Cinelli are one of the most iconic Italian marques. When steel ruled the roost, their exquisitely finished frames were objects of desire. And don't get us started on their classic 1980s low-pro specials…
The Columbus-designed Saetta frame retails for £1,349 with matching Columbus full-carbon fork, so effectively you're getting Campagnolo's full-carbon Centaur groupset and Vento Reaction wheels, and Cinelli's Vai finishing kit for a grand. a Veloce-specced Saetta costs £1,899.
The first thing you notice about the Saetta's ride is its lively spring and bounding nature. The slim, curved top tube flows through the wishbone seatstay to create discernible flex. it takes a while to adapt to, but once you have it's very rewarding.
Fortunately this springiness isn't induced by pedalling. In fact, the lower half of the frame is kept in check, being taut and responsive, the oversize hexagonal down tube, bottom bracket shell and tall chainstays providing ample rigidity when you're really pounding on the pedals.
The tall head tube reduces the reach and provides a good balance between racy and relaxed positions. It's not tall enough to make the ride pedestrian, but neither is it low enough for tucked-in-the-drops flat-backed efforts. This makes it nigh on ideal for those who occasionally get the hammer down but are more likely to be riding an all-day sportive or trying to conquer an alpine col.
The contact points are all comfortable, the mid-weight Cinelli cork tape thick enough to take vibrations away, the anatomic Vai bar offering a comfortable grip from the hoods and easy to reach drop positioning. The frame itself is quite radically compact so if you do need more comfort, there's plenty of exposed seatpost to permit an upgrade to a quality carbon post.
Centaur may 'only' be 10-speed, ruling out upgrades to higher level Campagnolo bits, but when the shifting is this crisp, the overall quality so high and the carbon this cool-looking, who'd want to?
The wheels carry a few more grams than we'd expect on a bike at this price but are very well put together, with smooth-running bearings. Vittoria's top-notch Open Corsa CX tyres add a bit of zing. Their grip, and the bike's lively feel, result in a machine that we grew in confidence with throughout the time we were testing it.