History-makers in motorcars and cycling, now Ferrari and Bianchi have united to produce the revolutionary SF01 racing bike
Twenty kilometres south of Bergamo in northern Italy, a single-storey factory roof rises into nine large corrugated peaks, each coloured Celeste. In the middle of the flat Lombardy plain this is great cycling territory, which is apt, because this is home to Bianchi - Italy's most famous bicycle-maker. Red symbolises Ferrari, Celeste represents Bianchi.
The similarities continue: both were founded by charismatic individuals who left a lasting posthumous imprint, both continually evolve through involvement in their respective sports, and both see quality in the detail. The two have now come together to produce the SF01, a revolutionary new racing bike.
"It first came about in 2016" recalls Claudio Masnata, Communications and Marketing chief at Bianchi. "The idea to produce a limited edition Bianchi-Ferrari racer - beginning with 12 individual pieces in Modena Yellow - makes perfect sense." Bianchi's racing pedigree dates back to 1899 when Gian Fernando Tomaselli notched its first victory, at the Paris Grand Prix.
It was cemented in the first decade after the Second World War when Fausto Coppi – first rider ever to win the Tour de France-Giro d'Italia double in the same season – rode Bianchi. Claudio Masnata says, “Fausto Coppi would think nothing of 'popping in' to the factory, to make adjustments with the technicians, even though that meant a two-hundred kilometre ride from his home in Liguria." Coppi was obsessive about giving feedback to the Bianchi designers.
"For us, 'obsessive' is not a pejorative term", insists Masnata. “We are obsessive. About the details. It's how we make improvements. We've never missed a year of involvement in pro-cycling. For us it's essential, both for product development, and for marketing", say Masnata. Famously, Felice Gimondi in the 1970s and Marco Pantani in the 1990s added further chapters to the more-recent Bianchi story, and today Team Lotto NLJumbo fly the flag.
Down on the factory floor each individual bike is assembled by the same technician from start to finish on a "vertical production line". The historic Bianchi eagle badge, as well as the SF01 lettering, is hand-painted, and the new speed machine is also available in red-black and black-red versions. "What distinguishes the bike is the 'Countervail system'," explains Masnata.
The highly confidential process involves multiple layers of criss-crossing carbon fibre, which is then enveloped by a "visco-elastic carbon material". The result is extreme lightness combined with extreme strength. Lifting the carbon-fibre central frame with just one finger is an almost disconcerting experience.
The CV treatment eliminates an astonishing eighty per cent of surface vibrations, representing a revolutionary step forward in bike technology, and Bianchi possess the exclusive licence to utilise it in cycling.
Five top-range Bianchi models already come CV-treated. Fabio Ferri, frame designer, sums up the Bianchi philosophy: "When we design our bikes, we have in mind an athlete rather than a cyclist." There are Bianchi bikes. And now there are Bianchi-Ferrari bikes.