Given Pinarello’s long and storied cycling heritage, it’s somewhat surprising that the new Bolide TR+ is the Italian bike giant’s debut tri-specific bike. And yet, once the TR+ launched onto the scene last October, it did so in the best possible way by making history at the 2018 Ironman World Champs in Kona, Hawaii, when the former professional road cyclist, Australia’s Cameron Wurf, smashed the 180km bike course record in a time of 4:09:06.
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The result was the end of an exhaustive design process involving Wurf and the Italian brand to create Pinarello’s debut triathlon-specific bike. Thankfully triathlon bikes don’t have to conform to the design constraints stipulated by the UCI (the Union Cycliste Internationale, the world governing body for cycling) for pro road time-trial machines, such as the profile of the tubing. This allowed Pinarello to take an already highly-aerodynamic bike (the existing TT version of the Bolide) and make it even faster and more comfortable, specifically for the demands of Ironman tri, without any design constraints. The end result was Wurf’s record-breaking time that was three minutes faster than his nearest rival, America’s über-biker Andrew Starykowicz, and produced at an average speed of 43km/h over the 180km.
We’ve managed to scoop an exclusive test of the only Bolide TR+ currently in the UK to see what it can offer for age-group mere mortals. Is there comfort to go with the aero advancements? What tri-specific designs have been added? And can it be worth that £11,000 (minus wheels) price tag? Let’s find out…
PUSHING THE BOUNDARIES
In 1952, Italian pro cyclist Giovanni Pinarello hung up his cycling shoes and started a small bike workshop in Treviso, north-eastern Italy. Swiftly building a strong reputation, he started creating bikes that were soon being ridden in the pro road racing peloton. To date, a Pinarello has been ridden through Paris with a yellow jersey clad rider on-board 14 times as an overall Tour de France-winning bike.
The year 2009 saw Pinarello partner with a burgeoning British pro road racing outfit named Team Sky. From the outset, Team Sky pushed all its equipment providers to extend the boundaries for maximum performance gains, of which Pinarello has long been at the forefront.
The original Bolide was launched in 2013. By 2015, Pinarello had partnered with Jaguar to create a faster version of the Bolide, the HR, specifically built for Bradley Wiggins’ successful world hour record attempt. Those aero gains were then introduced onto the road time-trial version in 2016, along with a weight saving of 350g over the original frame and fork.
The most obvious difference between the Bolide TT and the tri-specific Bolide TR+ are the added storage boxes, something that are increasingly popular for long-distance tri. A bento box for food and gels is located on the top tube, starting snuggly behind the stem and extending along the top tube, allowing a smooth transition of airflow off the stem along the bento box. The larger storage box, which closes the gap between the down tube and seat tube, is there for tools and any further fuelling needs. Through extensive wind tunnel-testing and Computational Fluid Dynamic (CFD) simulations, both storage boxes are shaped fairings that reportedly improve the frame’s aerodynamics over the original Bolide.
Pinarello have introduced several other tri-specific geometry tweaks to the TR+. First, the head tube is 35mm longer than the time-trial version. The higher ride position makes for an overall improvement in comfort over the longer distances required in Ironman, compared to shorter road time-trials. Another major geometry difference with the TR+ is that the bottom bracket height is 8mm lower. This, first and foremost, aims to provide better handling and stability, plus, according to Cameron Wurf, makes it easier to mount out of T1. The seat tube angle has been altered to a tri-friendly 78°, again to aid comfort through a more tri-friendly and stable forward position.
For further aerodynamic gains and increased stopping power, the TR+ features disc brakes. Using disc brakes rather than conventional rim brakes allows for a cleaner frontal profile and improved airflow control through the specifically-shaped tubing. All cables are internally routed, with the hydraulic front brake cables channelled through the fork leg, keeping everything as aero as possible. From a frontal perspective, the fork legs bow out significantly to create less turbulence. Using a rear disc brake has also allowed for aero gains around the upper seatstay area, improving airflow from the tubing around this area onto the rear wheel.
Love it or loath it, Pinarello has become synonymous for their distinctively-curved tubing and fork legs since they began making carbon fibre frames. The style of the TR+ keeps to tradition with its gently-curved top tube, seatstays and fork, while still keeping to their aero priorities. The seat tube also features subtle curves with a rear wheel cut-out to enhance airflow from the frame onto the rear wheel. Pinarello use what they call ‘aerospace’ high-quality Torayca T1100G carbon fibre tubing with NanoAlloy technology on the TR+. And we can certainly vouch for its stiffness, as it provides excellent power transfer.
The down tube shape is complex and highlights Pinarello’s strive for maximum aero gains. The section closest to the head tube features a flared profile, rising out to meet the rear edge of the fork, then flowing into a thinner, teardrop profile with a cutaway section on the front edge for the front wheel to sit snuggly into. This then changes the profile dramatically to wider tubing with a rounder leading edge and a concave rear profile (originally designed this way to shield the water bottle, aiding airflow in an already complex area). Two bolts allow easy detachment of the storage box if you need to replace it with a bottle cage. The seatpost clamp is neatly integrated into the rear of the seat tube, adjusted via two hex bolts.
