Reviewing bikes like the Cielo Road Racer is easy. Well, sort of. Isn’t the whole idea about a bike review to critically assess its potential for the market? That means looking and discussing honestly the strengths and the weaknesses.
Luckily, for Cielo, these were apparent after the first ride and continued to hold strong throughout the several weeks that the Road Racer Di2 was in my possession. Some of my critiques are merely aesthetic or tied in with the build kit on this particular bike.
Whatever my thoughts are, I can tell you, it’s gonna be tough to send her home.
Starting off: Cielo’s frames are all made by hand in house at Chris King. The bioval downtube and top tube, coupled with deep, fast stays make this bike one of the most stiff steel frames I’ve ever ridden.
While a frames stiffness is usually measured at the bottom bracket, I’ve found it to be characteristically more centered around the seatube cluster, especially for seated acceleration. This bike performs at either junction.
The PF30 BB is stiff, the stays are stiff, the downtube is stiff and while we’re at it, the whole bike is stiff, down to the stem. Carbon dorks will scoff at steel, but I’ve had a few on the bike and they can’t get over how nicely it rides (that means it’s damn stiff).
Although, remember, with steel, it’s a fun stiffness, just enough to make you feel like all your calories burned are being put to good use. The frame has a liveliness and comfort that can be only found in steel bikes. Even on the rough chipseal roads surrounding Austin.
Being a bike marketed to racing, the fit and geometry are very aggressive. For someone who almost always rides an XL frame, there’s a lot of saddle to bar drop. For me, maybe too much, especially if you’d rather ride a level stem.
When you do however, ride a Road Racer with the Cielo stem, the bike just zooms and the fit is hardly an issue but, like I said, you’re stuck with a 0-degree stem if you want this or any less saddle to bar drop. I don’t, however think that’s the language this bike is made for. The stem looks great, the bike fits as is. Case closed.
This particular frame was spec’d with a Thomson post, which is right at the minimum insertion line. Not a bad thing, just be ready to potentially spring for the longer post.
Unlike many carbon frames, or even modern production steel frames, the Cielo will fit up to a 31c tire. I know because I dropped my other wheels from my Argonaut into it a few times on windy days. Which brings me to my main qualm with this build. The ENVE wheels. Before I go on, this is a “race bike” spec’d for “racing”, not hill country rides where the wind rips through valleys. While the ENVE 67s aren’t as bad as other deep rims I’ve ridden, they’re still like kites!
One thing I loved about the build spec is the Di2 Ultegra 11-speed drivetrain. I guess it had been a while since I’ve ridden Di2 – back when Dura Ace first came out. I’ve never been on a more accurate, fast, flawless system before. It has me questioning my love for SRAM a little bit.
Did I mention that clean integration?
The Thomson bars are also a pleasant surprise. Again, very stiff and with a nice shape to the tops.
Here’s the elephant in the room. The ONE comment everyone had about this bike. The damn “bumper sticker” branding. It’s not that bad, but it doesn’t do the frame justice! ATMO, anyway.
Everything about the Road Racer is addicting. The Chris King bits are just the icing on the cake. This bike oozes style and everywhere I took it, people went nuts over it. I weighed this one in around 17.5 lbs, around the same as my Bishop and you’d be hard pressed to find a rider or racer that thinks that’s heavy.
Like I said, I’m sad to see it go. It’s been a great couple hundred miles on this beauty.
Cielo’s pricing for the Road Racer Di2 is $2,495 for the frame and it includes Chris King InSet I8 Headset and Enve™ Carbon Fork painted to match.
If you have any questions, drop them in the comments!