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Pinarello Dogma F12 Review & First Impressions

Posted by Alder Martz on 26th May 2020

Pinarello Dogma F12 Review & First Impressions

So this is it … THE BIKE of the moment. If you’re looking at top tier, pro tour level bikes, you’ve at least perused the F12. It may not be the bike you pull the trigger on, but it's impossible to ignore. For starters, in a sea of increasingly ubiquitous, aero, carbon bikes, I think it’s the most distinctive of its kind. Immediately recognizable. Love it or hate it, the ONDA design language and aggressive asymmetry let you know that this could only be Pinarello, from every angle.

If I had to apply a “one-liner” to this bike : It's completely savage, and I absolutely love it.

I'm not going to dwell much on the F12’s features compared to the F10. You can read about those here. Instead, let’s look at why I spec’d my Dogma F12 the way I did, go over a few questions that I’ve received regarding its unique qualities, and then share my initial ride impressions.

But, if you’re looking for a quick takeaway, after 7 rides totaling 300mi, I’m completely enamored with the way this bike rides. The ride quality can only be described as firm, but composed. The bottom bracket and headtube stiffness is other-worldly. Build quality is impeccable and well thought out. If I had to apply a “one-liner” to this bike : Its completely savage, and I absolutely love it.

So first, let's look at my build spec:

Frame: Pinarello Dogma F12 Black on Black (BoB 430) – 54cm

Cockpit: MOST TALON Ultra - 100x42

Groupset: Sram Red eTap AXS 1x - 48t Aero & 10-33 Cassette

Wheelset: Campagnolo Bora WTO 45 Disk

Tires: Schwalbe Pro One TT Tubeless - 25mm

Saddle: Fizik Arione R1

Pedals: Time XPro 10

Bottom Bracket: Kogel Ceramic Bottom Bracket

OSPW: Ceramic Speed OPWS

How much does the Pinarello F12 weigh as pictured, including pedals, ENVE bottle cage and tubeless sealant? 16.3lbs / 7.39 kgs

I love Campagnolo’s 12sp mechanical rim brakes groupset, and my initial thought was to build an F12 like that. I love the lever shape, the tactile shift feel of cables, the quality, and frankly the aesthetic. However, I have a bike with Super Record 12. Instead, I decided to form this build around the latest products I have been most interested in. It represents where the industry is headed right now: wireless, disc brake, 1x, aero, wide (well, wide by Campy standards) tubeless wheels and tires. To me, this is sort of “Peak Bike” right now.

So far I’ve received quite a few questions about the drivetrain. Why 1x? While I was initially skeptical of Sram’s choice to “rethink” traditional gearing with AXS (I'm still not really sold on their double chainring configurations) I do think it really opens up 1x for wider range use.

For a moment, consider 9, 10, and 11 speed drivetrains. The vast majority of us would have been riding 53/39 chainrings with an 11-25 or 11-27 cassette. In terms of gear ratios:

39 x 27 would be a ratio of: 1.44

53 x 11 would be a ratio of 4.82

Range: 1.44-4.82

My F12 has a 48t chainring paired with 10-33 cassette:

48 x 33 : 1.45

48 x 10 : 4.80

Range: 1.45 – 4.80

So this is virtually identical to Traditional gearing. With the first 5 steps being a single tooth progression and the next three being 2 teeth.

In 11speed 1x configurations, there wasn’t a combination that made sense for the riding I do. I would always be over or under geared, or faced with unacceptable gear progression. But not with Sram’s AXS 1x gear ratios. My 48 x 10-33 is virtually identical to traditional gearing and with the first 5 cogs being a single tooth progression and the next 3 limited to a two tooth difference, I can actually find the ‘right gear’ with a single chainring.

So; I have a traditional gear range, drop the weight of the front derailleur, shed the aerodynamic drag of the front derailleur and chainring, and get a super dope looking aero front chainring. It’s all very appealing.

I’m not going to lie: I really love the look of the SRAM aero chainring / crankset and really wanted to be able to use it. It’s badass.

I’ve also been asked a lot about whether you need a different rear derailleur with 1x than you do with a double. You do not. The new AXS rear derailleur uses a fluid clutch (vs roller bearing in their other 1x derailleurs) so the derailleur is interchangeable.

