Friday, September 5, 2008


Cino Cinelli autographed picture. (courtesy David Beck)

Cino Cinelli from La Gazzetta dello Sport dated May 3, 1939. An image of him wearing the maglia rosa. (courtesy David Beck)

An illustration from "Guerin Sportivo" dated 25.04.39, just prior to the Giro d'Italia.It depicts the sprinters of the race, Aldo Bini, Cino Cinelli, Olympio Bizzi and Glauco Servadei. (courtesy of David Beck)

An ad congratulating Cino Cinelli and team Frejus for their win at the 1939 Giro della Campania. From the "Guerin Sportivo" dated 27.06.39. (courtesy David Beck)

An illustration of Cino Cinelli afer his win at the 1939 Giro Della Campania. "Cino Cinelli who won in sprint Bartali on the Giro della Campania." From the "Guerin Sportivo" dated 27.06.39. (courtesy David Beck)

Cino Cinelli posing with bike and trophy after winning the Giro della Campania in 1939. From the "Il Nouvo Giornale Sport" dated 27.06.39. (courtesy of David Beck)
Cinelli headbadge artwork by

1950s Enamel stembadge. Silver-plated brass. *

1940: Cino Cinelli is the Bianchi rider on the left, then Bartali looking in the other direction. Coppi is the one sitting down. Leoni is the one reading the results page. *

1967: the Cinelli stand at the Milan bike fair, Cino on right. *

1967: Cino, left, at Milan bike fair. *

Cino Cinelli and Fausto Coppi at the Cinelli stand at the Milan bike fair, undated

Undated photo of Cino Cinelli with a classic silver Super Corsa

The Cinelli Story (La Storia) by MARK PETRY (

ed. note: text only; photographs from different sources
"Cinelli frames have a loyal following with bicycle fans world wide. They were produced in small quantities (750 in the best years) till the company was sold to A.L. Columbo group in the late 70's. Cinelli frames made up until that point where used used mainly for Olympic and World Championship teams (ed. note: 1960 gold medal Olympic team on Cinelli's).

Cino Cinelli was a successful bicycle racer in Italy, winning Milan-San Remo in 1943 and. He started using some of the ideas he had created in his head during those year s of racing, when he began building frames after Word War II. Cinelli thought that frames needed to be stiffer and that the geometry was to relaxed on most of the models of that era. He created a fork crown that had sloping shoulders and internal lugs. This allowed the blades to be shorter and created a stiffer fork . Cinelli also redesigned the seat collar, bring the seatstays in behind the lug rather that along side it. Fausto Coppi was one of the first to use these new features when he raced on a Cinelli frame in 1947.

Cinelli also was known for components, his steel stems and bars where classic. There where a number of innovations that he brought to cycling. The first clipless pedal, the M71 was released in 1971.

The first aluminum handlebars to be accepted by the pros. The first plastic saddle, the Unicantor was designed in 1962 and became the model which all of todays saddles are based.

Hub design was an area that Cinelli put his trademark on with the introduction of the Bivalent q/r hubs. This design left the freewheel behind in the frame, and the wheel could be used in the front or rear. The idea was ahead of it's time, and the cost which was about twice what a Campagnolo hub would cost.
Cinelli also created the Laser bicycle which was one of the first aero “funny” bikes. This model was used to win many national and world titles. Ole Ritter used a Cinelli to set the hour record in 1968. This model had longer cranks and Campagnolo hubs that were 2 cm. narrower than conventional hubs. This bike ran on special tubulars made just for this record attempt. The bike also had a special fork with winged shaped blades for lower wind resistance.

In Italy the professional racers have a special attachment to Cino Cinelli. The relationship developed between Cino, Gino Bartali and Fausto Coppi. Cino was the foundation of the Italian Professional Cycling Association for professional riders. The idea was to represent the riders interest in the Italian Bicycling Federation, as well as the Italian Sports Federation (CONI). Cino was the president of the association for 24 years. His book on training for cycling remains a classic to this day.

Cinelli serial numbers do not run in sequence. Only in the post - 1981 timeframe (corresponding to the sale of the company to A.L. Columbo) do the serial numbers indicate the date. Some frames may have sat unsold for years in the shop, others may have been built by subcontractors.

