In one of only three known published interviews with Cino Cinelli - in this case the May 1976 issue of Bicycling – Cino explained to the visiting journalist that “he builds these components the way he wants solely because he thinks that they should be built that way".
In this small extract one is immediately able to understand one of the dominant characteristics of Cino (and any great brand builder): extraordinary stubbornness.
Stubbornness and consistency, an ability to form a strong, unique, opinion and not diverge from it despite the greatest of pressures, be they of the dominant opinion, a changing marketplace or trends.
And no object designed by him better expresses this particular stubbornness than our iconic Supercorsa which remains in production still today, almost 70 years after arriving at its definitive design, with only modest and superficial manufacturing modifications.
Legend has it that the Supercorsa was born in the following way: at the end of 1947, as he was setting up his new company in Milano, Cino managed to lure perhaps the world’s finest builder of racing bicycles, Luigi Valsasina, away from his then employer, Bianchi.
At Bianchi Valsasina had been the personal framebuilder of Fausto Coppi as well as numerous other top riders of the period. This fact in itself is representative of the great ambition of Cino to make his mark but what is even more striking is that upon hiring Valsasina and installing him in the new Cinelli factory he presented his esteemed framebuilder with a drawing for an entirely new kind of road bike, with highly unusual solutions such as a sloping fork crown (the world’s first) and an unheard of geometry.
Valsasina was opposed to both and insisted that his experience spoke for itself. Cino disagreed, he argued that road surfaces and technologies were changing and demanded suitable design modifications.
Finally the two men came to the following compromise: Valsasina would build two frames, one according to the ideas he thought best and one according to Cino’s concepts. They would then give the frames to their mutual friend and the greatest champion of the era Fausto Coppi. Coppi would test them and report back on which one he preferred.
Thus the frames were built and delivered to Coppi who returned to Cino and Valsasina and communicated a strong and unequivocal preference for Cino’s frame.
From then on Cino would continue to refine his design, adding iconic details such as the fastback seatstays, a new bottom bracket manufactured by Georg Fischer in Switzerland, metallic paint, drilled lugs... And his stubbornness would continue to make the Supercorsa more and more unique, even against his “best interests”.
For example Cino was for years the exclusive worldwide distributor of Columbus tubes but despite this he remained unconvinced by the wall thickness of Columbus’ top-of-the-range SL seattube and insisted on his own custom tube which also obliged him to offer the Supercorsa with a seattube diameter different to any other on the market for high end bicycles and thus also to convince his friend Campagnolo to make Record seatposts with a 26,2 diameter just for him. Despite the obvious difficulties of this minor modification, Cino insisted on it for the entirety of his time as owner of the company.
Over the years this distinctively stubborn mix of technological genius, luxury, contrariness, conservativeness and open-mindedness created a bicycle and company that is entirely unique. So unique and so powerful that whilst throughout the 1950s and early 60s variants of the Supercorsa, including the Mod.B (which won gold at the Rome Olympics road race) and Riviera, were offered, by the 1970s Cinelli offered only one bike: the Supercorsa.
To agents, distributors, clients who asked if a new model was in the works, Cino would reply “my bike works beautifully, why should I change it?”
Thanks to this the Supercorsa has outlasted other “dreambikes” of the golden era and has gone on to become the world’s most iconic and recognizable Italian race bike.