All bicycle road test and reviews are stereotypically the same, and have been since Robert (known as Bob from here on) Lillywand, first thought of a new and innovative way to market and sell his bikes back in 1807. Bob reckoned that by using the village’s local key opinion leader, the village priest, he could influence sales dramatically. The village priest got a bike to ‘test on loan’ so he could ride it and exclaim its virtues. It worked, and Bob was inundated with demands from the whole congregation for orders post sermon(s).

So, pick up any magazine from any time period and the road test review will be largely the same, until today that is. More specifically, you’re reading the world’s first paradigm shift in bicycle road testing. Brace yourself! Here we go!

Examples of blah, blah magazine tests

Introducing our test subject, the Cilo road race bike. Made in Switzerland in June, 1981. The number 1 music on the frame welders radio at the time, assuming he or she was actually listening to the latest sounds, would have probably been Kim Carnes singing ‘Bette Davis Eyes’. I don’t think there has been an album put together called ‘Music to Weld bike frames to’, so this would’ve been it. In 1981, the welder of this bike was also embracing a decade of bold style, colours, shoulder pads and silhouettes, and don’t forget the heaping amounts of permed hair, whether a man or woman.

Now we’ve set the scene, let’s crack on with the test. The test bike you see here was supplied by respected bike shop owner, Samuel Shilling, the younger. Samuel is actually 73 and comes from a long line of Samuel Shillings. Indeed, his son and grandson are also called, yes you guessed it, Samuel Shilling. Samuel plays the harmonium on a Tuesday evening at his local pub, and also plays the Scottish bag pipes in a local quarry at weekends, when the weather is good obviously. Apart from that, he’s quite normal really. He told us to enjoy riding the bike, but don’t brake too hard and use up the brake pads, or wear too much of the tyres, or make the saddle sweaty. This is because a customer has already bought it and is picking it up at the end of the day this coming Tuesday, and just before harmonium night.

Firstly, the frame measurements are as accurate as a Swiss watch, and the top tube measures 56.397centimetres, approximately. The colour is called ‘Stadium suit Silver’ for some bizarre and unknown reason. The paintwork quality is like most things in life i.e. don’t rub it or polish it too hard or it’ll come off in your hand. There’s no ‘bird-shit-welding’ on this frame either as it’s all perfectly jointed. Good start.

Starting at the ‘sitting end’ of the bike, this saddle is special as the leather is sourced from the rear of an Italian rare breed of cow, called a Mavis, I think. The farmer who supplies the leather tells me that the area of the cow where it’s taken from is just above it’s rear legs and in his own words, ‘it is the skin that provides the most grip on the animal’, apparently. Anyway, whilst attempting to test the saddle and not making it sweaty, it feels a nice shape, and is very, very grippy.

The heavily polished chainset is of the purest of Japanese aluminum, and the chain rings are so thin, that once the teeth have worn away, the whole assembly can be used as a bacon slicer. Also from Japan, are the two derailleurs. The young Japanese engineer who developed these two devices, apparently worked without sleep for 4 days whilst listening for every noise as he changed gear 4,623,244 times to get the shifting silently and smoothly perfect. He was even a day late for his own wedding such was his devotion to achieving silent shifting. Unfortunately, he didn’t consider how the rest of the world would approach gear shifting and their (really low) level of mechanical sympathy. With the cycling world crashing through gears relentlessly, it led the engineer to an early grave sadly. Etched into his gravestone is a sentence from the actual derailleur instructions saying ‘best results are achieved through correct lubrication and simultaneous use of sensitive brain and hand co-ordination’.

This bike has been blessed with not 3 or 27, but 10 wholesome gears. There is a big jump in each gear ratio, so as a car or motorcycle would provide engine braking when a lower gear is selected, this drive chain provides leg breaking instead.

The brakes are Swiss and just like the country itself, not everything is transparently obvious. For adjustment and centering of the calipers for example, the adjustment nuts are concealed, not in a Zurich bank, but behind a small, innocent looking plastic cover. Unless you know where it is, you won’t find it.

The shiny wheels do exactly what they should, and have some very high performing tubular tyres made in Germany. Whilst the individual maker of the inner tubes is unknown, the tyres were stitched up by the famous, Helga Fischer. Helga did indeed come from a fishing background and was the regional champion fly fisher at the time that this bike was built. Her sewing of tubulars is legendary apparently.

Moving onto some of the lesser items on the bike, what is interesting are the leather toe clip straps with the quick-release buckles. To ensure that the riders foot is fully ‘strapped in’, the Cilo design team tested many leather products and in the end, the most supple and robust straps came from a small company located high up in the Swiss Alps who make THE best bondage straps and equipment (I am reliably informed….).

Incidentally, the ex-Tour de France Coca-Cola branded water bottle was also part of the test. Water retention until requested otherwise was good, and of note here, is a novel feature. If the bottle is squeezed just prior to putting the nipple end thing in your mouth, it shoots a jet of water out in a sideways fashion. This is great for a pre-ride or pre-race icebreaker when the rider next to you gets a face full of water when not expecting it. 

Is the message (not massage) clear enough?

In summary, our tester strongly recommends that you buy a Cilo this year, and preferably from him. As you are now lightly implicated in this test just by reading it etc, then don’t be selfish and keep it just for you, share it with your friends, or just anyone you know in case you haven’t got any friends. Both work for the tester.

Sincere thumbs up for the bike from our very sincere tester. O wait, hang on, it could be thumbs up for the coffee. Checking……

All photos by/of the Author, tester and cappuccino drinker.

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4 thoughts on “The 1981 Cilo (alternative?) road test and review”

  1. Another superb Cilo you lucky devil. They must be rare in the UK I have not seen another one.
    Kim Carnes Bette Davis eyes I love the song, I have the album Mistaken Identity on disc and original viynl, bought it new in 1981.

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