Heavily influenced by the top-end Dogma F10, this new version of the Pinarello Prince FX is a much more affordable option (relatively speaking). It may be classed as more of an all-round bike than the peloton-ready F10 but don't go thinking it's the soft option. This bike is stiff and very, very fast.
- Pros: Very responsive and stiff frame, shares clever design cues of the Dogma F10
- Cons: Standard wheels are disappointing for the money, ride can be a little firm on rough roads
I'd read through the blurb on Pinarello's website before I went out for my first ride on the Prince FX and was expecting something a little less race orientated than what I actually got. The frame and fork are ruthlessly stiff, which means that the first stamp on the pedals delivers a lot – assisted by the not-so-shabby 8.04kg (17.7lb) weight for this size.
Acceleration is impressive, whether from a standing start or when already rolling, and I loved finding some twisty sections on my rides where you can go into the bends hard after scrubbing off a bit of speed and then blast it out the other side, out of the saddle and flicking the bike from side to side.
Hitting short, sharp climbs promotes the same kind of buzz as you can just power into them without the feeling that any of your effort is being wasted in frame flex.
Swap out the cheap (relative to the bike) Fulcrum wheels for something exotic and the Prince FX becomes even more fun to ride across the board.
Compared with the Dogma, the geometry is a little more relaxed, sitting somewhere between an aggressive race machine and that of a slightly more tame endurance bike.
This still means that you have fast, direct handling which delivers excellent precision when descending at high speed without much in the way of twitchiness, provided that you control the bike with a calm hand. Like a lot of bikes of this kind, the Prince FX responds well to smooth inputs of steering and body weight.
Our test model came with a fairly lengthy stem which certainly let me stretch right out into an aero position, affording a low centre of gravity perfect for carving a line through technical corners.
The fork legs offer plenty of force-resisting stiffness, too; when tackling those bends you can really exploit the excellent braking power of the Shimano Ultegra dual callipers to set you up for the apex.
If comfort is one of the main concerns in your bike purchases then you may find the Prince FX a little on the harsh side. It's not uncomfortable in my eyes, but there is a certain amount of road buzz and vibration that travels up through the frame to your contact points. It's an acceptable compromise between stiffness and comfort from my point of view, but it won't be for everyone.
Frame and fork
As mentioned, the latest Prince design is near-identical to the Dogma F10, with the key difference being that the three Prince models are made from a lower grade of carbon fibre than the Toray T1100 option used on the F10.
The standard Prince and the disc brake model are made from Toray T700, while this lighter Prince FX uses Toray T900 which produces a frame weight of around 960g – which is pretty good considering the stiffness.
Using the lower grade carbon keeps the overall cost down but also it tends to be a little more robust, so should stand up to crashes a little bit better.
Pinarello has focused on aerodynamics when it comes to the new frame and fork. First up, you'll notice the concave down tube which is a design taken from the Bolide time trial bike, the theory being the sunken shape places the water bottle and cage out of the airflow.
While we are on the subject of bottle mounts, you'll see that the Prince has three on the seat tube, allowing you to position your second bottle higher up for ease of use or lower towards the bottom bracket to, again, benefit aerodynamics.
Pinarello has designed the Prince to be compatible with both mechanical and electronic groupsets, with everything run internally for clean lines and good looks.
Behind the little door on the top of the down tube you'll find the space to hide the junction box and gubbins for the likes of Shimano's Di2.
Various parts of the frame are designed asymmetrically to withstand the various forces placed on them from braking and pedalling – the chainstays and seatstays, for instance.
Up front it's no surprise to see a tapered head tube, and fans of a threaded bottom bracket will glad to be see the Prince will accept an Italian threaded version.
The fork hasn't escaped the aero fettling either. Where it and the frame meet, you'll see an integrated section to smooth the airflow over the two components, and the fork legs are bowed outwards, too, to allow the air to pass through around the spokes. Something similar to what we've seen on some of the latest Storck bikes we've tested.
There are also little tabs at the rear of the dropouts to work with the quick release levers when travelling at speed.
On the whole, it's a nicely finished frame and feels like a very solid build. The clear coat lacquer over the top layer of carbon looks the business too.
All of the current line-up of Prince bikes are built using Shimano Ultegra groupsets, with the FX model tested coming with a mechanical setup. The Prince and Prince Disc have both mechanical and electronic options.
What we have here is the excellent R8000 version of Ultegra, and if you follow the link you'll find out just what a brilliant groupset it is. The shifting is quick, precise and light, and the braking performance is spot on. True, for the price of this bike I'd expect to be seeing Dura-Ace really, but the Ultegra leaves nothing wanting when paired with the performance of the frame.
For such a racy bike I was surprised to see a 50/34 compact chainset paired to an 11-28 tooth cassette, but it does give a sensible spread of gears for the type of rider who would be interested in the Pinarello.
Like most marques Pinarello has an in-house components brand, which it calls Most, and it's a Most handlebar and stem you'll find making up the cockpit on the FX. It's an all-carbon affair and matches the ride of the frame and fork: stiff, with a little bit of road buzz, but just on the right side of comfortable.
The flat section on the tops offers a pleasant place to rest your hands and the compact drop will work for most riders.
