A travel around the 100 editions of Giro d’Italia to discover the history of two-wheeled vehicles, from early models to modern racing bikes.
On exhibition the most interesting bicycles of the Museum collection.
The moments when we learn to ride a bike - when we feel that we can control that unstable balance through speed - belongs to our cherished individual memories.
The emotion blooms from the encounter between our abilities and the potential of such a seemingly timeless and simple vehicle. This emotion corresponds perhaps to the very essence of cycling, and relates to the beginning of a technology history where the sporting dimension is the fundamental factor of evolution.
On the one hand, the birth of velocipedes corresponds to a specific need for transportation, in fact in 1816, the "year with no summer", the scarcity of the crops caused the death of cattle and there was a strong need for an alternative to horse transportation. On the other hand, the first cycles were constructed for entertainment purposes. It will take a century to turn them into easy, cheap and widespread means of transport.
The route from the dandy horse to the modern bicycle, between experiments and patents, runs on the line of speed. In this first season, the competitive dimension focuses on the performance of the vehicle, and the establishment of rewarding awards supports the technological innovation of the vehicle.
Compared to the object, the cyclist - inventor, dandy, equilibrist or strongman - is a secondary actor.
With the birth of modern bicycles, between the end of the nineteenth and the early twentieth century, a new season opens witnessing two distinct phenomena: the use of the vehicle as a mass means of transportation and the popularity of cycling champions.
Even in this second period, evolutions are driven by the sporty essence of the vehicle and by the agonistic practice. The sporting vehicle and the means of transport basically coincide, so technological innovations aimed at improving racing performances also affected the mass production. But the innovations introduced, however significant, do not change the general layout of the bicycle.
What changes radically during this season of cycling is the fulcrum of the agonistic dimension: it shifts from the medium to the athlete. The trigger of this change is the establishment of long competitions, where victory largely depends on the ability, experience, preparation and psychological conditioning of the athlete. In the context of these competitions, the Giro d'Italia, now in its 100th edition, is an emblematic example: its champions are not merely flamboyant athletes to be applauded at the end of the competition, but real heroes that must be supported during the difficulties of the course, icons of their respective epochs and reliable mirrors of their time and of social changes.
This vehicle, powered by the alternating thrust of the feet on the ground, is considered the first step of a history leading to the development of the modern bicycle. Crucial to this consideration is the presence of the front steering wheel, which allows the small and continuous adjustments of the trajectory necessary to maintain the rider’s balance. With this vehicle, in 1817, Karl Drais covers 28 km from Mannheim to Schwetzingen, Alsace.
In a mechanical workshop such as the Edoardo Bianchi, active in Milan since 1885, the best model is available for 360 lire. With 20 lire more, the bikes for champions were optimized for racing thanks to lightweight wooden wheels and palmer tires.
On this bicycle, in 1907, the French Petit-Breton wins the first edition of the Milan-Sanremo race.
Bianchi racing bicycle belonging to Stefano Garzelli.
Among the most competitive cyclists in the history of the Giro, Garzelli is also considered one of the best Italian climbers, also competitive as rouleur, in flights and stopwatch races.