Cinelli Experience £999

The Campagnolo experience on a budget

BikeRadar score 4/5

Cinelli is best known for its components, yet it also has a long history when it comes to bikes. The Experience is made in the Far East but the kit is pretty much an all-Italian job: Cinelli’s associate company Columbus makes the 1400g aluminium frame, with Miche providing the wheels and chainset and Campagnolo its 10-speed Veloce groupset. The tyres are from Vittoria, and the saddle is an excellent Selle Italia SL.

  • Highs: Lightweight frame, Campag kit and snappy handling
  • Lows: Weighty wheels and possible toe overlap
  • Buy if: You’re looking for a lively, Campagnolo-equipped road bike

Campag isn’t necessarily better than Shimano (no arguments, please), but it has a more positive action and is more exclusive at this price. And if you are a Campag fan, the Experience is one of the best-value routes to enjoy the, er, experience. (If Shimano is your thing, this bike is also available with Sora kit.)

Campagnolo shifting is positive and accurate

Unlike some earlier models, the 2014 Experience has external cabling. Looks-wise it’s a retrograde step, and may reduce cable lifespan because they're more exposed to the elements, but it doesn’t hamper shifting – plus externally routed cables (as well as the regular screw-in bottom bracket) are great for the home mechanic to clean or upgrade.

There are modern design features, though, in the shape of the tapered head tube, which is new this year. The fork has carbon blades and an aluminium steerer, typical at this price. The short wheelbase, well under a metre on our test bike, can result in toe overlap – so if this is an issue make sure you check it out.

But that wheelbase does contribute to a very rewarding ride, and it’s one that would lend itself well to racing and fast sportives rather than weekend dawdles. The wheels, while not light, are stiff enough. The shortish head tube means you can get down into a nice, low position, while the short-drop bar means you’ll never be far away from the drops if you need to change direction.

The result is snappy handling in spite of the weight of the wheelset, and the Experience climbs reasonably, with no flex evident from the frame, chainset or wheels. But the frame’s racy nature really comes into its own on descents and, though its liveliness means you need to take care, it always stays the right side of twitchy.

Ideally we would have liked something a bit better than the Zaffiro tyres to really make the most of it, and if 23mm is a little too firm, there is room for 25mm. But the ride is reasonably comfortable as it is, triple butting keeping the weight down, strength up and preventing it from becoming too stiff. The compact frame, excellent saddle and slim seatpost also help with long-distance comfort.

For wannabe fastmen and fastwomen the Experience is one of the best ‘entry-level’ bikes around at this price, and an ideal entry point to the world of Campagnolo too.

This article was originally published in Cycling Plus magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.

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