B&R and Bianchi:
A Perfect Pairing

BY Around The World

In the long-ago year of 1988, I joined B&R as an apprentice bike mechanic. That year and the next, a group of 10 of us worked (and played) hard, putting tuned bikes under travellers in the exploding niche of active travel and European bike tours.

In Hybrids, an Industrial Revolution
Edoardo Bianchi
B&R’s been biking since 1966, which makes us the new kids on the block compared to Edoardo Bianchi; he began making bikes in Milan in 1885!

Part of our assignment was building up a new portion of our fleet with flat handlebars, modified cousins of the (then) newly popular mountain bike. These ‘flat-bar hybrids’ were revolutionary in the industry, particularly in Europe, where a blend of quality components, easy gearing, and road tires with a comfortable upright riding position was unheard of. Hybrids were instantly popular among the Butterfield set, and to this day, two-thirds of our European travellers choose one for their cycling adventure.

Flash forward a quarter-century to find that same once-scruffy mechanic, yours truly, now at the front end of the process, entrusted to lead our Operations team in the search for the next great hybrid for our trips. Our Cannondales have served us well, but now they’re off to other destinations – Myanmar, Morocco, Argentina – for a well-earned, more exotic tour of duty. In their place come the newest and best bikes we’ve ever—well, maybe I’m getting ahead of myself. Before the introduction, a word or two on just what we were looking for, and how we found them.

Hybrids are a challenge to design. Intended primarily for the beginner/intermediate active traveller, they need to nail the three physical touch-points between bike and body: handlebar (which determines riding angle and back comfort); saddle (comfort here needs no explanation); and pedals (essentially, appropriate gearing). And then there is the fourth key, stability, which is a mix of overall balance and tire width. While providing all this, they also need to be lightweight, sturdy, and stylish. It’s a tricky recipe.

More Than a Supplier
At home at last: one of our new Bianchis in our atelier in Beaune.
At home at last: one of our new Bianchis in our atelier in Beaune.

And so our search for the next-generation hybrid began nearly a year and a half ago, at Interbike, North America’s largest bicycle industry event. After initial conversations with some twenty manufacturers, over the course of many months we narrowed the list down, eliminating those who could not deliver the specifications we required or who didn’t fit with the B&R brand. Once at the short-list, the hard work began as we meticulously spec’ed out every element, from frames to bottle cages to custom colours – maniacal attention to detail is a trademark of our trips, and it’s no different with our equipment. We were not looking just for a supplier but for a partner, and in the end we found one we are proud to team with: Italy’s industry leader, Bianchi.

With a history dating back to the late 19th century(!), Bianchi is a legend in the cycling world. The bike we have designed with them is perfect for our travellers, and worthy of the lofty reputation of both brands. Interestingly, for B&R this is the first-ever hybrid fleet to come from Europe, and we’re very excited to be breaking new ground in this way. The new rides hit all of the key elements mentioned above, with that trademark Italian design flair to boot. They will debut this spring across Europe.

Ready to Ride?

Chris knows our new Bianchi fleet better than anyone, but you’ll have to trust us when we say words can’t do these bikes justice. Click the button below, find a European adventure that suits your palate, and find out for yourself just how our hybrids handle. (Spoiler alert: exceptionally well.)

Experts + Insiders
View or Add Comments
  1. We loved the bikes we used on our trip last year on the Loire Valley trip. Can we buy them since you are updating your fleet?

    1. Hi Andrea. Thanks for responding, and thanks all the more for the compliment about our hybrid bikes. Indeed, we think they are great, and it is flattering that you are interested in having one permanently. We are currently compiling a list of interested buyers and can add your name(s) to the list for consideration.

  2. Just checking on a very important question that wasn’t answered: How much do the new bikes weigh? I am a small person; even though I’m strong I find it difficult to do hills if I’m on a heavy bike. I’ve cycled with lots of bike companies (many trips with B&R including a private trip I organized coming up in September) and if the bike is heavy I don’t have fun! Also, heavy bikes reduce the number of trips I now sign up for because hills are just too difficult. So, let me know the weight! Thanks.

    1. Thanks for asking Maureen! Our new hybrid bikes will weigh pretty much the same as their Cannondale predecessors, which means about 23lbs. (10.5kg) for an average-sized one. This does include some accessories such as a rear rack and kickstand, which, if it would help, can easily be removed during your trip to lighten the load somewhat.

  3. Do you have the bikes that are man powered but when the ‘man (woman) runs out of power’, the battery kicks in. And so, half and half.

    If so, this bike will allow me to continue riding with you.

    P.S. I adored your Puglia trip.

    1. Hi Joyce,

      We do indeed have those bikes. I think the bikes you’re referring to are our electric-assist bikes, which provide an added boost when you need it. You can get more information on e-bikes and the rest of our fleet here: http://www.butterfield.com/about/equipment/bikes/ Of course, B&R Travel Advisors will also be happy to answer any questions you have.

      p.s. So glad you loved Puglia! We’re big fans, too: http://www.butterfield.com/blog/2013/01/17/in-puglia-its-all-about-love/

    1. Hi Wally, thanks for asking. We absolutely still have our drop-bar fleet in Europe. You can choose between a Cannondale drop-bar racing bike, our new Bianchi hybrids, or one of our electric assist bikes.

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