The key to dating a Cinelli is the lugs (3 holes or no hole) and the bottom bracket oil port. The presence or absence of these features will help to establish the manufacturing date of a Cinelli frame. The BB port disappeared in about 1965. The 3 holes in the lugs appeared in about 1968. The Special Corsa ("A" model) is distinguished by its sloping fork crown, where the "B" model has a conventional flat fork crown:

The "C" model is known as the "Riviera":

There may have been a factory lightweight model, featuring a milled BB - 3 such bikes are known (ed. note: there was a lightweight model with a drilled BB; see

Steven Maasland contributed the following on the debate recently about the significance of the SC on Cinelli bikes, I wrote to Andrea Cinelli to see if he could shed any light onto the matter. The question was, essentially, what is the difference between a Speciale Corsa and a Super Corsa. His response was:

"Le etichette "Speciale Corsa" e "Supercorsa" identificano lo stesso modello di telaio o bici: venivavo abbreviate "S.C.", in cui la "S" indicava "Speciale" o "Super", mentre la "C" indicava "Corsa", per differenziare il modello più economico: "modello B"."

Which translates to: The labels Speciale corsa and supercorsa identified the same model of frame or bike: they were abbreviated "S.C.", in whihc the "S" indicated "Speciale" or "Super", whereas the "C" indicated "Corsa", to differentiate from the more economical model: "Modello B."

"Avevamo temporaneamente esaurito un' etichetta e per un equivoco dello stampatore la lettera "S" ha avuto due significati diversi. Errori simili succedevano in passato anche con i francobolli con grande "soddisfazione" dei collezionisti che lucravano prezzi più alti sul mercato."

Which translates to: We had temporarily run out of a label and due to a
printer's error, the letter "S" had two different meanings. Similar errors have also happened in the past with postage stamps to the great "satisfaction" of collectors who have sought more lucrative prices on the market.

It would therefore appear that there is no intended difference whatsoever
between the two denominations."

CINELLI REGISTRY for pre-1984 Cinelli's
A registry of Cinelli bikes by serial numbers is published at As noted above, serial numbers do not run in sequence but there are clusters of numbers around particular years that may help you identify the year of your Cinelli. If you have additonal information to add to the registry email with the words “CINELLI Registry” in the subject line.

CINELLI Stems and Handlebars Timeline

"Among the most sought-after of all vintage lightweights. A few heretics claim they are over rated. I say take a closer look and get a clue - or buy a Cannondale. Many Cinelli frames show exquisite mitering, smooth and even brazing, and lots of lug thinning. This is even true for many examples from the early 50's! Sure they have deep ugly file marks too - but that is only the surface! Add to the equation that many ride pretty close to perfection - at least as some would define it. Cinelli frames are also a visual feast with Italian style that just won't quit. In Japan, appreciation for Cinelli products is near cult-like. A Cinelli is an icon of cycling tradition. Sure, a few Cinelli frames have some lapses here and there - but don't miss the point. Cinelli frames defined the paradigm of a quality racing bike for decades. (ed. note: photo of 1957 Cinelli):

Around 1978 Cinelli was sold to the Columbo family. There are bikes with either the new or old logo's from this period. Until about 1980, while the graphics could go either way, the brake bridges and bottom bracket shells had new Cinelli logs making these bikes recognizable. From around 1980 until perhaps 1981 or 1982, Cinelli bikes with the new logo using a 26.2 seatpost and the lugs with 3 holes in each were very nice. Many do not consider these to be "real" Cinelli bikes, but they are at least as good as many of the earlier ones. Apparently either some very good builders from the previous period continued on, or work was contracted to outside builders of considerable talent. These bikes from this period deserve to be classics in their own right. Their geometry is upright, yet the ride is comfortable. These are bikes designed for the fast short distance riding so common in the United States. They, nonetheless, will handle mountain descents with ease as well! (ed. note: 2 photos of a 1982 Cinelli:)

Sometime around 1983 it all ended. The 26.2 sleeved seat lug was replaced wit a different cast model that used a 27.2 post. The familiar 3 hole lugs were gone as well. Quality during the following years took a pretty heavy hit as well. Many examples didn't even have chrome lugs. By the late 80's quality improved and chrome lugs returned. It just, however, isn't the same. "

1980s-2008 Cinelli Supercorsa builders:
I have collected some details regarding the builders of the Cinelli Supercorsa frames from the 1980s to 2008. The following information, unconfirmed, is from two sources:
1."Thru the 90's until this past year, Cinelli's steel bikes, including Supercorsa, were made in the shop of Giovanni Losa on the outskirts of Milan as Cinelli's official 'house' builder. Losa retired after a serious heart attack or stroke last year (2008) and although his employees appeared to have carried on for a time, it appears that his business is now closed. I do not know who,if anyone, Cinelli has chosen to produce post-Losa Supercorsa's as well as the new stainless steel Xcr. in all probability,Losa-produced Supercorsa inventories would very likely have carried on thru this past year."
2."It is my understanding from a source in Italy that in the 1980's the Cinelli Supercorsa was made by an experienced Milanese framebuilder by the name of Mario Camilotto. The workmanship on these models is quite beautiful perhaps even nicer than earlier models. I do not know why Signor Camilotto stopped building for Cinelli and why later frames were made by Losa, also in Milan."

