Ah, the ‘90s. Seinfeld, grunge, the end of the Cold War, and of course, the Cinelli Spinaci handlebar extensions. If you weren’t following the pro cycling scene back then, you should know the decade was full of innovation. What a time it was: aero bars, better helmets, EPO, advances in carbon frames, early electronic shifting, EPO, clipless pedals, integrated shifters, EPO, the list goes on.
Back then, there seemed to be little to no restraint when it came to reining in any wild ideas on the bike. From Miguel Indurain’s absolutely wild Pinarello Sword TT bike, to Thierry Marie’s tail fin on his saddle, the UCI was basically like, hey, you want it? You got it.
Thierry Marie has the best seat in the house 😂. Mr Prologue showing us how it is done. #cycling #cyclinglife #ciclismo #cyclisme #wielrennen #TDF2020 #procycling #cyclingclips #tourdefrance2020 pic.twitter.com/JLjazKXIxN
— Pro Cycling Memories (@ClipsCycling) April 24, 2020
One of the most interesting developments in cycling back then was the iconic Cinelli Spinacis. The idea was simple: a smaller version of an aero bar to be used in pack racing. You break away, you get on your mini clip-ons and give ‘er. Spinaci became a generic term, but soon competitors like ITM or 3T would make their own bars, but nothing beat la bella figura of the Cinelli version.
Imagine toeing the line in a pro race in 1997: you throw on your tri-colored hairnet, adjust your Brikos, and stare lovingly at your secret weapon: your Spinacis. When it hit mid-race and you decided to go for a flyer, you knew that once you were clear you could basically TT away. Plus, if you were really with it, you’d have a pair of the Spinergy Rev-X carbon wheels. Basically your humble road bike became a wicked time trial weapon.
Spinergy Rev-Xs weren’t just for the road, either. You’d see them in ‘cross, and sometimes in MTB.
Spinergy wheels were great for ‘cross as given the paucity of spokes, there was less chance for mud build-up. However, they were ultimately banned by the UCI, citing safety issues. There were reports of them breaking mid-race, but then again, frames break? Helmets break? Do you see the UCI banning bikes and lids? There was also a concern about riders getting their hands stuck in between the bladed “spokes.” You get your arm stuck there and it would hurt more than getting chopped by the double-bladed spinning lightsaber of Grand Inquisitor in the Obi Wan Kenobi show.
So maybe it’s a tougher call to make for Spinergies to return, but in the name of safety, it’s a no-brainer for Spinacis. Gravel racers now use aero bars. Although not everyone is a fan of it. But either way, why can’t roadies do the same?
Sorry to disappoint but I'm taking a stand for the safety of the gravel community and boycotting all mass start aerobar events. I gave it my best advocacy effort in Kansas for two years but failed. This is my last resort. #aerowhat #aerowho
— Geoff Kabush (@GeoffKabush) June 4, 2021
The UCI has always been concerned about rider safety. There was a worry that throwing water bottles to fans would be dangerous, so they took action. They banned EPO. They made sure that cyclists’ calves wouldn’t be too constricted, so they enforced sock length rules. They even made helmets mandatory! That’s why it makes sense to bring back the Spinaci.
You might recall how in 2021 the UCI banned resting your forearms on the tops of your bars for aerodynamic gains. It makes sense: your forearms could pop off at any time if you hit a bump.
Not an April Fool's joke…
Your friendly reminder that as of today, the "Super Tuck" and "Puppy Paws" and banned in UCI races.
So a brief pause to say… no more tucks given. pic.twitter.com/iesGgwwLWA
— Colin Lynch PLY (@FormerTTchamp) April 1, 2021
In gravel racing, there has been concern that using aero bars in a pack race could be dangerous. But riders used the Spinacis in races in the roaring ‘90s, so why is that even a problem? A bunch of racers flying along some rocky roads on aero bars is basically the same as a team pursuit, you could argue. I mean, sure, there are those that would say four riders riding on the track is less dangerous, since there are no brakes, no corners (just turns) or potholes, rocks, or single track, but that would be a bit pedantic. I mean it’s pretty similar.
— Dani Garcia Soto (@DaniGarciaSoto) May 3, 2017
A question of fairness
If mixed-terrain races can include aero bars, it makes sense that roadies should be able to use Spinacis. The old versions wouldn’t work on new bikes, since they were made for 26 mm handlebars. Thankfully, there are companies like Swiss brand Zirbel that makes the Zirbelacci for modern, 31.8 mm bars. And if the UCI went ahead and made Spinacis legal, or even mandatory (for safety reasons) then the other brands would probably make their own upgraded versions faster than you can say Hein Verbruggen.
NEXT WEEK: How come no one wears hair nets anymore?