Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Bianchi Trofeo '87

UPDATE (November 2011)

Originally I billed this frame as a 1988 Trofeo based on some comments stating that a "1986-87 Campione del Mundo | Colorado Springs" sticker implied a 1988 model. However, I have been searching around for confirmation on the web and came across a bikeforums.net user Bianchigirll, who has done some serious homework on the Bianchi line. She has some older manufacturer catalogs to reference models. Evidently, this frame is actually from 1987 as indicated by the font of the "Trofeo" model name. Thanks Bianchigirll!

After my experience with the Bianchi Rekord 848, I decided that, I was going to build my very own bike; I was going to build a bike on which I precisely selected each component and retained full control over the color scheme. In order to do this, I had to go "all in". No reservations. When I consider that decision in retrospect (now that the bike is complete), I can confidently say, I couldn't be happier with the result. The bike is exactly as I envisioned it....perhaps even greater than I imagined because the ride is far better than I expected.

Below are my thoughts on my first build, issues I ran into, some wisdom I acquired, and my satisfaction with the whole process (and the bike itself!)

Otherwise, allow for a bit of suspense...

First Decisions

Having learned some lessons in my previous experiment (see here), I began this project a bit wiser. Notice that I have included occasional links to explanations of many of the bicycle components since when I first began reading about bicycles, I was not familiar with the terminology. Rather than explain it all in this article (which would make it 10 times longer), and because so many others have already provided such thorough explanations, I figure I will just make finding that info a tad easier.

Style - Prior to buying anything, I first considered the style of bike I wanted. I wanted to build a modest race-style bike. I was not concerned heavily with weight (gram counting, being a weight weenie, etc.). I didn't want the bike to be a hoss, but since I was looking to buy performance components, weight wouldn't likely be much of an issue anyway since performance components are typically designed with weight as a major consideration. Frame geometry is another factor to consider. Again, I'm relatively new to all this so getting into the nitty-gritty of frame geometry is still a bit out of my league. Consequently, the tube angles were not of the utmost importance to me, though through more in-depth reading I now am all the wiser to the importance of frame geometry.

Wheelset - Wheels are a major consideration. Recall the maxim "where the rubber meets the road"; it is quite literal here. The wheelset includes the hubs, rims, and spokes (I suppose tires may be included as well). For my build, I wanted a relatively capable, yet practical bicycle. Road wheels which would do well in the city and handle slightly rougher, less maintained roads were the goal. The Rekord 848 had come with Bianchi branded hubs laced to Mavic tubular rims.

I am uninterested in tubular rims because replacing them or fixing a flat is laborious. The tire and tube are integrated and literally glued onto the rim (a process which takes longer than a day). So I disassembled the old wheelset, repacked the hubs, and intended on having the hubs re-laced to clincher rims of my choice. Clinchers rims are built with a lip inside either side of the rim. With this type of wheel, after laying a tube between the tire and the rim, you simply inflate the tube and the air presses the tire against the rim and a built-in lip in the tire (usually made of steel or another rigid material) "clinches" that lip in the rim and holds the two together. Also, by selecting new rims, I had another big control element in the overall bike color scheme (that is, IF I chose to go with colored rims...and why wouldn't I!?). For the rekord (pun! ha!...sorry), these Bianchi hubs are not particularly amazing, and most likely manufactured by someone like Ofmega then relabeled for Bianchi, but I like that they say Bianchi on them, so there!

Groupset/Components - The Bianchi hubs were design for a 7-speed freewheel. "Freewheels" are an older designed system for the gearing on the back of the bike. They have since been replaced by cassettes. The two look similar, a cluster of sprockets mounted on the hub of the rear wheel. They differ in that the bearings for those rear gears are actually integrated with the sprocket cluster in a freewheel design. With a cassette design, the bearings are built into the hub and the sprocket cluster simply slides onto the hub via a matching spline pattern. You can read more about why this design changed and the pros and cons here.

