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Cinelli's Nemo Tig is a high quality steel framed road bike that puts in a strong performance. It's responsive and fun to ride, with great balance and poise on both the ups and the downs. The only real downside for using steel is the weight, but if you're after a great-looking and riding bike for general road riding, rather than something to race on, this Cinelli is well worth your consideration.
It's possible to build a sweet-handling bike out of anything, if you know what you're doing. But different materials bring different properties to the mix, and for steel what you're expecting from a good frame is a lively feel, a springiness that makes the bike feel fluid underneath you.
The Nemo Tig is crafted from Columbus Spirit tubing. Spirit tubesets are constructed from Columbus Niobium steel which contains manganese, chrome, nickel, molybdenum and niobium. It's heat treated after forming, to increase its tensile strength; in terms of material properties it's similar to Reynolds 725.
The tube shaping and frame construction have more of an impact on the feel of a frame than the grade of steel used, though. The Nemo Tig has an oversized head tube to add stiffness at the front and the down tube is flattened at the press fit bottom bracket to the same end. Other than that, and the flattened chainstays, the tube profiles are clasically round and the colour-matched carbon fork is sleek enough to blend in too.
From the off, the Cinelli is a fun bike to ride. I was piloting it around the hills of Emilia Romagna in Northern Italy, and the road surfaces there are interesting, to say the least. The Nemo felt composed over the rougher tarmac without feeling detached, and on the smoother surfaces it was happy to zing along quietly and without fuss.
It's an engaging bike to ride, and it certainly gives you that lively feel you want from a steel bike without ever feeling vague. The front end is stiff and direct in the turn: this is a bike that's a lot of fun to point down a fast descent, even on a variable surface. On open bends with good visibility, when it was possible to point the bike at the apex and hold your speed, it never missed the mark. It's an assured descender.
The stiff alloy Cinelli Vai stem and bar helped there, without being so stiff as to render the bike uncomfortable. It's designed to be comfy over long distances; it doesn't have the surface-taming qualities of something like a Trek Domane or Specialized Roubaix, but it does a good job of holding the middle ground between super-stiff race bikes and comfort-orientated endurance bikes. I completed some long (150km+) rides without feeling like I'd reached my limit, comfort-wise.
On punchy climbs and sprints, when it's time to get out of the saddle and give it the gas, the Nemo is excellent fun. It's not as stiff at the back as a big-section carbon frame, but it's not so flexy as to cause any issues. Under full power it was possible to induce a bit of brake rub at the back but that's as likely to be from flex in the wheels as the frame; in reality a combination of both. The 35mm Miche Altur wheelset wasn't the highlight of the bike, but they're dependable alloy wheels and they feel stable at speed. The rear didn't survive being run into by a Bolognese moto rider, but that's not really a fair test, nor one I want to repeat.
The weight in the wheels and the frame mean that overall weight comes in at just under 8.5kg. You could build the bike up with lighter choices and have a finished bike in the 7s, but it's not really designed to compete on weight with carbon. I never found the weight of the bike to be an issue, really. There's plenty of climbing to be done around Riccione and the Nemo made it up everything, including the Giro d'Italia stage finish to the ski station at Eremo, without fuss.
Would it have been quicker on a superlight carbon race machine? Yes, a bit. But it didn't curtail the enjoyment one bit. Having a slightly lower gear than 34x27 on some of the steeper climbs would have made some of the riding a bit more enjoyable, though.
Other than the lack of a rescue sprocket, I don't really have many complaints about the Campagnolo Athena groupset. Changes were crisp and reliable, and the new lower position of the downshift lever means it's a lot easier to reach from the drops than previous incarnations. Once or twice the bike shipped the chain when dropping to the smaller chainring, which a chain catcher would have avoided.
Aesthetically, the groupset certainly suits the bike, which was unanimously regarded as a very pretty thing. The metallic purple finish is exquisite and really shines in the Italian sun. Silver, red, black or yellow frames are also available if purple's not your thing. It's a classic-looking machine, with external cabling and simple profiles, but the ride is very much modern steel.
