Review: Cinelli Zydeco Cyclocross Bike
December 15th, 2015
December 15th, 2015
Veteran mountain bike trail monster, 24-hour specialist and all round trail muncher. Doesn't understand the term "DNF".
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Initially I wasn’t sure what to make of the Cinelli Zydeco. At first glance it looks like a decent racing cyclocross bike and its paint job screams for attention, but on closer inspection the rack eyes on the frame and fork suggest its true intentions lie elsewhere. Lifting the bike for the first time confirmed this opinion, it’s not a machine you’d relish shouldering on steep banks during a race, nor would you expect to sprint out of corners with much spring, but this is mainly attributed to having disc brakes rather than cantilever brakes. With plenty of room for guards it would make a decent year round commuter and I for one appreciate disk brakes on road bikes during the winter. The Zydeco has the good makings of a winter hacker and, despite being cable actuated brakes, my previous experience has shown they give consistent performance on the lanes I commute on.
Gearing and braking is taken care of by Shimano with the Zydeco featuring Tiagra components; what I would consider entry-level for cyclocross racing but a fair choice for the price range of this bike. Wheels are American Classic disk only with the front being guided by a sturdy carbon fork. Since the bike arrived without guards during a spell of particularly wet weather it was not put into use commuting, but instead had its first outing at a local cyclocross race. Given the recent rain I was pleased with the Challenge Griffo tyres and, on the practice lap, I was able to ride a climb that most were forced to walk.
The Zydeco certainly felt like a racing ‘cross bike; handling the corners, climbs and descents well, but despite being the same size as my regular race bike, it felt a little cramped due to a short stem and narrow 400mm bars. Off the start line the Cinelli initially moved forward well and was certainly easy to manoeuvre, but as the race progressed I didn’t, gradually drifting backwards as the bike’s weight took its toll through each of the corners. With a fair amount of mud building up around the stays midway through I swapped to my spare (usually my primary) bike, a regular old school non-disc cross bike. The comparison was quite striking. Aboard the lighter bike I immediately started to regain lost places and continued to move forward through the field. However, although I felt faster, I also missed some of the sure-footedness of the Zydeco, especially on the fast off-camber descent. This really highlights to pros and cons of moving over to disc brakes for racing, but if racing isn't your bag, then better braking should always be considered more desirable than speed and weight.
In its current guise the Zydeco is far from a race bike, and features like the narrow bars and rack mounts mean in its stock build is more suited to commuting, but as a do it all bike suitable for dabbling at some cyclocross races it certainly fits the bill. I own a similar bike myself and purchased it with exactly such use in mind. After a season of cyclocross racing, the disc bike became my second bike on race day with a gradual upgrading of parts to lighten it up. If I were making that purchase again the Cinelli would be high on my list; it has all my current bike offers and more, making it an ideal all-rounder that could be upgraded later with a lighter set of wheels. That being said, it is not the ideal nippy light ride if your sole intentions are to tear up the fields at your local cyclocross league.