This year, 2008, Supertouch posted the first pictures of the production sample of Barry McGee's track bike that is made in collaboration with RVCA & Italian cycle makers Cinelli. It is part of the company's upcoming collaborative "Pressure" art exhibition featuring an array of Cinelli bikes built and designed by such modern artists as Barry McGee, Ashley Macomber, Clare Rojas, C.R. Stecyk III, Dan Murphy, DMOTE, Jesse Geller, Josh Lazcano, KAWS, Madsaki, Phil Frost, RVCA founder PM Tenore and Stephen Powers, the show debuted at RVCA's flagship store in San Francisco on Thursday, June 19th and will be followed by a second September showing in Austin, Texas at cycling legend LANCE ARMSTRONG's new bike shop, Mellow Johnny's. The Track Bike is limited to 50 pieces worldwide and available in three frame sizes (54, 56 or 58), the Barry McGee signature cycle will be available as 25 complete bikes and 25 frame-only kits with pricetags of $3,700.00 and $2,100.00 respectively, and will be available for sale only through RVCA and Mellow Johnny's.

by David V. Herlihy (1986), the following sketch of Cinelli's life and contributions to cycling is based on his own accountand supplemented by information obtained from his son, Andrea. Note: items in italics are not part of the original article

"Few bicycle racers rank as champions; even fewer parts manufacturers stand out as genuine innovators. Master frame designers can be counted on one hand. Seldom does one encounter a legendary figure with a legitimate claim to all three titles. Yet as I approached a modest villa in the picturesque Tuscan countryside, on one unforgettable fall afternoon in 1986, I would have an opportunity to do just that. The day's resplendent sunshine only added to the near-mystical aura surrounding my visit with Cino Cinelli.

Now seventy years of age, and still fit and vigorous, he lives quietly with his wife and young daughter. He acknowledges a certain lingering interest in the bicycle world, even admitting to an occasional jaunt himself. However, his main activity these days, he insists, is to tend to his olive trees. Ever since he retired, almost a decade ago, severing all ties with the company which still bears his name, bicycles are no longer an important part of his life. Or so he cautions the cycling devotees who occasionally drop by on some sort of pilgrimage.

Fortunately, after we settled in his cozy study and exchanged a few desultory remarks about olive trees, Cinelli's disclaimer proved increasingly suspect. It soon became apparent that the subject of bicycles still evokes a gleam in his eyes. When I questioned him about his vast experience with these graceful machines, spanning over a half century, he vividly recalled even the most minor details as if they had just occurred.

The seventh of ten children, Cino was born on a farm near Florence in 1916. His father, a small landowner of modest means, was on poor terms with both the ruling fascists and the opposition communists during Cino's rather turbulent childhood. This awkward predicament forced the family to uproot several times, though it remained on the outskirts of Florence.

Cino's introduction to the bicycle came at an early age, when he and his two older brothers, Giotto and and Arrigo, cycled several miles to their school in Florence. The boys' competitive nature transformed what should have been a routine commute into a veritable race--and sometimes even a fistfight. The two older boys, against their father's wishes, began to participate in local amateur races. Giotto was especially good, and he was an inspiration to young Cino, who still proudly recalls the day he stood on a glorious Tuscan hilltop to witness his brother's first victory.

1935: Colli Fiorentini race photo showing the winner Giotto Cinelli on the right and his younger brother Cino on the left*

(ed. note: Contrary to common myth, Cino was not the one who founded the Cinelli bicycle business. The first Cinelli branded bikes were actually built and sold by his older brother Giotto Cinelli in Florence. Here is a photo from 1939 showing Giotto when he was still riding as a pro. *)

(ed. note: 1946, this is a photo of the only true complete team ever to be exclusively sponsored by Cinelli. As you can see the jerseys are labeled G. Cinelli as this pre-dates the Cino leadership of the company. Cino supplied many bikes to amateurs as well as single pro riders but was never the title sponsor of any team. *)

Naturally, Cino wanted to race too. But he would not have an easy time pursuing this dream. First, he had to contend with his father's vehement opposition. Second, the family's increasingly dire economic situation forced Cino to quit school at the age of 14 and to seek employment. Nor was his first boss, a doctor who used Cino as office help, inclined to accommodate an aspiring bicycle racer. Furthermore, it did not appear as if Cino, a rather frail youth, was blessed with a racer's physique or stamina.

