• September 11, 2015
  • Bikes, journal, Pinarello

Pinarello’s Dogma K8S landed earlier this year to an aghast cycling public. One of Treviso’s masterpieces, adorned with a flexing rear triangle and an elastomer suspension unit as its party piece? Blasphemy! Akin to Ferrari launching a lifted 488 Off-Road Edition for World Rally Championship competition, the K8S drew comparisons to 90s mountain bikes, previous failed suspension cobble road machines, and the scorn of adventure tastemakers bemoaning its lack of tire clearance, aggressively low geometry, and caliper brakes. We’d like to take the opportunity to inform the haters that they’re incorrect, and the soul of Pinarello remains intact inside the Dogma K8S, perhaps more so than even before.

Pinarello dogma k-8 rear suspension

Pinarello Dogma k-8 rear suspension and front triangle

The K8S is beautiful in its lack of apology for anything, something that makes it quintessentially Italian, and purely Pinarello. This is not your father’s endurance bike – this is a race bike with the razor-sharp edge taken off. No, it’s not the charlatan “Classics” bike brought to market by so many other brands that proffer geometries reminiscent of beach cruisers, headtubes higher than Luca Paolini mid-Tour, and boilerplate faux-Belgian marketing pandering to our inner Tommeke. The Dogma K8S eschews it all, built with one purpose, and one purpose only: To get Team Sky over the pavé of Flanders as quickly as possible. Thus, the question stands for us inhabiting the real world: Can the homologation special Pinarello find its way into our hearts as an everyday bike?

Above Category Pinarello Dogma K-8

First, some brass tacks. The Dogma K8S is a close sibling to Pinarello’s world-beating F8 Dogma road race frame, using an extremely similar front triangle, layup schedule, and identical grade of Torayca carbon. The rear triangle, however, differs greatly, utilizes an elastomer suspension unit at the seattube/seatstay junction, offering 10mm of travel that pivots on flexible carbon chainstays (for comparison’s sake, the average cross-country mountain bike race frame typically utilizes 80-100mm of travel). Pinarello claims the addition of suspension adds a fairly minimal 95 grams to the frame, for a 990g frame-only weight. The idea, in the context of racing Classics, is the suspension isolates the rider from the brutal terrain of the cobblestone sectors more effectively than any frame design can. Isolating the rider means less fatigue, which means more energy to…win. Which, as stated earlier, is the sole purpose of the K8S. Added bonus to the suspension is that it allows for higher rear tire pressure, reducing the chance of a flat. The K8S also offers greater tire clearance than any Pinarello race bike before it, able to clear a 30mm tire. We stuffed a 27mm Vittoria Pavé into it with plenty of room to spare. The other big shift from the F8 is in the geometry, designed around maximal efficiency in poor racing conditions. The chainstays grow a centimeter, allowing clearance for the larger tires, and lengthening the wheelbase for stability. The headangle is slackened by half a degree to slow steering over rough terrain, but Pinarello keeps the front end from feeling tough to get on top of by increasing the fork offset, sort of a “having cake and eating it too” scenario. The overall changes in geometry increased stack versus the F8 by a minimal 8mm on our 53cm tester, and decreased reach by 3mm. Minor differences when other competitors are taken into account, and still very much so a race bike. Like the F8, the K8S comes in a wide range of sizes, designed to fit a large variety of body types and riding preferences, with ten options available.

Pinarello Dogma K-8 Marin Headlands

From the first time we swung a leg over the K8S, it was unmistakably a Dogma. The planted ride feel, the confident Italian stage race geometry – it was all familiar. Descents reminded us that it was indeed a Dogma, carving downhill turns with confident ease, and standing sprint efforts were rewarded with remarkable poise from the machine beneath us. Like many Dogmas prior to the F8, it didn’t feel particularly sprightly, just collected and cool, ready to efficiently churn any ride or race into dust. It has that special Pinarello feel, the sensation that makes us want to grin and pedal harder. But, it was when we took the K8S off-piste that we were particularly rewarded. Sections of doubletrack, singletrack, and fireroad that we normally found ourselves a bit beat up on by carbon race bikes were smoothed out. The ride quality felt almost remarkably…ferrous. It evolved into an all-day bike that people like us – lunatics cast in the hellfires of bike racing, with a fondness for low positions and long days of adding miles to rides just because we can – could really love.

Chad Nordwall of Above Category riding the pinarello Dogma k8 in the Marin Headlands

Testing the Pinarello Dogma K8

However, the comfort and concessions made to the cobbles by Pinarello do not come without compromise. For comparison’s sake, we rode both a size 53cm F8 and 53cm K8S during our review process, and both outfitted with similar componentry. We’ll get the obvious question out of the way first – and the answer is yes, we could feel the suspension working, but only in certain situations, and it never felt like it was sapping energy. It proved to be particularly obvious during out-of-the-saddle big-ring moments in rollers, when powering through short hills and using the momentum of the topography was to our advantage. It lacked the sharper, poppy stiffness of the F8, particularly during steeper climbs. This can be attributed both to the longer chainstays and suspension. And, because of the extended wheelbase, it didn’t knife through corners as quickly as we were accustomed to with the F8. But, compromises are just that, and the ones Pinarello has made are incredibly minor for what’s added to the Dogma K8S’ overall package.

Pinarello Dogma K8 in the Marin Headlands

Is the Pinarello Dogma K8S a bike we could happily ride and race every day? Certainly. In fact, for riders like us, it could serve as the only road bike in our stable, doing double-duty on dirt and tricky terrain that intersperses our riding often in the Bay Area. Would we choose it over the F8? Maybe, but that might depend on what we had for breakfast, if we’ve been watching too much “A Sunday in Hell” on the trainer, and if it’s late March or early July. The K8S is a beautiful machine with a little more quirk than we’re used to from Pinarello, and that’s not a bad thing. Coupled with bold, unapologetically functional design parameters not unlike a Porsche 959 or Renault 5 Turbo, it’s a classic bike we’ll hold close to our hearts for a long time to come.

Pinarello Dogma K8 In the Marin Headlands

Dogma K8 at Above Category

Pinarello Dogma K8 At Above Category

We currently have the Dogma K8S available in all sizes in the pictured Red/Black color scheme built with our curated, hand-picked kits, and special orders from Italy for Black on Black, Yellow Fluo, and Team Sky colorways are an additional option. Please contact us at sales@abovecategorycycling.com or (415) 339-9250 to place an order today.

NEXT JOURNAL

Pinarello’s Dogma F8, 2016 Edition