01 Mar Pinarello Dogma F8 review
Pinarello’s last flagship bike, the Dogma 65.1, enjoyed incredible success. Its palmares includes two Tour de France yellow jerseys, a World Championship gold medal and, best of all, a gushing review from Cyclist. So when the company presented this complete redesign of the Dogma, we have to confess that we were a little baffled as to how Pinarello could possibly top its established superbike.
The Dogma F8 (the name takes the ‘F’ from company president Fausto Pinarello and is the 8th iteration of the Dogma) is every inch the Pro Tour bike. To start with, it’s lighter than its predecessor, with 120g having been shaved off to make this frame a svelte (claimed) 860g for a size 54cm. This means it will have no problem hitting the 6.8kg UCI minimum weight for overall race bike builds. But that weight saving appears to have been an unexpected bonus, as the key driver for the project was to increase speed.
Pinarello prides itself on its innovative aerodynamic tubes throughout the Dogma F8, designed in conjunction with Jaguar. The shape is what Pinarello calls FlatBack, which follows the kamm-tail principle of having a teardrop profile but with the long tail sliced off in order to meet the 3:1 aspect ratio specified by the UCI, and also to offer more stability in crosswinds. Pinarello has also been innovative with the design at the front of the bike. The head tube extends out over the front brake, meaning that the flow of air is smoothed in this crucial area.
Fausto Pinarello explains the challenges of the design: ‘We wanted to create a new bike, not just a new aero bike. To make an aero bike is easy, but it must not compromise the [ride] qualities of the frame. The rideability was most important for us – the aerodynamics is about the fourth point on the list.’
Team Sky & Jaguar
The improved aerodynamics has been the result of a partnership with Jaguar, made possible by the two brands’ involvement with Team Sky. The design drew heavily on Jaguar’s computational fluid dynamics capabilities, and specifically a system called ‘Exa PowerFLOW Aerodynamic Simulation’. The details of that aerodynamic project are extensive, but its cumulative effect is a claimed 47% improvement in aerodynamics – if you add up the effects on each part of the bike separately. That’s a little tenuous, however, and in reality the overall package including rider is nearer 6.4% more aerodynamic than the 65.1, which still makes for a noticeable increase in speed.
Pinarello has designed the rear triangle in such a way as to shelter the rear brake – an aerodynamic alternative to a direct-mount bottom bracket set-up.
As well as the reduced weight and lower drag, the stiffness of the F8 has also been increased when compared to the already impressively stiff Dogma 65.1. This is thanks to Pinarello’s longstanding partnership with carbon fibre giant Toray. Pinarello claims exclusive use of a new grade of carbon (in the bike industry) – Torayca T1100 1k Dream Carbon – for the F8, which basically means it’s stronger, stiffer and lighter than its predecessor, the 65.1. These stats are certainly impressive, and the F8 is undeniably beautiful, but looks can be deceiving, and aerodynamics can be confusing, so it’s time to see how Pinarello’s new flagship performs out on the road.
The carbon lay-up on the F8 is an upgrade on the Dogma 65.1, with a new generation T1100 1k Dream Carbon (exclusive to Pinarello), which has allowed improvements in strength and stiffness over the 65.1 at a lower weight. The F8 is equipped with Pinarello’s in-house Most finishing kit, similar to the build of the Dogma 65.1. The one-piece bar and stem adds to the stiff feel of the front of the bike while trimming grams too.
The Dogma F8 is a fast bike. A very fast bike. Of course, speed comes in many forms, but it turns out that the F8 is quick in many different ways. The F8 came into my life at an interesting moment because I had just spent a significant amount of time on a time-trial bike. As such, normal road bikes had begun to seem awfully slow by comparison. The F8, however, only seemed to further fuel my new-found appetite for speed. On long solo rides, I was able to push above 40kmh and stay there for extended periods – not dissimilar to my pace on the TT setup. It’s hard to say with any degree of certainty that it’s the honed aerodynamics that are responsible, but I felt the F8 held speed in a way that the 65.1 wasn’t capable of. Coupled with a feeling of intimate connection with the road, the F8 enabled me to maintain an effortless rhythm when up to speed, and I could sit and pedal at a higher intensity than I thought possible, but without ever feeling as if I was over-exerting myself.
Another aspect of speed is climbing and accelerating, and the F8 proved to be mighty quick up the hills too, partly aided by the impressively light and stiff new Mavic R-Sys SLR wheelset. It wasn’t just a matter of sensation, either. On an ascent of Box Hill (south London’s answer to Alpe d’Huez) I beat my personal best by 15 seconds on the F8, and I’m pretty confident that on a warmer day I could have even trimmed a further 10 seconds off that.
Pinarello claims the F8 flexes more evenly to each side compared to the 65.1, due, ironically enough, to a more asymmetrical design where the drive-side stays are significantly bulkier than their opposites.
The final facet of the F8’s speed comes from the handling. Pinarello was eager that the bike be exactly the same in terms of handling as the 65.1, something apparently demanded by Team Sky riders. I can’t be sure it’s exactly the same, but certainly the F8 handles very decisively. Thanks to its aggressive geometry and stiff construction, I don’t feel I ever got close to the F8’s limits through corners and it carved any line I chose with impressive accuracy. It descends without fault, and I would have relished the chance to race the F8 in a crit, although I was hesitant to do so aboard a £9,500 bike that wasn’t mine, and besides, the racing season was all but over by the time this test came around.
THE BIKE WAS SO STIFF, SO RESPONSIVE AND SO RUTHLESS THAT IT FELT CRUEL TO CAGE IT BETWEEN MY FEEBLE LEGS.However, the F8’s main strength is possibly also its main weakness – it left me feeling inadequate. The bike was so stiff, so responsive and so ruthless that it felt cruel to cage it between my feeble legs. It’s as worthy a companion as I could imagine for a pro rider, but with its focus on speed and performance, the F8 may have lost a little of the magic of the 65.1, which had an impressive ability to deliver accurate feedback and resonance from the road. The F8 delivers plenty of feedback but it makes few concessions to the rider’s comfort. Where the 65.1 was comparable to the BMC Teammachine or Scott Addict in terms of comfort, the F8 sits closer to the likes of the Cervélo S5 or Specialized Venge – bikes designed for speed above all else. That said, the F8 negotiates severe disturbances in the road more capably than I have come to expect from many aero road bikes, but the point remains that if riding leisurely sportives is your thing, the F8 is probably not your ideal partner.
If you prioritise comfort, the 65.1 may still be your best option, but the F8 remains a truly exceptional bike. It begs to be ridden fast, it feels every inch what a pro bike should be like, and I’ll admit that I lapsed all too often into Grand Tour fantasies while riding it. And there’s much to be said for a bike that makes you feel like a pro.