If you’ve been around cycling for 30 plus years like me, then you know the Cinelli brand as one of the stalwarts of the industry. Back in the 1980s when I cut my teeth as a junior racer, Cinelli handlebars and stems, with their proprietary 26.4mm clamp diameter, were standard equipment for racing cyclists. Cinelli Supercorsa framesets, in striking cobalt blue and Ferrari red paint schemes accented with chrome lugs, were coveted for their high aesthetics and performance, and to this day they command premium resale prices.
Traditionalists will rejoice at the news that you can still purchase the venerable Cinelli 1A stem at the Cinelli USA website, along with the Model 64 shallow drop handlebars and the old Model 65 “criterium” bars, mine and Roger De Vlaeminck’s personal favorites. But beyond these legacy components, the Cinelli line has expanded greatly in scope and depth, all of it for the better.
First, a quick history of the brand. Cino Cinelli was an Italian road racer active during the WWII era. He won the Giro di Lombardia in 1938 and Milan-San Remo in 1943. After suffering numerous mechanical breakdowns in races, Cino started producing bars and stems with his brother Giotto in Florence in 1948. Eventually the brothers moved the company to the heart of Italian industry, art and fashion, Milan. In 1978, Antonio Colombo of the Columbus tubing company, became president of Cinelli, and the company was eventually folded into the parent company, Gruppo S.r.l., in 1997. Like many Italian companies, it’s still run like a family business.
Also like many Italian companies, production of some entry-level products has moved to Asia, but characteristic Cinelli artistic flair and performance-minded design still infuse the product line. Case in point is the Vigorelli steel track frameset, a lower-priced cousin of the well-heeled and Italian-built Supercorsa Pista frameset, named after Milan’s iconic Vigorelli velodrome and constructed from Columbus Thron tubing. A working-man’s track frameset, the Vigorelli performs well on banked turns as well as Red Hook-style fixed-gear criteriums, thanks to design input from Team Cinelli Chrome, 2015 Red Hook series champions.
Cinelli also offers complete bikes for road, track and the increasingly popular adventure bike category. The Zydeco “full-color” is a disc-brake equipped gravel/adventure bike with an aluminum frame made of Columbus Zonal and striking, multi-color graphics and paint. The Zydeco comes with a mix of SRAM Apex, FSA and Tektro parts with, of course, a Cinelli cockpit.
The aforementioned classic handlebars and 1A stem are accompanied by newer offerings made of both aluminum and carbon fiber with modern 31.8mm clamp diameters. For the ultimate in strength, stiffness and control, the Cinelli Ram 3 carbon fiber integrated bar/stem combo comes with ergonomic design that includes the “Thumb Zone” – a surface recess for resting thumbs. The cable routing is integrated into a cycle computer holder bridge, The Manta Deck, that significantly improves braking and shifting. Progressive Parabolic Action (PPA) shaping allows a perfect hand grip anywhere on the bars.
Any discussion of Cinelli wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the classic finishing touches the company is famous for, including the well-regarded cork ribbon handlebar tape which, upon its release in the 1980s, has launched a thousand imitators. Classic cork handlebar tape is still available in its stalwart hues (including natural cork), but has been joined in the lineup by Volee ribbon, which is synthetic and similar to tennis racquet grip tape, and colored in edgy patterns and hues.
Contributing to Cinelli’s place as a stylistic leader of cycling fashion are any number of lifestyle accessories, including bags, helmets, clothing, scarves and even shop aprons and magnets that keep the famous Cinelli “winged C” logo at the forefront of the collective cycling ethos.
By taking well-established traditions and reinventing its brand in different ways, Cinelli has secured its place in the pantheon of renowned cycling brands for generations to come.