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June 04, 2012
Bob Freeman, restoration maestro at Elliot Bay Cycles here in Seattle, has finished a tour de force. His just-completed 1961 Cinelli is perhaps the nicest example I've seen. It's an amazing job. Restorations like this have many twists and turns, tight spots, and obstacles. But when the finished machine glows like this one, you know it was worth it. 48 lovely images of the bike are here.
I have to admire his rim choice. Bob's available to spec and build wood rims for any application. Contact him at Elliot Bay. Wood is not the likely original equipment for the bike, but Italian and genuine. The wood rim era closed out in the late 1940's, early '50's. Undoubtedly, Cino Cinelli himself raced on wood and his frames frequently wore them.
The sleek green color from the Cinelli catalog, really puts this bike at home in the Northwest. Love to see the Universal Mod 61 brakes. I got a set in 1964 when my Dad found me a bent Bianchi. We straightened the frame at home and I eventually took it to college. That bike was wrecked but I kept the brakes and installed them stubbornly on a Peugeot PX-10. The PX-10 is long gone, but I kept the brakes. My daughter, Kristina, used them last year on her city bike, here in Seattle. It's not only bike frames whose stories are worth recalling.
Before leaving this immaculate bike, I must pay respects to the pantheon of Italian cycling greats. The generation that suffered WWII contained a unique type of industrial and cultural superman. These guys raced, smoked, drank, drove fast, and gave us the core aesthetics of the cycling we enjoy today. Cino Cinelli (1916-2001) was a giant among them. A successful competitor, his elegant bikes affected me more than any others when I first fell for cycling. It helped that his biggest US seller was Spence Wolf, then in nearby Cupertino. Cinelli's string of bold designs went on for years. Unica saddles, clipless pedals, classic bar and stem designs, modular hubs, and racy promotion.
Gino Bartali (1914-2000) was another icon of this era. His heroic life has been honored in a new book. Here's the story.
I was very fortunate to meet him in Milan in 1991. A tiny, intense, and friendly guy. The era would be incomplete without Tullio Campagnolo (1901-1983), a gruff and influential innovator. There's also Faliero Masi (1908-1999), an aristocratic and gracious spirit who visited California a number of times to bless our struggling efforts. Other big influences on the period include Fausto Coppi (1919-1960), who left us long before we could have met. Another supremely generous spirit is Fiorenzo Magni (1920-), who raced wood rims as late as 1950 and recently contributed to a magnificent cycling museum.
These pioneers seemed larger than life, like the titans of the Hollywood screen. They had peers in other vehicle industries; Enzo Ferrari (1898-1988), the Ducati brothers, etc.. For a wide eyed American kid, the confidence, innovation, quality, and aesthetic power of these people, both in product and in life, was inspirational. Italians continue to hugely influence cycling, with Colnago, DeRosa, Pinarello, Sidi, Vittoria, Selle Italia, etc. Our memory is not their vivid swagger but their success passing the legacy to subsequent generations. Whenever Italian cycling seems doomed, on the road or industrially, they manage to flourish. Maybe it's the Chianti.
Longtime Cinelli rider, Dave Coward, loaned me one of these signs that hung at Wheelsmith in Palo Alto for 25 years.
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