Of the many reasons that exist to appreciate Italy, one of them remains the fact that the country is home to some of the history’s most iconic bike brands. And when it comes to Italian bike brands, Pinarello and Bianchi are certainly two of the most iconic, owing as much to their now celebrated beginnings but great racing heritage as well.
Recognized as the world’s oldest bike brand, Bianchi was founded by Eduardo Bianchi back in 1885. Although the brand is still best celebrated for the historic race wins during the sport’s golden era in the ’50s and ’60s with riders like Fausto Coppi, of late, their famous Celeste-colored bikes have carried the winning tradition forward with a modern race-winning tear preceding the 2020 Tour de France.
Of course, when it comes to winning ways at the Tour de France, few brands are as easily associated with La Grande Boucle as Pinarello. What would Giovanni Pinarello have thought if back in 1952 someone told him that the small frame shop he opened would someday go on to celebrate a dozen Tour de France victories with the likes of Miguel Indurain and Chris Froome?
Although both Bianchi and Pinarello market a variety of high-dollar, high-prestige race bikes, for 2021, each brand is also introducing a lower-priced bike that draws on their top-tier models.
Given that spending $10,000 on a new bike is a bit of a stretch for most, we decided to put the Bianchi Sprint Disc up against the Pinarello Paris for a practical, sub-$3500 carbon bike comparison.
The Sprint name isn’t new to Bianchi, but it has gotten a few updates since its original launch in the ’70s. In 2018 it returned as an entry-level race-oriented carbon bike for those on a budget. The frame is a monocoque carbon design with a matching carbon fork. Like any modern bike, it comes ready for flat-mount disc brakes and thru-axles. For our size 55, there is a 99cm wheelbase with a 73-degree head tube angle. The head tube is short at 14cm, and it delivers a 54.5cm stack with 38.8cm reach.
There is an integrated seat binder on the top of the top tube and a Press-Fit 86 bottom bracket. All cables and hoses are routed internally for a clean, modern look, and Bianchi claims there’s room for up to a 32mm tire.
The Paris model is fairly new for Pinarello and carries a very similar and shapely aesthetic to the Dogma race bikes found on the pro circuit. The biggest difference is that the Paris is built around an endurance geometry with a shorter reach and taller stack. For our size-54.5 test bike, the reach is 38.2cm with a stack of 57.3, thanks to the 16.7cm head tube. The frame is comprised of Pinarello’s Torayca T600 UD carbon, which is a slightly
lower grade than you get on the expensive models.
In addition to the internal cable routing, there’s an integrated seatpost wedge for the proprietary aero carbon post. The frame uses an Italian threaded bottom bracket for great durability. The wheelbase comes in at 100cm on the dot with a 73.25-degree head tube angle.
The Sprint Disc comes in three different builds, plus a standard model with rim brakes. Other than the cost-saving (11-32) 105-level cassette, our test bike used a complete 11-speed Shimano Ultegra 8000 drivetrain with hydraulic brakes and mechanical shifting. The Sprint provides a climb-friendly gear range with (50-34) Compact cranks mated to an 11-32 cassette.
The 160mm Centerlock rotors are mounted to a pair of aluminum Shimano RS171 wheels that are 19mm deep with a 24mm external and 19mm internal width. Wrapping the rims are a pair of 28mm Vittoria Rubino Graphene 2.0 tires. Both the front and rear have 28 spokes for riders of all sizes and abilities.
Bianchi has chosen their in-house Reparto Corse-branded alloy bars, stem and 27.2mm seatpost, which is topped with a color-matching Selle Royal saddle.
The Pinarello Paris is only offered with an 11-speed mechanical Shimano 105 group. There is an 11-32 cassette matched with a mid-compact (52-36) crank for intermediate-level but still climb-friendly efforts. The 26mm Fulcrum Racing 6 DB wheels with a 22mm external width and 17mm internal width feature 2-Way Fit (tubeless-ready) and ship with a pair of 28mm Vittoria Zaffiro tires and 160mm rotors.
