Cinelli Saetta £1629.99

Budget race bike

BikeRadar score 4/5

The Saetta is ideal for the experienced road cyclist or advanced amateur looking for excitement and performance on a budget. Not a bad proposition at all in this day and age of tightened purse strings.

Frame & equipment: Elegant and well considered

As a firmly established brand with a loyal fan base and illustrious history in both bicycle design and racing, it’s no wonder Cinelli can comfortably stake a claim in the pantheon of cycling greats.

The Saetta is aimed at both new and experienced cyclists who might be on a limited budget but are still after high performance. The full carbon monocoque frame is available in five sizes ranging from XS to XL, and the frame features proportional tubing sections that increase with the size of the frame, maintaining consistency of ride and stiffness characteristics regardless of your build.

A large pentagonal down tube anchors the entire structure, merging with a tapered seat tube that expands to the full width of the standard 68mm BSA bottom bracket. The seat tube’s asymmetric profile allows for maximum buttressing, yet ample room for the front mech.

Fitted with a stout 31.6mm forged alloy seatpost, you would expect a firm, possibly uncomfortable ride, but you’d be wrong. An elegantly arched and narrow top tube morphs with attractively curved carbon seatstays, bringing it in line with the popular design brief of providing comfort and performance in the same package.

The usual bold graphical working of the Cinelli name continues, with large lettering matching the very beefy-looking down tube – the latter is a common sight nowadays as an ideal canvas for eye-catching design. It’s a firmly established look meant to turn as many heads as possible, and why not?

Cockpit controls come in the form of Campagnolo’s Veloce 10-speed Ergo levers, which have ergonomically ideal hoods and produce a satisfying mechanical clunk-click with every shift. There’s no vagueness, no missed shifts, and no aching fingers or wrists from repetitive strain.

Campag Khamsin wheels are fast and robust, with sealed cartridge bearings and sufficient spokes to be reliable and keep maintenance easy. Vittoria Zaffiro tyres are ideal, with the small diamond file tread gripping more than adequately in all conditions, with enough ride height to take potholes and tarmac lumps with ease. 

A close-ratio cassette with a one-tooth difference from the 12 to the 18 meant an effective cadence could be easily maintained despite the rolling topography of our local test circuit.

Cinelli’s own Vai forged alloy finishing kit rounds off the bike with robust and willing effectiveness.

Ride & handling: Lively and exciting

The geometry and handling lean towards the racing end of the spectrum. There’s a fairly expansive cockpit, with a wide bar and longish reach, while a monocoque carbon Columbus fork takes care of front-of-house business with gusto.

Unusually, the classic road angles of 72.5-degree head and 73.5-degree seat don’t quite translate into ideal handling behaviour. Although very agile, it feels a little unstable, you’re perched like a pencil being balanced on your fingertip: it’s quite exciting, but it takes some getting used to. 

Nevertheless, hunkering down in the drops to fight a crosswind or catch someone’s wheel is an all in a day’s work with the Cinelli – time well spent, and spent comfortably as well.

This bike was tested as part of Cycling Plus magazine’s 2013 Bike Of The Year feature – read the full results in issue 273, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.

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