Staying with the rear derailleur, I’ve been asked if the CeramicSpeed Oversized Pulley Wheel System (OSPW) is an upgrade that actually makes sense. I’m a big fan of the CS quality and have wanted to try some version of the OSPW system for quite some time. I have thousands of neglected winter miles in rain, salt and grit on my CS pulleys on my Campagnolo Potenza 11 (Read my review on that here, where the Ceramic Speed pulleys are referenced) and they still feel fantastic. Ceramic Speed’s claims on wattage advantages have come into question, not that they’re inaccurate, simply that they’re considered in a vacuum and that the majority of those gains MAY be offset by an aerodynamic loss. Here’s how I look at it: I love the durability I’ve experienced with my other CS products and if there's a performance gain on top of that, then I'm happy. On top of that, they look amazing.

The cockpit is a pretty easy choice in my opinion. Unless you have a fit issue, the Most Talon Ultra is the right bar for this bike. It allows for full cable integration which is a big reason why this bike sees aerodynamic gains over the already aerodynamic F10. If you are dealing with fit issues, Most does offer a stem and spacer combination to allow for mostly-internal cable routing with the bar of your choice.

I'm a Campagnolo fanboy, if that hasn’t been made clear. I’ve ridden their wheels extensively over the past 20 years and each pair has been extremely durable. I have Bora One 35s on my TIME, Bora One 35 Disc on my Wilier Cento10 Air, and Shamal Ultra 2 Way Fit on my Merckx. They all use the Campy USB Ceramic cup and cone bearings and even though I have about 20,000mi on my Shamals, they’re showing no signs of slowing down. I’ve been itching to get my hands on a pair of these new WTO (Wind Tunnel Optimized) wheelsets since they first came out. I looked at all the other popular wheels on the market for this bike … but when it came time to actually pick one there was really no question for me. Also, my wife said “no” to Fernwegs….

I am excited that the WTO wheelsets are a little bit more on-trend, utilizing a 19mm internal width and tubeless (2WayFit in Campy/Fulcrum speak) compatibility – a first for Campy Carbon Wheels. And while the hub shell on the new WTO has changed to be more aerodynamic, the internals still rely on the tried and tested ceramic USB cup and cone bearings.

While aerodynamics are, of course, what a lot of people are looking at right now, the WTO 45s are fairly light considering their aero claims at 1520g. Compare this to a Zipp 303 (the wheelset of choice on one of the stock build F12s) which has an equal rim depth of 45mm at 1655g. That’s 135g weight saving … all things being equal, that’s considerable.

Mounted on these, I’ve decided to try the new Schwalbe Pro One TT Specific tires in 25mm. I would have gone with my go-to tire, the Vittoria Corsa in tanwall, but I really wanted tubeless.

First Impressions:

Pulling this bike out of the box, and unwrapping it, you immediately realize that the only way to appreciate Black on Black is viewing it in person. In pictures, it can look flat and maybe a little boring but in reality, it's stunning. There's a lot of layering going on with the design. Matte finish intersects high gloss clear coat over exposed carbon weave, highlighted by straight black high gloss. It’s really something special.

As we come out of winter here in Maine, the roads are finally starting to clear up and I’ve been able to get a few rides in on the F12. At the time of writing, I’ve done 7 rides for a total of about 300 miles, and while I don’t think that’s enough time for a complete review, I do think I can give some initial impressions and thoughts.

Firstly the stiffness of the bottom bracket and headtube, and subsequent power transfer of this bike is absolutely savage … and intoxicating. Combined with the aerodynamic advantages of the F12 as a whole and the 1x gearing, acceleration feels relentless. You want to ride this bike hard. To use Pinarello’s motto for their gravel bike, the Grevil: it’s Full Gas Everywhere.

But when it comes to the Pinarello Dogma F12, it's not these ubiquitous elements that set it apart from other aero bikes, it’s the subtleties. You sort of get the sense that their experience with these bikes is paying dividends at this point. For example, the seatpost clamp wedge works flawlessly. Barely a dab of carbon prep and my post was absolutely locked in place as if held by a vice grip with only 4nm of force.

The first thing I noticed on my first ride, is that this is the quietest aero bike I’ve ever ridden. There is no echo of cable rattle with every small movement in the road. The entire bike feels solid. No shakes, no creaks, no plastic fittings that can rattle their way loose and no internal routing that vibrates inside of the frame.

Sure, a wireless groupset helps reduce noise, but I have 3 other bikes with fully internal cable routing, and so far, the Pinarello spacers are the best. Wait, headset spacers!? You bet. The Pinarello spacers are keyed, two piece, interlocking and metal. They fit together beautifully, the routing for the hydraulic hose through them is extremely smooth, and they are rock solid when assembled. No creak. No movement. I like this.

