Celeste

In grade school, a teacher once asked me to name my favorite color, a query to which I responded with the only logical answer for any prepubescent boy surrounded by scary girls in a small classroom: “Celeste.”

“No, you have to pick a real color.”

While the rest of the world believes the most iconic color in Cycling is made-up, our little world is fascinated by it’s legend. Bianchi once proposed to do away with the color and replace it with another more usual hue and the public overwhelmingly rejected the notion, permanently cementing that particular shade of hangover-green as the official color of the brand.

No one knows the origin of the color, but there are two prevailing theories on the matter. The first is that Eduardo Bianchi matched the color to the Queen of Italy’s eyes, whom he was teaching to ride a bicycle. I don’t buy this theory, personally. I mean, this was before color photography or the internet and no one has a good enough memory to match a color to anything without having a photo to work from. It’s too far-fetched.

The other theory is that Eduardo needed paint and was feeling a bit pinchy with the pennies when he came across an enormous quantity of gray and blue paint at a price – possibly from the Italian Navy which was trying to unload an inventory of paint after it realized that fighting a war on the seas is the worst kind of war you can fight because you have to ration the vino rosso. Eduardo mixed the two colors and out came this iconic shade.

My beloved Bianchi TSX is red, a fact which has me constantly wondering whether I should have it repainted in celeste. A red Bianchi? I love that bike, but who let that sneak out of the factory? My other beloved Bianchi, my XLEv2, is black and yellow with celeste lettering. When I ordered it, the owner of the bike shop – Grand Performance in Saint Paul, Minnesota – pressed me on the fact that only the black frames were available as all the celeste ones had been sold. He wound up giving me a discount out of pity.

I love the fact that no one I interact with outside the Cycling world has any idea that this color exists, or that legends have formed around its existence. These are the sorts of things that separate us from the masses. Vive la Vie Velominatus.

1 Fausto is not, in fact, riding a Bianchi in this photo. The photo is simply too rad not to use, and its black and white.

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81 Replies to “Celeste”

  1. Over the years, my wife would talk about “stucco” and “aubergine” as being colours. I would protest saying that there are only 6 colours; red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violate. I then dicovered cycling, and that there are actually 7 colours. Add celeste. “stucco” and “aubergine” are still not colours.

  2. @Oli

    I love how you’ve used a picture of Coppi NOT riding a Bianchi. Classic.

    I knew you would catch on to that, but the picture is too rad not to use. And I ne’er said he was actually riding a Bianchi…just that he was an icon of the iconic color, which is almost the same as being right.

  3. Celeste, celestial, there is only one color a Bianchi should be, sorry Frank but at least you were precocious!

    How cool to have imprinted a color on your product. Ferraris – red. Kleenex – white. Bianchi celeste stands out and is never confused with imposters and once one has been initiated it becomes the most beautiful of colors!

  4. @Puffy

    Over the years, my wife would talk about “stucco” and “aubergine” as being colours. I would protest saying that there are only 6 colours; red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violate. I then dicovered cycling, and that there are actually 7 colours. Add celeste. “stucco” and “aubergine” are still not colours.

    Stucco is a material and can be died to be any color you like. And Aubergine is a gourd and is disgusting. Both not colors.

  5. I am totally infatuated with Celeste bikes, even skipping out of a business meeting in Milan to go to the Bianchi shop and get a real close look at the Specialissima. I love the fact that there is a debate how the color now is not a trie celeste (which I agree but it still looks awesome). I ended up picking up an old Rekord 914 steel frame and modernizing it for me daughter to support my habit. It turned out so well that I am thinking of how to get one for myself (see my article about testing the s-1 part of Rule #12, I fear there may be another heavy ugly sofa coming….).  Great article Frank hits the spot

  6. @frank And Aubergine is a gourd and is disgusting. Both not colors.

    I don’t think it is a gourd – it’s actually a fruit.

  7. @1860

    … I love the fact that there is a debate how the color now is not a true celeste (which I agree but it still looks awesome)…

    It’s true, though — or at least in a way.  The hue of celeste has changed over the years.  In some years it’s more blue, in some closer to a true green, in some more vivid and in some more pastel.  Perhaps it depends when you first fell in love with a Bianchi, although I’ll still claim that the 1980’s celeste (it of the semi-infamous 1983 ad campaign) is the truest!

    A proper TSX frame:

    The color itself:

    That ad:

    @frank,

    If you do end up looking for a repaint on either frame, Allan Wanta does gorgeous work (although I’d argue that the Bianchi he shows is a little too blue…).

