The Bianchi Pista. Or why you should/shouldn’t buy one.
Often thought of as a bit of a hipster bike, I’m pretty sure that most of the Pistas sold never end up being used on the track. I’ll be honest, mine hasn’t, at least not yet*
But, This is a bicycle that looks the part and can be pretty nippy. Whether it’s the chrome version, spotted often in London with bullhorns, or a classic celeste frame with drops like mine.
At the other end of things there’s the Super Pista, which is completely different and actually gets used on the track. I’m yet to see one out on the road, but thanks to the miracle of Instagram, Flickr and pretty much all social media, I can see that some people are using them on the road somewhere, just evidently not in my neighbourhood. Anyway…
According to Bike Snob, there are a ton of Pistas doing the rounds on Craigslist and second hand sites in the US, purchased by people who think they look cool, but don’t really understand what they’re actually buying.
Then, they ride them, realise it’s a track bike and decide to sell it to buy something a bit more suited to their needs, maybe something a little more upright, certainly something less aggressive, probably something Dutch. Track geometry belongs on the track, right?
I can sympathise. When I bought mine, used, from eBay for a very reasonable price, i thought I’d snagged myself a bargain. A few weeks of riding it, however, and I hated the narrow track bars, the hoods hurt my hands, the stem was too short and it was just uncomfortable. Opting to run the freewheel meant I was at the mercy of the fairly weak brakes too.
On the track without any hoods, I expect the bars are absolutely fine and of course, there would be no need for brakes, but like all of those unloved Pistas on the aforementioned websites, mine was bought for use on the road…
- Mainly due to laziness, I didn’t do much to change it, apart from swapping out the stem. Then, a crash with another cyclist resulted in me needing a new front wheel and new handlebars. Finally, the perfect excuse to also swap out everything brake related. I took the decision to do all of the work myself to improve my bike mechanic skills as I’m pretty inept. Thank goodness for YouTube, big up GCN.
This is the Pista now:
Messy bartape aside, it feels like a completely different bike.
Essentially, it is a very different bike. The narrow bars, made of steel and rather heavy, have been replaced with some wider, lighter Deda bars. The substandard brakes and cheap levers have been swapped out for Cane Creek levers and the Campag skeleton brakes that I bought last year finally came out of their box. The final addition was a Shimano RS21 wheel that was sitting around in my flat.
The end result is, for me, the perfect city bike, at least for London. The steel frame is comfortable enough, even on some of the harsher roads around town. The new bars are a better fit for me, and the brakes are doing their job well. Despite the fact that I did all of the work myself, and it could look a bit tidier, it hasn’t fallen apart yet…
Ultimately, it took a crash and the need to spend a few quid to improve the bike, but the initial cost of the bike was minimal (in relative terms) so with a few upgrades, I still spent around £350 all in, or thereabouts.
Admittedly there’s no major climbs near me, so the 46:16 gearing has been fine in town and the odd spin around Richmond Park, but I’m sure I could tackle bigger climbs with a change of chainring and/or freewheel if I wanted to.
For every one of these that gets sold on eBay or gumtree, Craigslist, whatever, someone gets their hands on what has the potential to be a pretty decent everyday bike. So while you shouldn’t buy a Pista purely based on aesthetics, if you’re tempted to buy one, bear in mind that you might need to swap a few components out if you plan to ride it on the road. It’s supposed to be a track bike, after all.
*I’d like to say that I’ll use mine on the track, but as I’ve never ridden on the track, it’s impossible to say when or if that will happen. I reckon I’d probably go for a Dolan or a Planet X if I was looking to buy a track bike…