My Bianchi hubs required a freewheel. Since the design had been replaced, I essentially found myself looking for the highest grade components that . Downtube/Friction shifting systems can be found at great prices nowadays too since everyone has moved to integrated shifting (Shimano's is called STI - Shimano Total Integration) which are the systems in which the brake levers have indexing tabs built into them so your hands never leave the drop bars when shifting. They are quite functional but require a bit more finagling to retrofit to an older frame. And even that installation isn't all that much of a hassle, I just prefer the look of the downtubes on the older frames. If you have been skimming at least CATCH THIS POINT: while some components can be interchanged with those of another model line or brand, I would recommend to those who are new, choose one groupset model to fulfill your needs (e.g. If you choose Shimano Dura Ace 7400, use as many 7400 components as you can. Especially be consistent within the drive train - front & rear derailleur, bottom bracket, crank, front chainrings, freewheel/cassette, chain, shift levers, and brake levers if you opt for STI). You will have far less trouble calibrating everything in the end and will not have to worry about whether the parts function cohesively since they were designed to work together. I chose Shimano Dura Ace 7400 for the Bianchi Trofeo.

Seller image.

Frame - Now, having considered all that, I happened upon this gorgeous blue Bianchi Trofeo '87 frame that was nearly NOS. It has apparently been built up once and ridden only a few miles before it was garaged. The owner then passed it along to his friend who was the seller that I purchased it from. The seller, Randy, actually operates the My Ten Speeds Blog (Warning: The page is a little intense on the graphics, but to each his own! Randy's a great guy!). The frame was italian threaded BB, 126mm rear dropout spacing (just what my Bianchi hubs needed), had braze-on fittings for downtube/friction shifters and was 54cm (Measurement philosophy can vary to be sure to understand how the seller is measuring. This bike was measured from the middle of the BB to the top of the seat post.) which is probably the smallest I could go as a 5'10 fellow.

Tips for Assembling Your First Bicycle

Building a bike requires a lot of unique tools. Don't think a crescent wrench and a couple allen wrenches will get you by. This is especially true when working with older bikes because standards have changed and the new tool kits don't bother to include a tool for every size whatchamajig these manufacturers designed. So you end up buying a base kit. And then a-la-carte tools as you run into these odd-ball sizes. I recommend the Park Advanced Mechanic Tool Kit (AK-37) - Amazon has a great price on it, and no I don't get money for advertising, I just thought they had a good price and reliable service. I picked this up and the Park Big Blue Book of Bike Repair as well. Even still, with these tools, you will run into curious cases unexplainable by the book and perhaps not even discussed online in great detail.

I suggest pestering a local bike shop enough to become friendly with a bike mechanic to get tips and tricks. These guys do this stuff day-in and day-out. Chances are, they've seen it before. Most of the guys around town here were very nice at first, then once they found out about my project somewhat reluctant to talk (perhaps because I wasn't much of a sale?) but eventually, after I showed up enough and bought a few things, they warmed up. And some of the guys were immediately helpful. The cycling community, is like other disciplines for which people become very passionate about. It can get cliquey and at times straight rude. Ultimately, you have to just delve in, beyond those who don't want to let new people in, to find those who truly love sharing knowledge with others. Those people will become such an invaluable resource that it will all be worth the initial snubbing.


As I have already stated, this project was as much about building a functional machine, as it was customizing a fully coordinated aesthetic. I loved the blue of the frame and even more the ghosted decals. While I could have introduced a third accent color (which could be black, though I consider accent colors to have a real "pop" to them.), I thought sticking with the white and blue would just keep the bike clean and modern. So from the frame, I went with as many white accessories and I could find, ghosting as much of the rest of the Trofeo as I could.

A Few Problems I Encountered

The build went quite smoothly. It was so much fun I may or not have already picked up another frame...I did however encounter a couple issues to note.

Finding White Brake Levers and Hoods
- First off, keeping the colors consistent was a beast. White, while a basic color, is tough to find. Most likely because it will dirty quicker than anything out there but like my buddy says, "It's not easy being a baller." The brake levers for example were the most drawn out process. Finding brake levers is simple. But BEWARE. On many of the older brake levers, the rubber hoods may have begun to deteriorate. These hoods were often individually designed to fit that specific model lever. Finding a replacement hood, let alone a hood of another color for some of those levers might as well be a the proverbial needle. So I looked for a modern lever, which had white hoods readily available. Simple right? No. Since most bicycles now utilize STI type shifting, most levers are designed with the shifting tabs built it. Since I was using downtube/friction shifters I needed a lever without STI, but that did have a white hood option. Ideally I would have loved white levers. A couple companies like "Origin 8" make a lot of boutique stuff for the fixie crowd but I am unsure of their quality. Being that I spent what I did on the other components of this bike, I figured I wanted to be sure to get a great set of levers. I really liked the SRAM S500 silver levers when I found them and wouldn't you know it, they had white hoods, NEW! Guess what, only three stores stocked them according to google and after some phone calls to the west coast shops, none actually had them in stock, nor could they get them. And so I waited...patiently. And one day, eBay granted my wish! But it was an arduous task to say the least.

