Think Chris King and you probably think headsets. But until the 1980s he was making frames under the Cielo name. That bit of the business was put on hold to focus on components but now it’s back. Cielo have a range of frames but only one mountain bike, known simply as the Mountain Bike. It offers a classic high-end-steel feel
Ride & handling: Great long-haul ally that can still hang in the singletrack
On paper the Cielo has steep angles but it doesn't feel like it on the trail. That’s probably down to the frame being fairly long, putting the rider’s weight further back. A fairly long stem and narrow bar – by modern standards – were well chosen to complement the front-end geometry and stop things getting too hairy. Indeed, it’s more at home carving turns than being thrown into them, despite what the numbers might suggest.
We didn’t ﬁnd ourselves using the Fox TALAS fork’s longer travel setting all that much. Whacking the fork out to 120mm worked okay for sustained rough descents without too many corners but made things rather wandery at more normal speeds. The short fork setting is much more in tune with the Cielo’s geometry and it'll swing through the trees with the best of them.
Inevitably it’s not as quick off the mark as lighter titanium or carbon ﬁbre competition, but fans of steel both know and care little about that. They’ll be pleased with the Cielo’s ﬁnely judged springiness – just enough for a lively feel but not so much as to compromise handling accuracy. It’s not a bike that responds well to super-aggressive riding but that’s not really what the Cielo’s about.
This is a bike for the long haul – for big days out rather than short blasts. It’s a gentleman, not a hooligan, but that’s not to say it’s sedate. You’ll ride with ﬁnesse and reap the rewards. It’s something of a connoisseur’s bike, that’s for sure, but who doesn’t appreciate the ﬁner things in life every now and then?
Frame: Beautifully made, with retro styling but contemporary features
At ﬁrst glance the Cielo looks like a highly traditional frame, and not just because it’s made of steel. You don’t see seatstays with capped, chamfered ends very often these days but Cielo make a real point of featuring them, with shiny stainless steel caps and an engraved logo. There’s another touch of shininess around the head tube, with stainless steel reinforcing rings at the top and bottom to guard against headset wallow.
But it’s the head tube that gives away the undeniable modernity of the frame. It’s an oversized pipe with semi-integrated headset bearings (from Chris King, naturally). It has a 44mm internal diameter, allowing the use of a fork with a tapered steerer thanks to an external lower headset cup. The big head tube manages not to look out of place on the front of a fairly skinny steel frame and also extends substantially below the down tube to ensure fork clearance.
Of course, the 29in wheels are also a fairly noticeable contemporary touch. Cielo aren’t ones to foist big wheels on everyone though – the Mountain Bike is available in six sizes and the smaller two use 650B (27.5in outside diameter) wheels. Adjustable sliding dropouts make the Cielo ready to take on some one-geared action if that’s how you roll.
However, with big tyres you’re limited in how far forward you can slide the wheel. In geared mode the front mech gets very close to the tyre in the more forward settings. With what we considered acceptable clearance, the effective chainstay length was fairly long. There’s also a version of the frame with S-bend stays to accommodate bigger treads – up to a claimed 2.4in.
Cielo bikes are supplied as frames, ready to accept your choice of parts (though you get a Chris King headset with the frame so that’s one decision you won’t have to make). Perhaps inevitably, our test bike had Chris King hubs and bottom bracket too. Cielo recommend a 100mm-travel (3.94in) suspension fork or equivalent-length rigid. Our test model arrived with a 95-to-120mm Fox TALAS 29 unit though.
The rest of the spec was a solid, not-too-showy selection based around a 2x10 SRAM X9 groupset. The build clearly emphasises practicality over ultimate light weight but the 11.8kg (26.0lb) overall number isn’t too shabby for a big steel 29er.