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Cinelli Saetta review

7 Sep 2015
Verdict:

The Cinelli Saetta Radical Plus Athena is certainly a mouthful, but is it a handful too?

Cyclist Rating: 
Price: 
£2,000
For 
Well balanced geometry
Against 
Not as radical as the name suggests

Italy, 1947. The war’s over and so is Cino Cinelli’s career as a professional cyclist. What to do next? With a taste for engineering, he starts Cinelli bikes, and over the coming years comes up with numerous innovations, including the first aluminium handlebars and the first saddle with a plastic base. Nearly 70 years later, Cinelli is still a big name in the world of finishing kit, but what about bikes? The Radical Plus is the company’s bike for the advanced amateur – we duly employed our own advanced amateurishness to put it to the test…

Frame

Cinelli Saetta frame

In the Saetta Radical, Cinelli employs a carbon monocoque construction to produce a lightweight, stiff, yet compliant frame that is compatible with electronic and mechanical gear shifting. With our bike using a mechanical groupset, we had external gear cables running on the underside of the down tube and an internally routed rear brake cable. Most of the stiffness necessary in a bike comes from the head tube, down tube, bottom bracket shell, seat tube and chainstays, and these elements are notably oversized in comparison to the incredibly slender top tube and seatstays. These are shaped so as to allow for some comfort, and the Saetta Radical Plus does a genuinely good job of dissipating road buzz. In terms of geometry, Cinelli has chosen an approach that is far from radical. The 71mm BB drop, 985mm wheelbase  and head and seat tube angles of 72.7 and 73.4 degrees are all totally normal and will feel familiar to anyone who’s ridden a road bike before. Cinelli claims the frame alone weighs 1,050g, with the fork adding just 380g. The fork is interesting in that it uses the 1.25 to 1.125in taper instead of the more common, stiffer 1.5in taper. The reality is you’d have to be supremely finely tuned to notice much difference in reduced stiffness.

Components

Cinelli Saetta Athena

Campagnolo Athena 11-speed is a joy to use, but it does require an expert touch – a quarter turn of the cable tension adjuster of the rear mech makes a big difference to how quietly and crisply the gears change. The basic version of the groupset is employed here, with alloy cranks and alloy brake levers, rather than the more expensive carbon versions. A 50/34 compact chainset and 12-27 cassette provides a wide spread of gears, although some will think (mistakenly, in our opinion) that the lack of an 11-tooth cog at the back will limit top speed. The last point on the group: the brakes are fantastic. Cinelli bars, stem and seatpin complete the package. The bars are an interesting proposition thanks to their very shallow drop; you barely notice the change in position moving from hoods to drop, posing the question, what’s the point? 

Wheels

Campagnolo doesn’t just supply the groupset, it provides the wheels too, in the form of the 35mm-deep Sciroccos. They’re a decent pair of hoops, with 16 aero spokes in the front wheel and 21 in the back being enough, thanks to the strong, deep-section rim. At 1,725g (claimed) per pair, they’re not especially heavy and the rim, while providing some aerodynamic advantage, isn’t so deep as to make riding in crosswinds a handful. The Italian theme continues to the tyres, which are supplied by Vittoria, based near Bergamo (home of the season-closing Classic, the Tour of Lombardy). Our bike came with the Rubino Pro model in the 25mm wide guise. They’re nice tyres and ones we’ve used a great deal in the past with no problems, wet or dry.

The ride

Cinelli Saetta review

It’s a long time since we rode a bike with a 120mm stem. Pro bikes have ridiculously long stems but for most of us, 90-110mm is a more sensible choice. We felt much more comfortable after a swap to a 110mm stem but it's worth mentioning that when you order a Saetta you can swap the stem to a different length for no extra cost. The Campag groupset works very well, although the gears seem to have a narrower window of perfect adjustment than the competitors. An ill-placed quarter turn on the cable adjuster at the back is enough to cause unpleasant noises to emanate from the cassette. The brakes, however, are brilliant, and a serious rival to Shimano’s crown. Campagnolo also supplied the wheels and they’re really good too – not too heavy but with some aero advantage, but none of the disadvantages like carbon braking surfaces or susceptibility to cross winds. We enjoyed our time on them as we did on the Radical Plus as a whole – it’s not quite as radical as the name suggests, but it’s a great ride nonetheless.

Geometry

Geometry chart
Claimed Measured
Top Tube (TT) 545mm 546mm
Seat Tube (ST) 480mm 485mm
Down Tube (DT) 588mm
Fork Length (FL) 368mm 370mm
Head Tube (HT) 145mm 145mm
Head Angle (HA) 72.5 72.7
Seat Angle (SA) 73.5 73.4
Wheelbase (WB) 981mm 985mm
BB drop (BB) 68mm 71mm

Spec

Cinelli Saetta Radical Plus Athena
Frame Cinelli monocoque, 1.25" tapered carbon fork
Groupset Campagnolo Athena
Brakes Campagnolo Dual Pivot
Chainset Campagnolo Athena, 50/34
Cassette Campagnolo, 12-27
Bars Cinelli DNA
Stem Cinelli DNA
Seatpost Cinelli DNA, 27.2mm (with shim)
Wheels Campagnolo Scirocco
Tyres Vittoria Rubino Pro, 25c
Saddle Selle Italia X1
Contact chickencycles.co.uk

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