The KOBH takes the best from the Dogma: its carbon and asymmetrical frame shape. However, a lengthened wheelbase and curved seatstays create a smoother ride.
Even when their simple-looking steel bikes were winning the Tour de France under Miguel Indurain, Pinarello bikes somehow found a way to stoke our cravings for Italian flair with their distinctive styling. It’s Pinarello’s command of “Italian style” that has made them one of the most revered and copied brands in the cycling world. Yet, unlike the couture brands that make Italian fashion some of the most desired in the world, Pinarello doesn’t allow function to take a backseat to fashion. Current boss Fausto Pinarello (named after Italian hero and legend Fausto Coppi) has continued the brand’s legacy by aligning the company with two of the top professional teams in the sport: Movistar and Team Sky. This has helped with Pinarello’s technological advancements in bikes, like the Graal time-trial bike, Dogma and now the KOBH.
While the KOBH (pronounced “cob,” short for cobble) was designed to excel in the inhospitable parcours of the cobbled classics Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix, like Specialized’s Roubaix, the KOBH is designed to be much more than just a bike used twice a year by a handful of pros.
The KOBH is the only other bike in the Pinarello line that receives the same Toray carbon fiber as the flagship Dogma. The 60.1 carbon is the strongest used in Pinarello’s frames and has Torayca’s nano-alloy technology, a unique process in which tiny particles embedded into the carbon are able to absorb impact, helping save a carbon frame from the scrap yard after a wreck.
Also, in similar fashion to the Dogma, the KOBH features an asymmetrical frame. While most bikes have asymmetrical chainstays to deal with the greater stresses generated from the drivetrain on the right side, Pinarello uses slight variances in shape and size in just about every tube on the bike—including the fork legs. Pinarello calculated the differences in frame distortion between the left and right sides, then designed the frame for each side to be uniquely optimized for the different forces. Most of the shaping differences are subtle, but they become noticeable once you’re up close and you can run your hand over the frame.
Gone are the Onda seat stays that Pinarellos are known for, and in come the smaller, curved stays that dampen the ride.
What makes the KOBH different from the Dogma? It starts with the seatstays. Gone are the S-bend Onda seatstays of the Dogma; they’ve been replaced with smaller, curved stays for better vibration damping on the KOBH. Overall, the chainstays are 7mm longer than the Dogma’s, and the seat tube angle is relaxed by half a degree, putting it at 73 degrees for a 54cm-sized frame. The geometry differences are not only in the rear of the bike; the headtube angle is also relaxed. In addition to this, the fork rake is extended to slow steering and give the bike a longer wheelbase (100cm) for stability and ride comfort. The seat stays may have digressed from the Onda S-bend, but the fork sticks with the traditional design yet with the ability to run up to a 28c tire.
The race fans that we are, we were fortunate enough to get a Team Sky Edition bike to test. Its build was primarily a two-country affair: Italy and Japan (Germany does jump in to provide the Continental tires). The KOBH gets a Talon one-piece carbon handlebar/ stem combination from Pinarello’s in-house brand, Most. And although we’re not always the biggest fans of the one-piece combo, we had little to complain about since they offered good ergonomics in the drops, as well as multiple hand positions on the tops.
The Shimano Di2 Dura-Ace group that our test bike came with is unbeatable in performance at the moment. Still, we couldn’t help but think how sweet it would be to have a Campagnolo electronic group on our KOBH. Hey, it doesn’t hurt to dream a little, does it?
Initially, we weren’t very excited about the one-piece Talon handlebar/stem, but once we gave it a try, we were impressed with its multiple, comfortable hand positions.
It’s a rare moment when multiple testers have the exact same feedback after a test. Everyone is a little different and likes different characteristics in a bike, but with the KOBH, it was unanimous. One tester summed up all of our thoughts when he said, “When I first got on the KOBH, I thought ‘Oh boy! This is going to be a rough ride,’ but after a few miles, I realized the frontend stiffness that I initially felt didn’t keep the rear end from providing a smooth ride.”
The one-piece Talon bar/stem, in conjunction with the stout fork and Shimano wheels, creates front-end rigidity that feels as stiff as just about anything on the market. There’s no denying that the KOBH is designed as a race bike—just a different kind of race bike. While it doesn’t give anything up in lateral flex, the longer wheelbase adds vertical compliance, as do the curved seatstays, which create a forgiving ride over the rough stuff. Pinarello is well known for not getting into the weight wars, instead preferring to focus their efforts on building frames that are going to have a superb ride quality and longevity—even after being skidded down the road a time or two. We still need to play devil’s advocate and bring up the fact that the KOBH— and the Dogma, for that matter—will not be winning any super-lightweight contests. The bike’s weight doesn’t exactly help on the climbs—although the stiffness does—but the KOBH handles the descents like its Continental tires are glued to the ground. Stability and grace are two of our favorite words to describe descending on the KOBH.
The Kobh is a stable and graceful descender.
Pinarello has managed to find a happy medium between performance and, well, performance with a little extra comfort. The KOBH opens the door to people looking for Pinarello’s signature styling but are honest enough with themselves to realize that a more forgiving, relaxed ride is best suited to their needs. The KOBH most definitely has the pedigree to be a do-it-all race bike, but it won’t rattle its rider over rough terrain. Many riders will appreciate the smoothness of the ride and the descending stability of the KOBH’s geometry. It’s also $1000 less than the $5500 price tag of the Dogma frameset.
• An Italian stallion that won’t buck you off
• It’s not going to win any weight wars
• A stiff ride doesn’t have to mean a rough ride
Price: $4500 (frameset)
Weight: 16.2 pounds
Sizes: 48, 51.5, 54 (tested), 56, 57, 58cm
Fausto Pinarello shows off his family's legacy at Interbike.
RBA MINI-VIEW: FAUSTO PINARELLO
Although the Pinarello family traces their cycling roots back to the 1920s, the Pinarello name became an official fixture in cycling in 1953 when Giovanni Pinarello finally moved on from his career as a pro rider and started making his own bikes. Owing to his roots as a racer, Giovanni made it a point that the Pinarello name would always be likened to the race courses, and over the years, the brand has accumulated Olympic, Vuelta, Giro and Tour de France wins.
In the ’80s, Giovanni’s son, Fausto, came up through the ranks. Although he never cut his teeth as a pro racer like his father, Fausto’s focus on bicycles could not be any sharper. Fausto remains one of the more interesting personalities in the Italian cycling industry. Obvious yet equally enigmatic, Fausto comes across like a high-stakes card player who, even when he shows his hand, you can’t escape the feeling that he always has another card to play.
“I have to say the bicycle is what always makes me happy. My job is to make the bicycle so I can ride it, and since I want the best bike to ride, I like my job. I think it’s important that people see that I like my job. I know how much work goes into thinking about them, into making them. I try to do my best with it, because it is a passion. And if you have a passion for something, you have an advantage. I tell my competition that, as long as I have passion, we will have a fight. When I lose my passion for the bike, well, then they can go on. Already, now, I am thinking about new products to come. It is always exciting.”