Italy’s Cinelli knows a thing or two about steel, with its Milan HQ based next door to Italian steel master Columbus. The collaborations between the two over the years have resulted in some of the best and most innovative steel bikes ever made. The Nemo is Cinelli’s latest, and the company wanted to mix classic construction techniques with up-to-date geometry and technical details. The aim was to combine the qualities of steel with a riding experience resembling that offered by a fully featured contemporary road bike.
As with most of today’s carbon bikes, the Nemo features an oversized and tapered 1 1/8 – 1 1/2in head-tube, into which is slotted a 350g full-carbon fork. The frame weighs 1,800g, which is pretty portly compared to a carbon bike for around the same price, where you’d expect under a kilo. However, if you were looking to trim every single gram from your bike, the Nemo probably wouldn’t be on your radar anyway.
The frame combines exceptional quality with some of the tidiest TIG welds you’ll see outside of high-price, exclusive custom builds. There are lovely touches such as the cowled dropouts and sleeved and lugged seat cluster that incorporates the seat clamp.
The Nemo really shines when you’re riding it. The front end is carbon-bike stiff and has reactive and positive steering responses. The overall character of a stiff front end and compliant, springy back makes for a bike that you control as much with weight shifts and your hips, as with your hands. The bike rewards smooth flowing styles and once you’re in sync it’s great to send down fast twisty descents.
The geometry of parallel 73-degree head and seat angles, 408mm chainstays and a wheelbase of 1,003mm on our XL test bike make the Nemo nimble. The 185mm head-tube means the Nemo’s riding position sits perfectly between endurance and race. On paper, and in the metal, that makes the Nemo a great all-rounder.
As befits an Italian bike the Nemo comes with a Campagnolo groupset. The accuracy of mechanical Athena’s shifting proved spot-on and though the Athena brakes are a good match, they can’t quite compete with Shimano’s latest designs for out-and-out power.
The wheels from fellow Italian brand Miche are decent — Miche’s hub quality is as impressive as Campagnolo and the build quality is fine. The downside is that the Alturs are a £250 pair of wheels and their semi-deep V-section alloy rims carry a bit of weight and don’t endear themselves on extended climbs. The Nemo isn’t the fastest ascender and the wide 50/34, 11-27 gear combination is welcome, and we found ourselves using the bigger sprockets on the cassette earlier than usual. The positive news is that the stiff, flex-free Alturs are great when heading down. Shod with fine quality 25mm Vittoria rubber and a nicely machined brake track these can handle speed and you can control it when necessary.
The frame and fork cost £1,599, so the overall price is pretty much to be expected, with the mid-level but high-performing Cinelli Vai finishing kit and Selle Italia saddle all very competent. For our money we’d opt for the frameset, in the flamboyant Purple Haze colour, and use it as the basis for a full-on steel superbike. As it stands, this off-the-peg package has a five-star-performing chassis that is just a little too compromised.