Fortune would nonetheless match Cino's resolve. One day, as he was riding his over-sized sports bike down a country lane, he collided with a car, an unusual entity in those days. Picking himself up, along with his bicycle, a badly shaken Cino sprinted off, fearing the wrath of the driver. The gentleman nonetheless managed to catch up, and handed the startled youth a few crisp bills. He instructed Cino to fix his bike and to be more careful in the future. Not only was Cino able to repair his clunker, he also used his generous allowance to acquire the racing bike he had always coveted but could never afford.

Cino soon left the doctor's employ to take on a new job with a publisher. He was determined to educate himself, even if he could not attend school. His new boss encouraged not only the young man's avid reading habits, but also his racing aspirations, allowing the apprentice the time necessary to train. Cino still vividly recalls one of his first amateur races, in 1931, when he narrowly beat out a local lad for second place; a certain Gino Bartali. The winner, incidentally, was Bartali's cousin, who had already surpassed the age limit of fifteen by a good two years. But in those days, Cino grouses, unscrupulous racing authorities routinely turned a blind eye to such irregularities.

Over the next few years, Cino continued to shine in the local amateur circuit. Meanwhile, thanks to his rigorous work habits, he advanced rapidly through the ranks of the publishing house. But in 1937, at the age of 21, this delicate balancing act came to an abrupt end. The new management issued Cino an ultimatum: either give up racing or the job. Should he continue to compete, he would have to turn professional and renounce a steady job in a tenuous economy. Furthermore, it was by no means certain that he could make a living as a racer. Sponsors, at this time, were virtually non-existent. His earnings would have to come exclusively from prize winnings. Nevertheless, Cino gambled that he could survive by relying on Giotto's support and his own athletic ability. Fortune again responded favorably: the very day he quit his job he collected his first prize money.

In the 1938 Tour of Lombardy Cino faced, once again, his chief local rival, Gino Bartali, who was now likewise a professional, and a rising national star. The race evolved into an epic duel between the two, and, once again, Cino prevailed. The two Florentines, incidentally, are still close friends and occasionally get together. Cino confesses, however, that their encounters tend to be animated affairs, as the two old warriors rehash numerous debates that have lingered since their racing days. Evidently, an intense rivalry born long ago on bicycle saddles is carried forth today on living room chairs.

For the next six years, Cino raced professionally, serving stints with the Bianchi and Frejus teams. During that span, he compiled an impressive list of victories in such classics as the Giro di Lombardia, Giro di Piemonte, and Giro di Campania. But his greatest race, by his own estimation and by that of most observers, was his triumph in the grueling Milano-San Remo of 1943. "Late in my career," Cino reflects, "I realized that I got stronger the longer the race went on."

By this time, Italy was immersed in World War II, having entered on the side of Nazi Germany. But the fascist government vowed to sustain competitive cycling as a popular distraction. Cino, though nominally a soldier, was allowed to train and compete as a member of the state-sanctioned racing team. He would win one more contest in 1944, but he already knew that his racing days were behind him. Unlike Bartali and Coppi, Cino never raced again once the war ended the following year.

In 1946, at the age of 30, and still in his physical prime, he answered a new calling. Having experienced numerous technical failures during critical races, he had become increasingly interested in the mechanical side of cycling. Convinced that racing technology could be vastly improved, Cino set out to implement his ideas. He would exploit the technical knowledge he had gained from his racing career, and also his connections within the industry.

At first, he approached various manufacturers to offer suggestions, but he soon decided to produce and market racing bicycles and components himself. Cino moved to Milan so that he would be in the center of the Italian cycling industry. He then formed the first firm specialized in the distribution of cycle racing accessories. This enterprise began by serving federations and clubs, which at that time represented the entire Italian racing market.