The alloy handlebar and stem are the in-house brand Most. Wrapping up the build is a Most Lynx Air short saddle that is right on trend.
At first glance, the color-matching saddle seems like it’s straight out of the wrong decade with the long sides and arching design. But, moments after actually sitting on it, all the testers found it comfy. The padding is a bit softer, so when you find a good position, it is easy to maintain. Climbing on the Sprint is efficient enough, thanks to the low gearing, and keeping a high cadence is easy to maintain even when things get steep. The Shimano wheels are a bit on the hefty side, but with 28 spokes front and rear mean they will probably last many seasons of abuse.
Descending and high-speed cornering are kind of muted, and between the frame and tires, it offers little road feedback. The bike handles well, but just doesn’t feel lively like most race-oriented road bikes. Pedaling out of the saddle or hard efforts result in a bit of frame flex and loss of efficiency. Long rides were comfortable, but if you change to a denser saddle, then a carbon post would be a good option.
Since the Paris resembles Pinarello’s high-end Dogma, it uses proprietary aero headset spacers, as well as an aero carbon post. This means changing the stem height is a bit more involved, and the stock carbon post is your only option. On the road, the geometry is a bit upright, but we would still put it in the performance category. Since the Paris comes with a larger crank than the Sprint, climbing is a bit tougher. With that said, it too is matched with a 32t easiest cog, so most climbs were easy to maintain a high cadence on.
It’s when you point the Paris down that the bike really comes alive and responds to rider input. The longer wheelbase and seemingly stiffer frame offer confident and fun handling when speeds are high. When out of the saddle or doing hard efforts, you can feel the weight, but the bike still feels like it responds instantly. The Fulcrum wheels are a bit nicer, and that helps elevate the entire experience. The Zaffiro tires are supple but at the lower end of the Vittoria line.
Although both bikes rely on different Shimano drivetrains, it was hard to tell the difference in performance between them. The real separator was the wheels and tires. The Shimano wheels on the Sprint feel heavier when rolling up and less stiff, but they are wider, which makes the higher-end Vittoria Rubino tire fit and feel better. The Pinarello’s Fulcrum 6 wheels are tubeless-ready, but with only a 17mm internal width, they are ideal for a 25–30mm tire range. Not helping is that Pinarello paired them with what we consider an inexpensive training tire.
For us, a wheelset upgrade would be in order for both bikes in the long run. In fact, we enjoyed significant performance gains on the Bianchi when we swapped the Fulcrum Racing 6 wheels from the Pinarello onto it. The ride still wasn’t at the same level as the Paris, but it was a much closer comparison. Weighing on the heavy side of 19 pounds, neither bike is super light but within the range of bikes in this price point.
Even with its entry-level drivetrain, overall, the Paris seems to offer a bit more value. While everyone fawned over the Bianchi’s legacy Celeste color, the shapely Paris frame kept everyone glued to it.
With that in mind, Bianchi offers the Sprint at a higher spec, too, with SRAM Force eTap AXS for $5000, while the Pinarello only has the one model. Both bikes are a great starting platform for someone who wants a carbon bike with an Italian flare.
BIANCHI PUNCH LINES
• Iconic Celeste color only
• Race-oriented geometry
• Wheels are the first upgrade
PINARELLO PUNCH LINES
• Italian-threaded bottom bracket
• Shimano 105 value
• Tire swap is mandatory
Weight: 19.5 pounds
Sizes: 47, 50, 53, 55 (tested), 57, 59, 61
Weight: 19.94 pounds
Sizes: 43, 46, 49, 51.5, 53, 54.5 (tested), 56, 58, 60
Helmet: Kask Protone
Jersey: BBUC Everyday
Bibs: BBUC Dance
Shoes: Specialized S-Works 7
Socks: BBUC Disco
Glasses: Oakley Radar EV
Helmet: Giro Synthe MIPS
Jersey: Rapha Cross
Bibs Shorts: Rapha Core Cargo
Shoes: Lake CX241
Socks: Rapha Pro Team