[CR]Lengthy Cinelli Story ( attn: Michael A.)


Example: Production Builders:LeJeune

Date: Sat, 15 Oct 2005 15:02:58 -0700 (PDT)
From: Riccardo Bulissimo <rbulissimo-bike@yahoo.com>
To: classicrendezvous@bikelist.org
Subject: [CR]Lengthy Cinelli Story ( attn: Michael A.)

Keeping the Cinelli theme alive this week, here's one. Since I am a certified "Prodotti Oldfarti" and enjoy telling and hearing stories from the old days I will tell another. I’ll first explain that this particular story comes as a consequence of meeting Michael Allison at Interbike and learning about his connection to my hero bike builder, Cino Cinelli. I was bugging Michael to tell us all some yarns about how in the late ‘50’s, he braved the Atlantic crossing by riding a pedal powered boat ( fixed gear, naturally) all the way to deep dark Italy, finding his way to Cino’s secret shop of cycling superiority and becoming an early importer of the goods to the East Coast. In the 50's! wow! My deal with Michael was he would match me Cinelli-story-for-story but I had to go first. So here is a chestnut of how I came to get my first ("big Orange") Cinelli and to this day I own it and was lead to believe by Cinelli that at 70 cm’s, it was the biggest he ever made, at least until he matched it for me two years later….but that is not today’s story.

I mentioned in a recent post to the list (the teen ride thread) about how revered Cinelli bicycles were in Reno in the 60’s and how I foolishly passed on having one made to fit me, rather I saved a $100 and instead got a substandard run-of-the-mill Italian road bike that did not fit. Worst buying mistake I ever made, second is when I passed up a 66 cm c-c beeeeeyouteeeful Sante Pogliaghi that hung in Peter Rich’s Velo Sport for some time and I would drool on it each time I visited until one day, some other tall geek bought it. ( anyone know who? Or where that bike is now?)

Anyway, skip ahead to the early 70’s and my new opened-on-a-shoe string bike shop in Reno, Rick’s Bike Shop. I got a call one day out of the blue from a guy who I had met working for Wil-Go, the Northern California distributor of Centurion and other brands of bikes. This guy had quit and now months later was calling to tell me he had a load of Cinelli bars and stems and toe straps to sell, all at really good prices.

I was skeptical, to say the least. Cinelli goodies were unobtainable by small shops like mine. And why the good prices? What’s the story?

Well he claimed to have traveled to Italy, and through a sequence of chance encounters, met Cino and arranged to buy some of his production. This to me was like he had gone to the Moon and wanted to sell me some Moon rocks. I came right out and asked him if the goods were….hot. "Did you and some pals go kick in Spense Wolf’s (Cupertino Bike Shop) back door?" I demanded to know.

He denied anything of the sort, and to make him prove it to me, I made him send me some sort of written proof like an invoice or whatever from Cinelli. He did so right away and I was satisfied and immediately bought all the bars and stems and whatever else I thought I could sell. My self-imposed delay meant that another bike shop would become customer number one, and I would thus be customer number two, of a business I am sure you have heard of, these days based down in Morgan Hill, California.

My Cinelli connection was living in a 10 by 40 aluminum trailer in South San Jose at the time, and over several visits I became used to moving huge boxes of bars and stems and Regina Freewheels and all sorts of Italian goodies and the business expanded. I mean literally moving these boxes so I would be able to sleep on the coach. The place was brimming with more high end goodies stacked inside and outside and I was sworn to secrecy of the trailer’s location lest anyone come by and walk off with the goods.

With the Cinelli connection evidently solid, I then pushed to get some bikes. So we ordered a "test" order of 6. One for me, one for my shop to sell ( a 58 cm canary yellow one that I sold to a young blonde kid whose father demanded they get the best! Whatever happened to that kid, ummm, Greg something or other?) One for my Cinelli connection, others for other bike shop customers..(are you guys out there?)

Over the ensuing months, we got word from Cinelli that the 70 cm bike was too big. That no one needed a bike that big, there must be a mistake. This conversation was via Telex, a very quaint way of cheap overseas communication back then. I eventually sent Cino a photo of me astride my current bike ( a 26" Paramount P-10) and no more was said for many months.

Then one day, another call out of the blue. The bikes were in port! No air freight back then, they had come through the Panama Canal and made their way to San Francisco and would clear customs and be trucked to San Jose that afternoon! I closed my shop early and jumped in my old Ford Econoline van and made the 5 hour trip to San Jose from Reno. I got there in the early evening and my friend took me around to the side of the trailer and THERE THEY WERE! They were packed in a massive wooden crate and we excitedly crow-barred it open. The box was packed solid, every cubic inch, with those curly wooden shavings (excelsior I think it is called). Laying on their sides and stacked one on top of the next were the bikes. They were completely assembled! Right down to the tires being glued on, seats on, bars taped. They were mechanically adjusted and all we had to do was adjust the bars and stems and saddles. Well, my humongous 70 cm one was partly dissassembled to get it in the box, but no big deal. We pushed the wood shavings away, unwrapped the protective paper from the frame tubes, pumped up the tires and checked the bolts and we were ready to….

Okay, this next part is sensitive. So keep in mind the time and context, please. San Jose, California, just south of San Francisco. Early 70’s. Get it? What would two guys in their early 20’s do next? Yes, and after enjoying that perfumed smoky interlude, we headed out onto the pitch black night and the streets of San Jose. I do not recall thinking about bringing a light or a pump much less a spare tire. Imagine the scene as two of us rode for a couple hours around downtown San Jose, giggling out of our minds, wondering aloud what would be our explanation if were stopped and asked what we were doing at 10 pm astride two brand spanking new, very rare and expensive bikes…

Ciao, Riccardo Bulissimo, Verdi, Nevada

And now, take it away Micheal A.!