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Eurobike 2014: Pinarello Dogma F8 – first ride

Stiff, fast, and hugely enjoyable

Few new machines carry the burden of expectation that accompanied the launch of Pinarello’s Dogma F8.

The Italian brand’s new flagship had much to live up to in following its titanically successful Dogma 65.1 Think 2 predecessor, though the battle for a more manageable nomenclature seems already to have been won.

Its name is not the only feature to have been streamlined. A loudly trumpeted association with Jaguar, a connection made, doubtless, through the two brands’ mutual sponsorship of Team Sky, has shorn the fork blades and seat-stays of their wavy profiles and replaced them with something more purposeful.

The numbers, Pinarello claim, support the visual impression. Few bikes are launched these days without a raft of supporting data to convey the new model’s superiority to the old. In the case of the F8, Pinarello claim a 12 per cent advantage in stiffness over its predecessor, a near 50 per cent increase in aerodynamic efficiency (reduced to just 6.4 per cent when the rider is accounted for), and, perhaps most significantly for those riding outside of the strictures of the UCI, a weight saving of 120g in size 54cm.

That’s the science bit dealt with. What performance advantages would be apparent to the sodden bike journalist pedalling a machine resulting from more than 300 CFD cases around a largely flat, 7km loop in Friedrichschafen at the Eurobike demo day? Read on.

The Dogma F8’s most immediately obvious characteristic is its stiffness. It feels, unmistakably, like a racing bike. This we attribute to the use of Torayca’s flagship T11001K filament, modestly billed by Pinarello as ‘dream carbon’, and one with aerospace applications. Its tensile modulus is higher even than its T1000 predecessor (itself used sparingly in the bicycle industry, not least for its prohibitive cost), and it is in this quality, we believe, that the identity of the F8 can be found. We rode it back-to-back with a host of sophisticated competitors (LOOK’s new 795 Aerolight, Colnago’s new V1-r, to name only the aero road bikes) and, while each had its strong points, in stiffness alone, the F8 felt as if it held the edge.

Stiffness is valued in a bicycle for its ability to translate human input to speed, without unnecessary squandering of effort. Here, the F8 performed as well as anything we’ve ridden. Granted, a 62kg amateur is unlikely to subject the frame to the same searching enquiries as power houses like Froome, Wiggins, Stannard et al, but if this machine has areas susceptible to flex, we were unable to find them. The F8 accelerated well and scythed unflinchingly through the flik-flak ‘chicane’ on the test loop. Experience has taught us that stiffness yields its greatest dividend on climbs, but owing to the total absence of any meaningful ascent from the Eurobike circuit, we’re left to guess.

The often intolerable side effect of stiffness is discomfort. Again, we’re left to speculate on how we might feel after completing a proper distance on the Dogma F8; a circuit of seven kilometres was barely sufficient to form an opinion. We suspect that it is not overly forgiving and that a short blast might have shown us its best side. This can be a necessary consequence of machinery designed solely for performance, and in this case, for elite athletes with youth and  carefully honed flexibility to account for an unyielding quality in their machinery. This is the natural order of things, however. Pro level equipment is not always the best choice for the amateur simply because it is the fastest.

There. We’ve mentioned it. The f-word. It perhaps goes without saying, but the Dogma F8 is searingly fast (the ‘F’ of F8 stands for Faster, after all). Friedrichshafen’s marble smooth roads provided a useful showcase for the natural propensity of Pinarello’s new flagship to travel quickly. We noted a similar quality in the LOOK 795 Aerolight (though the French machine offers a significantly plusher ride quality), but there we felt a debt of gratitude was owed to Mavic’s superb 40c carbon clinchers. Not so, the Dogma F8, which for our test was equipped with comparatively ordinary Fulcrum Racing Zero aluminium rims. Lighter, more aerodynamically efficient rolling stock would provide further performance gains, in our opinion, by the F8 was no slouch, even in this trim.

While on the topic of aerodynamics, it’s in the wheels that we believe the greatest advantage can be gained. There’s perhaps a useful comparison to be made between the relative ‘real world’ performance of a bike with conventional rounded tubes and deep section toroidal rims and a configuration similar to that tested here: a heavily sculpted aero frame with conventional hoops. Pinarello’s collaboration with Jaguar to create the ‘flatback’ tube profiles that abound on the F8 lie at the heart of its performance, according to the CFD and wind tunnel data, but on the road we can’t report a noticeable advantage from the tube shape. In our opinion, the chassis’ greatest strength is its stiffness, which made it extremely rapid. We’ll throw in another f-word at this juncture: fun. The Dogma F8 was a seriously enjoyable ride; a quality harder to quantify numerically, but present nonetheless.

What conclusions can be drawn from such a brief encounter? The Dogma F8 is terrifyingly stiff, and extremely fast as a consequence. This made it hugely enjoyable to ride on a flat course for a short period. Whether this performance translates to climbs, and for an extended ride, we can’t say. Based on Team Sky’s deployment, we’ll err on the side of ‘yes, it does’ on both counts, but we’d need longer in the saddle, and over lumpier terrain, to reach that conclusion for ourselves.

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