There is a reason for the Cinelli reputation. Cinelli bicycles are delightfully stable yet feel wonderfully quick. The example here is a bit smaller than other's I've most typically ridden, and I'm betting that it might have slightly lighter tubing, perhaps a Reynolds 8/5/8 top tube instead of the more common 9/6/9 Columbus which Cinelli typically used later on. After all, Cinelli and Columbo eventually shared owners. But early on, Cinelli made ample use of Reynolds tubing.
To make a vintage bicycle fun to ride, a few tweaks are sometimes in order. First, rider interfaces need to be optimized. That usually means saddle, handlebars, and pedals should be changed if needed to reflect current rider preferences. In this case, the vintage and very broken-in Brooks saddle seems swell. In contrast, I simply can't ride, even after break-in, modern Brooks saddles for some reason. I'm not sure why, I always feel like I'm sliding forward (not an uncommon complaint it seems). The handlebar and stem are original vintage and I can't bring myself to change them. I find a Nitto Noodle to be much more comfortable. But how can I remove the Cinelli stem (it would have to go as the Noodle is 26.0 and the Cinelli is 26.4) and bars from a Cinelli bicycle? So instead I'm trying to deal with the terrible angle formed at the intersection of the brake lever/handlebar junction.
One change I did make is installing clipless pedals. I always found clips and straps a terrible bother and strongly prefer clipless. Some vintage folks don't like clipless, and some traditionally oriented cycling writers claim that they are responsible for a host problems. But that is the case when cleats and other foot alignment issues are not properly dealt with.
A nice additional to this bike a Berthoud 786 saddlebag. This bag allows me to carry wallet, keys, a couple of tubes and a few tools very securely. If the strap around the seatpost is undone, the bag has a quick release which enables it to be removed easily. If one has a few bikes with the bracket left in place on the saddle, then a bag can be easily shared among bikes.
A big question is what tires to run on a vintage race bike such as this Cinelli. In the day, the prime choice would have been a silk tire from Clement. Perhaps a Paris Roubaix or Del Mundo. But these days I'm not thrilled by the chore of dealing with tubulars. I'm a big fan of Challenge tires, and the more I ride the Strada model, the more I love it. This bike actually has the early version Strada clincher; it uses a lower thread count casing that the latest version. The newer version does ride better as I've tried it on other bikes.
The Strada is rated at 25mm but really measures very close to 27mm when inflated. This is close in size to wider tubular tires of the day and the bike rides beautifully with these tires. The Challenge tires have a casing that is essentially fabric as opposed to a rubberized thin-strand material. I've always found that tires like this are wonderfully lively to ride while offering great resistance to sidewall cuts. The classic good looks of these tires is an added bonus for sure.
Vintage bikes often have race gearing that is not so nice for our older bodies and knees. I really wanted to keep the vintage drivetrain intact on this bike, so I went for a gear cluster that is at the limit of what a classic Campagnolo Nuovo Record drivetrain can handle; 14-28 in the rear and 42/52 up front. To use this full range of 24 tooth gap, the Nuovo Record rear derailleur must be assembled properly. In another blog post we'll show how, but the idea is that a Nuovo or Super Record rear derailleur can be assembled in one of 4 ways. The way that makes for the most chain wrap how the derailleur must be set up. It does not come this way out of the box.
Getting top quality freewheels has been tricky (IRD now sees fine by the way). We have some more options on the way soon such as the 14-28 Regina America five speed shown above. We usually like to mate these freewheels with wide space chains. But in this case we used the Sachs/Sedis black chain designed for narrow clusters and it shifts just beautifully. So that is another option for sure.
So how does this vintage bike ride? It rides wonderfully. It is slightly stouter than the skinny tube Boulder Bicycle road sport with 7/4/7 skinny tubing. It is perhaps a bit less smooth and maybe a hair less quick for me. But it feels extremely well planted (though a bit more nervous than the road sport) and the more I ride this bike since it came into rotation, the more I want to ride it. And isn't that what this is all about?