Guest Article: Spinacis

Guest Article: Spinacis

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While we generally try to space out our guest pieces by a few weeks at least, we simply couldn’t resist the temptation to chuck this one up right on the heels of Oli Brooke-White’s post on Spinaci’s.  After all, this is probably the second time in the Velominati’s history that a direct reference has been made to this relic of cycling’s past; it would be foolish to let another year go by as we wait for better timing.

The Spinacis hail from a time when experimentation was rife in cycling (both in equipment and, shall we say, performance improvement methods) as funnybikes, handlebar attachments, and electronic shifting all graced the peloton as riders sought to find the maximum advantage. Sit back and enjoy as Jarvis returns to take us through his account of this iconic piece of kit.

Yours in Cycling,

Frank

Harking back to the days when the UCI banned equipment for a good reason, the Spinaci was a piece of equipment that possibly troubled the Velominatus of the day on both personal style and how they affected the aesthetic properties of the bike. I say possibly because I never owned any, financial implications meant it was more important to ensure I had matching tyres.

For the rider, the Spinaci allowed, if set properly, an elegantly elongated position similar to that of the tri-bar but allowing a degree more comfort for those longer days in the saddle. However, get the position wrong and you could look like you were trying to lick your front wheel.

Aesthetically there were similar issues: although additional equipment in general spoils the lines of a road bike and so is frowned upon by the Velominati, get the position of the Spinaci right and you could actually enhance the bike. The ideal position was to have the clamps at 45 degrees and the bars parallel to the ground, although a degree or two to the vertical was acceptable. Mostly though, people set them up in one of three other ways: the aforementioned “wheel-licker”, in the mistaken belief that just because you below the horizontal you were somehow more aerodynamic; those who used them as a poor-mans tri-bar (they just weren’t long enough for that), and finally there were those who angled them up in front of their face, thus assuming the areodynamics of a brick. These people also tended to use them to hang all sorts of additional bar accessories on as well as their shopping. Latterly these people have adopted tri-bars for the same purpose.

That said, the desire for the aero advantage and comfort provided by these bar extensions meant they were effectively the Lay-Z Boy of the handlebar world. You could prop your entire body weight on your forearms in a youthful slump rather than actually making your muscles do some work. Previously any attempt to be aero while riding the opposition off your rear wheel was a case of holding the tops of your bars as close to the stem as possible and hoping your upper arms didn’t cramp up.

If you ever raced through that era, being in a bunch with riders using Spinaci’s was one of the scariest things you’ll ever have done and the best excuse to get off the front of the race, or simply off your bike. This is why they disappeared – the timeline on Cinelli’s website indicates their brief but bright life lasted from 1993 until they were banned from competition by the UCI at the end of 1997. There is a good reason they don’t allow tri-bars in bunch racing and that’s because you have the reaction time and control of an elephant on a tightrope and it was the same with Spinaci’s. I remember one time when I was near the front of a bunch and took a look over my shoulder at that moment a rider on Spinacis touched a wheel and I saw him spear across the road on his face taking out half the bunch.

The same era of the mid-90’s saw combined shifters and brakes becoming widespread in the Peloton and although only applicable for those running Shimano, if you didn’t have Spinaci’s, you could use your gear cables as pretend aero bars. The control was as good, if not better than the Spinaci – if you pulled the cable in the right direction you might even manage to get some sembelence of braking.

The Spinaci showed me the way though; I adopted the “Ghost Spinaci” position, gripped my STI cables lightly and did my best to ride the opposition off my rear wheel.

// Guest Article // Nostalgia // Racing // Technology // Tradition

  1. Not sure how pulling a shift cable helps with braking…

  2. The ideal position was to have the clamps at 45 degrees and the bars perpendicular to the ground, although a degree or two to the vertical was acceptable.

    Uhmmmmm……really?

  3. Nice article Jarvis. The extra light Spinacis made of “Drillium” were particularly special.

    As to your racing experience with them, “when I was near the front of a bunch and took a look over my shoulder at that moment a rider on Spinacis touched a wheel and I saw him spear across the road on his face taking out half the bunch.”, well,

    You gotta love a guy “getting aero” in the middle of a bunch!

  4. Look at Jalabert suggesting they Rule #5 or get the hell out of his way! Love that man. Even nice Rule #8 ing with the matching pedals.

  5. There’s a good pic of Jeremy Hunt leading the bunch on a real Rule #9 day, laying down a bucketload of V on the skinny Italians. Must find it somewhere. He is in the Spinacci position, sans bars obviously, but looking relaxed and ready for at least another hour of 11 cog cruising.

