Pinarello’s suspension road bike continues long tradition of experimentation

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The era of carbon fiber bikes has pushed bicycle frame design beyond simply making them lighter and stiffer. Sure that might get you up the mountain faster, but for races like the legendary cobbled spring classics, comfort and control is an even bigger factor. Pinarello supplies bikes for the Tour de France-winning Team Sky and has partnered with co-sponsor Jaguar to develop a new model with a built-in suspension system.

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The new Dogma K8-S is still as light and stiff as a race bike needs to be, but the “game-changer” as Pinarello says, is in the elastomer-based shock mounted above the seatstays. It offers 10 mm of cushioning thanks to the flexible flat chainstays that allow the rear triangle to move. Team Sky has been testing the bike for a few months and it will make its race debut this weekend at the Tour of Flanders.

Building special bikes for these races, especially the gnarly Paris – Roubaix, is nothing new. One-off creations are less common now, but in the past the likes of George Hincapie, Johann Museeuw and Greg Lemond have raced some interesting bikes.

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Lemond debuted the RockShox Ruby suspension fork in 1991 and despite the weight penalty it offered 30 mm of travel from an air spring, just like modern mountain bike forks. Though it generated a lot of laughs at the time, it would ultimately take home victory at the race in 1992, 1993 and 1994.

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Steve Bauer had a Ruby fork on his far out Merckx in 1993 and while he didn’t win he did finish a respectable 21st.

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In 1994 things went extra wild with Lemond on a soft-tail design not unlike the new Pinarello, but it was Museeuw’s full suspension Bianchi that really got everyone’s attention. Derived from a mountain bike design, it unfortunately wasn’t quite up to the task and broke with only miles remaining in the race.

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Things were quiet for about a decade until 2005 when George Hincapie took to the starting line at Paris-Roubaix with a modified Trek. It too had a soft-tail design with 13 mm of travel with an advanced elastomer. He would go on to finish second. The design stuck around for a few years but disappeared when the next generation bikes were released.

The idea was again resurrected by Trek in modified form in 2012. The team’s spring classics specialist Fabian Cancellara gave the Trek Domane its first win in its first race at the Strade Bianche.

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The Domane has a pivot and a bearing at the junction of the seat tube and the top tube that allows it to bow and flex. It seems like a strange concept but it works extremely well. We’ve ridden three different versions of this bike and loved them all. Read our reviews here and here.

Countless other brands have added suspension to road bikes over the years. Moots has its popular YBB system. Cannondale made road bikes with its HeadShok. And Calfee has a soft tail design.

Will the new Pinarello K8-S give Team Sky the edge over the competition this spring? We’ll have to wait and see. While there’s no doubt the latest iteration of the concept is packed full of the latest technology, the more things change the more they stay the same.

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