  8. My wife’s Bianchi isn’t actually celeste either; it’s mostly white with subtle bars of celeste on the TT, forks, etc. She doesn’t care, but everyone else seems to be trying to add more celeste to her riding.

    I bought her a celeste Bianchi cap and our friendly local mechanic gave her some celeste Bianchi bidons.

    There’s something special about that brand and that colour, that’s for sure. Not sure I could ride one.

  9. People assume my custom colour Condor Super Acciaio is a Bianchi until they take a closer look.

    Named Fausto of course.

    Great article Frank

  10. I’ve always wanted a Fender Stratocaster finished in Bianchi Celeste. The Fender colour ‘Tropical Turquoise’ is close but doesn’t quite do it for me . . . http://www2.fender.com/support/color-chart/

  11. I could imagine having a celeste Specialissima someday… What a flat out gorgeous bike. I can also imagine having a sea foam green Stratocaster:

  12. There should be a rule for Teams Riding Bianchi’s to match the bike with at least some part of their kit. Lotto Jumbo Yellow looked horrible this year contrasting with the most beautiful bike color of all.

  13. This is all a plot to remind me how stupid I was to sell mine before I found The Way.

  14. Frank, your first paragraph reminds me of the time in elementary school when I was asked to name an inanimate object, the definition being something not living. I replied “corpse.” A correct answer (like yours) but not quite what the teacher was looking for. I’m sure your teacher took a mental note: “need to keep an eye on that boy Strack . . . ”

    That Gimondi pic? 100% Italian perfection.

    Out of respect, no other bike manufacturer should use celeste. I’m looking at you, Condor.

  15. Perhaps he matched it to the moss on all the sunken warships of Il Duce? But the eye color story is better than the surplus paint one for sheer flattery.

  16. I’ve read (probably around here) that Celeste came to be because Bianchi paint shop employees wanted to find out exactly how colorblind Edoardo Bianchi was, by mixing in green paint with blue until he noticed.

    It’s probably not true, but I liked that version.

  17. @Oli

    @Dom

    Rad Picture but it’s not coppi, it’s piet van kempen in 1936!

    Ahahaha, double-classic!

    Crap!

    @Dom, thanks for the clarification! I thought it didn’t look like Coppi, but the various photo captions I was seeing all said it was him.

  18. @cognition

    @1860

    … I love the fact that there is a debate how the color now is not a true celeste (which I agree but it still looks awesome)…

    It’s true, though — or at least in a way.  The hue of celeste has changed over the years.  In some years it’s more blue, in some closer to a true green, in some more vivid and in some more pastel.  Perhaps it depends when you first fell in love with a Bianchi, although I’ll still claim that the 1980’s celeste (it of the semi-infamous 1983 ad campaign) is the truest!

    A proper TSX frame:

    Sweet baby jeebus… now i gotta wipe the drool off my keyboard.

  19. @frank

    This just came across our tumblr.

    It’s a good think that frames from back then had a completely different geometry as that short stumpy thing on the left would be completely useless for you in this day and age.

  20. If I had room to hang yet another bike on the wall of my bedroom (there a 3 already) and 2 more in the spare bedroom it would have to be a steel celeste Bianchi . To find room for one more bike in any other color than celeste would not entice me to find the space for another. It would of course also have to don a steel fork to match the skinny pipes on the frame.

    Is it just me or has anyone else ever noticed how uninteresting it is to walk into a bike shop nowadays and find there is nothing to see ,seems bikes now are devoid of character unless of course on a rare occasion you come across a nice shiny new lugged steel frame built up with campy sitting all lonely in a corner ,ya just want to give it a big hug and take it home.

  21. @frank

    This just came across our tumblr.

    Keepers should do a “Requiem” series article on pantographing.  So fucking rad.

  22. The plate just before the first white truffles were served in Bianchi’s Milan flagship store. My hosts kindly organised a great business dinner in the store plus a tour. I heard both Celeste stories from their EU marketing manager – so it must be true then!

  23. The plate just before the white truffles were served in Bianchi’s Milan store. My hosts kindly invited me for a business dinner in the cycling store – great food! The Bianchi marketing manager told both stories behind the Celeste colour scheme – so it must be true then!

  24. @frank

    @ChrisO

    @frank And Aubergine is a gourd and is disgusting. Both not colors.

    I don’t think it is a gourd – it’s actually a fruit.

    Well, it’s still fucking gross.

    Hey hey, I won’t hear a bad word against egg plant!

  25. I have had my Bianchi for two years now, had some assistance from a friend when selecting as it was my first road bike, amongst his technical advice was ‘also it is cool, 100% cool’ he was right as the predominant Celeste colour made it so and still does. Soon Rule #12 will come into play and my second bike will also be Celeste.

