sometimes you have to stop and smell the chamois butter

Friday, February 11, 2011

Cino Cinelli - t.i.c.h.

Alas, for the last couple of days I have succumbed to the speed of life and because of it I owe a "compleanno in ritardo" wish to Cino Cinelli ("Cheeno Cheenellee").   Cino's life began as the seventh of ten children on February 9, 1916 in Montespertoli, Italy.  His brother Giotto shared his passion for bikes, but their father unfortunately, did not.  The brothers raced despite their father's disapproval and Cino became even more inspired when he witnessed his brother ride to his first victory.  Cino followed his passion and continued to race with help from Giotto.  In an epic battle with his most intense rival of the day, Gino Bartali, Cino managed to rise the victor of the 1938 Tour of Lombardy.  His other big win of note was the 1943 Milan San-Remo.  The war brought racing to a halt, and unlike Bartali and Coppi, Cino decided not to return to racing. 

He had instead become interested in the mechanical side of the bicycle industry.  Several equipment failures during races had led him to believe he could create better products.  His brother Giotto was already producing steel handlebars and Cino convinced him to move to Milan, the hub of Italian cycling activity.  As well as producing their own products, Cinelli was a distributor of "qualified" bike parts.  Meaning every product they moved had to be approved by Cino.  Their main focus in production, as well as what they are most known for,  was handlebars and stems.  Cino resisted the move to aluminum fearing it didn't have the strength to withstand the abuses of racing.  They eventually started producing cutting edge aluminum bars and stems for the best racers in the world.  In the 50's their annual production numbers of bars and stems were in the 5000 range and by Cino's retirement in 1978, annual production had hit 150,000. 
Cinelli's framesets were also very sought after as well.  Production was very limited because Cinelli wanted every frame built "in house", and the possibility of getting put behind an Olympic track rider was high.  Cino resisted putting his bikes in the pro peloton for fear of stepping on team toes, but track stars could pick their own  rides.  Thus, Cinelli's were ridden to many track victories represented by many different countries. 
Cino dabbled in several other innovations.  He acquired Alfred Binda straps in 1958.  He master-minded the sloping crown fork in the 1950's.  In the 60's he collaborated with a certain Mr. Campagnolo on a "bivalent hub" that would work on the front or rear of the bike.  And 1971 would see Cinelli's creation of the first clipless pedal. 
Although the man behind the company name has past, Cino Cinelli's legacy continues to steer the company into the future.

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