There was a period in the mid to late years of the previous decade in which road bikes seemingly began to homogenise more and more, not just in overall performance, but with design and aesthetics too. Although the latter phenomenon may have dissipated to an extent, with the quest for greater aerodynamic gains producing some very distinct designs, there were some bikes that always went their own way.
Pinarello is a stand out example, hardly deviating from its hallmark style and shape that made it one of the most coveted luxury bike producers. Leading the way for the Italian brand has been the Dogma F series, a cut-no-corners all-round performance racing bike made prominent by its Grand Tour glories with Team Sky/Ineos. The Dogma design has also clearly been the leading influence for Pinarello’s other ranges, including the latest X series launch, the now defunct cobble specific K series, and the lower priced Prince, Paris, and Gan bikes. But Pinarello has never seemed like a brand seriously considered amongst the mid-range buyers, certainly when compared to other major brands like Giant, Canyon, and Specialized.
That’s something Pinarello has tried to remedy with the launch of its new F series in February this year. To put it simply, Pinarello wants to bring some of the race and performance prestige it's garnered from its luxury bikes into a more affordable package for the aspiring racer or those who just like riding fast on the weekend. Pinarello has been at pains to point out that the F series has been designed specifically to accomplish this rather than simply being a cheaper Dogma, but of course both bikes are unerringly similar at a glance.
In the F series are the F9, F7, and F5. The F9 and F7 are almost exactly the same except the F9 comes with a higher-end groupset. The F5 has a slightly lower grade carbon frame and cheaper groupset. You can read a full overview of the range here.
With the F9 not currently available in the UK (only in Europe and the US), I tested the new F7 for a couple of summer months to see if it really fit the billing it was given by Pinarello.
Frame and fork
As mentioned, the F7 is exactly the same in make-up as the F9 frame. Both are built from Toray T900 UD carbon fibre (for reference, the Dogma F uses T1100 1K carbon fibre while the F5 uses T700 UD) which Pinarello of course claims offers ideal balance between “reactivity, dampening capabilities and lightness”.
The distinctive Onda fork, like most of Pinarello’s race bikes, features here as does the asymmetric rear end, which is claimed to offer a more balanced ride. There’s room at both ends for 30mm tyres, so you can add extra comfort on rougher roads.
There’s notable aero touches akin to the Dogma that feature on the F series too (although aero testing figures have not been revealed), including the kinked downtube, the fork flaps, the aerofoil shaping of the tubes, and the deep headtube. A thin and stiff seat post from the Dogma F has also been added here along with a narrower top tube, while a new integrated 3D printed seat post clamp on the top tube that should make things lighter and more aero, it’s claimed. The clamp is a little bit fiddly, and I did have to dig out a Torx key of the right size to take around with me after breaking the one on my multi-tool trying to tighten it.
Because of that narrowing of the seat post, the Di2 battery, should you need one, is accessible under the bottom bracket shell, which houses an Italian threaded BB.
Like all new mid- to high-end race bikes, there is of course full integrated cable routing for a clean, aero look. You may also be pleased to hear that the frame can also accommodate mechanical groupsets, however in full build the F7 is only available with SRAM and Shimano electronic groupsets.
The frame comes in either ‘Razor Red’ colourway or the glittering ‘Razor Black’ featured here.
Although built for competitive use, the F7 notably features a slightly less aggressive geometry compared to some other race bikes. There’s a marginally shorter reach than the Dogma F from which it's influenced, but a much more telling 14.5mm in stack in my size 57.5 (though an equally steep 73.7 degree head angle). That’s not to say this isn’t still a bike with a proper racing feel, it certainly handles as such, but there is a notable edge of aggression shaved off of the geometry here.
Pinarello offers fewer sizes in its F range than the Dogma, but with nine sizes available – more than most other mainstream brands – ranging from 43 in the smallest to 59.5 in the biggest, there should be something for almost everyone.
The F7 is available with SRAM Force AXS or Shimano Ultegra Di2 8150. My test bike came with the latter, and there’s very little left to say about how good it is. It’s excellent in performance and ergonomics (I particularly like the slightly larger shifters on this version), and having ridden both the latest Ultegra and Dura-Ace I would struggle to point out any obvious differences in usability and performance.
I was slightly puzzled by the choice of a 50/34 chainset picked for a bike positioned as a racer. Given the 12-speed gearing and the possibility of installing up to a 34 cog on the rear if you need it, I think a 52/36 (pretty standard across most bikes in this tier) would be a much better all round choice, and I definitely missed the bigger front chainring on speedy group rides.
