The rebirth of cool; Cinelli
Cinelli is one of the iconic brands in cycling, around since the late 40’s in one capacity or another. Cinelli is responsible for lasting designs and innovations that will be part of cycling’s history and heritage into the next millennia and beyond. The incredible history of the brand is something any company would like to have.
It is not to say that Cinelli has not had its problems and defeats, as well as all those victories. There have been many setbacks along the way, but Cinelli has managed to always smartly find a way to climb back from the abyss and reestablish itself as a brand to be reckoned with.
Cinelli had fallen on some pretty rough times in the 90’s, but then they introduced a very innovative handlebar extension called Spinaci. These clever extensions became exceptionally popular with racers around the globe and at the highest levels of the sport. Sadly, the international governing body of cycling- the UCI- decided they were unsafe and banned them from competition in mass start events. This meant the death of Spinaci and the countless copycat products they’d spawned. This also threw Cinelli back into some rough waters.
The brand never went away and was never all that close to vanishing, but the image had been dented again and the name was fading from the hierarchy of brands at the top of the sport- despite the best efforts of the products and the engineers and designers at Cinelli.
Ultimately, what saved the brand and has kept it alive to this day, is the brand’s great eye for Italian design. Cinelli has always had a strong reputation for iconic modern Italian design. From the famous winged “C” logo, to the hallmark use of color and an eye for spotting trends. This all lead to Cinelli constantly maintaining a cult following of rabid fans willing to look past mistakes or missteps, eagerly awaiting the next design- whether with glee or morbid curiosity.
It’s the eye for design and ability to remain “current” with fashionable trends that gave the fans something to love. And those fans have spanned multiple generations. The young fans of today are largely in love with the deigns of the past- and Cinelli has been smart enough to give them what they want. Cinelli has remained relevant by listening to their fans and allowing them to dictate where the brand is going… or returning to.
The strength of Cinelli today lies in the fact that the brand has been co-opted by the fixed gear/ urban cycling culture. Most of the fans of Cinelli now only know of the brand’s vintage appeal from the aesthetic, as opposed to the long history of race wins and product innovation. They’re drawn more to the cool factor than anything else… and Cinelli has no problem with that at all. Which is a stroke of pure genius.
In this incredibly cutthroat market for bikes and parts, Cinelli has been able to rise above the fray and retain it’s sense of style and elegance. The Cinelli of today looks a lot like the Cinelli of decades prior because that is what the consumers of today have been begging for. From aligning themselves with arguably the strongest name in the fixed gear subculture- MASH SF- to reissuing the products that originally built the Cinelli name, they have placed themselves in the center of a very visible and vocal segment of the cycling world.
Cinelli stands out as a brand that understands who they are, who they aren’t and who their true customers are and what they want. Unlike many brands who tell their customers what they want- or should want- Cinelli listens and gives their customers what they have asked for. It sounds stupidly easy to do, yet too few companies even bother to try; the idea of letting go of control is too frightening. It isn’t to say that Cinelli simply spits out product by request- they still design avant-garde products that push the edge of being a freak show highlight. It’s this blend of innovation and retro reproduction that keeps Cinelli alive today…
… and is likely to keep them alive tomorrow too.
Chief Kool-Aid Dispenser
Posted by Tim Jackson at 10:19 PM