The Cinelli Saetta used to be a regular contender in our sister title Cycling Plus's Bike of the Year tests – always there or thereabouts. It’s now cheaper than it was in 2013 and has had a bit of a makeover since we last tested it, gaining a few more modern features – internal cable routing for the rear brake, Di2 compatibility – without losing the composed all-round ride that we liked so much.
The cabling means that it has lost the aesthetically unappealing ‘washing line’ brake cable dangling under the slimline top-tube. The graphics, meanwhile, are just about the most understated we’ve ever seen: gloss black on matt black, with black bar tape and components. If Batman were a cyclist, this would be his Bat-Bike. If you want a shout-it-from-the-rooftops bike, this isn’t for you.
Miche gear doesn’t appear too often on these pages, but there’s absolutely nothing wrong with the Italian company’s kit on the Cinelli. We’d have preferred a Campagnolo Athena crankset to the Italian-made Miche Primato Max, if only for the sake of groupset completeness, but the Miche Altur wheels turned out to be impressive performers.
The seatstays blend seamlessly into the top tube
No matter how much we tried to get them to misbehave – high-torque, low-speed climbing – we couldn’t detect any flex at all. The 25mm Vittoria Rubino rubber wrapping them performed well, nicely balancing grip and comfort, and feature a Kevlar band for toughness. Braking from Campagnolo’s Athena brakes is likewise on a par with Ultegra.
The phrase ‘more than the sum of its parts’ is a cliché that’s easy to turn to. But in this case it’s true. The claimed 1150g frame weight and just-over 8kg complete build is decent but not awe-inspiring and the kit is all very good – but the resulting ride is exceptional.
We’re not convinced this is the result of the ‘Skeletal Efficiency Philosophy’ and the, uhm, ‘Low Sigma Transition’ zones behind the frame, but this Saetta is an absolute all-round joy, deftly straddling the line between race and endurance. It climbs superbly, helped by those stiff wheels, while the broad down tube and skinny top tube ensure first-rate long-distance comfort, even with the 31.6mm seatpost. The classic 73-degree parallel angles mean that this plushness is accompanied by sharp handling too, so you can shoot down descents, the Campag brakes bringing you to a quick, controlled stop.
Classic racy geometry makes descending a razor-sharp joy
Between your ankles you'll find a BSA threaded bottom bracket, but there’s never a sense of wasted energy. Old school it may be, but it’s tried-and-trusted technology and the threaded cartridge bearings are easy to replace.
We would have preferred a wider cassette than the 12-27 fitted, but that’s about the only hole we could pick in the Saetta.
A final positive is that the Saetta is available as a frameset, for £1,200 / $1,600 (which shows just how good value this build is), or (in the UK at least) built with Ultegra with the same Miche chainset and wheels. Cino Cinelli’s name may be largely forgotten these days, but his reputation would appear to be in very good hands.