Any gripes? Well, I wish it had been given a threaded bottom bracket. Not that I had any issues with the press-fit one in a week of sunny riding, but on a bike like this, where aesthetics and ride quality are higher priorities than stiffness, it's incongruous. A press-fit BB gives you a wider shell to work with, so carbon bikes can increase the size of the down tube and chainstays for a rock-solid core. Even then, I'm not convinced that your average Joe (ie me) can really feel the benefit. I've ridden threaded-BB carbon bikes (like the excellent Raleigh Revenio 4 that I borrowed for a previous Italy week) that are plenty stiff enough to deal with anything I throw at them, and I'm a big lad.
The Nemo Tig doesn't even make use of the wider shell: everything that's welded on could have been welded to a 68mm threaded bottom bracket. So it's a shame the bike doesn't have one. They're easier to service and less prone to issues.
Other than that, there's very little about this bike that I'd change. If it was my money I'd probably go for some lighter, shallower wheels and a carbon seatpost, but as specced it was a very enjoyable bike to ride and a brilliant companion for a week in the Italian hills. It'd be just at home back here on the patchy UK tarmac.
High quality steel Sunday bike with an involving ride and a classic look
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Cinelli Nemo Tig Athena
Size tested: 59cm
About the bike
State the frame and fork material and method of construction. List the components used to build up the bike.
Frame: Columbus Spirit triple butted steel
Fork: Columbus FEL monocoque carbon
Seatpost Diameter: 27.2mm
Cable Routing: External
Headset: Columbus Compass 1-1/8' - 1-1/2'
BB Threading: Press Fit 86.5
Frame Weight: 1800g
Fork Weight: 350g
Shifters: Campagnolo Athena 11x Ergos
Front/Rear Derailleur: Campagnolo Athena 11x
Chainset: Miche Primato Evo Max 34/50
Cassette: Miche Primato 11x 12/27
Saddle: Selle Italia X1 Flow
Wheelset: Miche Altur
Tyres: Vittoria Zaffiro 700x25c
Tell us what the bike is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about the bike?
"The Nemo gives you the classic comfort that can only come from a steel frame. It is hungry to eat up the miles of your race, sportive or long distance event," says Cinelli.
So racing to long-distace riding. For me it's most suited to long, fast(ish) Sunday rides, sportives and the like. It's a bit heavy for actual racing.
Frame and fork
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
Columbus Spirit tubing, full carbon fork.
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
XL was a 575mm effective top tube with a 185mm head tube. Slightly shorter than I'd normally ride but still a comfortable position.
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
It was fine, maybe a touch on the small side for an XL bike, although there is an XXL too.
Riding the bike
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
Lively and engaging to ride, comfortable over long distances.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
It felt just like a good steel bike should: stiff enough to be efficient and springy enough to give it a bit of flow.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so, was it a problem?
How would you describe the steering? Was it lively, neutral or unresponsive? On the lively side of neutral.
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
Handling is excellent: steering is precise, bike is very agile.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?
I'd swap the wheels for a shallower, lighter pair and get a carbon seatpost.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's stiffness? would you recommend any changes?
It felt just about right on the stiffness front. You don't want a steel bike to be over-stiff.
Wheels and tyres
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes
Would you consider buying the bike? For a Sunday bike to show off on sunny days? Sure!
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your score
I really liked riding the Nemo Tig and the performance was very good. If you're in the market for this particular type of bike then the Cinelli is decent value, but that's probably less of a concern than the look and the ride feel.
About the tester
I usually ride: whatever I'm testing... My best bike is: Kinesis Tripster ATR, Kinesis Aithein
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo-cross, commuting, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mountain biking, Mountain Bike Bog Snorkelling, track
Dave is a founding father of road.cc, having previously worked on Cycling Plus and What Mountain Bike magazines back in the day. He also writes about e-bikes for our sister publication ebiketips. He's won three mountain bike bog snorkelling World Championships, and races at the back of the third cats.