We review the £1,000 Cinelli Experience road bike
Italian company Cinelli has a long and successful history when it comes to making bikes – including constructing the radical hour record-breaking bike for Francesco Moser. The Experience is made in China from Columbus aluminium and is pretty much an all-Italian job when it comes to the components, with Campagnolo Veloce forming the heart of its kit.
Frame and Fork
Cinelli’s associate company Columbus provides its triple-butted Airplane aluminium, resulting in a frame weighing just 1,400g. It doesn’t have internal cable routing, but there are modern design touches in the shape of the tapered head-tube with its 1.5in lower bearing race, which is new for 2014. The fork has carbon blades and an aluminium steerer, which is typical of a £1,000 machine. The very short wheelbase, under a metre on our test bike, can result in toe overlap – so test ride first if you can.
Cinelli has stayed in its homeland when it comes to kitting out the Experience. It has Campagnolo’s 10-speed Veloce levers and derailleurs, paired with Miche’s compact chainset, wheels and brakes.
Veloce is very different from Shimano 105 and Tiagra, having a greater resemblance to Shimano’s more budget-orientated systems when it comes to shifting, with a small thumbshifter on the inside of the hoods – accessible from hoods and drops – responsible for upshifts on the rear mech and downshifting on the front.
The action is light, smooth and accurate; it’s more positive than Tiagra, but requires less effort than Shimano 105 shifters. Should you not want to go down the Campag route, the Experience is available with a nine-speed Shimano Sora groupset for £919.99.
Interestingly, while earlier Experience models had internal cable routing, the 2014 version reverts to external cabling, presumably for cost reasons. Looks-wise it’s a bit of a backwards step, but it makes it easier to replace cables and doesn’t impact upon shifting performance.
The Miche non-cartridge calliper brakes are only average. We found they squealed quite severely in the rain, and could definitely benefit from an upgrade to cartridge brakes. Vittoria Zaffiro tyres, an excellent Selle Italia SL saddle and – of course – Cinelli’s own bar and stem finish things off in Italian style.
It may not have the lightest wheels, but we found the Miche hoops stiff enough to be rewarding under effort, complementing the Cinelli’s stiff and compact frame. Aluminium may have a reputation for offering a tough and uncompromising ride, but that’s not the case with Columbus’s sophisticated Airplane aluminium.
Triple butting means it has three different thicknesses along the length of its tubing, which keeps weight down, puts strength in all the important areas around the welds, and also prevents it from becoming overly stiff. Helped by its compact frame, comfortable Selle Italia saddle, 27.2mm seatpost and slim seatstays, the ride is far from battering.
The Experience offers a very rewarding ride. It’s dynamic, lively and aggressive and would readily lend itself to racing or triathlons rather than training or sportives. The shortish head-tube means you’ll be able to get down into a more aerodynamic tuck on tri-bars, while the short drop handlebars mean that you’ll never be far away from the hooks if you need to change direction.
The tapered steerer, short head-tube, tight wheelbase and chunky chainstays make the handling snappy and, in spite of the weighty wheelset, acceleration and climbing is reasonable, with no evidence of flex from the frame, chainset or wheels.
The frame’s racy nature really comes into its own on descents, where you can throw it into corners, and though its liveliness means you need to take care, it always stays the right side of twitchy. While the Vittoria Zaffiro tyres are decent, an upgrade would make the most of the bike’s dynamism. If you do find 23mm rubber a little too firm, there is clearance for 25mm tyres for a more supple ride.
The Experience is one of the best ‘entry-level’ racing bikes around at this price, and an ideal entry point to the world of Campagnolo too.
+ Lovely racy frame with quality that shines through
+ One of the best entry points to Campagnolo kit
– Weighty wheels temper the acceleration
– One of the best entry points to Campagnolo kit