From the onset, Cino manufactured stems, bars and frames. Initially, however, his own products accounted for only about a tenth of his total business. By the time Cino retired, that percentage had risen to about one half. But under his watch the firm never shed its principal identity as a distributor of high-end cycling components made by other manufacturers. Over the years, Cino marketed at home and abroad everything from Columbus tubes to Phil Wood hubs. His vast inventory included frame parts, tools, helmets, and cycle wear. The only prerequisite was that Cino had to personally validate the product.

Cino was always sensitive about his position as a middleman. He remarks, "I wanted to be able to deal with everyone in the bicycle business, from industrialists to artisans." He thus shied away from any exclusive arrangements that would limit his clientele or his influence. Consequently, nearly everyone in the trade openly sought Cino's valued advice. Even engineers treated him as a colleague.

But one of his most ardent listeners was a certain Gentullio Campagnolo. Cino recalls how he once convinced the vaunted parts maker from Vicenza to redesign his drop-outs, insisting that they had to be thicker. He also remembers advising Campagnolo to modify his seat post and hubs. Chuckling, Cino recounted how he once won a friendly bet between the two. "Campagnolo had just introduced a fork column, and I told him I could produce a better one at half his price." After examining his friend's submission, a dejected Campagnolo promptly withdrew his product and treated a triumphant Cino to a cup of coffee.

Cino and Tullio maintained a long and close friendship until the latter's death about four years ago. As far back as the1960 Olympic Games in Rome, the two jointly manned a booth to publicize their respective products, before the worldwide bike boom alleviated the need for such personal attention to business. But until that point, they shared some hard times. In particular, Cino recalls helping the struggling Campagnolo through some difficult financial straits. Once, a disgruntled Campagnolo creditor demanded that Cino pay him for his Campagnolo order, rather than Campagnolo himself, so as to extinguish a long-standing debt. Cino refused; he would pay no one other than Campagnolo for the parts that bore that name. No doubt, this special bond and mutual respect explains why the two manufacturers rarely presented competing products.

Notwithstanding Cino's primary role as a parts distributor, his own products gave the firm its illustrious name, and earned Cino a reputation as an implacable perfectionist. Here is a brief summary of his production over the years.

Stems and Bars
Bicycle stems and bars were always the mainstay of Cinelli's production, consistently accounting for at least 80% of his own sales. Even before the war, his brother Giotto had begun to manufacture steel stems and bars in Florence. In 1946, Cino took over that operation and brought it with him to Milan. The original staff included himself, his first wife Heidi (a Swiss national, and mother of Andrea), two office helpers and four assemblers.

Some firms, notably Ambrosio, today known primarily for its rims, were already using alloy in their stems and bars. Cinelli, however, always concerned with rigidity, originally stuck with steel. Only in 1963 did he introduced, half reluctantly, his first alloy stem and matching bar; and only because he was convinced that his combination was better than any on the market. (He continued to recommend steel bars for track riding, however). The A/I stem, as it was called, immediately became the industry standard. Graceful in design and strong in structure, it incorporated a number of novel features. A recessed allen-wrench fitting pointing toward the headset eliminated the need for a bulky protruding bolt. Nor was there any need to pry open the clamp when detaching the bars. Moreover, the stem's serrated inner surface kept the bars from getting scratched. In 1973, Cino designed the A/R stem, a sleeker model with a hidden bolt system. Scribbling furiously on my note pad, Cino explained in great detail how he adjusted the measurements of his stems and bars to ensure strength, elegance, and ease of use.

As racing bicycles gained popularity, primarily among high-end recreational riders, first in Europe during the early 1960s, and then in the United States by the end of that decade, Cinelli stems and bars were increasingly in demand. Annual production climbed from about 5,000 stems and bars in the 1950s, to 7,500 in the early 1960s. By Cino's retirement in 1978, the figure had reached a giddy 150,000. Yet despite the boom, Cinelli never relaxed his renowned quality standards. His staff grew slightly, and he modernized some techniques, but the products themselves remained the most refined and coveted in the cycle industry.

Racing frames
Frame production, however, could not be readily multiplied without a significant decline in quality. Although some Italian frame makers succumbed to the temptation to industrialize their production, Cino stubbornly resisted. First, he had no desire to claim a significant share of the market for racing frames. Such a position would pit him against his major clients in the parts business. In fact, Cino was determined not to jeopardize his role as an honest broker to the Italian cycle industry. The few frames he did produce were generally sold to the huge American market, where the competitive effect was miniscule. Nor did Cino ever outfit a professional team with his frames, so that other builders would not feel that he had deprived them of that honor. His track frames were, however, in high demand by Olympic federations that were free to chose whatever equipment they deemed best. In 1964, for example, the entire Japanese team used Cinelli frames, as did the 1968 Mexican team.

