Reverence: Cinelli Forged Quill Stems

Reverence: Cinelli Forged Quill Stems

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Reading articles and viewing accompanying images here you'll notice a common piece of equipment on a large number of the classic riders' bikes. The Cinelli forged quill stem. Cinelli must have had one hell of a business model going in the 60's, 70's, and 80's because it seems their stems and bars were the must haves on many a pro-rider's steed. Yes, there were others such as 3TTT, ITM, Campag, and Shimano. All worthy manufacturers of quality equipment. But my extensive quantitative, and thus conclusive, research on the subject of classic quill stems has determined that Cinelli stems far outnumbered the others in the pro peloton.

The people of Milano, it happens, know something of the elegant juxtaposition of form and function. Who knew? Here's what they had to say to any prospective consumer who happened to pick up the package in an LBS of the time:

Cinelli stems have been recognised fore more than 40 years as the result of the most advanced and selective production cycles. The perfect construction, accurate finishing and high reliability are the reasons that have led to the most famous champions to choose Cinelli. All the models are produced by hot forging of extruded bars in 6082 alloy. This procedure guarantees structural compactness and more favourable fibre orientation. Successive phases of machining assure the precision of the clamp and the shaft diameters, guaranteeing extremely low tolerances.

You've probably noticed a couple of typos in the above quote. They were left in to convey the challenge some Italian marketing worker must have had translating the Italian from the other side of the box into English. Had it been a seamless translation imparting the beauty that the Italian written word surely does, there probably would have been even more consumers drooling on the box. No matter, drool on the box. I'm certain most of these boxes were not placed back on the shelf at the LBS. They were most certainly discarded after the consumer replaced their old stem, cables, and bar tape.

I chose a Cinelli stem for my most recent build. Though I've barely ridden 200k on the bike in the two weeks since it's rebirth, I have to say, they've been a glorious 200k in large part due to the Cinelli stem peering up at me on each ride. I had the choice of four models Cinelli made right before they and other manufacturers began focusing on the modern threadless stem. At the time one could choose from the Oyster, 101, X/A, and 1/A. The Oyster was Cinelli's “openable” model with a double pivot hinge. The 100mm Oyster weighed 260 grams and came in anodized silver or black. The 101, the stem I chose, was forged from 7075 aluminum and is the lightest of the four at 250 grams in 110mm. However, I did not choose it for its weight. I was drawn to the forged grooves in the front of the stem similar to the fins on a cylinder head. There was also the X/A which seemed to be the choice of most pros perhaps because at 290 grams for a 110mm it was the strongest. Finally there was the 1/A which came in the widest range of lengths and whose clamp faced the road, as opposed to the others, whose clamps faced the rider.

All four of the stems of this vintage had a few things in common. They all had expander bolts as opposed wedge nuts, 73 degree angles, and 26.4 clamp diameters. This last piece meant that the consumer was also tied to buying Cinelli 26.4 diameter handlebars. Those bastards! Making us buy a beautiful, functional stem and then having to buy gorgeous Cinelli bars to go with it whose curves rival those of any Bella Donna.

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// General

  1. My old Guerciotti was full Super Record and of course it possessed a Cinelli stem and bar. Since we’re on the subject of stand alone components we mustn’t forget Alfredo Binda toe straps and Simplex shifters. But I’m going to go really obscure and see who remembers these – the Cinelli “Unicanitor” saddle. Being a BMXer the Unicanitor was my dirty little secret (I used to horde them). It was designed as a cyclocross saddle but it looked like your basic black BMX saddle because it didn’t have any padding or covering on it – just a black plastic shell. BUT because of its shape it was extremely comfortable. Many modern saddles mimic the design – flat in the back where your sit bones rest.

    BTW, huge kudos on going with a Cinelli stem on your retro build.

  2. They are beautiful stems. In fact, I’m now of the opinion that quill stems are far and away better looking than the myriad A-head styles we see now. I just picked up another ITM quill, NOS, in a 130mm length. I plan on getting a shorter throw, classic bend bar to team it up with, and leave the long throw bar on the 120. The ITM is pretty sexy too…

  3. [pedant]Campagnolo never made a handlebar stem[/pedant]

  4. I’m not so sure about this one. I’ve had a few of all of these except the one with the fins. Cinelli stems creaked and crushed the bars (especially that x/a), they were popular but so is Lady Gaga. Now that ITM stem is pretty good, however a real beast to get bars into also. Whoever invented that removable bar clamp thing deserves a medal.