  6. @Zoncolan

    Look at Jalabert suggesting they Rule #5 or get the hell out of his way! Love that man. Even nice Rule #8 ing with the matching pedals.

    Yeah, me too…he is definitely always pretty Rule Compliant. I loved that old look of using one STI lever and one DT shifter…always something I wanted to do. Maybe, when I build the EV2 back to it’s Glory Day config, I’ll pick up some levers and a DT Shifter and do that, just to do it.

  7. frank :
    @Zoncolan

    Look at Jalabert suggesting they Rule #5 or get the hell out of his way! Love that man. Even nice Rule #8 ing with the matching pedals.

    Yeah, me too…he is definitely always pretty Rule Compliant. I loved that old look of using one STI lever and one DT shifter…always something I wanted to do. Maybe, when I build the EV2 back to it’s Glory Day config, I’ll pick up some levers and a DT Shifter and do that, just to do it.

    Brother, we were seperated at birth, this is a dream of mine also, together with my treasured ONCE kit (as in the picture). Hell i even have the black one he and Zulle wore in the TDF. Fanboytastic.

    Just make sure you don’t wuss out and go for an indexed one, friction only in a nice Dura Ace style…you could even drill a couple of holes in the lever like i saw on a ONCE Look bike in the 1990s.

  8. Not sure I like the Spinacci’s although I do confess to a mild case of bike lust over them at the time.

    For me, they’re too much in the cheating tri bars category. Wheelsucking, drafting, triathlon? It’s not really in the spirit of sport, we all know that.

    I have no issue with any Pro of the day using them, that’s a different issue. Jez Hunt would be one Pom I’d like in an Aussie team anyday.

    There’s Hell Ride bunch in Melbourne (sadly a pedestrian was killed by the bunch a few years ago) which goes pretty hard. If you tried riding that in your Tri Bars and you’d be safer telling them you molested their kids.

    The reason tri bars are not acceptable in bunch riding is because they are soft, safety is only a side issue. Spinacci’s are in the same boat.

  9. Love that photo.

    Typo when talking about Cinelli website and the word brief.

  10. That is a great photo; I love that Bartoli (I think that’s Bartoli looking back, anyway) has anodized rims and hubs – implicitly against The Rules of course, but an interesting look.

    And the Bull is riding in two (TWO) different color shoes!

  11. SupermanSam:
    For me, they’re too much in the cheating tri bars category. Wheelsucking, drafting, triathlon? It’s not really in the spirit of sport, we all know that.

    While I will agree that anything related to triathlons does not belong in what we know as the sport of cycling (see Rule #42), I have to say that drafting (a nicer name for wheelsucking?) is firmly a part of the sport, professional and amateur alike. Also, in group and individual time trials, bars are of course allowed. But that is the ONLY time they should be employed by a road rider.

    During a road race, there is nothing like seeing a group of guys working together for a bit (despite being on separate teams), only to then watch them try to bury each other into the ground as they try and shake their opponents off.

    Also, there is the job of the domestique to help teammates get into position for sprints, work their way up the field, and other tasks, utilizing the power of drafting.

    Drafting is fine – you just need to not be dumb about it and not employ the use of devices (like aero bars) in situations where they are not appropriate, such as as standard paceline.

  12. great post up Jarvis.

    You bring up a memory of mine that I have long forgotten, the old Spinaci’s. Everyone had them, and within a year, nearly everyone threw them away, that is who observed the ‘unspoken’ Rules. That was one of the first observed Rules I abided by, and one that for me at my time was one that identified me as a rider, not a sucker like the ones trying to ride w/them.

    @mcsqueak: There is a duality to your point which I appreciate. If I may discuss the flip side of what your observing as well which you imply to some extent here. Indeed there is a poetic beauty observed in the pack, or even more poignant in the Team time trial TTT, as they all equally share a load, in form, in sequential tandem…it is near perfection on 2 wheels. However, I need to return to earth every now and again and remind myself of reality. I am not PRO and I have no domestique and I don’t play as one in the pack either. In any given club ride or even in any given race we really are individuals at this level and need to observe Rule V over all others. That means I should try not to draft, not to milk the powers of others, rather, expose them and perhaps expose myself by riding harder. So, ride on the front, set pace, work, observe Rule V and draft a little.

