that track drop bars are all mostly similar. The bars suit the traditional style of the bike and I got comfortable with them quickly – probably enough said.

The pedals are a real disappointment and I think they are one of the only negatives of the bike. They are c-grade pedals on an a-grade bike.

Bicycle Photo

Stock Hindquarters

Overall, the package feels right with a nice mix of agility and a solid, supple feel on the road. If you want something that will probably hold its value, and potentially provide many miles of smiles, then this is worth the price tag. To some degree you are paying for the pedigree and cache of the bianchi name, but, the bike feels great to ride, and that’s what it is all about.