• October 8, 2015
  • Bikes, journal, Pinarello, Reviews

The Other Baldwin

GAN. GAAAN. GAAHHHHHN. GANE? We’re not sure. It’s Hebrew, and translates something akin to “Garden of Eden”, “Utopia”, or the like. But, would a rose by any other name smell just as sweet? In Pinarello’s case…close. Meet the Pinarello GAN RS. This is the Dogma F8’s value-oriented cousin, and at 20 feet, it’s an identical twin. If we’re likening Treviso’s race bikes to the Baldwin brothers, the Dogma F8 is Alec, since the days of The Hunt For Red October. The GAN RS? Somewhere in the vicinity of Billy…always trying, always close, sometimes better-looking (especially in a Calvin Klein ad), but never quite the genuine article.

That’s not to say the GAN RS isn’t a worthy race bike. Quite the opposite. No, it isn’t the exact same mold as the Dogma F8 – it’s, as Pinarello says, similar. And it’s painted in Taiwan, instead of Italy. It drops three size offerings from the F8’s voluminous thirteen, and has a slightly less-refined wedge seatpost clamp instead of the F8’s very slick rear compression assembly. Oh, and it’s heavier – slightly. It’s crafted from Torayca T900 fiber. What’s that mean? In Pinarello’s words, the $5000 (complete) GAN RS is fabricated from the same level of carbon as most other brands’ Grand Tour race bikes. The Dogma F8? It’s built from an exclusive-from-Toray (until 2017) T1100 wunderkind carbon schedule, on another plane altogether.

Aesthetically, the Pinarello GAN RS is, as aforementioned, strikingly similar to the Dogma F8. Tube shapes were derived from its lighter relative, and Pinarello has squarely aimed it at the aspirational Pinarello owner. In fact, to the untrained observer, it IS a Dogma. The stealthy “Maglia Nera” paint scheme (an homage to the late Giovanni Pinarello’s last-place finish in the 1951 Giro) gives it a subtle “I’m going to deck your grandmother” stance, especially when paired with something like a Zipp carbon wheel upgrade. The bike looks mean atop mean, ticking off our essential “Does it look good?” box.The real question – one that we were wondering since the GAN RS first arrived at our location on the shores of the San Francisco Bay: How the hell does it ride? Everyone we’d spoken to at Pinarello, at GITA (the North American distributor of Pinarello), at industry publications…none had an answer. The GAN RS, a sharpened spear pointed at that sweet-spot of premium bike retailing, seemed to be falling off the radar like Tyler Farrar’s podium appearances. The best answer we could wrangle from anyone in the know was “Like a Dogma!”. Unhelpful. We took matters into our own hands on a size 54 Maglia Nera for some thrashing. And thrash, we did.

After a quick stem and spacer swap to get the GAN RS into our fit parameters, we took the near bone-stock Ultegra 6800 mechanical and Mavic Ksyrium Equipe-spec’d bike out for a quick two-hour spin. Verdict? Not bad, especially on the rather portly stock wheelset. The Mavics are sturdy and smooth, but the 1700-plus gram weight wasn’t kind when it came to acceleration, and lateral stiffness left something to be desired.

We promptly installed our pair of house Lightweight Mellenstein tubular hoops to rectify the issue. After all – this is Above Category. Unfortunately, the pair of tires glued to the Mellensteins were…old. And, as it turns out, the basetape was kind of…rotten. From a winter of Northern California rain. One concussion, one helmet, several square inches of skin, and a great deal of pride later, we opted for the safer Zipp 202 bet, tipping the scales at 16.4lbs with bottle cages. Which, if we’re being honest, would be the immediate upgrade to the stock GAN RS that takes it from “good buy” to “WorldTour worthy for $7,000”.

With the stiffer Zipp wheels, the bike came alive, both aesthetically and physically. The feel is very similar to the F8, and in a blind taste test, we’d be hard-pressed to tell the difference. That said, the bottom bracket felt a little less stiff than the Dogma, and it didn’t have the same snap that the F8 brought to this iteration of Pinarello’s world-beater. In fact, if we were to draw a direct comparison, we’d say the GAN RS – from a feel perspective – is a companion to the Dogma 65.1 of old. Still extremely planted, stiff, stable, and as dependable as any Pinarello race bike before it, with the same plethora of sizes we’re happily accustomed to. And, like the Dogma always has been, it’s the perfect medium of racer fast and fondo smooth, a bike that’s as at home in the mix at the weekend road race as it is on the four-hour Saturday cruise with friends.The build kit is otherwise respectable and hardworking, with the journeyman Shimano Ultegra 6800 drivetrain providing shifting/braking duties, and Pinarello’s house MOST carbon components doing comfortable stem/bar duty. We’d take a pass on the stock Fi:zik Arione R7 saddle, though. The OE-only, entry-level R7 lacked the comfort of the higher-level Ariones we’re accustomed to, with a plasticky-feeling cover and rigid nylon construction. Of course, a saddle swap is something that happens on 90% of stock bikes anyway – a veritable non-issue in our world.

Is the GAN RS worthy of being called a contender to the Pinarello Dogma F8’s throne? No. But damn, is it close – with looks to match. It’s the Italian approach to the privateer’s weapon, the marriage of Pinarello purity with practicality – and it’s suited to take over the helm at most other carbon production brands available today.

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The Backroads of Italy