Time to bring back the Cinelli Spinaci bars (and maybe the Spinergy wheels too)

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Ah, the 90s. Seinfeld, grunge, the end of the Cold War and of course Cinelli Spinaci handlebar extensions. If you didn’t follow the pro cycling scene back then, you should know that the decade was full of innovation. What a time it was: aero bars, better helmets, EPO, advances in carbon frames, first electronic shifters, EPO, clipless pedals, integrated shifters, EPO, the list goes on.

At the time, there seemed to be little to no restraint when it came to containing crazy ideas about the bike. Absolutely Wild Pinarello by Miguel Indurain Sword TT Bike, with the tail fin of Thierry Marie on his saddle, the UCI was like, hey, do you want it? You got it.

One of the most interesting developments in cycling at the time was the iconic Cinelli Spinacis. The idea was simple: a smaller version of an aero bar for use in pack races. You untie, put on your mini-clips and give. Spinaci has become a generic term, but soon competitors like ITM or 3T will make their own bars, but nothing beats the beautiful figure of the Cinelli version.

Imagine yourself crossing the finish line of a professional race in 1997: you put on your tricolor hairnet, adjust your Brikos and gaze lovingly at your secret weapon: your Spinacis. When it got to the halfway mark and you decided to go for a flyer, you knew that once you were clear you could essentially TT away. Also, if you were really into it, you would have a Spinergy Rev-X carbon wheelset. Basically, your humble road bike has become a mean time trial weapon.

The Spinergy Rev-Xs weren’t just for the road, either. We saw them cross country, and sometimes mountain biking.

Former National Cross Country Champion, Kris Westwood

The Spinergy wheels were ideal for cross country because given the scarcity of spokes, there was less chance of mud buildup. However, they were eventually banned by the UCI, citing safety concerns. They have been reported to break halfway through, but again frames break? Helmets break? Do you see the UCI banning bikes and covers? There were also concerns that riders could get their hands caught between the bladed “spokes”. You get your arm stuck there and it would hurt more than being chopped up by the Grand Inquisitor’s rotating double-bladed lightsaber in the Obi Wan Kenobi show.

So maybe it’s a harder call to make for Spinergies to come back, but in the name of safety, it’s a no-brainer for Spinacis. Gravel racers now use aero bars. Although not everyone is a fan. But either way, why can’t roadies do the same?

Security

The UCI has always been concerned about the safety of riders. It was feared that throwing water bottles at fans was dangerous, so they took action. They banned EPO. They made sure the riders’ calves wouldn’t be too tight, so they enforced the sock length rules. They even made it compulsory to wear a helmet! That’s why it makes sense to bring the Spinaci back.

19 UCI rules you may not know

You may recall that in 2021 the UCI banned resting your forearms on top of your bars for aerodynamic gains. Makes sense: your forearms can come loose at any time if you hit a bump.

In gravel racing, there was concern that using aero bars in a pack race could be dangerous. But runners used the Spinacis in races in the Roaring 90s, so why is that even a problem? A group of racers flying along rocky roads on aero bars is basically the same as a team chase, you might say. I mean, of course, there are those who would say that four riders on the track is less dangerous, because there are no brakes, no turns (just turns) or potholes, rocks or single track, but that would be a little pedantic. I mean it’s pretty similar.

A matter of fairness

If mixed-terrain races can include aero bars, it only makes sense that roadies could use Spinacis. Older versions would not work on newer bikes, as they were designed for 26mm handlebars. Fortunately, there are companies like the Swiss brand Zirbel that manufacture the Zirbelacci for modern 31.8 mm bars. And if the UCI went ahead and made Spinacis legal, or even mandatory (for safety reasons), the other brands would probably make their own improved versions faster than you can tell Hein Verbruggen.

NEXT WEEK: How come no one wears hairnets anymore?

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