By Chris Carmichael
CEO/Head Coach of CTS
I first rode a Pinarello in 1983 when I raced on the Aspen-Dia Compe-Giordana team with Dale Stetina and Alexi Grewal at the Coors Classic (Dale won the overall that year). It was a great steel frame with a very Italian geometry that was nimble but not twitchy, solidly built without feeling heavy, and perfectly suited to ripping fast descents with confidence. At the time, as US racers we lived on a diet of criteriums most of the year, and many of the frames from that era reflected the demands of criteriums: steeper angles, shorter chainstays, higher bottom brackets. My Pinarello had none of those, but I never felt I was at a disadvantage in criteriums, and I was surely a lot more comfortable during long road races!
Thirty-four years later I got back on a very different looking – and much lighter – Pinarello, and I was happy to find the solid feel and confidence-inspiring handling characteristics were still intact. The materials and shapes changed, but the DNA of what makes a Pinarello a Pinarello still shines through in the ride.
Disclosure: CTS has partnerships with Pinarello and the companies that supplied the components to build our fleet of coach bikes. This is not a comparison review to determine which frame, handlebar tape, or saddle is best or worst. All of the components on the CTS Coach bikes work very well; otherwise I would have replaced them long ago. Instead, this is a torture test review about how these products have performed and held up over approximately 40,000 hours of combined use by the CTS Coaches.
- Drivetrain: Shimano Dura Ace Di2 and Ultegra Di2
- Wheels: Boyd 36mm Road Disc Carbon Clincher Wheels
- Saddle: SDG Duster
- Handlebar: PRO Vibe Alloy
- Stem: PRO PLT
- Handlebar tape: ESI Grips RCT Wraps
- Power meter: PowerTap (hub) or SRM Origin
Riders who trust their equipment are more relaxed and comfortable on the bike, and that’s one aspect of the Pinarellos our coaches come back to time and again. Where some carbon frames feel flimsy or fragile, no one thinks twice about bombing down the roughest roads – including cobblestones and gravel – on a Pinarello. It was certainly more comfortable to ride the cobblestones of the Tour of Flanders Sportive on the Pinarello than it was to race Tour of Flanders on a steel bike!
When it comes to high-speed handling, the output matches the input, meaning the bike is neither twitchy nor lazy through corners. A bike’s handling characteristics depend heavily on the rider’s position on the bike, but some are tuned by the materials and geometry. For coached riders at our camps, we have found the stable handling characteristics of the Pinarellos make the timid descenders more confident and the experienced riders even faster downhill.
Comfort may seem antithetical to high-end performance, stiffness, and aerodynamics, but riders can only take advantage of a bike’s high-tech attributes if they can ride in reasonable comfort. A 100-mile day on the bike is going to involve some discomfort for anyone on any bike, but ideally that discomfort is caused by your effort and not your bike itself. The Pinarellos strike a great balance between providing a feel for the road without making you feel every crack. Likewise, they don’t go too far in the direction of dampening feedback so the bike feels disconnected from the road.
Comfort is enhanced greatly by saddle choice, and the majority of the coaches are using the SDG Duster, which features a recessed channel. Not only does the channel relieve pressure, it allows many riders to rotate their hips forward, which often helps to flatten the back and create in a lower, more aerodynamic position without causing greater discomfort.
I am admittedly not gentle with bicycles, and because I travel a lot I spend considerable time packing and reassembling them. The F10 and Prince have both taken their share of knocks and come out unscathed (so far).
One of the under-appreciated benefits of Shimano Di2 electronic shifting is how it much easier it makes packing, unpacking, and protecting your bike during travel. I travel with a soft-sided bike case because it’s lighter and smaller. I can now just remove the rear derailleur from the frame to reduce the chance of finding a bent derailleur hanger upon arrival. (Tip: Always carry an extra hanger, just in case.) There are also fewer stiff cables to deal with when packing the front end of the bike.
In addition to packing and shipping risks, the CTS Coach fleet of Pinarellos has seen its share of crashes and knockdowns. Whether they fell over at a rest stop or crashed at 30+mph, we haven’t had to repair or replace a single F10 or Prince. For coaches’ bikes, durability is paramount. This is one of the reasons we opt for PRO alloy handlebars and stems. I love carbon bars, but coach bikes get knocked around and I don’t want to wonder whether there’s a crack hidden under bar tape.