Cino's aversion to stepping up his frame production also reflected his determination to implement his own, sometimes unconventional, concepts, without regard to popular taste or industry trends. Furthermore, as a parts designer and dealer, he felt that it was extremely helpful to remain personally involved in the production of frames. As he saw it, the parts had to be designed around the frame. Consequently, a Cinelli, the so-called "Rolls-Royce of bicycles," remained a highly exclusive item, even as demand soared. The annual output hovered around two-hundred and fifty during the 1950s, and peaked at about six or seven hundred in the 1970s. Frames were only consigned per custom-order, and customers often had to wait months for delivery, or even longer when he had outstanding orders from Olympic athletes.

Of course, Cinelli frames were never cheap. But Cino maintains that their exorbitant price barely covered the meticulous production process. He insists that he never intended his frames to be moneymakers. Today he proudly affirms that "no Cinelli was ever assembled outside my factory." He notes that an American businessman once approached him with a plan to produce Cinellis in California on a larger scale, but Cino would have none of that.

Cinelli's frames were as limited in models as they were in numbers. Early on, he produced a relatively economical sports bike, and he also dabbled in track bikes and tandems. In 1974, he designed a novel aerodynamic "funny bike" which the Dane Ole Ritter rode to break his own hour record. One of Cino's last projects was the Laser, a futuristic aerodynamic frame. But, his enduring classic, the staple of his frame production, was the legendary Super Corsa road model. Produced with relatively few changes from 1947 on, its ride and durability are part of cycling lore. Cino muses how a Frenchman once advised him to redesign it. "Why?," asked a perplexed Cinelli. "They last too long," came the reply. "How can you expect any turnover?"

The fabled frame was the result of Cino's yen for a more rigid design. To this end, he conceived sloping fork crowns and the peculiar "fast-back" seat post-bolt system. Early on, the hired a Bianchi frame maker, Luigi Valsasina, to assist in frame production. (Now 85, Valsasina left the firm a few years after Cinelli's own exit). Cino recalls how his technician initially resisted such an unorthodox design. Cino, having an order to fill for the great Fausto Coppi, instructed Valsasina to build two bikes for the champion--one a traditional configuration and the other Cino's new design. Both frame-builder and racer were duly impressed with Cino's alternative, and the Super Corsa was born.

Cino maintains that the sloping fork crown adds rigidity by reducing the length of the fork blades. In his view, only the harshest courses, those comprised of cobblestone, demand a more flexible ride and hence the traditional flat fork crown. Arguably, the sloping design also makes the bicycle slightly more aerodynamic. Though the advantage is admittedly negligible, it is notable that aerodynamic considerations only came into vogue many years later. As for the "fast-back" design, that arrangement directly aligns the binder bolt with the center of top tube, assuring a firmer grip on the seat-post. (ed. note regarding Cinelli forks: According to Richard Sachs, "the cinelli fork crowns were sand cast (by George Fisher) in Switzerland. No one had them but Cinelli in the 1960's and early 1970's. The Cinelli crowns (that were put in to the marketplace) were sold to anyone, but only AFTER the investment-cast generation of the mid 70s. by then, you (anyone) could buy a cast version of the style that once was the Cinelli Super Corsa trademark. But who would want that? All changed at Cinelli when Antonio Columbo bought and reorganized it in the mid 70's. And by then, coincidentally, no one really used sandcast or forged parts anymore.")

Despite the longevity of the Super Corsa, Cino did apply a few minor changes over the years. The very first frames used Reynolds tubing, until Columbus SL became the standard. The cast lugs at the ends of the top tube began to sport three drilled holes, escalating in size, after about 1960. Starting in the early 1970s, the fork crown and the bottom bracket shell were produced by "microfusion," a then unique bicycles Cinelli process of investment-casting that yielded parts of greater uniformity and strength. (Cinelli also marketed his frame components to other builders.) And like other Italian frames, later models allowed for shorter-reach brakes, and featured a lower bottom bracket and an increasing array of braze-ons.

