CIPOLLINI MCM Bike Project Build & Review

MCM – the name stands for “Mario Cipollini Custom made” – so says the company website, and why not? We’ve reviewed several of the Cipollini models over the years, and have been pleased to see that the performance of the bikes has lived up to the lofty expectations one would expect from a brand created and styled around modern cycling’s most flamboyant character.  And perhaps even more impressive from a personal standpoint is that with retired pro named brands a fad-like dime-a-dozen commodity, I’d certainly wondered if these bikes would be as good as promised… and I’ll admit my hopes weren’t that high.

The frames are hand made in Italy, fabricated from individually measured and cut T-800 Toray carbon tubes, which are bonded together.  The process isn’t new, but has been refined over the years and has become the standard in custom made carbon frames, adopted by bespoke builders everywhere.

Individual carbon sections are molded – head tube junction, top tube, down tube, bottom bracket junction, seat – and chain-stays – then joined and essentially glued together and finished with a high level of precision you’d expect in both a hand-made custom build, and one bearing Mario Cipollini’s name.

The MCM is also the lightest frame in the Cipollini line-up, even though it might look heavier with the very oversized down tube.  But there’s a method to that madness too – the large downtube is intentionally designed to house a motor – as the brand prepares to enter this growing category of rides in the near future.

My review model however, came with only one motor option… me – the rider.  No problems here though – this was one bike I was looking forward to riding as I’d assembled a pretty sweet build kit with parts that included SRAM 11-speed eTap gruppo, Zipp 202 wheels, Xpedo Thrust pedals, and Selle SMP saddle and Deda bar tape colored to perfectly match the neon yellow accent paint on the anthracite and raw carbon weave frame.

The MCM standard geometry measures more to the classic than Cipollini’s more aggressively cut RB1K and NK1K models, which should appeal to a whole new set of riders who’ve had an eye on the brand, but wanted more classically riding bikes.  It’s also offered of course with a full custom geometry range (as the name suggests), but their standard size is so close to what I ride anyway, there was no need for anything more.  But more on the ride later… a closer look at the frame reveals a bit more about the ride characteristics built into the tube shapes.

Starting at the top – that beefy headtube holds a 1-1/4″ top bearing and  1-1/2″ bottom bearing for maximum stiffness.  As top tubes go, this one has a pretty sizable girth – flat on top, but a bit triangular shaped in the cross section.  It’s very wide at the headtube and tapers as it reaches back to the seat tube.  That full width helps stabilize the frame from twist at both the headtube and side-flex at the seat stay junction, while the flat top allows for enough vertical flex to add some comfort to the ride.

The downtube is very large – it’s tall and wide, with a slight oval shape in the vertical cross section.  And while it’s designed to hold a small internal motor in a future model, it also creates the perfect platform to anchor the headtube-downtube-bottom bracket triumvirate that establishes the baseline stiffness for the frame.  A stiff “spine” allows the front and rear ends of the bike to flex as needed to respond correctly to road and riding forces while maintaining secure control for the rider, and maximizes pedalling efficiency to rider efforts and watts aren’t lost in useless sideways directions that are a bi-product of opposing pedal circular pedalling patterns.

Internal cable routing is neat and tidy, and the frame comes pre-drilled for any combo of cable, wired, or wireless component configurations.

The fork is straight, with slightly aero-shaped blades – much like the Cipollini NKTT.  The shape alone signals its rigid design – intended to offer a fair amount of road feedback – and precise control.  The fork crown very neatly blends into the large downtube for an aesthetically pleasing look that also smoothes airflow around the front end.  There’s also enough space in there to comfortably fit up to 28mm wide tires, which is becoming the new standard for the road – at least around here at PEZ HQ.

The chain stays are large box section tubes that cradle the rear wheel and then swoop elegantly but forcefully back to the rear drop outs.  The design is all business at this end.

As part of the very beefy bottom bracket junction, the chain stays are full height of the BB at the junction, adding to an already extremely secure bottom end, where you’ll be hard-pressed to detect any flex.

The BB386 bottom bracket provides plenty of drive using a wider bottom bracket shell that doesn’t interfere with crank width, so you get a wider platform for the bearings to create a more stable drive center.

The Seat Tube is a sort of modified Kam-Tail design that’s shaped to anchor the bottom end of the frame, while allowing the seat post to flex a small amount in the fore-aft plane to add some comfort, and also cradle the rear wheel from wind flow coming from the front.  There’s also a certain amount of design license here – to match the more boxy aesthetic of the rest of the tubes.

The Seat Stays are a bit shorter than truly classic designs, well intended to add stiffness to the rear triangle, while allowing some top-end flex of the seatpost above the point where the stays connect to the seat tube.  The seat stays are also purpose shaped – note the taper from the larger section rear that secures the rear axle and dropouts – to a thinner profile as they reach up to the seat tube.  This also allows a small amount of vertical flex at the rear end to smooth out the ride.