  5. michael:
    I’m not so sure about this one. I’ve had a few of all of these except the one with the fins. Cinelli stems creaked and crushed the bars (especially that x/a), they were popular but so is Lady Gaga. Now that ITM stem is pretty good, however a real beast to get bars into also. Whoever invented that removable bar clamp thing deserves a medal.

    You’re right about getting the ‘bars into an ITM stem, but it only takes reversing the bolt and tightening it into a 10c piece to make the job super easy. As well as liking the look of the flawed Cinelli XA I love the look of the ITM stems, and my Bianchi has the lovely (if slightly flexy) titanium Eclypse front and centre.

  6. @cyclops.. the Unicanitor saddle from Cinelli is a classic that is continued by Tioga with their plastic saddles. The newest one has a great solid feel even for the long rides.
    Cinelli was on the cutting edge of frames too!

  7. @Oli Brooke-White
    I’m glad you weighed in on this as my quantitative and conclusive research left me unsure about the campag. What’s this then, an engraved 1/A?

  8. @Marko

    Those are not “typos”, the text is in correct UK English.

  9. @eddysboy, @Cyclops
    Didn’t Beat Breu win at l’Alpe on one of those saddles? I always admired the look, but never had the nerve to try one out.

  10. @Marko
    That looks like a pantographed 1/A.

  11. @Oli Brooke-White
    That bike is worthy of a museum. Complete with the sexy record freehub! Mama mia!

  12. @frank
    They’re actually very comfortable and light.

  13. @michael

    I’m not so sure about this one. I’ve had a few of all of these except the one with the fins. Cinelli stems creaked and crushed the bars (especially that x/a), they were popular but so is Lady Gaga.

    I’m with you. I remember a lot of creaking, teflon tape, and general moaning about my stems. But they were good looking. I think the anodized bars and stems, both aluminum were bound to creak. I’m glad to have moved on, when climbing the principle of silence can be observed. I’m also glad to have left all those shitty Look pedals behind too, talk about creaking, sheit, I hate Look pedals.

    @Brett
    You are right about these quill stems being better looking, I haven’t lusted after a stem in years, that’s just sad.

  14. @Salsa_Lover
    You have to excuse Marko, he lives in the great white North in the U.S. They don’t see much of the King’s English.

  15. @Oli Brooke-White
    I gouged many a coin with that ITM stem. I guess I was more referring to how when you screwed that bolt onto the coin it felt like you were really cranking on that stem to the point where you might deform it.

    There is a BRAND NEW OLD STOCK 54cm 1986 Schwinn Paramount SLX Super Record here in town for sale that I’ve been lusting after as a wall hanger, it just isn’t in my budget to pick it up, anyone here?

  16. @Oli Brooke-White
    Mate, you need to explain the “10c piece method” to me when I get my new bars… had a hell of a battle with the last set of bars.

  17. @Brett
    You take out the clamp bolt completely and re-insert it in from the back/bottom end of the stem where it should hit the threads right away. Now when the bolt gets to the slot where the stem expands, you stick a coin in there and crank the bolt onto the coin spreading the slot a bit. Then you try to insert the bars and crank on the bolt as needed to fit the bars though.

  18. I debated adding this, since it adds nothing to the discussion at hand (my old Schwinn and Peugeot bikes have quill stems, but I couldn’t tell you anything about them).

    Here is a fine bit of Italian English, courtesy of a sticker that came with the pair of Sidi shoes I purchased earlier this year:

    Perhaps this will make up for the apparent lack of typos in the marketing materials provided in the original post.

  19. Marko :
    What’s this then, an engraved 1/A?

    It’s not a 1A, maybe a 3TTT.

  20. The classic mangling of the English language by Cinelli was the instructions for my Spinaci bars, and I quote (I have highlighted my favourite bits):

    The Spinaci light is the newest evolution of the Spinaci concept for racing
    extensions, the first extensions omologated by the UCI in Lausanne in 1994.
    The new Spinaci light is easily mounted on any yype of bike handlebars, but
    yhey fit well also for bikers who are not used to racing……….