Speaking of bar tape, I’ve become a true believer in RCT Wrap from ESI Grips. It’s 100% silicone, more durable than any bar tape I’ve ever used, and it doesn’t get as slippery as other tapes when it gets wet. CTS Coach Jim Rutberg, who has a habit of adjusting handlebars and brake levers frequently, is a fan because RCT Wrap doesn’t have adhesive on one side, meaning he can unwrap and rewrap his bars over and over again without destroying the tape.
I think we are way past the point of debating whether disc brakes are better than rim brakes on road bikes. They are, period. The first Pinarello F10 I rode had rim brakes and the current one is the first road bike I’ve had with disc brakes. On the same descents, with the same bodyweight, same tires, and same conditions, Shimano disc brakes (both Dura Ace and Ultegra) stop faster with less effort.
Big descents and bad weather are where the disc brakes make the most difference. Whether you’re in the Rockies, Sierras, Appalachians, or Alps, riders with rim brakes get tired, sore, or numb hands from the pressure required on long descents. Disc brakes solve a lot of those problems. And in wet weather braking distance doesn’t increase nearly as much as it does with rim brakes.
Two benefits of moving to disc brake bikes are thru axle hubs and the ability to ride carbon rims that don’t need to incorporate a braking surface. The thru-axle on the Pinarello adds to the solid and stable feel of both ends of the bike, and the wide rim of the Boyd Cycling 36mm carbon clincher wheelset pairs wonderfully with either 25mm or 28mm road tires.
When we moved to the Boyd wheels we went from a rim with a 19mm inner width to 22mm inner width (and a massive 29mm outer width). While it wasn’t as big a jump as going to 25mm inner width rims, there’s still a noticeable difference in the resulting profile of a Kenda Kriterium 700x25mm tire. The tire doesn’t have the “lightbulb” contour you see when you put wide tires on narrower rims, and that is important because it means the wider tire will feel less squirmy – even with lower air pressure – than the wide-tire-narrow-rim combination.
What the Coaches Say
I asked the CTS Coaches for their thoughts on what makes the Pinarello F10 and Pinarello Prince T700 stand out:
“I’ve been a naysayer of disc brakes on the road bike, never feeling like they would make a measurable difference. But after a few long rides, including descending down Mt Lemmon, the Blue Ridge Parkway, and some really steep ones in Brevard like Becky Mountain, I can definitively say they make a difference and are certainly valuable. They might not make a difference for 95% of your ride, but those times you do need them, you’ll be glad you have them!” – Reid Beloni, CTS Brevard
“I rode a Pinarello Dogma F8 for a year before moving to the Prince T700. When I first got on the F8 I immediately noticed how stiff and responsive the front of the bike felt (fork/head tube combo). Climbing out of the saddle, sprinting, and cornering all felt rock-solid with out any frame flex. I’m a big guy so I notice other carbon frames flexing when I climb out of the saddle, but the F8 didn’t have any unwanted flex. And yet it somehow still felt like a supple and smooth ride without the chatter of an overly stiff frame. When I transitioned to the newer Prince frame with thru-axles, the front of the bike felt even more solid than the Dogma F8! When you include the addition of Di2 shifting, disc-brakes, and Boyd wheels, it’s an unbeatable combination.” – Kirk Nordgren, CTS Santa Ynez
“The Pinarello Prince has a snappy, supple feel that leads to increased confidence when cornering and descending. It is as comfortable at low speeds as it is at high ones, with plenty of ride feedback where you want it, and none of it where you don’t.” – Maddison Russell, CTS Santa Ynez
“It rides like a dream! Smooth on the flats, capable on the climbs, and nimble on the descents.” – Matthew Busche, 2x US Pro Champion, Tour de France finisher, and man of few words…
“I rode my Pinarello Prince at the CTS Maui Miles camp earlier this year. I thought I had died and gone to heaven. The variety of riding on Maui was a true test for the bike. From the rough roads of the East Maui Loop to the buttery smooth descent of Haleakala, the Prince was the perfect mix of precision handling, compliance, and comfort.” – Matt Freeman, CTS Santa Ynez
“I didn’t think electronic shifting was worth the hoopla, until I tried it. I really like the Shimano Di2 system, especially when you combine Di2 with hydraulic disc brakes. Add the wide Boyd wheels and 28c tires, and this Pinarello Prince is ready to race!” Dave Sheek, CTS Santa Ynez