twelve months with a cielo

chris king cielo

this time last year, i had a well designed box sitting in the bikeshed all the way from portland. the iniquities of the fedex hub in glasgow deemed it necessary that this box had been for a wander round most of scotland before being popped on a truck headed for islay. bizarrely, this meant that it took longer to travel from glasgow to islay than it did from portland to glasgow. highlands and islands apparently automatically infers inverness.

go figure.

i should qualify the notion that the box was well-designed, given that a box is a box is a box. the well designed bit was on the inside, having cossetted a chris king cielo frame, forks and r45 wheels with a few cardboard tubes and a mere smattering of bubble wrap. at the time, sending from nw nela street to washingmachinepost cottage on the inner hebrides, was probably the ultimate test for such minimal packaging; this was exactly the method used to despatch the same to anyone in the world. now of course, cielos are more readily available across the world from local distributors. i cannot vouch, however, for the local method of despatch.

chris king cielo

if you flick back through some of the preceding articles regarding this bicycle, you might notice that the package looked identical sitting in the chris king plant as it indeed did outside my back door. jay sycip's faith in his packaging design was well founded, trip to inverness included. there are a number of items and bicycles that remain in residence at the post for a commendable length of time, though not all are the subjects of what i'd like to refer to as a long term test, something i've always really looked forward to undertaking. so while it might appear that i'm just riding my bike, every one of those minutes i have been working; sometimes harder than others.

nope; mrs washingmachinepost didn't believe me either.

professional riders are given new bikes at the beginning of each season and, depending on the level of sponsorship, sometimes a replacement mid-way through. if it breaks, it gets replaced, and since it is a part of the contract, they ride what they're given, like it or not. we, on the other hand, have options, often constricted by available funds, but options nonetheless. in my case, the cielo wasn't necessarily an option, since chris king's offered to send it over for review, but who amongst us was going to say no? based on a few days riding a pre-production version in portland, most certainly not me.

chris king cielo

all the necessary information has already been written, probably several times, and contained within the other chapters relating to this bicycle, but it is surely not unseemly to have a brief recap as to how bike and rider have interacted over the course of a year's pedalling together. there have obviously been times when the cielo has remained dormant for brief periods of time during 2010, if only to accommodate other bicycles sent for review. in this manner, it missed out on the ride of the falling rain, but that was partially compensated for by riding alongside graeme obree in june's ardbeg gourmet ride. other than that, however, the cielo and i have been the best of friends for week after week of more than pleasant cycling.

changes have been made; i think there are few amongst us who don't tweak and augment just because we can, even if there was nothing wrong with the bits that moved to the parts bin. i added a pair of full wood fenders from portland's river city bicycles, something that i had intended simply to use for the winter months before returning the cielo to its naked state for the summer months. however, so good did the bike look with these in place, that they have not been removed even once, but so far received a precautionary soaking in teak oil to keep them looking like furniture and protected from the elements.

chris king cielo

latterly the brooks team pro saddle has been replaced with a zimbale leather saddle which, i must admit, suits the bicycle better on an aesthetic level. the saddle arrived along with a small, beautiful leather saddle bag, originally installed through the saddle loops, but now transferred to the handlebars. (the latter has temporarily replaced another small saddle bag that was a gift from a friend). not that it wasn't before, but the cielo is now the bees knees. original fitments in the gear department were supplied by sram rival, but sram were kind enough to send a red groupset for a comparison test, substantially upgrading the usability for a cack-handed rider.

the biggest change, and i don't mind admitting, the biggest wrench from the norm, was removing the chris king r45 wheelset in favour of a pair of handbuilts from strada wheels. don't get me wrong here; the strada set is quite beautiful, there just seemed something maniacal about separating a frame from its sibling components. however, in the grand scheme that is bike testing, the wheels will eventually move to another bicycle to evaluate their performance under different circumstances. all these changes have made incremental differences to the act of riding the cielo, in every case so far, positively so.

chris king cielo

but the real nub of a long-term test is to assess how well, in this case, the chris king cielo has performed over the past twelve months, and how well it has withstood the rigours of rider, weather and an increasingly decrepit hebridean road system. the phrase with flying colours is one likely overused, but i can see little option but to use it once more. the headset and bottom bracket, both from the parent company, are as good now as they were a year ago; as yet absolutely no maintenance has been carried out on either component. our often vicious and unrelenting climate, though probably no drier than that of portland, has singularly failed to make any inroads on the fabric of the frame. the stainless steel dropouts still shine in the occasional sunlight, the cielo endcaps atop each seatstay are shiny enough to check for a froth moustache after a visit to debbie's, and as far as i can see, the paintwork is immaculate in every area; no scratches, no nicks and no flaking at all.

it's hard to be objective when the ride is under consideration; with so many other machines ridden through the year, a change of wheels and saddle, and memory not being what it was, but i would steadfastly maintain that the cielo rides better now than it did last new year. chris king cielo it is still as comfortable, as steady, as predictable and surefooted as it ever was; chris king and jay sycip knew exacly what they were doing when they designed this. if you've ever scanned or read those rapha continental articles and marvelled or coveted a bicycle such as ridden by cole, jeremy, carey et al, then this is perhaps the more available option. for what its worth, particularly as i own one of those rapha continental under-seat tool wraps (thank you slate), this has been my continental, go anywhere bike for 2010, and i look forward to it being the same again for 2011.

highly recommended.

the cielo sportive and cyclocross frames can be ordered in the uk through evolution imports, and in the usa, direct from chris king in portland, from where it will be despatched in a nice cardboard box. price depends on spec. evolution imporrts have supplied the following bikeshops with test models. bromley bike co. 0208 460 4852. sideways cycles, 01270 883785


posted sunday 2nd january 2011