The foundations of the brand
Cino Cinelli always had a deep passion for two wheels and began his career amongst the amateur cycling ranks winning a number of different cups before moving on as an independent professional in 1937. As a professional, he continued to shine winning more and more races, notably the Andrea Boero Cup and the Giro dell'Appennino, earning a lot of attention and public acclaim.
By this time the technicians at Frejus had been watching him for a while and in 1938 Cino Cinelli joined the team. In the same year, Cino went on to win the Rieti-Rome and Ascoli Piceno-Ravenna stages of the Giro d'Italia ranking 12th in the final classification.
Later in the year, in October 1938 Cino found himself wheel to wheel with the rising star, Gino Bartali in the Giro di Lombardia Cino. The race is fierce but it is Cino who gets the upper hand and takes home the victory in 6 hours and 38 minutes at the Vigorelli in Milan. Cinelli and Bartali would always remain close friends and very competitive colleagues after that. In 1939, his second year with the Frejus team jersey Cino crossed the finish line of the Giro di Campania as the winner, once again ahead of Bartali and Rimoldi.
Available Cinelli Bicycles
While Cino was rising through the ranks of professional cycling his brother Giotto, who was passionate about mechanics, started his own production of handlebars and stem bars and in 1940 with his other brother Arrigo founded "Cicli Giotto Cinelli Ltd." based in Florence.
In 1940 Cino changed his jersey and began his career with Team Bianchi and despite Italy's entry into the second world cycling races continued in spite of many limitations. Cino raced in the blue jersey for four years, winning multiple events. He ranked 6th at the 1943 Giro d'Italia, also called "Giro di Guerra" (Tour of War). These years being in the war Cino was in fact a soldier but he is selected in the state team and so authorized to train and participate in the races.
Cinelli passed to Team Benotto, 1944 and went on to win the Milano Campo dei Fiori, however, in that same summer he moved to the US Azzini team but soon after he decided to retire forever from competitions and dedicate himself to a new life.
Cino Cinelli's retirement from racing
After leaving racing, Cino joined his brother Giotto's and started the Cinelli & C., marketing and sales company. Dealing with the marketing of handlebars and stems produced by his brothers. The company grew from strength to strength and by 1946 Cinelli had started selling complete bicycles. The bicycles produced in Florence would be marketed by Cinelli & C. with an office and warehouse in Milan.
After a lifetime spent in the cycling community, Cino knew all the main players: companies, organizations, technicians and, of course, cyclists. The protection of cyclists was a particularly important issue for Cino who, together with his friends Fausto Coppi and Gino Bartali, founded an association to represent the interests of professional Italian cyclists (A.C.C.P.I.) as well as in the Italian Sports Federation (CONI). Cino went on to be the president of the A.C.C.P.I. for the next 24 years.
In 1947 Cinelli hired the legendary frame builder Luigi Valsasina. Valsasina built Cino's frames when he raced for the Bianchi team, as well as those of Fausto Coppi. Valsasina was the only one responsible for all the production of Cinelli frames and was helped by some workers. The average production in the first years was about 250 pieces per year including frames and bikes.
The birth of Cinelli
Towards the end of 1947, Giotto and Arrigo agreed to sell their shares and the intellectual property of Cicli Giotto Cinelli to Cino. After this, the production machinery was shipped from Florence to Milan and immediately put into operation.
In 1951 Cinelli made the prototype of a new Special Corsa frame. Designed for smooth roads had a full-sloping fork crown with internal lugs, the fork blades are shorter, stiffer, and of the oval section to increase aerodynamics. The bicycle was an instant success receiving more than positive feedback from the great champion and friend Fausto Coppi.
An advertisement in 1951 of the Earls Court Show in London presented the official release of the; Cinelli S.C. (Model A), Cinelli S.C. Roma (Model B) and Cinelli S.C. Riviera (Model C). Paving the way for the Cinelli Speciale Corsa to enter into production and to become one of the most iconic and long-lived models in the history of bicycles.
The Model S.C. - Super Corsa which was called Speciale Corsa for a brief period and finally Supercorsa, has been the top model of Cinelli for decades.
The Cinelli Roma or Model B is the 'little brother' of the Model S.C. Viktor Kapitanov was triumphant in the 1960s Olympic road race on a Model B.
The Cinelli Riviera or Model C was the entry-level lightweight frame of Cinelli. It was used for all kinds of purposes from city bikes to full racing bikes.
Cinelli and the Olympics
In parallel to his activity as an entrepreneur, Cino Cinelli attended the meetings of the Corridors Association with Coppi and Bartali. His experience and position lead him to be a potential supplier qualified and esteemed by the top Italian and foreign sports realities. Between 1955 and 1959 Cinelli supplied the Italian national team with track bikes.
For the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome, the Olympic Committee equips the entire Italian track cycling team with Cinelli Bicycles and Tandems. The Italian Luigi Arienti, together with his teammates Vigna, Vallotto and Testa, win the gold medal in the team pursuit. Italy went on to take the gold in the Tandem with Bianchetto and Beghetto. Cinelli won the gold medal also in the road race with the Soviet cyclist, Viktor Kapitonov.
After winning so many golds at the Olympics the Pista section of his manufacture became somewhat renowned.
In 1963, Cinelli, who until then only used the Columbus tubes for fork's blades and stays, decided to replace the Reynolds 531, used for the main tubes, with the Columbus SL (Light Road). From then on, all Cinelli frames were built exclusively with tubes produced by Columbus.
On October 10, 1968, Ole Ritter set the hour record to 48.653 km on a Cinelli bicycle.
The 1970s was a year of massive developments for Cinelli as a brand representing lots of changes within the company. Starting with the phasing out of the Cinelli S.C. Roma (Model B.) Around 1975 Cino Cinelli designed a new bike called "Ridotto" model with 26-inch wheels and very long cranks. Cino claimed that it would be the ideal road bike and that cyclists would benefit from the higher speed resulting from the use of smaller wheels, as well as having longer cranks that would provide better leverage.
In 1978, Antonio Colombo joined Cinelli as the main shareholder and the successor of Cino Cinelli. He set about updating the company and commissioned the new Cinelli logo to Italo Lupi, a young architect who over the years would design important logos; Prada, Fiorucci and the Turin Olympics. Cinelli's logo was among the first to completely distance itself from the heraldic tradition, becoming the most imitated logo of the internet of modern cycling.
The new Cinelli 'winged' logo displayed on a Cinelli Supercorsa
While observing the first French aerodynamic bicycles at a trade show in Japan, a new innovative idea hits Antonio Colombo. When he is back in Italy, he confronts Gianni Gabella and together they start a new exciting project commissioning the frame builder Andrea Pesenti for the creation of the first prototype.
Team Italia Cinelli Laser
The Cinelli Laser was the first bike in history to win the Compasso d'Oro award in 1991. Winner of 28 gold medals at the Olympics and World Championships, there is even a Cinelli Laser on display at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago.
Keith Haring Cinelli Laser
Antonio Colombo meetings a young Keith Haring in 1986 who is in Milan to paint the new Fiorucci store. They instantly become friends and Colombo gifts Haring a Cinelli Laser, four years later Haring asks Colombo to pick it up in New York and he sees that the bicycle has been painted in a style typical of Harling.
Antonio Colombo and the Keith Haring Cinelli Laser
Sources: Cinelli Vintage. (2021). La Nostra Storia. Available: https://www.cinellivintage.it/history.