The famous Cinelli head badge was originally a hand-painted metal plate screwed into the frame. Later, it became a decal instead. The basic design, which also adorned his steel stems and his bars, remained unchanged, however. It featured a knight's helmet, inspired by the one that Cino's dad kept around the house. To one side is a red giglio (lily), the symbol of Cino's native Florence, and on the other is a green serpent, the symbol of his adoptive Milan.
Seats and other products
Before 1960, racers used leather saddles almost exclusively. In fact, some artisans made a living by reshaping worn leather saddles for cyclists. Cino himself remembers entering one race perched atop a brand new Brooks saddle. But at a certain point the skies opened up and his once shiny and firm saddle became a sopping and saggy disappointment. Cino became convinced that there had to be a better material for racing saddles.
Years later, as a manufacturer, he approached one of his brothers who had gone into the plastics business to see if that material could provide comfortable yet rigid support. His brother responded favorably, but cautioned Cino that he would have to order saddles by the thousands to price them competitively. An enthused Cino tried unsuccessfully to enlist Campagnolo in his bold venture. Finally, he discovered that Tommaso Nieddu of Turin, founder of the Vittoria derailleur, had begun to manufacture saddles made of Rilsan, a synthetic material invented in France. Cino formed a partnership with Nieddu (known as Unicantor), and redesigned the seat to include a buffalo hide covering, for extra comfort and traction. Before long, this innovative product captured the racing market and put saddle re-shapers out of business.

Other notable Cinelli products include the resilient Binda toestraps, and the sleek M-71 clip-on track pedal, introduced in 1973. Although the latter product was short-lived, the French ski manufacturer Look eventually developed and applied the concept with great technical and commercial success. One of Cino's most imaginative ideas was a system that accommodated interchangeable front and rear wheels, designed primarily to facilitate wheel changes during races. The special freewheel, manufactured by Regina, attached independently to the frame. The hubs, manufactured by Campagnolo, could be fitted either into the freewheel or the front fork. Cino sold a number of bicycles with this system to Americans in the late 1960s, but the idea never caught on. Still, it remains one of Cino's most cherished concepts.

Cino's future plans call for a peaceful life in the countryside with his family, growing and harvesting olives. He is reluctant to leave the land he loves, even temporarily. He has no great desire to travel, and has never crossed the Atlantic, despite numerous invitations from American friends like the Chicago-based Schwinn family. Still, he is by no means detached from the rest of the world. His library contains numerous articles that have been written about him over the years in such far-flung countries as France, England, Japan, and the United States (he seems particularly proud of the article that appeared in Playboy in the early 1970s). And he maintains a rapport with numerous cyclists worldwide that he equipped over the years, effortlessly ticking off names and measurements. He relishes a collection of art objects sent by clients, sometimes in lieu of cash payment, as was the case with some residents of developing countries.

And, truth be told, his technical advice is still solicited by many in the Italian cycle industry. Among those who consult regularly with Cino is his own son Andrea, who is about to start his own bicycle company. Called Cinetica, it will market radically new frames and accessories.

As I reluctantly prepared to leave, I prodded Cino to weigh in on the state of cycling. He cites a need for improved road networks to accommodate cyclists, but he also advocates fundamental changes in design. After we paused for a Sunday afternoon dessert, Cino led me down to his basement where he elaborated on his technical ideas. There, resting against a well-scribbled blackboard, was his own bike--a Cinelli, of course. This classic rust-colored gem sported two 26" wheels and extra-long cranks. According to Cino, this is the ideal set-up for a road bike. "27" wheels were designed fifty years ago when we had much poorer roads," he groused, "It just doesn't make sense that we still ride these wheels today." Cino adamantly maintains that cyclists benefit from the higher cadence that goes along with smaller wheels, and that longer cranks provide better leverage.

Yet for all his innovative spirit, Cino is surprisingly conservative about certain things. He doesn't like the new Cinelli logo (a multi-colored "C"), for example. "I guess they felt they had to change something," he allows, "the way a new boss rearranges furniture" (The new owner, incidentally, is the Colombo family, owners of Columbus tubing). At the mention of Campagnolo's recently revamped line of "aerodynamic" components, Cino makes a face and utters a single word: brutto (ugly).

With regard to new frame designs and materials, Cino remains skeptical. He dismisses the "squished" steel frames, popular a few years back during the aerodynamic craze. "There is nothing stronger than a round tube," he asserts. He does hold out some hope for composite frames, provided certain technical objections are overcome. He mentions that he is about to receive such a frame shortly for his evaluation.

