I have been debate whether or not to write this review for some time. There are a couple reasons for this. First, this bike was introduced in 2011, so writing a review on a 5 year old model is hardly timely. Conversely, it is still being sold as a current model in the Cipollini lineup, so it is still relevant. Secondly, I do not think that this is necessarily a bike that has a huge market (due to a number of factors, more on that later), so from a readership perspective it probably isn’t a great choice. In the end, the more I thought about the RB1K, I came to realize that it is so unique in today’s marketplace that I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to talk about it.
As I mentioned, the RB1K was introduced in the summer of 2011 as the top end race bike in the Cipollini lineup. It features Toray T1000.m46j carbon, a massive BB386evo bottom bracket, and a claimed frame weight is 1050g in a size M without hardware or paint. Given the generous use of paint, you could safely say that the actual weight is well above that. It is currently offered in 7 different paint schemes and 7 sizes. (XXS to XXL). The frames are marketed as being "100% made in Italy", which, of course, isn't true. In truth, it is more accurate to say that the carbon layup is placed and molded in Bosnia under the supervision of Italians, then the frames are finished and painted in Italy. This is not to say that Bosnian manufacturing is of lesser quality, only that you should not take too much stock into marketing claims, because it is often just hype.
Aesthetics is always subjective, but, personally, I am not a fan of how the RB1K looks. I know that Italians are known for style, but many of the touches look to be style for the sake of style. Given the man behind the brand, it shouldn’t be all that surprising. The biggest issue for me is how the rear wheel fits within the frame. The seat tube is curved to give the impression of aerodynamically protecting the rear wheel, but the rear wheel does not fit tight to the frame, adding weight and complexity to the frame with no actual benefit. In addition, the arch of the curve does not follow the radius of the wheel, so as you move up from the BB, the frame to tire gap gets larger, cheapening the look. By contrast, take a look at the Cervelo S5, one of the most aerodynamic road bikes on the market. Basically, the RB1K appears to have been designed to “look” aero, without actually taking consideration to making it so.
The geometry, on the other hand, is designed to put the rider into an aerodynamic position. In fact, I am pretty sure that it has the most aggressive geometry on the market. A size Large frame has a 560mm top tube and a tiny 127mm head tube. That head tube is about 20% smaller than what I would consider to be “normal” race geometry. The stack and reach numbers have more in common with TT bikes than most road bikes! My test bike was a Large, equipped with Super Record (of course!) and Bora Ultra Two wheels wrapped in Vittoria Corsa CXIII tires. No expense spared here.
As you would expect by looking at the build spec, this is a full gas race bike. It is easily one of the stiffest BBs that I have ever ridden. Combine that with the lightweight Bora wheels, and you get a very quick bike (as reflected by the top marks in the acceleration category).
Luckily the rest of the frame is built to handle all of that speed. The front end is solid too, allowing for sharp, precise steering when descending switchbacks. As always seems to be the case, the braking left me wanting. Initial bite was good, but they got hot quickly, resulting in excessive noise and a reduced feel at the lever. The Boras equipped are a few years old and do not have the updated braking surface of the current Bora wheels. Thankfully, the handling was intuitive enough that the brakes were not needed as much as they would be on lesser bikes.
All of that frame stiffness comes at a cost, comfort. As should be evident by sculpted seat stays and massive seatmast, little consideration is made for compliance. Full speed ahead! Which is perfectly fine; it just depends on what you are looking for. On this particular bike, the comfort of the frame is improved by having high quality tires, with a supple casing, so it scored a bit better than one would expect.
Of all of the bikes in the Cipollini range, the RB1K one seems to be the closest embodiment of the man himself. What does that mean? It is flashy, it is aggressive, and it is fast. If that is what you are looking for, then you would be quite reasonable to consider the RB1K.
There is a very large caveat that goes along with the above statement: so long as the bike fits you. As I mentioned above, this bike has some of the most aggressive stack and reach measurement of any bike on the market. Maybe there are people who are having trouble finding a bike that is long and low enough? However, the current market trends suggest opposite. For those few souls, this may be the droid you are looking for. In my own case, I would not consider owning this bike.
For example, my old Litespeed L1R had a saddle to bar drop of 13cm, which is pretty aggressive by almost any standard. With the same bar/stem combo on the RB1K, I would need another 35mm in spacers under the stem to achieve the same fit. This is more spacers than I would consider acceptable on a well fitting bike. Obviously, you could go up a frame size and change the cockpit. On an XL RB1K, I would still have 20mm of spacers and a 20mm shorter stem. Mind you, this is with 13cm of drop, and I have since refined my fit to have less drop on my new bike.
While it is clear that I am not the target market for this bike, I am sure they are out there. Maybe the bike fits better at the smaller sizes, but if you are considering this bike, you need to be aware of its fit limitations. You don't want to end up like this guy:
Note: The Cipollini NK1K seems to have addressed many of the issues that I had with the RB1K. It is a much cleaner looking, modern bike. While it still has a racy geometry, it is more in the range that we are used to seeing. It is offered in 2 models: direct mount brakes, and disc brakes.