Guest Article: Spinacis
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,
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.