The Saetta frame has been around a while and has long represented one of the best-value routes into Campagnolo-equipped carbon road bikes. Cinelli and Campagnolo are joined by other Italian outfits Miche and Kappa in kitting out the 2019 Saetta Italo. The aluminium cockpit components are Cinelli’s, with all brands distributed by Chicken Cyclekit.
Cinelli’s Saetta Italo comes with Campagnolo’s Centaur, the brand’s 11-speed setup designed to compete against Shimano 105, both costing around £400. It lacks carbon but is, mechanically, pretty much identical to the £735 / $962.49 / AU$1,280.49 Potenza (Campagnolo’s Ultegra competitor) and Chorus.
The Cinelli cockpit components, Miche Race chainset and wheels major on toughness rather than low weight and the Miche gear complements the Cinelli’s looks.
The Saetta’s 8.65kg is reasonable and the 1,630g frameset weight is fine, if no longer cutting edge — though such is the ride quality you rarely notice the few extra grams.
This bike has endurance and long-distance comfort in mind, which Cinelli puts this down to ‘Skeletal Efficiency Philosophy’. So the top tube is thinner at the centre, like a skeleton, reducing weight without compromising strength. The joints, such as the bottom bracket area, are strengthened, while the curved seatstays improve the carbon lamination.
That’s Cinelli’s spiel, and while naturally cynical about bike manufacturers’ love of tech-speak, it really does seem to work.
From the very first ride this smoothed out some of our rougher local roads and there were no handling hiccups even on some gravel-surfaced routes.
Occasional moderate towpath-type forays are easily within the Cinelli’s remit and the frame, fork and wheels are stiff enough for rapid and controlled changes of direction downhill. But it’s most at home tapping out the miles regularly at a decent lick, rolling sportives, century rides and the like.
The oversize seatpost doesn’t seem to have a negative impact on comfort, presumably thanks to the frame’s carbon layup, geometry and Prologo saddle. I had no complaints about the cockpit either, its straightforward entry-level alloy bar and stem do a good job.
Campagnolo’s Centaur provides crisp, accurate shifts that offer a solid ‘clunk’ and greater feedback than Shimano’s somewhat softer-shifting levers.
Better or worse than Shimano (or SRAM)? Neither, it works very well, just differently, though the 12-27 cassette might leave you searching for a bigger sprocket on the steepest climbs.
I was also a little surprised to see non-cartridge brakes — usually the province of entry-level bikes — but the braking was very good, and would be improved further with inexpensive cartridge blocks.
The Saetta may not be the newest carbon kid around, but it’s still a very good design: comfortable, composed, elegantly finished and some Latin class.