The Cipollini MCM Allroad is fast and direct on the road, but it's stiff and hard off-road, lacks mounts for extra bottles or mudguards and offers limited tyre clearance. One thing that is colossal is the price tag – and all this makes bike hard to fall in love with.
Cipollini is best known for high-end carbon race bikes – and for the flamboyance of its legendary namesake, the 'skinless skinsuit' wearing sprinter Mario Cipollini – but with the MCM Allroad it’s tapping into the trend for gravel adventures.
Construction and features
It’s off to a good start with an impressively designed frame. It’s carbon fibre and light at a claimed 1,180g, with aero features to help you slice through the air. The construction of the frame, which takes place in Italy, is a tube-to-tube method employing T1000 carbon fibre. It’s all very nicely made.
The carbon fork adds 380g, and other details of note include a press-fit bottom bracket, internally routed cables, flat mount disc brakes and 12mm thru-axles at both ends. You get a 10-year guarantee with the frame and it’s available in five sizes, from XS to XL.
In order to provide some semblance of comfort and compliance, the frame has kevlar inserts in key places in the fork and rear stays. The company calls this the 3S System (Shock Shape System). You can’t see it as it’s in the layup of the frame, but the kevlar's job is to dampen vibrations on rough tracks.
The frame and fork provide clearance for up to 40mm tyres. It’s not the most generous clearance and doesn’t trouble the likes of the Open Wide or Fairlight Secan, but for many 40mm is likely the widest they’ll want to go, given that all-road designation. There’s no talk of 650b compatibility on the company’s site, should you wonder about getting extra volume that way.
Geometry is more relaxed than a road bike, as you’d expect. A 72.5-degree head angle calms the steering and a 1,025mm wheelbase and low 73mm bottom bracket creates stability at high speed. These numbers are very similar to that other high-end carbon aero gravel bike, the 3T Exploro.
The frameset costs a significant £3,200 [Reduced from £3,800 when originally tested]. I was supplied with a complete bike build costing £5,400, with a SRAM Force 1 groupset, Vittoria Elusion aluminium wheels, Goodyear Connector 40mm tyres and Deda finishing kit. It’s all decent kit and posed no problems, while the range of the 42t chainring and 11-42t cassette proved adequate for everything bar the steepest hills.
Though this groupset rarely drops a chain, Cipollini has added a small guard for good measure. I would be changing the saddle if I was buying this bike, but given the price of the frame it’s most likely potential customers would be speccing their own components.
I got on well with the Goodyear Connector tyres. They’re decently fast on the road and hardpack but deliver reasonable traction when the trail turns to mud. Tyre clearance is on the tight side around the rear triangle, but thankfully I never experienced any clogging. It did end some rides with a fair amount of mud clagged onto the rear chainstay/bottom bracket section, though.
The tyres were fitted to Vittoria Elusion Disc wheels, a tubeless-ready aluminium rim with a 28mm external width and laced to Vittoria Road Disc hubs with 12/100mm front and 12/142mm rear axle and Centerlock disc mount. They weigh 1,680g – respectable rather than earth-shattering.
What’s it like to ride?
The MCM Allroad is a stiff and responsive bike. With the tyre pressures topped up, it’s a fast companion on road rides. The steering is measured without being slow or twitchy, there’s ample stiffness from the frame when sprinting or surging up climbs, and it feels fast at higher speeds – suggesting the aerodynamic features might be functional and not just for show.
It’s definitely an all-road bike though, able to tackle some dirt and gravel paths, rather than an out-and-out off-roader. It’s all fine if you stick to smoother gravel tracks. It holds its speed well and feels good in the corners.
Drop the tyre pressures and press on into rougher terrain, and the frame reveals itself as far too stiff. All the impact force from pointy rocks is transmitted through the contact points into your body. It begs for more compliance, especially at the saddle, and especially when compared to the GT Grade I recently tested which – by comparison – floats over the rough stuff.
Even seriously dropping tyre pressures doesn’t mitigate the problem (I usually run similar pressures across different gravel bikes to remove that variable as much as possible). And while big tyres do go a long way to providing cushioning, the frame and fork design still account for a chunk of the smoothness a gravel bike provides. Or doesn’t, as is the case with the MCM Allroad.
If you want a fast and stiff aero gravel bike for predominantly rough roading and some well-maintained gravel tracks – and you’re worried about speed and finishing times – the Cipollini MCM Allroad is easier to like.
But it is massively expensive, and if you want more off-road capability, comfort and wider tyre clearances, the Open Wide would be a better choice, especially as the frameset is £500 cheaper. Or you can get an entire bike in the GT Grade Carbon for £2,000.
If you want a gravel race bike, it ticks the boxes. If you want to go adventuring, there are more comfortable, versatile, capable and cheaper options.
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