When new makes retro better : SRAM levers and vintage Cinelli handlebar

Side view of handlebars and stem

photo above from Paris-Roubaix’s photo stream

Above is the Cinelli “Campione del Mondo” handlebar, also known as the model 66. It was a drop bar with a deep bend, rather short reach, and steep ramp. A rouleur’s bar. Of all the handlebars I’ve considered, it is perhaps the most beautiful and least suited to me. Experience has demonstrated that hoods like on the vintage non-aero lever above just don’t create a comfortable perch for my hands, yet the lever blade is out of reach for my small hands when I’m on the hooks. But when I switched from DA7800 to SRAM Red levers, the mounting band of the SRAM levers sits too high for the criterium bend drop bars I had been using. The Cinelli 66 has steep ramps, but they don’t flare out too much. So I decided to experiment.

It turns out that the SRAM levers and 66 bend mesh pretty well. Looking at the photo below, you can see how the SRAM lever body sits high on the ramp, creating an almost horizontal perch, but the lever blade is actually quite easy to reach from the drops due to the longer than traditional blade and built-in reach adjustment of the lever. It’s still quite a deep drop though, but I ride fairly low anyways. I like this position so much, I’m going to try out a Deda Newton with a “shallow” traditional bend (similar to the Cinelli 64 “Giro d’Italia” model) on my cyclocross bike.

Why not use another Cinelli bar on the cx bike? Mainly because I want to use a nice, modern threadless stem like a 3T ARX or a Deda Zero100, and the vintage Cinelli bars don’t fit those stems without a shim. Also, I think that the newer 31.7-31.8mm bar/stem clamp interface is less likely to slip when pounding off road. Though I cannot remember exactly what happened when I crashed out at Kruger’s Kermesse last fall, I think my handlebar slipping a few degrees initiated the loss of control that ended with bloodshed and a bad concussion.

Cinelli 66 with SRAM levers

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