CINELLI SAETTA ITALO CENTAUR
£1649.99 › Cinelli, Campagnolo – two classic Italian marques – carbon and an attractive price
While Campagnolo dates back to 1933, Cinelli is a little younger but still celebrates its 70th birthday in 2018. The Saetta frame has been around a while and has long represented one of the best-value routes into Campagnolo-equipped carbon road bikes. Cinelli and Campagnolo are joined by other Italian outfits Miche and Kappa in kitting out the 2019 Saetta Italo. The aluminium cockpit components are Cinelli’s, with all brands distributed by Chicken Cyclekit.
Cinelli’s Saetta Italo comes with Campagnolo’s Centaur, the brand’s 11-speed setup designed to compete against Shimano 105, both costing around £400. It lacks carbon but is mechanically pretty much identical to the £735 Potenza (Campagnolo’s Ultegra competitor) and Chorus.
The Cinelli cockpit components, Miche Race chainset and wheels major on toughness rather than low weight and the Miche gear complements the Cinelli’s looks. The Saetta’s 8.65kg is reasonable; and the 1630g frameset weight is fine, if no longer cutting edge – though such is the ride quality you rarely notice the few extra grams.
Most of the bikes in this test major on speed but this has endurance and long-distance comfort in mind. Cinelli puts this down to ‘Skeletal Efficiency Philosophy’, so the toptube is thinner at the centre, like a skeleton, reducing weight without compromising strength. The joints, such as the bottom bracket area, are strengthened, while the curved seatstays improve the carbon lamination. That’s Cinelli’s spiel, and while naturally cynical about bike manufacturers’ love of techspeak, it really does seem to work.
From the very first ride this smoothed out some of our rougher local roads and there were no
handling hiccups even on some gravel-surfaced Sustrans routes. Occasional moderate towpath-type forays are easily within the Cinelli’s remit. Compared with the other test bikes it might be slightly slower up hills, but it doesn’t lose out on the descents, the frame, fork and wheels stiff enough for rapid and controlled changes of direction. But it’s most at home tapping out the miles regularly at a decent lick, rolling sportives, century rides and the like.
The oversize seatpost doesn’t seem to have a negative impact on comfort, presumably thanks to the frame’s carbon layup, geometry and Prologo saddle. We had no complaints about the cockpit either, its straightforward entry-level alloy bar and stem do a good job.
Campagnolo’s Centaur provides crisp, accurate shifts that offer a solid ‘clunk’ and greater feedback than Shimano’s somewhat softer- shifting levers. Better or worse than Shimano (or SRAM)? Neither, it works very well, just differently, though the 12-27 cassette might leave you searching for a bigger sprocket on the steepest climbs. We were also a little surprised to see non-cartridge brakes – usually the province of entry-level bikes – but the braking was very good, and would be improved further with inexpensive cartridge blocks.
The Saetta may not be the newest carbon kid around, but it’s still a very good design – comfortable, composed, elegantly finished and some Latin class.
The Cinelli cockpit components, Miche Race chainset and wheels major on toughness
Below Miche Performance brakes could be improved with cartridge blocks Bottom Comfort didn’t suffer even with the oversized aluminium seatpost
From the very first ride this smoothed out some of our rougher local roads