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Cinelli Laser Mia review

6 Dec 2018

Page 1 of 2Cinelli Laser Mia review

Verdict:

A superb example of an iconic bike reworked for the modern carbon masses, but its price and looks make it really a Sunday Best sort of ride

Cyclist Rating: 
Price: 
From £4,700 frameset (£10,400 as tested)
For 
Sublime ride quality • Deft handling • Drop dead gorgeous looks
Against 
Somewhat flexy by today's standards (but that's almost part of the charm)

This review was first published in Issue 76 of Cyclist magazine

It’s a little known fact, but Cinelli once made a BMX, the CMX.1. Launched in 1980, it may well be the only BMX in the world made from Columbus steel and featuring Campagnolo cranks.

It was also, admits Cinelli CEO Paolo Erzegovesi, more of a market reaction than a market driver – BMX had exploded in the US in the mid-1970s, and Europe was rushing to follow.

‘We did not sell many, really,’ says Erzegovesi, ‘but it was an interesting bike for the times, and it had some advanced features.’

Most notably it was TIG-welded, which was a new approach to joining tubes, and it featured a girder-style strengthening gusset at the back of the head tube. In a roundabout way, this little BMX would go on to help create one of cycling’s most iconic families of bicycles, the Cinelli Laser.

The Laser series has incorporated everything from steel aero bikes to ‘funny bikes’ with 24-inch front wheels, from time-trial to track and tandem to road racer. The bike featured here is the latest incarnation, the carbon fibre Laser Mia. 

Truth behind aero

The original Laser was dreamt up by Cinelli owner Antonio Colombo, whose father Angelo founded Columbus tubing in 1919, and who bought Cinelli from Cino Cinelli in 1978.

‘I saw an early French aerodynamic bike on a trip to Japan, and it got me thinking. I wanted to make the most beautiful bike we could for the Milan show,’ recounts Colombo.

That Laser debuted in 1981 and employed the cornerstones of the CMX.1. It was one of the first TIG-welded road bikes in the industry and had smoothed ‘aero’ gussets at crucial tube junctions.

However, in reality the frame’s shape had no tested aero credentials and, as Erzegovesi says, those gussets served a structural function, reinforcing the inch-diameter tubes and bladed seatstays.

The true aero nature of the Laser was in its customisation. With TIG welding, tubes could be joined at any angle to create the most aero rider position possible (unlike traditional frames, whose lugs predetermined the angles), and the gussets meant the acute tube intersections could be made strong and the frame stiff.

These themes are the cornerstones of the Laser Mia. It’s not an aero-road bike in the modern sense, but it is a fully custom frameset, albeit for an extra £900.

Both stock and custom bikes are made for Cinelli by a reputable Italian contract builder.

This Laser Mia bears all the hallmarks of the originals, from the smoothed tube junctions to the bladed seatstays to the ‘fin’ under the bottom bracket, where the down tube extends beyond the BB shell like a mini upside-down spoiler.

It is also ‘Laser’ blue, and because of all this it has to be one of the prettiest bikes on the market. 

Aesthetically driven

‘Classic’ is a very good word to describe this bike. It eschews most modern design cues.

The BB shell is threaded, the fork steerer is a parallel 1⅛th inch and the tubes are round and relatively skinny, although perhaps the most defining nod to provenance over function are the seatstays. 

Given its slender looks, the Laser’s rear end is pretty firm, which I think is due to the shape and orientation of the seatstays, which are flattened in the vertical plane.

That’s a nod to the Lasers of old, which tried to make the frontal area as narrow as possible, but flies in the face of modern comfort thinking, where the flattened aspect of seatstays, if there is one, is usually horizontal to better offer vertical flex (think bending a ruler across its width versus trying to bend it across its thickness).

There is a knock-on effect for rear-end pedalling stiffness. If you want a solid pedalling platform you want tubes to oppose sideways forces as much as possible.

Conversely, the Laser’s seatstays are predisposed to bend more under horizontal load and less under vertical load.

It will be no surprise, then, to learn this is not a particularly stiff frame. Everything is narrow when viewed from the front, which means the bike is apt to flex under big, bar-wrenching efforts.

It’s no noodle, but it’s some way off the stiffness benchmarks set by performance race bikes. Yet I would still choose the Laser Mia over many others.

Feel is real

My ideal criterion for a bike is that it should feel not just good, but special in some way. It should have personality, especially at this price.

And the Laser has that by the lorry load. It’s not teeth-baringly aggressive or sublimely comfortable, but it is a pure joy to ride, and it’s fast.

First, the speed. I’m under no illusion that the main thrust comes from the Campagnolo Bora wheels. These aren’t the latest iteration, but even the older Boras are some of the fastest wheels out there.

They don’t carry higher speeds as well as a set of Enves or Zipps, but they accelerate like bullets and roll exceptionally smoothly.

The key elements? They’re 50mm deep but weigh just 1,435g (claimed), they are very stiff and they have ceramic bearings.

They have all the pick-up I associate with a set of top tier Lightweights – themselves not technically the fastest when judged by other brands – but are around half the price.

Second, the joy. It’s a fair cop, I’m in love with the Laser’s looks and that inescapably influences the joy I found in riding it. But I also love how it rides.

It might appear dainty but it feels robust enough to sling around, ride in the rain and thump over rutted surfaces.

It’s not that stiff, but it has a lively ping akin to a steel frame, and while this frameset isn’t custom, the stock geometry short wheelbase (980mm) and short chainstays (405mm) help to create a very nimble bike that twinkle-toes through corners and hops merrily up climbs.

The Laser Mia will not be for everyone. In its pursuit of the original Lasers, Cinelli has bestowed upon this bike some of the quirks and foibles of yesteryear.

But in blending such characteristics with modern materials and components, it has made something both lovable and wonderfully unique.

Cynics would call it a trophy bike, but I prefer to think of it as the very best of the Sunday Bests.

Spec

Frame Cinelli Laser Mia
Groupset Campagnolo Super Record 2017
Brakes Campagnolo Super Record 2017
Chainset Campagnolo Super Record 2017
Cassette Campagnolo Super Record 2017
Bars Cinelli Ram3
Stem Cinelli Ram3
Seatpost Cinelli Vai  
Saddle Italia SLR Titanium Nubuk
Wheels Campagnolo Bora Ultra 50, Vittoria Corsa G+ 28mm tyres
Weight 7.02kg (55cm)
Contact chickencyclekit.co.uk

Page 1 of 2Cinelli Laser Mia review

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