Spawned by pro rider Cino Cinelli in the immediate post-war period, Cinelli have always been among the most iconic and pioneering of Italian bike brands. The curvaceous Saetta proves that they’re still among the best, even if its Sprint moniker is marred by wheel choice.
A noticeably sprung feel is the first obvious trait from the Columbus carbon fibre frame, thanks to the ‘progressive flexion control’ curve that forms a leaf spring effect through the top tube and wishbone seatstay. This doesn’t just smooth out road shock, it also creates a difficult to describe but plain to feel sensation of momentum surge between accelerations, like a slight tailwind/downhill.
Despite the spindly retro looks of the chainset, the octagonal down tube, big bottom bracket and chainstays mean the bike still climbs and accelerates enthusiastically. Heavy wheels mean it’s not as sharp and firm in its progress when torque rises and cadence drops, but it’s no noodle either, whether you’re spinning in-the-saddle or stomping and shouldering a big ratio over the top of a climb.
While the tall head tube and straight-steerer Columbus fork mean it’s not anchored to the ground, overall balance is good and there’s enough feedback to foster trust. As a result it definitely doesn’t feel as nervous as some other bikes in this category when turning into corners or hitting muddy, post-flood sections on back roads.
Despite average rather than high-traction tyres, the light feel never strayed the wrong side of the vague line either, and our confidence increased steadily as we spent more time riding it, until we were happily diving and duelling on our favourite descents, however wet and greasy they got.
While blunt, riveted guides for the external cable routing don’t exactly purr ‘premium product’, the sleek lines drew admiring comments, and there was a lot of praise for the Campagnolo Athena groupset too, particularly among those old enough to have grown up gazing lustfully at Cinelli’s radical 1980s Low Pro frames.
The Saetta Sprint would definitely benefit from a smoother shifting genuine Campagnolo cassette than the Miche one here though, and it’s gagging for a lighter set of wheels to set free its underlying acceleration and altitude gain potential.