If you're into riding there's a strong chance you're into.. riding anything you can with two wheels. The motorcycle bug was birthed out of the bicycle bug. Of course, the bicycle bug was the first taste of freedom most children experience. And who can't remember thinking, if only this thing propelled itself?
Somewhere in storage is a Schwinn Stingray. Around a '72 vintage. Red, banana seat, original ape hangers. Prett bike, actually. It was followed by an national anniversary paint schemed Free Spirit from an earlier generation of big box stores, Sears. I don't have mine in my physical possession but I can tell you exactly where it is. Hanging in my best friend's parents' garage. It's um, been slightly altered. The taped on pattern has been removed, revealing a beautiful red to blue blending color scheme. The old frame is still intact and from what I've seen, the old chromed rims are not rusted. Catastrophic failure be damned, it'll have to be the fading brakes which will fail me and send me beyond where I'd hope to go, er, stop.
Then came the Univega. A flashy red sportscar of a road bike. Impressive geometry and my first experience with friction shifting. I'd loved it. And like a fool I would let it pass from my hands. A Giant brand road bike took its place. A stiff aluminum frame with a carbon fork and more gears than necessary. But a five mile per hour tailwind could coast that thing on level ground. I have it, but with young children it didn't take long to want a bike which better fit the needs of family oriented rides. About this time I even won another Giant. A mountain bike which...well, how to say this... the model name of the machine is Boulder. I kid you not. And it rides like one. I felt like B.C. from the comics. Riding my Giant Boulder. My son gets that one in a few years. Definitely.
Enter the Raleigh Superbe, circa 1972. It's green. They're all green. I heard or read they came in other colors but I don't believe them. This one made it all the way to central Minnesota by way of the shop closest to my childhood home. Imagine that! Original leather Brooks saddle, frame mounted pump, in-hub generator with functioning head and tail lights. It isn't retro, it's the real thing.
But you're waiting for the bike to which our title is ascribed.
Ever heard of a frame design known as a mixte? It's supposed to be a unisex frame design from Europe. Where the top of the diamond frame attaches at the handlebars seems usual enough. Except that instead of making a horizontal line to the seat post, the bars (there are two of them) are lugged in the front, at the handlebars, and pass on either side of the frame, bisecting the seat tube and ending at the rear sprocket. Great design strengthwise. Often considered a ladies bike stateside. Most often found at garage sales and flea markets although a resurgance of the design is making a comeback. Trek has recently released a mixte framed model called the Belleville. Only that one comes with the new price smell. My VespaBianchi mixte came with the much less pricy forty dollar aroma. You might be familiar with that one if you've ever seriously considered yard sale bikes. And don't knock em, some of the neatest old machines can be had for little money. Machines in barely used condition, often with high end aftermarket parts bolted replacing the originals. Or, as my crazy Vespa linked find, with about as much use showing as one would expect of a bike moved around the back of a garage since, what the late seventies or early eighties.
Did Piaggio own Bianchi for a time? I don't know. I've seen all of two bikes identical to mine on the vast resourse of the internet. And virtually no back story. The Craigslist ad merely called it an Astrale. I only discovered it to be a Bianchi when I got there. I didn't need to think about whether or not to buy [it] when I saw the Piaggio symbols and the Vespa/Bianchi one piece decal down the seat tube. And this one is definitely a deeper darker shade of Bianchi blue than the Bianchis I've seen.
All I can say is, I couldn't pass up a bike with obviously factory applied decals somehow connecting it to one of the icon brands of all scooterdom.
C'est La Vespa