Cockpit shape is subjective. Fortunately for me, I find the Most Talon Ultra incredibly comfortable (and also seems well thought out). One problem I’ve had with a lot of one piece bars is that they are only comfortable in one hand position. The Talon Ultra is not only comfortable in the hoods, but the flattened tops are a friendly shape for your hands when climbing or cruising. What I really love most (pun intended), is that the great shape of the drops. Move forward and up in the drops and they narrow slightly and ovalize fore/aft. It is extremely comfortable and gives a very “locked in” feeling. Further back and down, the drops return to their normal width, resulting in a stable feel. This MAY be the first aero bar that I’ve found to be really comfortable in all positions, not just one or two. Bar/stem stiffness appears to be on par with the frame with no discernable flex under hard efforts.

Have I noticed any shortcomings with the F12? The ride quality of this bike can only be described as firm. This is not a complaint. It is not uncomfortable. It's stiff. That being said, I certainly think a good bit of it can be mitigated by 28c tires at even lower tire pressure. (I also think there’s a little room for me to play with tire pressure on the 25s on the bike now). If you want an endurance bike get yourself a steel Merckx because this bike is an absolute missile.

The wheels feel like Campagnolo Boras, which is to say, excellent. The bike as a whole is fast and stiff, so if the wheels were lacking in one of those departments, it would have been immediately apparent. Sometime in the next few weeks I want to put a Sram XDR freehub body on my Bora Ones and see if I can actually discern any differences in ride feel. But at the moment all I can really say is that the bearings feel great. While the new UD finish has certainly brought the Boras up to more modern standards, I do miss the weave of the previous generations.

Tubeless setup with the Schwalbes was a breeze. I would say easily on par with Mavic’s extremely user friendly UST wheels.

So what about the 1x? Does the theory hold up to real life riding? So far, all my riding on this bike has been on relatively flat or rolling terrain, utilizing the more favorable part of the cassette. I haven’t been able to upset the drivetrain, and haven’t had any chain retention issues – including riding over some VERY rough, broken roads. The gearing suits the overall feel of the bike, which is to say it's definitely geared towards being aggressive. Especially for harder efforts, the 1x48t is simultaneously fun and purposeful. This could easily be shifted by switching to a 46t or even a 44t chainring for a gear range more akin to compact gearing. It’s not like there’s a front derailleur to adjust!

I wasn’t the biggest fan of the first gen eTap but was curious to try AXS as Sram makes some pretty big claims about this group. On paper they addressed some of my biggest issues with gen1 eTap. However, I still found the levers ugly and cheap-feeling. Design is subjective, and I just do not love the way the SRAM hydro levers look on bikes (I obviously knew this when buying it), and in the hand, the hard plastic looks and feels cheap. The hoods are well shaped in terms of comfort, but the hood material is slightly harder than Shimano and significantly harder than Campagnolo. To me, they end up looking and feeling like a plastic Fisher Price baby toy my 1y old would spike off the ground. Shimano and Campagnolo are still just way ahead of SRAM in this department.

While this in no way hampers performance, when you reach this level of bike, there is an expectation for a sense of quality. Essentially, I feel as though one of the only touch points on the bike falls short. I'm not saying the AXS HRD hoods are not functionally proficient, they simply feel out of place on a bike this expensive.

However, when looking at the groupset as a whole, it does seem well built, and it functions exceptionally. The rotors are absolutely beautiful, and the brakes deliver an amazing feel. The new fluid clutch rear derailleur is one of the coolest pieces of tech you’ll hold in your hand. I think Sram’s claims about improvements to the group in general are on point. Rear shifting is noticeably faster than gen1. Shifting “feel” is still very Sram – which is to say it's thunks up and down the cassette. If you like Sram shift feel, you will love this.

Even though it’s the older group, if you’re not concerned with the 1x12 advantages of AXS, and are looking at the complete F12’s … I think I would tell someone to spend less money and get the Dura Ace 9170 Bike over the Red eTap AXS Bike.

When purchasing a bike like this, it can be nerve wracking to not have test ridden one. Expectations are high and I think it can be easy to end up feeling let down. However, I can unequivocally say that this bike actually blew my expectations out of the water. I haven’t spent that much time on it yet, but after just a handful of rides, I'm really looking forward to some serious saddle time. The handling feels completely dialed in and telepathic. Reactivity feels akin to the most responsive race bike than it does to some of the lumbering aerodynamic bikes recently to come to market. The overall quality is exceptional. As a package the bike feels near faultless.

Words & photos by @tabernewton.