Peer pressure is a terrible thing. Growing up in Ireland, any silly action carried out in imitation or at the behest of someone you liked or admired was always admonished with the same phrase, uttered by stern-faced adult, possibly while exasperatedly grabbing at some part of the guilty party’s clothing while dragging them home: “And if he stuck his hand in the fire, would you do that too?” Which is a stupid question, obviously, as it would depend entirely on how much fun he said the fire was.
If you’re anything like me, this part of the year stirs up some serious enthusiasm for the adventurous. Spring is on its way, and from the Strade Bianche in inGamba’s Tuscan backyard, to the punishing classics of northern Europe, it’s a great time to be a bike racing fan. And as the impressionable sort, watching the peloton battle it out on the gravel and the cobbles gets me to thinking about some more daring routes of my own. Because “Monkey see, monkey do,” as the adults used to put it.
I’ve never been against throwing a normal road bike down a gravel road. It was made to be ridden, after all, and even those expensive tubulars don’t have much sense to their existence if you’re afraid to put them through their paces. But there are limits, and while the odd detour can be fun, no one wants to spend hours trashing a super-light race bike miles away from the asphalt.
Enter Pinarello’s GAN GRS Disk. The gang in Treviso are better known for their all-conquering road machines – we’re rocking them too, for the record – and for their part in four of the last five Tour de France victories, but far from resting on those laurels, in recent years they’ve been keeping a keen eye on cycling’s budding love affair with gravel and innovating accordingly. Many of you will already be well acquainted with the K8S, a “classics” version of the iconic Dogma that comes with a longer wheelbase, taller head tube, and 10mm of suspension in the rear, to smooth out the rougher roads. Well, the GAN GRS Disk is that same idea taken to several new levels. And it’s a lot of fun.
For the most part, the frame looks like its less rugged cousin, the Dogma F8. This is still a bike that’s been designed to go fast – it’s a Pinarello, after all – so the tubing is optimized for aerodynamics and the riding position still feels “racy,” for want of a better word, even with the more relaxed geometry. It is slightly heavier than the thoroughbred Dogma, but unless you’re chasing a KOM on a huge climb, you’re unlikely to notice the weight penalty. What you will notice is that it’s comfortable. Like, really, comfortable. In the rear, flat and wide chainstays, or “Flexstays” to use the company’s parlance, allow for more absorption of vibrations, and when paired with the curiously-named DSS1.0 elastomeric suspension, the result is a smoother ride than you’d ever expect from a carbon race bike, even before you indulge in some cushy rubber, which you’d be crazy not to do, because there’s space for tires up to 38mm. Add some hydraulic disc brakes to all of that and you’ve got a genuine, ‘go anywhere, do anything” package.
Which is what makes the GAN GRS Disk so interesting. At first glance, you might be tempted to dismiss it as some kind of Franken-bike, straddling the divide between the road and off-road worlds in a way that makes you feel dirty. But the flexibility, comfort, and performance that it offers makes it a great choice for any roadie that has an adventurous side.
It looks like a road bike, but it’s calling out for some frame packs and some bikepacking capers. And because it’s a Pinarello, it promises real, race-winning pedigree with an extra level of cushion that most riders, if they were being honest, would be very thankful for. It handles city streets well too – but it was made for the gravel tracks, the cobbles, and the mud. You should feel dirty riding this thing – but dirty in a very good way.