Saturday, August 4, 2012

Bianchi Reparto Corse TSX with Campagnolo 8-Speed - A True Classic

Allow me to explain my absence with this: I'm engaged. Work has had me traveling a lot. Also my interests have been shifting. Photography is still a great passion in my life but bikes have really taken over my focus for the time being. Also, my D700 took a bath (on my account) when I decided to take it into the ocean. Hey, no pain no gain. So that will have to be sent in for repair (it's only minorly affected). All that said, still Nicole is the center of my world right now and I have been enjoying every minute of it. Seeing as how this is not a wedding blog though, I will spare the details. Just because I spend all my time with her, doesn't mean we don't maintain our own separate hobbies. Many many bikes have been in and out of my (new) apartment since my last post and I have been learning so much about building bikes as well as cycling. I look forward to continuing to grow and share in the same way  I did with photography. So on with my latest project!

I will be adding to this article but it has been sitting in draft a little long and I just want to get something posted so things may be changing over the next couple days.

The Bianchi Reparto Corse TSX

Considering the money it takes to marry a girl these days, either I have plenty of money (*cough* not the case) or an important monetary lesson that is yet to be learned. So yeah, I keep an eye on the markets and when the right bikes come along, I can't help myself!

I came across this beauty on eBay. I don't normally look for older vintage bikes on eBay since shipping costs often make them cost prohibitive. This bike, however, happened to be located in my city. And it was strangely absent from craigslist, which I would think would be the go-to for bikes. At the BIN price listed, I had to have it. And it was so.

I was now the owner of another Bianchi steel frame ride complete with classic Campagnolo 8-speed components, which is actually my first experience with Campagnolo integrated shifters, or Campagnolo ErgoPower. Until now, it has been downtube shifting for me. I love the color. I love the Celeste detailing. I love the quality craftsmanship that can be found throughout the bike. Little pantographed "B" here, completely chromed frame there...truly a work of art. And best of all, wonderfully functional.

Build Specifications
This build is not original to the manufacturer. The person I bought this from claimed to have purchased in from a shop (not specified if he got it new). Though he wasn't a builder I don't believe I received this bike as it was originally sold. The wheelset didn't match, hubs of different periods and cues. I went ahead and began to change some things myself and they are noted below.

Brand: Bianchi
Model: Reparto Corse TSX*
Year: Late 90's
Frame: Columbus TSX Cyclex Steel
Headset: 1" Campagnolo Athena
Fork: 1" Threaded Steel Unicrown (unbranded) 
Stem: 1" quilled ITM aluminum (also branded "Bianchi") 
Handlebars: 3T (TTT) Forma
Seat post: 27.2mm Campagnolo Athena Aero (originally Nitto - Ritchey aluminum)
Saddle: Flite Titanium (Celeste)
Bottom Bracket: Campagnolo Veloce 68 x 111mm (campagnolo square taper)

Brake Calipers: Campagnolo Veloce Monoplaner
Brake Levers and Shifters: Campagnolo Veloce ErgoPower 8x2
Front Derailleur Mount: Braze-on
Front Derailleur: Campagnolo Chorus double (originally Veloce)
Rear Derailleur: Campagnolo Chorus 8-speed
Crank: Campagnolo Croce D'Aune 52/42 double (originally Veloce)
Cassette: Campagnolo Veloce 8-speed

Rims: FIR Nettuno (front) Mavic CPX33 (rear)
Hubs: Campagnolo Chorus
Tires: Vittoria Rubino III (celeste)

*In all my searching around the web, I seem to find this model most often a combination of  what are typically just characteristics of bikes. It was developed in Bianchi's separate Reparto Corse (Race Division). It also features Columbus tubing, Columbus TSX to be precise. And thus the name I find associated with it is the Bianchi Reparto Corse TSX.  

Columbus TSX Tube Set

"Columbus TSX (Cyclex Steel) - Tube set for professional use coupling maximum performance with reduced weight. It is particularly suitable for stage races of more than 150Km of mixed terrain. In addition to butted walls, this set has five helicoidal reinforcements thus giving greater rigidity against tube flexing and torsion." -

TSX appears to have been the next step in evolution from the SLX tubing. The weight is noted in the above link: heavier than EL and MAX, but lighter than most of the other Columbus tube sets. Admittedly though, weight is not everything. I also noticed other people have Columbus stickers that read "TSX Ultralight" and have heard it called TSX/UL. I am unsure at this point if that is different from simple, TSX tubing.

This specific frameset features internally routed cabling. I have worked with some other bikes that had internally routed cable and this Bianchi has been by far, the easiest installation yet. Perhaps the Raleigh Techniums I was refitting had an internal issues with their cable routing but they didn't install as smoothly as this. With the Bianchi, I slid the new housing in, and it popped right out the other side as if guided perfectly internally.

