Pinarello holds a strange place in British consumer’s hearts, it’s one of the best-known classic Italian manufacturers with an exotic name producing exclusive, innovative bikes that stand out from every other brand on account of their Asymmetric tube construction. Pinarello back up their curved tubes with various scientific research findings, but when you’re sponsoring a cycling team who’ve won two out of the last three Tour de Frances, the results tend to speak for themselves. It’s these results however and the sponsorship of Team Sky that can be a sticking point for fickle British cyclists. Pinarello’s Dogma F8 development with Jaguar and their association with Rapha appear to pigeon-hole the brand – those who can afford it, love it, and those who can’t, don’t.
The Pinarello Graal has achieved almost mythical status. Its success at the 2012 Tour de France in both time trials thrust images of it in to the living room of every British cyclist’s home, it appeared underneath Bradley Wiggins as he crossed the finish line in Chartres, clad in yellow, winning the stage and winning the Tour and then again as he won gold in London . Even when the Graal’s big brother, the Bolide, was released in 2013 at the Giro, Wiggins completed the stage on his Graal.
However the similarities with Wiggo’s machine end at the name, because this incarnation has been constructed with the multi-sport discipline in mind. That, fortunately, is easy to rectify and after cable-tying the front end, slamming the stem, and moving elbow pads and arm extensions much closer together, the bike resembles a viciously fast time-trialling machine. As any time trialist will know, it takes months of altering a bike to finalise a position where power can be maintained in an aero-dynamic position.
The Graal re-writes these rules, it places the rider in a supremely comfortable position where power is easily pushed down whilst keeping everything low, flat and tight, reducing wind resistance. It has a fairly lengthy head tube but the long extensions make up for this, allowing for a lower head position.
The frame itself is astoundingly beautiful, the reverse curved fork with rear mounted brake, the profile and shape of the head tube, the vertical seat tube and the huge chainstays make the Graal distinctively Pinarello and signal that when the bike is being ridden flat out, it’s relentlessly fast. The hourglass profile of the head and top tube as well as those painted gloss triangles along the downtube are a result of the bike’s rigorous wind tunnel testing, optimising the bike’s drag coefficient.
This particular colourway looks even more attractive in reality than in the photos. The matt black with gloss red will turn heads and start conversations in any village hall car park, and it makes the bike instantly recognisable without covering the frame in the brand name fifteen times.
The groupset, wheels and finishing kit that the Graal Triathlon comes fitted with match the bike and its aims perfectly. The Shimano Ultegra groupset is impeccable, allowing flawless shifting and confident braking. Alongside the Vision TriMax chainset, the obvious aero-dynamic benefits leave little to be desired. The wheelset could be used for any type of time trial event and would be a great addition to any cyclist’s collection. At 42mm they can be raced on and trained on because of their alloy brake track, they pick up speed instantly and when I was out of the saddle sprinting up a hill the pads didn’t rub despite the minimal clearance. The bars as already mentioned are very impressive – they have a huge range of positions available and their polished carbon finish looks pristine. Their minimal drag profile along the basebar is also impressive, resembling a wing with brake levers. The only slight negative about the bike and its componentry are the cables and their lack of integration between the bars and the head tube area. It’s a little messy and requires some nifty cable tie placement to minimise the drag that they would cause if left alone.
The Graal Triathlon’s price tag sneaks in just shy of the five grand mark, however this is a small price to pay considering the scope of the bike. There aren’t many time trial superbikes around, but this is certainly one of them, it’s the full package. The only upgrade required is a disc wheel which most time triallists will have. This bike isn’t for someone starting out in time trialing, it’s for someone looking to make the step from intermediate to expert. it has the history to create a feeling of confidence in a rider, and the technological advantages to reinforce it. The Graal’s handling is sharp and precise, and you have to push very hard to get a feeling of being near the limit. The instant shifting, solid wheelset and versatile aero bars round off a TT bike that will guarantee new PBs.
Summary: A beauty of a bike from one of the most sought-after Italian manufacturers and worthy of the ‘superbike’ tag. Fantastic finishing kit round off a near-perfect machine, but the Graal isn’t one for the beginner.