  26. @brett

    @frank

    @ChrisO

    @frank And Aubergine is a gourd and is disgusting. Both not colors.

    I don’t think it is a gourd – it’s actually a fruit.

    Well, it’s still fucking gross.

    Hey hey, I won’t hear a bad word against egg plant!

    said every veggie…

  27. @frank

    An Aubergine is what North Americans call “eggplant” and is edible in the strict sense that it may be chewed and swallowed.  Nasty business, these.

  28. @Richard P

    I have had my Bianchi for two years now, had some assistance from a friend when selecting as it was my first road bike, amongst his technical advice was ‘also it is cool, 100% cool’ he was right as the predominant Celeste colour made it so and still does. Soon Rule #12 will come into play and my second bike will also be Celeste.

    For a long time, all I could ever imagine buying were Bianchi’s. It might be time to start thinking about trying them out again; they are doing some interesting stuff that seems to be serving Sep pretty well on the rough stuff.

  29. @Michael Arant

    @frank

    An Aubergine is what North Americans call “eggplant” and is edible in the strict sense that it may be chewed and swallowed.  Nasty business, these.

    Fucking disgusting, as I’ve had the pleasure of saying three times now. FFS.

    Besides, you’re likely to be bitten by a black snake if you try to pick one up at the grocery store. That’s one of nature’s little warning systems right there.

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2913463/Fruit-vegetable-store-worker-bitten-snake-unpacking-box-eggplants.html

  30. I find myself loving the colour one day and hating it on others. My local shop near my work is a Bianchi dealer and I will likely be buying a new bike about this time next year. The question for me is can I handle riding a celeste bike every day? Am I better off getting a black Oltre with celeste highlights? Given my opinion of the colour changes with my mood at the time this makes it a tough question. That and I do like the look of the Propels…

  31. @wiscot

    Out of respect, no other bike manufacturer should use celeste. I’m looking at you, Condor.

    Or, worse, Trek Factory Racing 2013:

    Yes, it’s a shade more blue than true celeste, but sweet Merckx, Coppi, and Gimondi — have some respect.

  32. A vintage steel Bianchi can only be one colour – Celeste, but a modern carbon

    … you have options there. Eg;

  33. Have 4 Bianchi, Steel celeste, Carbon Celeste, Carbon black with Celeste markings and Aluminum with no celeste but at least has classic panels.  In a world that was Titanium grey for years and now is Black or Flat Black it still stands out even when unpopular.  Ferarri Red, Mercedes Silver, Belgian Blue, Merckx Orange, Wilier Copper, etc.  Who will remember Specialized black, BMC Black w/red, Trek USPS Blue?

    Think Ulrich in that classic Bianchi retro jersey.  Maybe not the best, cutting edge bike, but they handle great and everyone who buys a non-celeste always regrets it.

  34. @wilburrox

    My name just happens to be Celeste. Really. So I can only love the color. And my bike is a Colnago, and it is pink. Tragic, no?

  35. @frank

    @Michael Arant

    @frank

    An Aubergine is what North Americans call “eggplant” and is edible in the strict sense that it may be chewed and swallowed.  Nasty business, these.

    Fucking disgusting, as I’ve had the pleasure of saying three times now. FFS.

    Besides, you’re likely to be bitten by a black snake if you try to pick one up at the grocery store. That’s one of nature’s little warning systems right there.

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2913463/Fruit-vegetable-store-worker-bitten-snake-unpacking-box-eggplants.html

    Ah but the Italians call it melanzane (mel-uhn-ZAR-nay) and it just sounds delicious. Properly prepared they have a beautiful creamy texture and can soak up flavours.

    Aubergine is the essential ingredient of moussaka, which is an authentic classic so if you think you have more culinary nous than two thousand years of Greek and Italian grandmothers then you go right ahead and tell them.

    As for being bitten by snakes, in Australia you can suffer multiple deadly injuries from snakes, spiders and crazy birds just walking to the bus stop. Fucking attention-seeker.

  36. @Teocalli

    This is all a plot to remind me how stupid I was to sell mine before I found The Way.

    that´s exactly what I thought. i had a nice steel lugged one from probably the 70-es, but was way to young to appreciate it. then swapped it for another steel one in celeste but with the yellow fading paint scheme like il pirata had on his one after he won the giro and the tour.

    i´ll have to give the new owner a call these days…

  37. That’s one lovely bike, but I’m also hugely impressed by the massive cactus in next-door’s garden!

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