Monday, August 4, 2014

Cipollini RB1000 Review: Challenging Cipollini’s claim to have built “The Ultimate Weapon...”

Cipollini. That name is foreign to anyone who has not been in the cycling scene long enough to know what it means or who it is. I’m guilty of that. Cycling for me is not about who wins races or what team is the best, but it is about the advancements humans have achieved with our minds. Our imagination and desires can drive us to create innovations beyond our physical limits. This… is one of them.

The Cipollini RB1000 or RB1K is not your typical looking bike. At first glance, one might wonder if its a Time Trial bike, an Aero Road bike, or maybe, even a spaceship! You can’t tell what it is designed for by the shape of the tubes, but, one thing’s for sure - it looks fast. Prior to this full blown Cipollini experience, I have always used the Pinarello Dogma 65.1 as the benchmark to compare all my ride experiences. In my opinion, the Dogma 65.1 has a great balance of power  output, handling, braking, and comfort.

Read on about the Cipollini review after the jump!

As someone who has been blessed with the opportunity to test many different frames, I feel that it is my duty to provide a review, on any frame, that gives the reader a good sense of how it may ride like in various conditions and scenarios. This way, I can provide a more concrete review with reasons why one should or should not believe “all that hype.” I must state, at this point, that I did NOT want to like this bike. My goal was to find flaws in the design, not because I have anything against Cipollini, but because I wanted to challenge Cipollini’s claim to have built “the ultimate weapon.” 

To ensure proper feedback, I made sure to dial in my fit. The drop was the only difference in the attempt to mimic the fit on my own Dogma 65.1. Since the demo bike had a steerer that was already cut super low, instead of my usual “recreational” rider drop of 2.5”, it was at 3.8”. The difference isn’t drastic but definitely not what I am use to. This proved to be no issue. The comfort of the bike was surprising considering how the publicity on this bike made it seem like it would rattle your socks off no matter how you set it up; unless the pavement was perfect.

The word often used to describe this bike is “fast” and that’s exactly how you feel within the first few pedal strokes on this bike. It shoots out from under you as if it’s trying to buck you off its saddle. The acceleration is so unexpected that you immediately tighten your grip ever so slightly as you take your first pedal strokes. This feeling is not exclusive to this bike: Pinarello Dogma 65.1, Eddy Merckx EMX-525, BMC impec, Specialized Venge, BMC timemachine TMR01, and a few other frames have given me the same “crotch rocket” feel. However, amongst these great frames, the RB1000 would be one of my top 3 picks.   

As I reached my first climb, I prepared myself for torture since climbing is not an advertised forte for this frame. I kept a comfortable cadence and conversed with my buddy as we kept riding up. The 3-mile climb averaging 5% grade usually takes me 15-18 minutes. The same time was achieved with far less effort and before I knew it, I was at the top of the hill! I looked back in disbelief and realized I had no complaints on this climb! Typically, the first thing I would notice is how well a frame performs climbing IN saddle. Being 180lbs means every bit of flex can be more noticeable for someone my size. The RB1K showed no sign of weakness in this department. I was able to achieve the same segment time with a taller gear and feeling less winded than usual.  

Then comes the fun part, the descent. I got into the drops and started bombing down the hill! The bike steered with ease, dove into the turns with no deflection of the front wheel, tracked straight and true through the corner and allowed me to start pedaling the second I’m comfortable with my exit angle. Again, simply FAST in-and-out through turns, switchbacks, and sharp corners. The bike did exactly what it was made to do, to cover pavement. The brake balance on the Cipollini is incredible! Its short head tube, stiff fork, and the new industry standard of 1.5” bottom headset bearing all played a role in the frame’s short braking distance. Just like it’s incredible ability to accelerate, you must brace yourself for it’s phenomenal braking. Rolling hills and flat terrains had no other results than the combination of the above.

The comfort level on this bike is not as good as the Pinarello Dogma 65.1. With aluminum spoke wheels, it will definitely give your triceps and shoulders a slight workout. However, on a nice set of well balanced steel spoked wheels, such as the Sapim CX-Rays, this bike will provide a great amount of comfort. I tested the Cipo on multiple sets of wheels: Campagnolo Shamal Ultra Clinchers, Zipp 303 Firecrest carbon clinchers, handbuilt Chris King Classics on Velocity A23 rims with Sapim CX-Ray spokes, and Fulcrum Racing 5’s. In terms of performance, only the Fulcrum Racing 5 seemed to decrease the frame’s capabilities, whereas ride quality is the only difference in the other wheels.

The frame constantly demanded more from my legs, finding myself begging for a flaw on the bike to slow down. My 2 weeks of riding consisted of flats, rollers, and climbs with pavement ranging from flawless to desperately in need of TLC to ensure that I wrote a well rounded review. At the end of this 2 week test run, I found myself wishing I never got the chance to try out this bike. I gave up on fighting the desire for this bike and toyed with the idea of selling one of my bikes to purchase this Cipollini. The way it pulls, steers, brakes, and climbs just really shows that this is a bike that is designed to be fast. All in all, this bike was simply breathtaking.

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