Cipollini RB1K: Massive Performance, Massive Price Tag

The concept behind the Cipollini bike company was to build the machine Mario Cipollini wished he could have had when he raced. While this could simply be written off as marketing hype—and it undoubtedly is—it just happens to be true. Launched in 2010, the RB1000 was tailor-made for Mario: ultra-aggressive…

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The concept behind the Cipollini bike company was to build the machine Mario Cipollini wished he could have had when he raced. While this could simply be written off as marketing hype—and it undoubtedly is—it just happens to be true. Launched in 2010, the RB1000 was tailor-made for Mario: ultra-aggressive position, incredible stiffness for huge power and the ability to rail the tightest corners, taking absurd chances and exiting unscathed, ready to sprint. The way the bike was made, sparing no expense in manufacturing or materials and produced almost entirely in Italy, seemed to echo Super Mario’s extravagant persona to a tee. Now, eight years later, the bike is getting an update, becoming the Cipollini RB1K.


The design brief did not change: Make the bike for Mario. Curiously, Cipollini the brand claims Cipollini the rider asked for the bike to be stiffer. Why a man retired for the last 10 years needs an even stiffer bike we don’t know. We’re gonna call that marketing and assume it’s the Bardiani-CSF team that’s taking advantage of the stiffness, which has been upped by 20 percent at the bottom bracket. Cipollini has also taken 125 grams out of the frame, across all sizes.

The PELOTON Service Course took a field trip to Italy to learn more about Cipollini Bikes

What Cipollini did not change is the feature that truly makes the bike stand alone, and very expensive, its production technique. The majority of carbon bikes are assembled from multiple monocoque sections, then bonded together and overwrapped with carbon at the joints, which are typically around the bottom bracket, head tube and seat cluster. This process streamlines production, allows for smaller molds and more flexibility, creating size-specific geometry.

The Cipollini RB1000 and the new Cipollini RB1K share true monocoque construction. The entire frame, dropout to head tube, is made in one giant mold, with an entirely new mold for each size. This means carbon can run uninterrupted from chainstay, through the bottom bracket and into the down tube. As the frame’s layup is designed, Cipollini’s engineers don’t need to make allowances for bond points or hard stops in the carbon fabric.

While the process is the same, the layup has been redesigned to increase the stiffness and shave the weight referenced earlier. The bike’s tube shapes have been subtly refined as well—more for an updated aesthetic than any performance—but a litany of other features will make the bike much easier to live with. The bottom bracket is now the ubiquitous BB386; the brakes are direct-mount, helping the frame fit 28mm tires; an aero seat post replaces the integrated seat mast; the internal cable-routing has been refined; and a new top-cap system can cleanly add 2cm to the head tube. With the bike’s super-aggressive front end, the head tube extension cap may be the most important update.

Like the RB1000 before it, the RB1K is made entirely in Europe, 80 percent in Italy and 20 percent in nearby Bosnia. It’s Cipollini’s parent company that helps take riders’ desires and make them into bicycles. It manufactures carbon parts for Mercedes-AMG, Ducati, McLaren and other big names in the automotive industry. Cipollini bikes really represent a passion project, a hobby for wealthy Italian industrialists.

The Cipollini RB1K is about aggressive riding, and that includes the position. The tallest head tube available is just 169mm on the XXL frame. Consider that a Specialized Tarmac intended for the same rider will have a head tube 41mm taller and you get the idea of just how aggressive the RB1K is. But that aggression never bites at the bars; it is quick and precise to be sure, but never twitchy. Some of this is due to the bike’s incredibly refined geometry. Since each size comes from its own, single mold, each bike has unique seatand head-tube angles, and where many bikes share a single rear triangle mold the RB1K has three different chainstay lengths across all seven sizes. It allows for aggressive handling that has been tamed at the bars, making you feel like a better bike handler.

No doubt, the bike’s single, unified layup has a part to play; as we experienced with the original RB1000, the bike goes downhill like a Moto GP bike, begging you to test your limits, because the bike’s limits are a good bit faster than you or I could ever go. We wish we could say we felt the bike’s 20-percent stiffness improvement when we flogged it at 2,000 watts, but like everyone else not paid to ride a bike we don’t have the legs for that. The improvement we did feel came, strangely enough, during rides in the hills. Both stiffer and lighter, the RB1K feels livelier in the hills, better at matching quick accelerations on steep pitches than its predecessor.

You may have noticed we haven’t mentioned compliance much in this review. Because, to put it mildly, the bike is stiff in all directions; but Cipollini has a solution: clearance for 28mm tires. With high-volume rubber, this ultra-aggressive, über-stiff racer rides as smooth as glass. Which in turn makes it more of an all-rounder, which just might be the most interesting thing about the new RB1K. Ostensibly designed for Mario, one of the most one-dimensional racers in history, the Cipollini RB1K has become a stellar all-rounder.

PRICE: $14,990 (as tested)
WEIGHT: 7.08kg (15.6 lbs); XXL (w/o pedals or cages)
BUILD: Campagnolo Super Record 11 EPS and Bora Ultra 50 clinchers, 3T carbon bar and stem, Selle Italia SLR saddle, Vittoria Corsa tires.

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