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Retro Tech: Bianchi and the First Mountain Bike

Finally, there is an explanation for why the Euros have been dominating international mountain blking for decades now: None other than Edoardo Bianchi invented the damn thing in Italy.

The flannel-wearing stoners in Marin and the bandana-clad neo-mountain hippies in Crested Butte circa 1975 have long gone back and forth on where the first “mountain bike” was pioneered. That’s all well and good, and it could even be a legit argument if racing the fat-tired bikes is factored.

But Bianchi’s military bike, with its rear suspension, sprung front forks, rim brake and 600×27 tires were on the scene some 60 years earlier than Marin County klunkerz and actually ridden “in anger,” as they came fitted with mounts to carry rifles and machine guns.

The “Model 1912” was designed to ride in the Alps and in Italy’s desert colonies. In an article by Raymond Raife that ran in the Oct. 3, 1912 edition of “Cycling”, the writer said “a considerable number of the bicycles  … are being built with specially high frames, the pedals being raised as much as nearly 12 in. above the usual position. The reason for which is that the pedals shall not strike upon rocks and stones when the machines are being ridden across the desert.”

In 1911, the Italian military commissioned Bianchi to create a bike for the elite Army Alpine Corps, according to Bianchi, which is now owned by Cycleurope Group out of Sweden. Those Bianchi off-road bikes saw action in World War I.

Check out some awesome photos of the Model 1912.

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