Up front the F7 features the same one-piece Most Talon Ultra Light bar and stem that you’ll find on the Dogma F. It’s an expensive, high-end set-up that is lightweight, looks the business and features a comfortable shallow drop with some flare. The four degrees of outward flare does make these bars feel especially wide when riding in the drops though. While the bars on the test bike measure 42cm centre to centre (fine for me as I normally ride 40cm bars), the end to end measurement of 46cm was too much for me. Fortunately, Pinarello does advertise its bars with end to end measurements, but it’s worth noting this flare if you'd rather ride something narrower in the drops.
However, there’s no option to spec bar size on purchase, so that may cost extra if you want to fit a narrower pair with a different length stem and as with all integrated setups like this, you’ll need to go through the rigmarole of disconnecting the brake hoses and refitting them if you swap bars. A 42cm (end to end) is the narrowest bar you’re going to find according to Pinarello’s website.
The F7 comes with a Most Ultrafast 40 carbon wheelset. These feature Vision hubs because, well, they are rebranded Vision SC40 Disc wheels and they’re shod with Pirelli’s P7 Sport ‘training’ tyre in size 28mm. The alloy saddle is also rebadged as Most, but is made by Selle Italia.
The whole build, including Shimano Ultegra pedals, the pre-installed bottle cages and Garmin mount, weighed in at 8.3kg on my scales. For this particular setup, you’ll pay £7,000/€8,850/$8,800
I had a couple of months to give the Pinarello F7 a proper runaround on my usual rides and across some varied terrain this summer, having ridden the F9 on its launch in February.
My favourite part about riding this bike has to be the handling. It felt reactive and balanced in corners and on speedy descents. There’s something immediately reassuring about a bike that offers sharp, but stable and consistent handling, enabling you to just enjoy and focus on technical parts of a ride or a descent without thinking about the bike. That stability translates across to riding in straight lines too, where the F did not provide any unnecessary twitchiness, just a confident and composed ride feel.
Given it’s made for racing the F is a noticeably stiff bike, so while it has composed handling, you’re still going to feel a lot of the rough roads or potholes you ride over. That being said, it’s certainly no more chattery than many other stiff race bikes of this ilk and there's no sense of control loss riding over the rougher stuff. Whether it made a significant difference in reality or not, the chunky nature of the tubes and forks did give the F a sense that it could handle whatever was thrown at it. As mentioned, there is room for up to 30mm tyres here which could significantly improve comfort, but a bike like the new Pinarello Dogma X may be worth considering if that’s a significant aspect you’re looking for.
If what I liked about the Pinarello F7 is an innate part of the design of the bike, I feel like my most significant dislike should hopefully be fixable. In short, the F7 just didn’t feel fast enough. I was expecting to feel my efforts instantly translated into rapid acceleration and speed on a bike like this, but over the first few weeks of testing the F7 I really had a sense of being held back, struggling to hold on in my regular group rides and feeling unable to really get it going on the hills.
This is not the first time I’ve experienced something like this while testing bikes, and the first factor to consider is always the tyres and then the wheels. I switched out the Pirelli P7 Sport tyres for 28mm All Season versions of Continental’s GP5000 tyres (pictured). While the Pirellis seemed to grip well enough and looked like they could handle a harsh winter, switching to the GP5000 AS TR tyres made a significant difference to getting the F7 up to speed and keeping it there, and I really began to enjoy riding this bike a lot more.
However, I still feel there’s more to be unlocked from the bike, but I didn’t have a chance to try a different set of wheels and observe how much difference that made to the speed and acceleration.
The Pinarello F7 is a bike of massive potential. And while that is one of its great strengths, at £7,000 it’s also one of its biggest drawbacks. I genuinely believe there is a superb bike to be had here that can give potential Pinarello buyers enough reason not to look to the Dogma F. What’s frustrating is that you’ll need to invest a not insignificant amount of money in tyres and wheels on top of what you’ve already paid to get it there. That becomes a particularly hard sell when there are so many better specced bikes at lower price points on the market. If you’re a Pinarello lover though and you don’t want to stretch to the cost of the Dogma F, then I don’t think you’ll be disappointed once you’ve made these adjustments to the bike.
The F7 is a good starting point for Pinarello, but it does come with a sense of ‘what if?’. If there is to be another iteration, then there are some easy changes that can unlock the potential of what could be an excellent race bike.