The 2023 UCI Mountain Bike World Cup begins in two short weeks, and several smaller race series are currently providing a glimpse of who’s in form. This past weekend saw several top names battle it out in Guéret, France in a round of the MTB French Cup.
While it’s clear that Elite winners Samuel Gaze (Alpecin–Deceuninck) and Pauline Ferrand-Prevot (Ineos Grenadiers) are riding strong, what stood out most to this tech geek was the mysterious bikes beneath Ferrand-Prevot and her Ineos Grenadiers teammate, Tom Pidcock.
Riding for a Pinarello-sponsored team, Pidcock has previously racked up many of his mountain bike accolades – including an Olympic Gold – on an unmarked BMC Fourstroke. There have long been rumours about Pinarello re-entering the mountain bike space, and Fausto Pinarello confirmed as much in 2022. Now it appears the new bike isn’t all that far away.
Images of the bikes are scarce, but it’s clear that both athletes were riding a mystery full-suspension frame wrapped up in camouflage that has become the industry’s way of telling you to look at something new without telling you. Meanwhile, frontal shots of both Pidcock and Ferrand-Prevot reveal a new one-piece carbon handlebar from Pinarello’s component label Most, giving a strong clue as to which brand is behind the new bike.
A return to mountain bikes for Pinarello
Pinarello isn’t a name widely known outside of the road (and perhaps gravel) world, but the company has previously dabbled – albeit somewhat unsuccessfully – in mountain bikes.
In 2012, the company entered the mountain bike world with its Dogma XC hardtail and later its Dogma XM full suspension. The bikes were undoubtedly interesting, but some quirky design elements and high pricing prevented them from appealing to an audience beyond the brand’s most loyal followers. Pinarello kept those models rolling for a few years until they became utterly outdated, but further iterations never came. Today the company offers a small range of electric mountain bikes, but that’s all you’ll currently find on the company’s MTB page.
By contrast, this new bike does not stray too far from the path of proven ideas.
In what’s become almost the status quo amongst the latest full-suspension race bikes on the cross-country circuit, this new bike offers a common link-driven single-pivot arrangement with the rear shock tucked below the top tube. This rear shock appears to be connected by a yoke-style linkage, often found on bikes from Specialized, Pivot, Canyon, Ibis, and others. Such a shock placement typically leaves room for two bottles within the main triangle and efficiently uses a well-proven frame structure.
However, in typical Pinarello style, the frame structure of the new bike differs from the norm. The lower linkage pivot point of the front triangle appears to feature its own open triangle (just above the bottom bracket shell). This design could be more of an aesthetic flourish rather than a wholly functional decision, although it at least appears to offer a base for the asymmetrically set chainstays to mount to. This open space could also serve to hold a pressurised chamber for a self-lowering dropper post like that found on BMC’s latest Fourstroke race bike.
Number plates have mostly hidden the available images of the bike’s front end, but the cables likely enter the frame at the top of the headset. Yay for clean looks, but boo for simple servicing of the top headset bearing.
It’s evident that the new bike rolls on 29er wheels, and it’s likely a safe assumption that there’s room for 2.35-2.4″ rubber that’s quickly become a typical pick at the top racing level. What remains unknown is how aggressive the geometry numbers are, how much suspension travel is available, what it weighs, and whether you’ll need an Ineos Grenadiers salary to afford one.
We contacted Pinarello for comment on whether this new bike is indeed a Pinarello. That question earned a simple ‘no comment’.
New suspension and Princeton CarbonWorks wheels?
The suspension fork and rear shock on these bikes are also lacking branding, but these appear to be the next generation of cross-country race products from manufacturing powerhouse SR Suntour. Pidcock has been racing prototype electronically controlled SR Suntour suspension over the past few seasons, and this new bike shows such electronic modules still in use. Meanwhile, SR Suntour’s telltale thru-axle can be seen on Ferrand-Prevot’s fork, proving that the team has stuck with this brand.
The forever Eagle-eyed Zach Edwards of the Boulder Groupetto (and a regular voice on the Geek Warning podcast) also spotted what appear to be new wheels from Princeton CarbonWorks.
Clear images of these new wheels are scarce, but the blurry sightings represent a whole new discipline for the American wheel brand. These carbon wheels appear to feature a deeper rim depth than what is commonly seen in mountain bike wheels, perhaps pointing toward some form of aerodynamic focus in the design. Additionally, the rims retain Princeton’s common use of a wavy profile at the spoke bed.
Aerodynamically influenced mountain bike wheels have come and gone over the years. It’ll be interesting to see if Princeton CarbonWorks can prove a performance benefit whilst retaining a competitive weight and reliable strength.
With carbon construction, smooth lines, and production-looking hardware, this new bike appears to be ready to have its camouflage wrap removed. The UCI World Cup is just two weeks away, and we suspect the opening round in Nové Město, Czech Republic may coincide with more than one new bike release.