I never weighed the frameset despite it sitting bare for a number of months while I pieced together the components. It isn't an exceptionally light frame, but it is certainly not heavy. Again, TSX sits toward the top of Columbus's hierarchy of tubing in terms of quality and weight (being lighter than most) since it was designed for professional racing use. I'm not much of a weight weenie since the first step to cutting grams would be for me to stick to one beer, or pass on the ice cream next time. 

Campagnolo 8-speed Groupset - ErgoPower

As I said before, this is my first experience with Campagnolo's ErgoPower system. And like many other folks I see on the forums, I have been drooling over those little silvery shift lobes since I began assembling bikes. They sit sculpturally nestled in behind the brake lever. Unlike the Shimano STI stuff I have played with, they index firmly, and intentionally. I actually had a set of Record levers I bought on eBay to swap out but decided I liked the look of the Veloce better. 

The front derailleur is a braze-on fitting as seen below.

As for the crank, this Croce D'Aune is not original to the bike. I would not have changed it out had it not been for me stripping the threads with the crank puller. And just a note, even though I had done this, be sure the crank puller is fully threaded into the crank when you attempt to remove it, otherwise you risk stripping the threads and putting yourself out of a crank while creating a very pretty paper weight. Even though I did this, the threads stripped. As it turned out, even after I scrapped the attempt to carefully separate the crank from the bottom bracket non-destructively, using the right tools, degreasers, time (2 days), and other methods, I resorted (out of pride) to merely attempting to part the two whatever the cost. Once the two, still melded together, were removed from the frame, so as to prevent damaging the bottom bracket, I tried a gear puller, a ball joint separator, I got a correctly sized bolt to partially thread into the drive-side. With the crank arm support, I attempted to hammer the bottom bracket out of the arm. No such luck. I finally admitted defeat and sold the challenge for $8 to someone on eBay (with a full description). Best of luck!

Campagnolo Monoplaner Brakes

The very sexy monoplaner brakes have often been talked about for their style however their braking power is nothing to write home about. They stop just fine, but I find my dual pivot Tektro R736 along with H+Son rims to still be the most amazing caliper braking I have used to date. But again, look at those monoplaner brakes...

The Ride Quality

I love Bianchi bikes. They just didn't make that many bikes that weren't worthy of keeping for at least some reasons. They look great. They ride better. I harp on it all the time but to me, they represent functional art to a T.

This TSX is no exception. Obviously with the tubing and components it was stocked with, it was built for performance. The steel rides firmly. As in the article in the resources section, while I am not nearly as seasoned a rider as the writer, I definitely feel the flex of the steel despite the claim that the rifling gives added stiffness. While it may do this, the frame still has some movement to it. But it is a lively movement. Not out of control or unnerving.

The geometry of the frame aids in giving the bike an overall responsiveness perfect for nimbly zipping across town. The weight from the various components on this build do not keep this bike light and thus it feels quite substantial as I cruise down declines. The road just sort of whispers softly below.

For me, creating a ride with a coherent color scheme is also a large factor in my enjoyment of the bike. I love the chroming of the frame. The stays are chrome, the silvery parts gleaming in harmony alongside. The celeste details abound including the "E. Bianchi" signature on the top tube, the pantographed "B" and "Bianchi" on the headtube/downtube lug and bottom bracket, respectively. The standard logo on the headtube brandishes the small celeste colored banner. Matching cables and tires were a must with this one.

The only part of the bike I am rather confused about is the fork. People on the forums seem to agree and rail against "unicrown" forks. I am not a fan either. Unlike the lugged forks of the past, these unicrown fork possess that clumsy, lazy looking curve rather than an elegant form with matching lugs which Bianchi often pantographs with their "B" or crest. I at least appreciate the matching frame color that extends partially down the fork with this model, then is masked off to reveal the chrome.

Another drag of the unicrown fork is that it often leaves very little room for any tired larger than a 700x23c. And lastly, whats with the decals? These don't match anything, stylistically, on the bike. I find them strange and am still contemplating removing them.

Future Changes

I am still considering a few changes. I'd like to add a classic aero campagnolo seatpost in chrome. I'd also like a better, more cohesive stem. I have been looking everywhere for a forged, quill stem that has a dual bolt installation for the handlebars so that I wouldn't have to remove the brakes from the bar to change out the stem. This stem currently has that which is why I have failed to change it because it's a nice feature.

I also may change out the cable stops to Campagnolo silver, instead of the black plastic. I tend to prefer metal and the color would match a little better.


This is a pretty neat scan of a classic article describing a cyclists chance to ride several steel frames, all set up exactly the same. The only difference, the steel. The results are quite surprising. Columbus TSX is among them:

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