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.