Night had fallen, and it was time for me to go. As he bade me a hearty good-bye, Cino promised to prepare a jug of olive oil for my next visit. "You know, when I first moved here," he noted with a tone of self-satisfaction, "the local growers all smirked. What could a man who just yesterday was a bicycle mechanic know about olive oil? Well, I cultivated my olive trees the same way I did my bicycles." Is it any wonder why his humbled neighbors now clamor for Cino's advice?"

Cino Cinelli palmares (ed. note: need confirmation):
Prize list
Giro of the Apennines (1937)
Giro of Lombardy (1938)
Coppa Bernocchi (1938)
Giro of Campania (1939)
Giro of Piedmont (1940)
Three Valleys Varésines (1940)
Milan-San Remo (1943)
3 stages of the Giro 'Italia
3rd Italian championship (1941)

Obituary from Gazzetta dello Sport
Si è spento Cino Cinelli un maestro di ciclismo
LUTTO Si è spento Cino Cinelli un maestro di ciclismo Venerdì scorso si è spento Cino Cinelli. Professionista tra gli anni ' 30 e ' 40, poi costruttore di bici, aveva 85 anni. Così lo ricorda Rino Negri Cino Cinelli contribuì ad arricchire la storia del ciclismo come campione del pedale, come costruttore di bici fuoriserie, come dirigente. Fiorentino di Montespertoli, dove era nato il 9 febbraio 1916, pedalò come professionista dal ' 36 al ' 43, collezionando vittorie di prestigio grazie alle sue invidiabili doti di velocista (sempre corretto, ebbe occasione di dire più volte Bartali). La prima delle più ambite classiche la vinse nel ' 38. Smentì chi non lo riteneva capace di superare con successo certi dislivelli del Giro di Lombardia che vinse davanti a Bartali e Bailo. Nel ' 43 ci fu una volata di 20 corridori alla Sanremo e Cinelli batté Servadei, Toccaceli, Favalli e Bartali. Suoi furono i Giri dell' Appennino (' 37), di Campania (' 39), del Piemonte (' 40), dell' Emilia (' 42). Sue anche la Tre Valli Varesine (' 40) e la coppa Bernocchi (' 38). Il suo Giro d' Italia più bello fu quello del ' 39 quando vinse la tappa Genova-Pisa davanti a Leoni e tolse la maglia rosa a Bartali, difendendola poi per sette tappe. Favorì in seguito il compagno di squadra Valetti che vinse il Giro davanti a Bartali. A considerare Cinelli uno dei pochissimi intenditori mondiali nel campo della costruzione della bici da corsa è sempre stato Ernesto Colnago, che con Cino aveva rapporti amichevoli. Ricordiamo quando Cinelli ci invitò perché ci rendessimo conto delle modifiche che apportava via via alle fuoriserie che sono sempre conosciute in tutto il mondo. Aveva ideato manubri speciali per i velocisti e per chi voleva essere protagonista nelle corse a tappe. Studiò ruote con raggi non incrociati, convincendo tutti che per le cronometro la ruota anteriore doveva avere un diametro inferiore a quella posteriore per incontrare meno resistenza. Poiché tutti si servivano di rapporti sempre più lunghi, Cino consigliò l' uso di pedivelle più lunghe. Come presidente dell' Associazione corridori professionisti, una carica che conservò per oltre 20 anni, Cinelli venne elogiato da tutti per essere riuscito ad ottenere agevolazioni a favore della categoria. Ora che Cino è lassù, verrà ricordato sempre come un signore per la correttezza che lo distinse in tutte le occasioni. (Negri Rino)

Photos and text with an * have been provided courtesy of Steven Maasland


  1. As a huge fan for Italian steel bikes ... I can't wait!
    I'm enjoying your blog, keep up the great work!



  2. As a huge fan for Italian steel bikes ... I can't wait!
    I'm enjoying your blog, keep up the great work!



  3. COOL Info!!!!
    My 1975 Paramount with "obviously" Cinelli bars and stems with rececently purchashed yellow cinelli tape appears better than ever. 531 w/nervex rocks!
    Ride fast

  4. I have just read this about the Cinelli bikes and I still own one of their frames I bought this frame in 1961 after wrecking my Ken Ryall on the back of a car it stopped I didnt and bent the frame/forks so I got the Cinelli in metallic red and with the chrome lugs and fork ends the frame is still good but the chrome is gone the badge is still screwed onto the head as it is one of the embossed ones when I rode this bike it was very fast and light to use and was often told to slow down by the police in 30 mph zones I only wish I could afford to rebuild it to the same standard when I built it originally but alas it will never happen.
    It was a wonderful ride John M.