As regular GP readers know, the gravel bike has exploded in popularity in the United States over the past few years. But not just the gravel bike; gravel races is also booming. Switching from road cycling and sometimes mountain biking, thousands of cyclists now participate in epic events organized from California to Kansas to Vermont.
At the same time, bike brands are churning out more gravel-ready apparel and gear than ever before, and just about every major bike manufacturer now offers at least one respectable gravel bike. Pinarello is no exception.
The Treviso, Italy-based brand has been manufacturing high-end road and track bikes for almost 70 years, often by hand, establishing a reputation that is truly unrivaled. According Cycling News, Pinarello riders have won a record 16 Tours de France; no other bike brand can claim more than 10.
I’ve long been curious how that sort of pedigree might carry over to the off-road space. So when the brand offered me the opportunity to test their competition-class gravel bike, the $6,500 Grevil F Ekar, for a few weeks and then race it at Steamboat, Colorado’s SBT GRVL, I quickly said “Si Signore”. Here are my impressions after several weeks in the saddle.
What’s great about the Pinarello Grevil F Ekar
Grevil’s design is one of a kind
Considering seven of the last 11 Tours de France have been won by someone riding a Pinarello Dogma, you can’t exactly blame the brand for using that model as the basis for their race gravel bike. The result is essentially an aero bike adorned with touches meant to maximize efficiency – and clearance for 650b or 700cc wheels.
From the fork flap just above the front axle, to the flat rear profile that reduces drag, to the fully integrated cables, this bike signals its intent with every streamlined feature. But unlike the Dogma, the geometry of the Grevil is optimized for gravel. To improve handling and comfort, it has a shorter reach and taller stack than a traditional road bike, as well as a modified fork angle and rake and 422-425mm chainstays.
Perhaps most notable here, however, is that funky shaped frame made from Toray T700 carbon fiber, a blend of high-strength, high-flex fibers aimed at balancing speed-friendly stiffness and respectful shock absorption. from the body. This is also the main reason why the 53cm version of this bike weighs just under 19 pounds.
The Grevil is an excellent climber
As I have learned to test a number of gravel bikes over the past two years, every pound counts, especially when you are climbing. This makes the low weight a huge advantage for the Grevil. While training in upstate New York, I climbed 3,000 feet in about 30 miles, tackling grades as high as 11%. Feeling light provided not only a physical but also a mental boost, making every pedal stroke easier.
My efforts were also aided by the Campagnolo Ekar 1×13 drivetrain. It probably sounds like a heck of a bunch of gears to carry around on the back – and it is, in the best possible way. Because no matter how steep things got, I always had enough gears to do what I needed to do – keep pedaling until I reached the top.
The race itself was actually easier. Over 60 miles on the SBT GRVL red course, I faced nearly 4,000 feet of climbing, with grades as high as 10%. I’m not going to say they were a breeze, but I never doubted that I would be fine, thanks to a bike that was far more qualified than me for this kind of challenge.
The maximum speed of the Grevil is positive pazzo
It’s Italian for ‘crazy’, and it seems appropriate here because as impressed as I was with the design and the climbing ability, this bike really shines on the flat and downhill stretches that really allow you to climb. open things up. Obsessively designed aerodynamics play a huge role, but another feature worth noting is quite unique.
Rather than having all the shifting activated by levers built into the brakes, as most gravel bikes do, the Grevil has a finger lever on the right side for hitting easier gears, but also a curved thumb-activated lever for shifting to more difficult gears. It’s positioned inside the straight handlebars such that it can be triggered whether you’re on hoods or in drops, allowing you to get into the fastest possible setup even in a deep squat aero position.
The thumb lever takes some getting used to – especially if you do a lot of mountain biking, as it’s in a similar location to the lever used to reach the kick Easier gears on most mountain bikes – and how much that actually helps performance is up for debate. All I can say is that in the actual race, the total package turned out to be a banger.
Although the course is not as technical as some others, the surface is sometimes referred to as Gucci Gravel – there is a relatively gnarly descent towards the end called Cow Creek. I was in the mood to move, so I kept my fingers light on the brakes and let it rip a little. I’m sure I wasn’t breaking any land speed records, but damn it, I felt like I was flying over, around, and through all the rocks, dirt, and sand the track could throw at me. What a thrill.
Such moments are what inspired the title of this review. SBT GRVL was my first gravel race and I was so apprehensive that I chose one of the shorter distances. If I had known how fast and fun the Grevil could be, I would definitely have chosen a longer and more challenging course, like the Century. Who knows, maybe I’ll be back next year for maybe pazzo 142 miles.
What’s Not So Great About the Pinarello Grevil F Ekar
Like any precision racing machine, the Grevil requires some maintenance
As spectacular as this bike was for racing, it wasn’t exactly easy to get there. During my upstate training, I found the derailleur to be a little clunky over a few gears and the rear brake to be a little soft. Considering this bike had been tested by at least one other reviewer before it came to me, that’s not too surprising, so I had a local shop get it upgraded, so to speak.
However, after flying the bike in Colorado (thanks to Thule for sending me the excellent RoundTrip case), I did a warm-up lap the night before the race, and the rear brake Again felt sweet. I took it to a Steamboat shop, where the service mechanic said he was a Campy specialist who would be scrambling to take the job that day. A few hours later he was bleeding both brakes and the levers were super responsive, safe and ready to race.
These two treatments together cost around $172, and although Pinarello graciously agreed to cover these expenses, the experience made the bike feel as temperamental as an Italian sports car.
The Grevil isn’t exactly a daily driver
Among the qualities that make the Grevil an extraordinary race bike is its uncompromising nature. Its coil-spring geometry begs for speed, making the rider demand richly rewarded with mind-blowing off-road capability and speed.
But that go-go dynamic—combined with the paranoia I’d feel locking a $6,500 bike outside—makes it less than ideal for zipping around town. Not that I know from experience, but I would liken it to grocery shopping in a Lamborghini.
The verdict on the Pinarello Grevil F Ekar
At the downtown Steamboat show the day before the race, I had the chance to demo a Canyon Grizl 6, the sub-$2,000 gravel bike from German brand DTC. It immediately felt more comfortable and familiar than the Grevil, but also heavier and slower. Contrasting that brief little jaunt with 60 miles of rowdy racing the next day is all I needed to begin formulating my verdict.
Ultimately, if you like to ride gravel but aren’t particularly ambitious, look elsewhere. But if your intention is to go as fast as possible over rocks and dirt – in other words, to claim the off-road equivalent of a yellow jersey is – you need this horse in your stable.