    Mounting the Spinaci Light, it is not necessary removing or altering the
    gear levers. The clips must be positioned on the handlebarn as close as
    possible to the reinforcement zone (sleeve or bulge). Then pull grade by
    grade the three brugles until they meet the blocking couple
    to impede the
    rotation of the padding during use. Cinelli recommends the maximum value of
    blocking couple: 1, 5 kmg. The ergonomic system with double fulcrum allows
    to reach the suitable position. So, before proceeding with definitive
    screwing, choose the position most congenital.
    Cinelli recommends a maximum
    angle in relation to the horizontal plane of between -5° and 30° for the
    clip and between +5° and 30° for the extensions. Anyway it is possible to
    find different positions due to the morphology of the athlete or bicycle.

  21. @Oli Brooke-White
    Lovely. I particularly enjoyed “before proceeding with definitive screwing, choose the position most congenital”. They know a thing or two, those Italians.

  22. @Oli Brooke-White
    Oh shit! I laughed so hard I just omologated all over my computer.

  23. :-D

  24. @Oli Brooke-White

    Ah, I’m sure congenital screwing may be illegal here in the US, I’m not sure about Italy.

    Though to be fair, most Americans have a grasp of the English language that is “passable” at best, though I’ll blame my own failings on quick/lazy proof-reading.

  25. I just picked up a Cinelli 1R for my early 80’s steel project, I fell for the hidden clamp. I’ve heard that there can be issues with the cast wedge mechanism breaking, maybe somebody here knows a trick or two to help ensure its longevity? What I don’t understand are some of Cinelli’s later offerings like the Altar stem, it looks like it was conceived by a CNC machinist.

  26. @Oli Brooke-White
    Obviously, the best part is:

    Anyway it is possible to
    find different positions due to the morphology of the athlete or bicycle.

    But Oli, I have to ask…why did you read the instructions? You don’t seem like a sissy. But I’m sure you just read it for the funny gramar mistakes.

  27. @frank

    But I’m sure you just read it for the funny gramar mistakes.

    Intentional?

  28. It’s an ALTER stem. And I only read the instructions because they are printed on the box and I was having a quiet moment with it before sullying the packaging with my rapacious paws…

  29. Didn’t Armstrong, like others at that time (last photo), use the Ti version?
    (Shown here at the towards the bottom of the page: http://www.lfgss.com/thread6261-248.html)

    I’ve always had a “Ti-boner” for all things titanium, this stem was no exception at the time, or now really.

  30. Yep, you’re right. That’s the Grammo…

  31. Aside from the obvious aesthetic downgrades of modern carbon bikes over the classic steel steeds of the bygone era, the quill stem might be the biggest loss. Threadless stems inspire nothing, not even a halfhearted (or quarter hearted) carbone.

    Good write-up and sweet photos. I have a Cinelli stem and bars on my Tommasini. I’ve thought about shaving a few pounds off the bike by changing out the bars, but then I punch myself in the stomach for such an idea and go for a ride in the big ring the whole way to punish myself and purge such a thought.

    I also have a few of the Shimano quill stems with the hidden bolts, made by Nitto. Those are nice too, but then again, they aren’t Italian, so can’t compare to the Cinellis.

    Question: is “carbone” pronounced with a hard Eye-talian C?

  32. @Gianni

    @Salsa_Lover
    “that have led to the most famous champions to choose Cinelli”

    No, this is incorrect even in crazy England.

  33. Binda Extra! That nylon reinforcement layer made these the best ever.

  34. I doubt anyone is desiring to go shorter, but why not give it a shot.

    I’ve got a X/A in 90 mm on my Tommasini & would like to swap it out for a 110. Gimme a shout if anyone is in the market for such a switcheroo. Thanks.

  35. @Ron Friends don’t let friends ride 90mm stems on roadbikes.  Cast that thing into the fires of Mt Velomis when you get the 110.

  36. @Nate

    @Ron Friends don’t let friends ride 90mm stems on roadbikes. Cast that thing into the fires of Mt Velomis when you get the 110.

    This. Spot on.

  37. @Eurobobster

    I just picked up a Cinelli 1R for my early 80″²s steel project, I fell for the hidden clamp. I’ve heard that there can be issues with the cast wedge mechanism breaking, maybe somebody here knows a trick or two to help ensure its longevity? What I don’t understand are some of Cinelli’s later offerings like the Altar stem, it looks like it was conceived by a CNC machinist.

    A bit late I know, but a sandpaper shim or Loctite will do.

  38. Cinelli 1R — bolt discreet (internal wedge)

  39. oh dear – friends don’t let friends use 90mm stems? i was thinking of swappng out a cinelli 101 stem that;s 100 for a 90 1A. this is wrong?? goodness (its for my c95 colnago…)

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