This story is written at the urging of Richard Bullissimo, whom I met at Interbike 2005, and my long-time friend John Pergolizzi (aka the Omnipotent Despot). Sorry guys it took so long to get this out there, but life seems to be filled with detours and potholes. Like John Lennon
said, \u201cLife is what happens to you while you\u2019re making plans to do
I first met Cino Cinelli in 1960 at his factory located at Via Egidio Folli 45 in Milan. But my relationship with Cinelli & C. began three years earlier when I was a sophomore at the City College of New York. At the time I was a member of the New York Cycle Club (NYCC) and, while
on one of their weekend clubs rides, saw my first Cinelli SC road bike.
The owner, a young man about my age, said his father had brought the bike home from a business trip to Italy.
I was riding a wine colored Girardengo that I had bought at E. J. Korvets (the name referred to Korean Vets), a new discount store located at 42nd street under the 3rd Ave El (elevated subway line). The
bike had Gnutti steel cotterless cranks, internal top tube brake-cable
routing, tubular tires and, Campagnolo GS derailleurs and hubs. Very cool, I thought, or so my mentor, Raoul Galle, told me. But I wanted to
fit in with the hip NYCC crowd and had to have a bike like a Cinelli or
something similar. A few days later I went to the commerce division of
the Italian Consulate in Manhattan and got the address of the Cinelli bicycle company. I immediately sent off a letter written in English, asking if I could buy one of their famous racing bikes. A month or so later, to my astonishment, I received a reply in perfect English saying
yes they would sell me a complete bicycle for something like $100 US. The letter, written on onion-skin paper, was signed by Heidi Seiber.
I was overjoyed and started asking my cycling buddies if they wanted to buy a Cinelli, cheap! After a lot of prodding I had amassed an order
of four complete bikes. But two of my \u201cclients,\u201d including myself,
wanted a color other than the standard silver paint job. I wanted a frame that was all silver except with a red head tube and a red band between the world rings on the seat tube. So off went another letter asking if different paint colors were available. Again, I got a reply saying yes I could get frames painted to my choice, but don\u2019t be to \u201ccarnivalish,\u201d signed Heidi. She also gave me instructions on how I was to make payment through an international bank draft.
The money was sent and a long wait ensued. Finally, about four or five months later I received a Bill of Lading, a ship\u2019s name and a dock address in Brooklyn, New York. After a phone call to the shipping company in New York, I learned that I had to take the bill of lading to
the U.S. Customs House near Battery Park in Manhattan (now the Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian). This was all very new to me
and pretty exciting, too. On the appointed day I went to the customs office, which said there was no duty charge, and that I could just go to the dock and pick up the bicycles. The next day I got my friends together, each of us carrying a few tools (actually pliers, a double ended adjustable wrench and a dog-bone wrench), and we went to the pier.
At the dock I showed my Bill of Lading stamped by U.S. Customs to some man at the gate who checked his clipboard. He then lead the four of us
to a large room, half-way down the pier, crammed with boxes and pointed
to four slender corrugated cartons with the name Cinelli & C. prominently displayed on their sides. He said we could not open them on
the pier and would have to take them outside. With palpable excitement,
we dragged the cartons outside the gate, and then tore them open. To my
astonishment each box had a completely assembled bicycle with the wheels on and the bars turned sideways. But then I had a big letdown, when I realized these were not the racing bikes I had ordered because they had fenders. However after taking the bikes out of their boxes and
examining the frames that said Super Corsa, I was elated. The offending
fenders were easily removed and left behind in the empty cartons, and the four of us road home over the Brooklyn Bridge. (to be continued)