Among other things, the terms of my selling out stipulate that I must review products. Consequently, to walk into my home is to wade waist-deep through boxes and boxes of bicycle product. In fact, my living room makes Cadence look like Recycle-A-Bicycle. It’s gotten so bad that "Velonews" technical guru and whiz-bangery apologist Lennard Zinn has tried to break in so many times I’ve had to put a Jobst Brandt scarecrow outside. So I figured it’s time I reviewed something so I can get one more thing out of the house.
But even though I’m a sell-out, I won’t just review anything. No, if I’m going to review something it has to give me that feeling of pulse-pounding excitement all gear whores live for—it’s like that feeling you get right after you swallow a pill without knowing what it is and right before whatever it’s supposed to do to you starts happening. Unfortunately, I opened package after package and just didn’t get that sensation. That is, until I opened the one containing the Cinelli Neo Morphe handlebar. As soon as I opened the box and pulled that twisted carbon out from beneath the dozens of stale cannoli Cinelli had used for packing material, I knew this was it.
Sure, I know what you’re thinking when you hear “Cinelli.” You’re thinking, “Why don’t they put a bullet in this company already?” Apart from some nice cork tape and the Supercorsa, what have they given the cycling world since their old 26.4 bar clamp “standard” and a whole lotta quasi-innovative flash? With their latest line of products, Cinelli aren’t just thinking outside the box. They’re wrapping the box in metallic paper, placing it under an over-decorated Christmas tree, putting the whole thing in South Beach, Miami, and having the world’s tackiest holiday party. Cinelli have become the bicycle equivalent of a middle-aged divorcee in a Versace dress who drinks too much and starts hanging all over you in a hotel bar. They’re like Irenie in that scene from “Pootie Tang” where she’s sexually assaulting Truckie.
But this handlebar was something different. As all cyclists know, there’s just something objectionable about old-fashioned handlebars. Simply grabbing a piece of bent tubing transports you back to a time before universal suffrage, Polio vaccine, and indoor plumbing, and that’s a trip you don’t want to take. Meanwhile, as soon as I picked up the Cinelli Neo Morphe I started running around the house in my underwear, pretending to pilot the Millennium Falcon and making laser noises before I even knew what I was doing.
If you’re unfamiliar with the history of road bike handlebars, here it is in a nutshell. First there was this:
Then there was the “ergo bend.”
Then “classic bend” became the new ergo. (“Classic bend” is the same as the old-fashioned bars, but in black).
Then bars with flat tops became the new classic bend.
Then came the Cinelli Neo Morphe and buried them all.
OK, so it was time to install these bars on one of the BSNYC test-cycles (I’m fortunate to have two test-cycles). Unfortunately, there were no visible bolts on my shift levers, so for the life of me I couldn’t figure out how to get them off. After wrestling with them for a couple of hours I gave up and brought everything to the LBS. The mechanic disappeared for four minutes, brought everything back to me ready to go, and charged me $75. The one thing I did do was wrap the bars myself once I got back home. I used Saran Wrap for three reasons: 1) it’s easier than fussing with complicated tape; 2) it shows off the bars; and 3) it lets me read the markings on the bar that mark the locations of the “Palm Zone,” “Power Zone,” “3 Finger Zone,” and “Revers Grip Zone.” (Thankfully, the text is all in English.)
My plan was to try these out on the local group ride, but as we all know you should always test something first before doing a race or a hard training ride. So I took the test-cycle for a spin around the block. It’s hard for me to describe just how sublime these handlebars are, but I’ll do my best. Just remember the most erotic dream you’ve ever had. Remember how your hands moved all over your partner, caressing every curve. Now fix those contours in carbon fiber and bolt them onto the front of your bike with a 31.8 stem. That on librium is what it’s like to ride these bars.
I rolled up to the start of the group ride and immediately received the “oohs” and “ahhs” from other riders that every serial upgrader longs for. As we rolled out, I put my hands in the “Palm Zone” and started to spin. Soon the pace increased and the pack got strung out. I started to lose the wheel in front of me, so I moved my hands to the “Power Zone.” And that’s when it happened. I started going fast—really fast. Soon the other riders were a blur, and then they were gone. Suddenly I felt like I was in a vortex and I started passing riders that weren't even there: recumbents; Bonneville salt flat land speed record-breakers; guys on tri-bikes wearing Lt. Dangle short-shorts. Then, impossibly, I started going even faster. Like “Spaceballs,” I hit plaid, but then I leapfrogged plaid and went straight to argyle lycra. Then everything went black.
I eventually came to lying on the side of the road, just past the final sprint point. My bike was gone and all that was left were the Cinelli Neo Morphe bars I was still clutching in my hands. The rest of the group arrived 45 minutes later. Just try that with your aluminum classic bends.
Cinelli just raised the bar.