Long Reach Brake Calipers - Many older bikes were designed for 27" wheels. Eventually wheel size moved to 700c. Consequently, when fitting a frame with wheels, it is possible to put 700c wheels in a frame designed for 27" since 700c's are slightly smaller. The mounts for the brake levers however will not be slightly further away from the rim's braking surface. One solution to this is getting "Long Reach Brake Calipers" which are designed just like the name would imply, a longer caliper for the brake pad to reach further down. The Bianchi Trofeo was designed with 700c wheels so I initially picked up SRAM Apex white brake calipers. I was psyched that I found such a slick looking set for a reasonable price and they appeared to be a good quality. However, when I mounted the calipers to the bike, the front calipers reached the brake track perfectly (though the brake pads were sitting in their lowest position). The rear caliper however, even at its lowest position, was still sitting above the brake track of the rim by half the pad. Apparently, whatever brakes the bicycle was designed with sat outside the typical brake caliper reach sizes and consequently I had to begin looking for a new set of calipers. Fortunately the Tektro R736 Long Reach Calipers look great, function excellently, and were also priced extremely well.

I also had typical installation issues with brake cable etc but overall it came together quite well. I am proud to say I could not be more impressed and thrilled with this build. The ride...is fantastic! Why don't we have a look at the finished product finally?


The Bianchi Trofeo '87 in all its splendor!


Size: 54cm from center of bottom bracket to top of seat tube
Bottom Bracket: Shimano unmarked (italian thread)
Crank: Sakae FX SLP white
Pedals: Shimano PD-M530 Double-sided Clipless
Front Derailleur: Shimano Dura Ace 7400
Rear Derailleur: Shimano Dura Ace 7400
Drop bars: Bianchi
Stem: unknown
Head: Gipiemme
Brakes: Tektro R736 Long Reach white
Friction levers: Shimano Dura Ace 7400

Frame: Columbus Formula Two
Dropouts: Gipiemme
Rear spacing: 126mm
Seat: San Marco Zoncolan white
Seatpost: unknown Aero

Rims: H+Son SL42 machined 700c (clincher)
Hubs: Bianchi
Tired: Fyxation Session 700x25c steal bead


"Steel is Real" - I now understand the maxim well. The Bianchi Trofeo is a wonderful frame. Granted, I have little experience but where else do we start. Years down the road from now I may look back and laugh but that is learning. What I know, is that until now I have been riding the Specialized Allez Epic carbon fiber bike with the Shimano 105 gruppo. Hoping on this Trofeo is an entirely different world. A smoother ride. A tighter handle. And on the obvious side, a lot more flashy! I will continue to put miles on this bike and keep posting as I discover new things!

And like I said earlier, I do have another frame en route. A Bianchi of the same tubing. I couldn't help myself. In the meantime, I'm going to continue getting out on this thing as much as I can before the beautiful weather disappears into sleet and snow.


  1. holy crap, this bike is incredible looking. i'm impressed!

    planning on building up a bike for the first time myself, and this is inspirational. thanks!

  2. A friend just gave me this exact frame and I am looking forward to rebuild hopefully as good as yours. Great job! Patrick, Ottawa

  3. Oh, it is a sweet frame! I actually really like the Formula steel. I am no aficionado, but it rides wonderfully. If you're interested, feel free to email me an image(s) of your finished project. I would be thrilled to post them here (with full credit to you) as just another person's take on the frame. Thanks for the compliments and thank you for reading!

  4. Hey, I just found one that has been hung up in garage 25 yrs ago. It's an 87' model, and all components that are on it are original, except that there are no pedals, so I would like you to recommend me some. Preferably good looking, easy to use and keeping the vintage style. After 25 years sitting, it will need a new set of tires too. I'm not looking for any exceptional performance, I'd just like to get that beauty back on the road as quick and cheap possible, while keeping the bikes value. Later on I'd like to ask you to what extent can original parts be changed without deteriorating the value? The bike as it is now when it's cleaned up works perfectly smooth, and the frame has just some scratches, all less than 2mm in diameter. Last but not least, do you know how much is the bike worth? David, your bike looks like a million dollars ;) job well done.