Bars and Stem were provided by Zipp for this build – the SL-70 Aero bar mated with the SL Speed Stem.  The black matte finish was perfectly at home on the MCM’s matte carbon weave, and the stylish shape of the Aero bars are perfect match for a bike branded after one of the fastest sprinters in cycling.  Looks aside, the Zipp gear is top-drawer.

The SL Speed stem is full carbon fibre, with weight of 123 grams for the 100 mm stem.  The faceplate is aluminum and the Torx bolts made of titanium.  We’re seeing a lot of Torx bolts on stems and other tension-sensitive areas because the starred shape of the bolt head allows for more accurate tension measurement when tightening.

The Stem will cost around US$265 and comes with a +/- 6 degree rise, in lengths from 90 – 120mm.

The SL-70 Aero bars look darn fast, thanks to the teardrop shape of the flat section, which also sweeps slightly forward, allowing a bit more of a relaxed position through the rider’s elbows.  The flat section offers a wide platform for cruising, and the notched section in the center is perfectly deigned to rest your thumbs when riding on the tops.

More on the aero shape – Zipp says this will save up to 6.4 watts of effort vs a round shaped bar at 30 mph.

The reach is 70mm, which for me was just right on the 42cm width bars, and I liked the flatter section ramp angle which allowed for higher mounting of the hoods without having to rotate the bars upwards.

Gruppo is SRAM Red 11-speed eTap – which by now has proven itself a worthy contender in the electronic control arena.  I especially like the simplicity of the system – right lever shifts rear derailleur outward, left lever shifts inward, and a single double tap of both levers changes the front derailleur from large small ring and back.

The mechanics are powered by two small batteries that clip onto each of the derailleurs, and are easy to recharge with a usb plug.  Shifting is smooth and precise, although not quite as fast as Shimano, or as secure feeling as Campagnolo – not there’s any drawback – it’s just a different feeling.  (Here’s what happened when one of them died on a ride – after many weeks of use.)

The XG-1190 cassette comes as 11-30 or 11-32 ranges – it’s light and quiet.  Hands up if you remember days when your climbing gear was a 25?  Then a 26…? I’m happy to say I’ve found peace with middle age and acceptance of having a 30 tooth climbing gear on hand should I need it.

SRAM Red direct mount brakes do an excellent job as stoppers.  The design has been aero-fied  to improve slipperiness against the wind, with attention paid to all the leading surfaces smoothed to smooth the airflow.  Swisstop brake pads come with each brake set – a nice addition from a recognized leader in brake pad tech.

For wheels I went with Zipp 202 Firecrest Carbon Clinchers – because I wanted to keep this bike as light as possible, but still rugged enough to not be worrying about where I might end up – which is occasionally off road for short distances.  These wheels run a rim depth of 32mm with a wide 25.4 mm max rim width, which offers plenty of room inside to run wider tires.

Weight is a very light 1450 grams for the set, while the hub is their 77/177 model, which requires no preload like earlier versions – an update I’m happy to see.  Spokes are Sapim CX – very nice.

The brake track features these grooves to help channel water away and improve braking, and an improved resin to better dissipate heat build up during braking.  Zipp claims to have never had a heat related failure with this setup.  (I haven’t either.)

Finally, the rim shape is Zipp’s curved design, from brake track to spoke bed – shaped to reduce wind drag around the entire tire-rim surface, from a variety of directions. The sets runs around US$2150, and I’d say certainly delivers the performance you’d expect at this level.

More on my tire choice as I mentioned earlier.  The right rubber can make all the difference to whether I like a bike, or it gets stuck at the back of the pile unloved… until I swap in some nice… tires.  I started this review on 25mm wide skins, and honestly just felt they were a tad too harsh for my liking – when combined with the Zipp 202’s and the MCM’s overall ride qualities.

Then I mounted up these 28mm Pirelli Cinurato tires (you can buy ’em here), a follow up line to Pirelli’s re-entry to the bicycle market and its more racy P Zero. I was curious to ride the Italian tire brand’s new tubeless ready entry (I used tubes here) designed to be more puncture resistant thanks to their use of an aramid fibre reinforced rubber compound, and a 3.7mm tread thickness – generally thicker than a lot of other tires.

I can say, that the ride comfort has been improved dramatically over the 25mm tires I was running, and my ride fun quotient has gone up too as the 28’s offer more confident cornering while not sacrificing frame performance of the MCM.  I have a few months of riding as of late summer 2019 now – thanks to my diligence in removing a stripped Torx bolt that was preventing me from correctly adjusting the saddle height – and flat free I might add.  Things really improve

For pedals I mounted up Xpedo’s Thrust 8 road pedals – (we reviewed the original version of these a while back here) which have been a standout for a few reasons.  The wide platform and simple mechanics make these super stable and reliable.  They’re LOOK cleat compatible (but of course ship with Xpedo’s own cleats), and use an easy access allen key bolt to adjust tension, and the other moving parts.  Each pedal has 3 sets of bearings – two on the drive side and one outboard, and weigh in at 170 grams (that’s light). But my favorite part is that they’ve been designed to hang at the perfect angle for easy clip-ins. You know how some pedals just take forever to find that sweet spot before you clip in?  … The Xpedo’s seem to always be waiting for me and my cleats at just the right angle.