Our TR+ came fully kitted-out with SRAM’s top-end Red, 22-speed eTap groupset. There are two sets of ‘Blip’ shifters, one located on the base bar and another at the end of the tri-bar extensions for shifting while in the full aero tuck. The Red eTap groupset really is top class and it shifts beautifully. Unlike Shimano’s Di2, the system is wireless and cuts out the need to run electronic cables through the frame, which can be extremely tricky and time consuming. The TR+ is designed to be a disc brake compatible frameset only and our test bike came equipped with hydraulic SRAM S-900 Aero HRD disc brakes coupled with SRAM CenterLine X 160mm rotors for no-nonsense braking capability.
The ‘Most’ carbon base/aero bar is an in-house Pinarello construction. It features an elegant and curved integrated
stem and base bar to keep the lines as smooth as possible. The L-shaped carbon extensions provide a generous amount of length at the upturn to allow for multiple hand positions. The armrests can be raised by 50mm, giving plenty of adjustment to receive your all-important aero/comfort set-up. The thick foam armrest pads look a touch agricultural compared to others on the market, but in use they provide the most comfort of any we’ve used.
Despite the lofty price tag, wheels aren’t included with the Bolide range, but our test TR+ rolled on Swiss Side 800 Hadron Ultimate Disc wheels (1,785g per wheelset) and are the same wheels that were used on the TR+ during the developmental wind-tunnel testing. They’re built up with 80mm deep, tubeless ready carbon rims (23mm wide rim track) that feature SINC ceramic bearings for lower rolling resistance and are paired with Pirelli P Zero Velo TT 25c tyres. Seating is taken care of by Selle Italia’s impressive Iron saddle.
ONTO THE TARMAC
Adjusting the TR+ to our own preferred, aero-optimised set-up (originally achieved at the Drag2Zero wind tunnel with aero supremo Simon Smart) was hassle free. Rolling off the drive and hitting the first two-mile stretch of flat road on our first ride on the TR+, and it instantly becomes clear that the bike is very quick to accelerate up to speed and, once there, it holds speed with ease. Pleasingly, whether in full aero tuck, climbing, descending or manoeuvring through turns, it feels like the TR+ is effortlessly obliging, working with you to progress on the tarmac with the least amount of energy and hassle.
After several hours on the road, most of which on the tri extensions, it’s impressive just how comfy a ride the TR+ gives considering how stiff the frame is. It’s easy to hold the full aero tuck for large periods of time and not battle to hold position, as is the case on some other tri bikes. Put simply, it’s a very rewarding ride. The relatively short 395mm chainstays also provide excellent power transfer and responsive handling.
Although the overall stability of the ride is confidence-inducing, it’s also noticeable how much less fatigue we felt in the shoulder and torso areas after long rides on the TR+, making it easier to back up rides day-after-day. The large 160mm disc brake rotors give the TR+ an amazing braking capability in all road conditions. So good, in fact, that it’s worth being cautious using them initially as it’s easy to lock up the wheels and skid.
Having ridden most major wheel brands, this personally is our first experience of Swiss Side wheels supplied with the test bike. As is usually the case, running a deep rim on the rear is rarely a problem in most wind conditions. Yet, depending on your height and weight, a 80mm deep section front wheel will often be more difficult to handle in high winds the lighter you are. And we didn’t feel as though the front Swiss Side 800 Hadron Ultimate handled crosswinds well and let the overall performance of the bike down (yet they performed admirably in low wind conditions). The TR+ has been designed to run up to 28mm tyres. The storage box on the top tube is easy to use when grabbing a gel or bar, but the jury is out as to how durable the rubber flaps are.
The premium price of the TR+ makes it unaffordable for most (and that £11k doesn’t include wheels), but Pinarello also offer the Bolide TR with various builds, without wheels, ranging from £6,500 – £8,000. The TR features exactly the same frame design and geometry but is constructed with lower grade carbon fibre tubing, which makes it heavier and not as stiff as the TR+.
SPEED AND COMFORT
Overall, the TR+ is a highly impressively-performing all-round ride and we thoroughly enjoyed every minute riding it. We can’t prove just how aerodynamic it is as we haven’t taken it into a wind tunnel as of yet, but the fact that it’s already made history with its record-breaking feats in Hawaii speaks volumes. It certainly accelerates and holds speed in an impressive way. The TR+ handles itself through road twists, turns and descends with confidence-boosting ease.
Added to this – and the cherry on the cake – is that the TR+ is easily the most comfortable tri bike we’ve ridden over longer distances. The marriage between its geometry, overall frame build and the quality and adjustability of the aerobar are major factors in achieving this.
Personally, we would’ve preferred that the TR+ was specced with a front wheel with a shallower rim profile for its improved ability to handle varied wind conditions. Chances are, though, if the TR+ falls within your budget, you’ll also have the funds to stretch to multiple wheel options (or have your own already) to make the most of the racing conditions. Because there’s no doubting this is a speed weapon that’s capable of smashing your bike-split PBs and producing a smile-inducing ride to boot.
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