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Pinarello Marvel: Italian Goodness on a Budget

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When a Bugatti drives by you think performance, speed, beauty and above all else, money. The nearest analog in cycling is the Pinarello Dogma. Now, Bugatti does not play in the entry-level market, but Pinarello doesn’t have that luxury. To compete in cycling’s global market means road bikes costing less than $4000. How does Pinarello stay true to their brand identity – performance, beauty, speed and yes, money – while serving the entry level? To be honest, they haven’t always managed the trick very elegantly. For 2014 they launched their latest effort in this vein, the new Marvel.

Now, Pinarello aficionados will know the Marvel isn’t actually new, it had a previous life as an un-inspired, tig-welded aluminum frame with a carbon rear tacked on until it was discontinued in 2005. Recently the Quattro has been tasked with this duty, but it will not return for 2014. In its place is the new Marvel 30HM12K Think2. Like the Quattro, it is based on the Paris mold, but for 2014 it has some serious improvements that come directly from the Tour de France winning Dogma.

The Details
The new Marvel certainly has Pinarello’s aesthetic DNA. Like the Paris, and even the Dogma, it features swooping, wavy Onda lines at the fork and stays, substantial tube shapes, a mono-stay that dives from the seat cluster and a fairly horizontal top tube. Where the Marvel differs from the Paris is in its carbon mixture. While all bikes use a complicated recipe of carbon modulus, Pinarello differentiates their bikes based on the highest level of modulus used in the lay up. The Dogma uses 65ton super high modulus, the Pairs 50ton and the Marvel 30ton. Both the Paris and Dogma will use plenty of 30ton and even lower modus in different areas, a frame made purely of 65ton would be light, stiff and far too brittle to ride. But it is this very high-mod that delivers the crisp, lively feel the new Dogma is famous for. The Marvel will not possess that type of responsiveness, but then very few bikes do.

Coming from the new Paris mold means the Marvel has the latest ONDA2V fork, which is sculpted to nestle directly into the down tube and uses a tapered steer tube. The Think2 reference in the name simply means it has adapters that can accept both mechanical and electronic drive trains internally. And like the Dogma and Paris, the Marvel begins with Pinarello’s asymmetric philosophy. While power comes from your right and left legs, it is all transferred to the frame by way of the drive train on the right side. To ensure these forces are delivered efficiently to the road and don’t inhibit handling, the Marvel has thicker tube walls across much of the bike’s right side as well as different tube shapes.

While these features are undoubtedly important to the bike’s performance, the biggest advantage the Marvel has over other bikes battling for your attention is sizing. Most brands offer five or six sizes, with up to three-centimeter gaps between sizes. The thinking here is a seat post and stem will correct the fit. The Pinarello Marvel is available in an astounding 14 sizes. Between many sizes there is less than a centimeter difference and there are a staggering 11 head tube angles. For comparison Giant offers the TCR Advanced in six sizes, with only three different head angles – from 50cm to 58.5cm every bike gets a 73degree head angle. Pinarello offers seven different head angles across the same range. Like a Dogma or a Paris, the Pinarello Marvel will fit better than any other off-the-rack bike, and because of this, handle better to. These are numbers that just don’t lie. Making that many sizes is prohibitively expensive, which is why the bike shares a mold with the Paris.

The Ride
Pinarello DNA, more than most brands, means a definite ride quality. They have always had an insulated, dampened ride that keeps the worst the road surface has to offer at bay. Civilized is the way we expect a Pinarello ride to feel and the Marvel has this in spades. Never fear chip seal or potholes. The Marvel will soak them up for you. But, don’t make the mistake of thinking it’s an endurance bike, the Marvel’s head tube is only slightly taller than the Dogma and it’s angles are just as race inspired.

Some bikes that excel when it comes to ride dampening do so with a numb and wooden ride quality. Now, let’s not get too excited, the Marvel is no Dogma. It does not have the same visceral, instantaneous response at the pedals but it’s no pig either. It’s got more responsiveness at the pedals than anyone spending less than $4000 has a right to expect.

Now, to the most surprising part of the test, the best bike we ever rode down hill was a Dogma 65.1. The second best bike we ever rode downhill was the $3750 Marvel. It was simply stunning – the fit and geometry to encourage fast and tight apexes, the lateral stiffness to hold those lines at any speed and the balanced dampening to make it all feel safe, effortless and civilized. The Marvel is sublime when the pitches are steep and the corners technical.

The Build
A budget bike from Pinarello seems to be an oxymoron, but they have achieved it, and retained their DNA in the process. An Ultegra 11speed drive train, the only build available, combined with their very serviceable MOST alloy cockpit does a good job of complimenting the frame’s performance. The Most branded brakes, no equal to Ultegra 6800 brakes, and the Fulcrum Racing 5 wheels are the only pieces of the puzzle that truly feel budget.

The Rider
You’ve always wanted to experience vaunted Pinarello ride quality, but you have not yet won the lottery. You want a bike to fit without a helping had from the stem and seat post. You like the idea of gapping bikes that cost three times as much when the descending gets tricky.

Price: $3750
Size Tested: 57.5
Details: Ultegra 6800 11speed drivetrain, Most alloy cockpit, Most Bobcat saddle, Most B-max brakes, Fulcrum Racing 5 wheels.