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Are brake hoods the new Cinelli Spinacis?

Some creative placement has many cycling fans raising eyebrows

Photo by: Sirotti

Do you remember Cinelli Spinaci clip-ons? You can bet your bottom lira Uncle Matt does. What a glorious few years it was when you could get into full TT mode in a road race. It was essentially a smaller version of an aero bar that you attached on your bars, right beside the stem. The UCI rule (of course there was one) was that the extensions couldn’t go past your brake hoods. So they weren’t quite as long as a regular aero bar, but you could still get a great position if you had them adjusted properly.

For riders who liked to break away solo, it was a godsend. You’d launch off the pack, grab onto your Spinacis and motor away. Suddenly, your regular road bike became a time trial bike. Some pros would often use them on a road bike when it was a hilly road race. As long as you had aero wheels and a light frame, the minimalist Spinaci bars gave you somewhere to get aero on any flat sections.

Alas, in 1997, the dream was dead as the UCI banned them. Although the majority of riders wouldn’t use them in a pack, some did. Those riders spoiled the party as it was deemed not safe. No reasonable person would get on the bars in a pack, as your hands would be farther away from the brakes, but all it takes is one rider to do that and eat dirt and, well, this is why we can’t have nice things.

On Tuesday at the Tour Down Under, several riders were trying to find ways to turn their road machines into TT weapons. Why? Because the organizers forbade riders from using time trial-specific bikes for the prologue. The reason was logistics—it was to reduce extra headaches for teams from having to bring a fleet of bikes for one short stage. Riders were instead allowed to use their road bikes with deep-section front wheels and discs in the back. But they would have to use a standard handlebar.

Pello Bilbao had his Bahrain Victorious mechanics modify his bike just for the event. His wrenches first took his brake levers and pointed them inward, and then pointed the handlebars upward. They hoped he could get into TT mode by using the brake hoods as an ersatz aero bar. Although Bilbao’s chances were hindered by the rain, it was a creative way to circumvent the rules.

Riders have already been tinkering with bar width to try and get more aero. So much so that the UCI forced a minimum handlebar width of 350 mm. If you’re a fan of riders like Taco van der Hoorn you’ll have noticed he rode on super-narrow bars—they measured in at just 300 mm from hood to hood.

But there was no mention of hood placement in the UCI’s new regulations. By angling in the hoods—and yes, it looks very ugly—riders can now create a spot to rest their hands and create a Spinaci-like extension.

Will this be a new trend? Oh wait…do you hear that? Is that the sound of a bunch of folks in Lausanne, Switzerland, huddled in a boardroom drawing up new rules? As the saying goes, history doesn’t repeat—but it rhymes.