    The sport of cycling is interesting in so many ways, one which we find here, working less to perform more. It seems quite counterintuitive. Why don’t we work harder expecting perform more, thus we here in the Velomantus do in observance of Rule V. Yet for those outside of this circle, it is the norm and thus we have problems of dope in PRO circles, we have weight weenies and crazy things of the like.

    Do we draft, do we appreciate the work in the breakaway, yes without a doubt, but there is a degree of hardness evidenced in that which makes it so admirable.

  13. I have a box of bike parts and at the bottom are my Spinaci bars. Don’t know why I still have them, but I do. They were not as comfortable as my carbon wing bar tops with my hands draped over the bars. That’s half the beauty for the wing shape. It assumes the position of prerace slouch per Rule #80 while laying down the V.

  14. @Souleur

    Agreed. I’m sure some of this site are racers of various categories and accomplishments; however I am not one of them. I’m just a guy who likes cycling much more than any of his friends seem to.

    It’s a funny thing about cycling, in that there is a romanticism around the suffering, hard work, and the besting of personal goals for the type of cyclist that reads this site. You certainly won’t get the same answer from someone who is a “summer bike path rider”.

    I also agree that the pros have a whole different game to play than those of us who just tool around town and do some group rides. At the same time, some of the longest and hardest rides I have ever done have been with one or more other cyclists, where we worked together to achieve our shared goal. I certainly don’t think there is anything wrong with that, as long as you are challenging yourself enough to grow as a cyclist. The person who skips riding hills and just hangs out on the end of a paceline during group rides is never going to grow.

    You need to carefully balance all of these things to become a better cyclist in my opinion. But that is getting WAY off topic…

  15. SPINACIS + BARBONE = SPINACILINGUS

  16. Nice one Jarvis; but where the hell are you? Come back mate, we miss your insights.

    There was a set of Spinacis on TradeMe recently, and I was oh so tempted to buy those suckers and mount them on the Bozzie, just for shits and giggles. If they weren’t red, and the drilled version, they might just be in my possession now. Kinda glad they’re not.

  17. @SupermanSam
    All

    If you want to read an article about an Aussie hardman written by Superman Sam, go over to Cyclingtips.

    http://www.cyclingtipsblog.com/2010/11/where-are-they-now-don-allan/#comments

    You will also hear how Mr Superman got to dine with someone fairly special.

  18. @Marcus
    Yeah, read that this morning, highly recommended.

  19. @Marcus

    Cheers Marcus. Thanks.

    For a funny sideline, check out this interview with the Aussie hard man of the track Danny Clark – http://www.pezcyclingnews.com/?pg=fullstory&id=7999

    Don Allan is the other rider with Danny (Southern Cross stars on jersey).

    Danny won the second highest number of 6 day races, in later races after he got off his bike after racing (8pm – 2am each night) he sang out front in the band in the middle of the track. He also rode for a team sponsored by a Danish stick mag (p@rn mag), which went well with the ‘mo. Surely he gets a free pass for violation of Rule #50 because he looked like he could have starred in the mag..?

    I have it on good authority that well into his late ’40’s (48 I think) he was still laying down the hurt in the Australian national champs. The winner in ’94 told me Danny went off the front for 2-3 laps, leaving the young O’Grady, etc. chewing their bars.

    PS. Superman Sam is my 4 year old’s nickname, no self-promotion from me mate. Especially in the presence of someone Eddy Merckx calls ‘mate’.

  20. @SupermanSam
    That was a great read ‘Sam’, I’d never heard of Mr Allan, but he’s definitely worthy of Aussie Hardman status. As for Danny Clark, well he needs no introduction to me, and I’m sure our International readers know of his pedigree. Rule #50 would’ve ran away cowering from the porn pushing vocalist in pure fear and awe.

  21. Parallel

    Perpendicular

    Recheck your geometry there, einstein. Unless you really do mean perpindicular, in which case you would look like a douche among douches.

  22. @Tim that’s what editors are for, but I’ll apologise for inadvertent wrongelism. So nice of you to politely point out the error

    @brett twins, they take a lot of time.

  23. Hey there terrific website! Does running a blog like this take a lot of
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  24. @Lee

    Hey there terrific website! Does running a blog like this take a lot of
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    however I was hoping to start my own blog in the near future.
    Anyways, should you have any suggestions or techniques for new blog owners please share.

    I understand this is off topic but I just wanted to ask.
    Kudos!

    No mate it’s piss easy.

    The only thing that takes up much time is that there are actually only two people who write, post and argue with each other so it can take a while to work up the comments.

    It was originally going to be called Derek and Clive on Bikes.

    Go for it, the world needs more blogs.

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