Italian Duel: Colnago C-40 VS Pinarello Prince

– Story and Photos by Charles Manantan –
I have grown absolutely sick and tired of every manufacturer telling you that their Bikes are lighter, stiffer and more compliant than the competition (all at the same time). I have grown equally tired of bike test
rides where the groupset and other parts always sway the opinion of the tester because they change each test. All in all I am also physically tired because I decided to do a genuine test ride between arguably the two most desirable bikes made today, and do so with equally set up bikes! What you get is probably the first equal grounds comparison between two of Italy’s
(and the world’s) best bikes.

The World Champion’s Edition Colnago C-40 (limited supply available in the US) and the Green Jersey Edition Pinarello Prince (Not stocked for Retail Sale in the US and far more difficult to get than the C-40) are the specially wrapped versions (both come readily available in standard colors nation wide) of the two Titans of Professional Racing. The List of Teams on
these frames is a who’s who of racing (Mapei, Telekom, Fassa Bortolo, Banesto, Rabobank, Coast etc…) and are currently the choice of 5 of the top 10 teams in the world. That being said, which is better?

Let’s get down to the parts first. This is the critical part because both bikes were fitted with the Same Stuff!!!

Both Bikes are Campy Record equipped and are manufacturer spec’d 53. Add to that both are set up with FSA’s Pro Team Cranks and Speedplay Zero Ti
pedalls. Both have 3T Prima 199 Bars and both also fitted a Selle Italia Prolink Trans-Am Gel Flow Saddle (the longest name of any part on the bikes…). Wheels were alternated on equal terrain and both Bikes ran the
Campagnolo Eurus and Hed Alps Wheel sets, both Fitted with Michelin Axialpro Light Tires (Itallian National and World Champs colors inflated to max PSI)
and with Spin Skins Kevelar liners. The only parts not matching were Bottle cages, with the Tacx Tao and Elite getting equal time.

Both Bikes have their own fork and signature stem, and saddly enough (I don’t want to insult Mr’s Pinarello or Colnago and call it stupid, so I won’t) both bikes have special sized seat posts. As for the quality of thestem and Seat Post, the advantage goes to Pinarello for easier adjustment and smoother edges on the seat post and for better finish on the stem. But I am not sure why Pinarello goes with a greatly oversized Seatpost (31.0 vs 28 for the Colnago), did they want the ride to be less forgiving? And what the hell difference does having a 28 seat post make from a 27.2 (except to make things tough and expensive to replace). The Forks are both super high quality and equally asthetically pleasing, but the Pinarello as a stiffer better handling option. And for you weight bumbleheads (when was the last time you did a mountain time trail?), both weigh significantly less than you do! Both are very close to 17 pounds fully loaded (Pedals, sensible saddle, bottle cages, computer etc) without one foolish part on them and the Colnago is a little lighter than the Pinarello.

Next is the Route…
Both bikes were run on a flat course and a hilly course, one day with the Alps wheels and one day with the Eurus, and neither route was particularly long, so fitness was not an issue. Then, on back to back weekends both bikes were tested on a long ride (85 miles) using the Alps Wheels. Here is what I found. These bikes are both unbelievable, but for very different reasons and depending on the type of rider you are, you will like one more than the other…

I will judge the bikes on Comfort, Speed, handling and finish.

Comfort was great on both bikes. I expected the Pinarello’s Scandium and Aluminum large tubes to be super stiff and super rough but was pleasantly suprised to find only the super stiff part to be true. The Carbon rear stays must be the reasone and I found the ride of this bike to be on par with the Litespeed Palmares that I own! The Pinarello was ridable long and short distances with no vibration Fatigue. The Colnago though is on another planet for ride comfort. I value comfort (which is why the saddle on both bikes is a Prolink trans-am, as I am not dumb enough to think that 100 grams of saddle weight will make me nearly as slow as it will make me uncomfortable) and the Colnago is the smoothest ride I have ever been on (smoother than the De Rosa King, and much lighter). On rough sections at speed and in rough corners at speed, rolling on this bike is like riding with 25 pounds less air in your tires.

Advantage Colnago. My Butt Loves this bike! Zero Chatter that left me feeling like I had been on the bike for 40 miles rather than 85…

Speed for me is why I ride a bike, and again, the gearing, groupset and Cranks in the test are all the same, so this is a real head to head battle. And what a combo of Bikes to Battle with! The Colnago is a quick bike with good stability and a desire to be run at speed, but the Pinarello is just plain out faster. There is some windup in the Colnago (like that of good Ti Bikes), but with the Pinarello, you don’t get windup, you get Power Output! Again, its like comparing to very fast Cars, but the Pinarello just responds better to pedal pressure.

Advatnage Pinarello. The Dang thing just puts very bit of energy into the wheels going round.

Handling is basically a product of Geometry here as the Pinarello has a head angle of 74 and the Colnago a laid back 71.1. One swoops and one dives into corners, and while the Pinarello is simply quicker, the Colnago is a little more stable. Both are smooth.

Advantage; Both win! If you are a Barn storming great bike handler, take the Pinarello. If you are the smooth, choose your line type, take the Colnago. Note that both of these bikes will let you do what you need and handle well. It’s just that the Colnago will be a little more forgiving if you get twitchy, while the Pinarello beggs to be twitched.

Last is finish, which is both quality and eye Candy appeal. Colnago has some of the most outlandish paint schems available, the World Champion’s
frame is no exception to this with a stunning bright white and great details in the Mapei Cubes and World Champs stripes. But it has some rough spots on
the finish in the B stay area and under the fork crown. The rough spots are not noticable, but they are saddly in areas that will grab dirt, and make cleaning a hassle. The Pinarello, while not having near the same detail
work, is basically spot on. There is not a single flaw in the paint or the super sweet Clearcoated Seat Stays, and the quality and finnish of Bottle bosses and cable guides is also better on the Pinarello.

Advantage; Draw. The Colnago is a work of art pure and simple, while the Pinarello seems to be a fit for Telekom, as it the finnish and build quality are more suited to a German Craftsman than an Italian Artisan. Both are stunning but for different reasons.

The Bottom line is that this an Apples to Oranges battle with a blender as a third ingredient! Both Bikes give you the some of the best of both worlds, it simply comes in different proportions. Step on the gas of either one and you get moving in a hurry (You’ll just be in a noticably bigger hurry on the Pinarello). And while the ride is not as harsh as you might think for the Pinarello, it is clearly better on the Colnago. To put it into perspective,
I have significant Time on a few very good bikes, but these represent the very best of what they are. If you really do crave pure performance and want it to also be ridable over a long distance take a look at a Prince.
And if you crave silky smoothness with style to spare but don’t want to give up much performance, go hit up a Colnago Dealer.

Either way, start practicing the following line, “Thanks, I love it”. Because you will hear “Great bike, how do you like it” at least 10 times a group ride…