An outstanding cyclist, an ingenious designer, and an innovator helped to move cycling to the threshold of the 21st century. The Cinelli brand has been producing supreme quality sports bicycles for decades, even though – or is it because? – the Milano-based company put out just several thousand bicycles per year until the 1970s.
Cinelli’s cycling career peaked during the World War II. After the war, he quit racing and started producing and designing bicycles as well as innovating bicycle components. Today, some of his patents are considered classic. Cinelli believed that frames needed to be stiffer and that the geometry was too relaxed on most of the models of the era. He designed a fork crown with sloping shoulders and internal lugs. This allowed for shorter blades and resulted in a fork that was stiffer. Cinelli also redesigned the seat collar, placing the seatstays behind the lug rather than alongside it.
The innovations that he brought to cycling are numerous. They include the first aluminium handlebars accepted by the pros, the first plastic saddle, the Unicantor, designed in 1962, which provided a template for most modern saddles, and the first clipless pedal known as the M71 released in 1971.
Cinelli also put his trademark touch on hub design with the introduction of the Bivalent q/r hubs. This design left the freewheel in the rear of the frame so the wheel could be used in the front or rear. The idea was ahead of its time and the price was twice that of a Campagnolo hub. He is also the designer behind the Laser bicycle, one of the first aero “funny” bikes. This model was instrumental in winning many national and global trophies.
Ole Ritter used a Cinelli to set the one-hour record in 1968. This model used longer cranks and Campagnolo hubs that were 2 cm narrower than conventional hubs. It also ran on special tubulars made exclusively for this record attempt. In addition, the bike featured a special fork with wing-shaped blades for lower wind resistance. Cinelli’s modifications and improvements won him the admiration and love of generations of racers and design connoisseurs despite his pricing which was never in the low end.
Cinelli retired in 1978 but his company carries on and its name commands respect across the cycling community all over the world. Speaking of which, a piece of very good news has been recently received. A book describing the world of the “Cinelli cult” has been finally published. Titled The Art and Design of the Bicycle, the book offers to take you on a trip to the magical world of Cino Cinelli.