These are a tough pedal too – they won the super-tough Belgian Waffle ride under Team Elevate-KHS pro Brian McCullough, who told us all about it in this short video interview.  You can get em for $170 (chromoly spindle) or a Ti spindle for $250 at the Xpedo website.

Part of my build process for this one was to mate the components to the neon yellow graphics on the frameset.  While these colors are not offered as standard, you can get them if desired.  Selle SMP – another snazzy Italian brand known for their distinctly shaped saddles – offers a Blaster in the perfect color to match – so how could I put these two together?

I’ll admit it took me some time to get used to the unique shape of the saddle – which has been intentionally designed with a pretty wide open section down the center to offer better distribution of weight and reduce pressure on the nerves in our privates that can cause numbness, irritation, and even more serious problems.  Selle SMP have invested in a lot of research on this one, and the result is a saddle that’s way more comfortable than I thought based on my first look.  They offer a huge range of saddles built around this shape, with different levels of padding, male and female versions, and of course a lot of cool colors – as you’d expect from an Italian brand.

First impressions with me and bikes are usually right on – meaning that my interpretation of the ride doesn’t change much no matter how much time I spend on it.  I’m lucky to have ridden a huge variety of bikes over the years, and in the process learned that bikes today are the best they’ve ever been – the ride, the construction – there’s just never been a better time to enjoy a quality ride from a huge supply of quality builders.  I’ve also learned that I can enjoy riding on a wide cross section of bike designs, materials, and even across a couple frame sizes.  All that adds up to a solid belief in my own skills to interpret and evaluate the ride qualities of a bike.

So my first impressions of this bike have changed only slightly – and for the positive.  I’ll explain.  First off – the frame is pretty stiff – not as stiff as some of the pure-bred racing rigs out there, nor as stiff as a couple other models in the Cipollini line up.  But from the perspective of a guy whose ridden several thousand kms a year for the past 15+ years, this is one tight, defined, responsive frame set.  I’ll admit I was even a little intimidated by how racer-ish this ride might actually be, given the bike’s pedigree.  In truth, it’s likely the most responsive build I’ve had a PEZ HQ in a while – I’ll put it on par with the Chapter2 Rere I reviewed here.

My initial build kit featured a 100mm stem and 25mm wide tires.  I subsequently swapped the stem for a 110mm, giving me a bit more reach out the front, and then I added in 28mm Pirelli Cinturato tires.  The longer stem added some stability to the overall front end control, while the larger diameter tires and subsequent lower tire pressures (I dropped from 80psi to 70psi with the wider tires) added a level of comfort without sacrificing any of the frame qualities.  With the ride dialed in, I could fully appreciate how much fun this bike is.

Being a Cipollini – it always gets a few comments and admiring looks on the group rides.  It’s like crashing a Ford & Chevy show ‘n shine with a Ferrari.  Yeah… that’s fun.

The ride is fast.  It’s nimble, accelerates as quick as I could make it, and translation of power to the rear wheel feels instantaneous.  For sure there’s none of the lag  I’ve felt on other bikes.  A nod here also goes to the Zipp 202’s – I’d suggest that for smaller guys in my 140lb weight bracket – these are as good an all-rounder as you could ask for.

Out of the saddle the bike is as solid as it looks – standing & rocking backing and forth showed no noticeable flex anywhere from the frame or wheels.

Going down, this bike descends as fast as I could push it, and was ready to go deeper into turns than I was.  Another nod to the Pirelli’s here too.

This bike impressed me on all kinds of terrain – it just feels fast and looks cool – and that makes it fun to ride.  The Cipollini MCM – is worth a closer look for anyone wanting – whether stock geometry or fully custom measured – a custom build that’s different from anything else you’ll see in your local group.

Pricing: fully custom high end Italian carbon frameset:
• MCM rim brakes standard geometry or custom cost: $3,890.00
• MCM disc standard geometry or custom cost: $4,290.00
• MCM allroad only standard geometry cost: $4,290.00

You can get more info and build your own at or phone FZ Imports for a dealer near you (+1) 813-261-5098

Cipollini MCM Frame Specs

Modular made-to-measure wound frame with perfectly integrated layers free of burrs or stepping on the wound tubes, and profiled tube design for greater rigidity

FRAME MATERIALLayup in K1 T800 carbon fibreGEOMETRIESAnd lengths customized to the rider’s instructions or from a bike fitting reportANCHORING SYSTEMT2T WRAPPEDB. BRACKETPress Fit 41 x 86,5mmHEADSETConical headset and aero fork, dimension 1’ 1/2”-1’ 1/4”, straight fork arms for improved riding sensitivity and configuration rigiditySEAT-POSTWith ghost clamp on a height adjustable railBRAKESCaliper – Disk BrakeFRAME PREDISPOSEDFor electronic, mechanical and WI-FI groups-set with integrated wiringTYRES MAXIMUM FITTING SUPPORT28”SIZEMinimum 44, maximum 63SIZESXS – S – M – M/L – L – XL – XXLGARANTEE10 years.

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