The seatpost is an aero affair and it can be spun to provide two different positions, one more forward, effectively steepening the seat angle for harder, faster riding.
On top is a Fizik Antares saddle, one that I'm a fan of, and its firm padding suits the aggressive riding style of the Prince FX.
To be honest, for the money I think a set of Fulcrum Racing 500 wheels is a bit of a let down, and they do hamper the performance of the frame because of their weight. On the plus side, they are solid, decent performers for everyday riding and training, and will take some abuse from rough roads.
The same can be said for the Vittoria Zaffiro Pro tyres. They aren't exactly going to set the world alight but grip is okay, although they don't offer anywhere near as much as the Prince FX deserves.
I swapped them out for the Panaracer Race Evo 3 Classic tyres fitted to the 1,460g JRA Lark Light wheelset, and it made a massive difference to how the Prince behaved. Having more grip with less weight means you can really push the Pinarello hard everywhere.
The Zaffiros have stood up to thorns and stones, though, and just like the Fulcrums they'll be ideal for training purposes.
There is a lot of technology going on here with the Prince FX frameset, and it is very well made, but £5,000 is a lot of money when you look at the overall package.
Now, I never expected to be using a Storck to demonstrate value, but you can't argue with the fact that the Fascenario 3 Comp comes in at £2,224 with the same groupset and similar level finishing kit. It offers a very similar ride to the Prince FX as well, plus it is over a kilo lighter.
Comparing the Prince FX to other peloton-ready machines, it still looks pricey. The Canyon Ultimate CF SLX Disc 9.0 comes in at £5,099, but that includes Campagnolo's brand new 12-speed Record groupset, including hydraulic disc brakes and 50mm-deep carbon Bora wheels! It, too, manages to be a kilo lighter.
The standard Prince with exactly the same build as our FX comes in at £3,300 which looks like a much better deal. The claimed frame weights between the two is only about 20g too.
I really liked riding the Prince FX; in fact I loved it. That buzzy feel from the frame, plus the nimble and direct steering that comes from the geometry... it really is a good bike. However, it doesn't have enough of an edge over the likes of that Storck, for instance, when it comes to the handling and ride feel, to justify being twice the price.
A beautiful bike to ride with great race-inspired handling, if you can get your head around the price
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Pinarello Prince FX
Size tested: 56cm
About the bike
List the components used to build up the bike.
Carbon T900 Asymmetric Frame
Fork ONDA with ForkFlap™
Think2 System with E-Link™
ICR™ Internal Cable Routing
Drop in Bearing System 1' 1/8 - 1'1/2
Italian thread BB
3XAir™ two positions available for the second bottle
Shimano Ultegra R8000 50/34 Chainset
Shimano Ultegra R8000 11-28 11spd Cassette
Shimano Ultegra R8000 STI gear shifters/brake levers
Shimano Ultegra R8000 Front Mech
Shimano Ultegra R8000 Rear Mech
Shimano Ultegra R8000 Italian Threaded Bottom Bracket
Shimano Ultegra R8000 Dual Pivot Calipers
Most Carbon Fibre Handlebar
Most Carbon Fibre Stem
Fizik Aliante Saddle
Fulcrum Racing 500 Wheelset
Vittoria Zaffiro Pro 25mm Tyres
Tell us what the bike is for and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about the bike?
Pinarello says, "Prince frames are the latest evolution of the allround bike from Pinarello for a wide range of users. Prince comes from experience and technologies developed for top range models but adapted for a less-extreme use, maintaining the unmistakable riding style of the most successful company in Tour de France.
Prince is available in 3 different options:
* Prince FX: very performing, reactive and precise frame. Ready to race.
* Prince: more docile frame, intended for those who want to perform without excess.
* Prince Disk: disk brake version to emphasize safety and riding precision."
The Prince is a very fast, race orientated bike, despite its all round status given by Pinarello.
Where does this model sit in the range? Tell us briefly about the cheaper options and the more expensive options
There are three Prince models available. The Prince FX is the top flight model made with T900 grade carbon fibre, with both the standard Prince and Prince Disc being made from slightly heavier T700 carbon.
Frame and fork
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
Very good build quality and looks great.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
Both the frame and fork are manufactured from Toray T900 carbon fibre.
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
It sits somewhere between a race and an endurance bike.
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
This size has a reach of 390mm and a stack of 575mm which is about right when you look at the rest of the geometry. The head tube is a little taller than a race bike, at 170mm.
Riding the bike
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
The ride quality is pretty good but its stiffness does lead to some road buzz on rougher roads.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
Yes, very stiff indeed which is great for performance.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
Its ability to transfer power is probably its best attribute.
Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so was it a problem?
How would you describe the steering? Was it lively neutral or unresponsive? Lively without being twitchy.
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
It's a race orientated bike so the handling is fast but as long as you are smooth with the controls it shouldn't become twitchy or unsettled.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?
The carbon fibre bar had a little bit of flex which damped some of the road buzz.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's stiffness? would you recommend any changes?
The wheels could do with being a little stiffer to fully exploit the frame and fork.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's efficiency? would you recommend any changes?
A wheel and tyre upgrade would be first on my list if performance is the priority.
Tell us some more about the drivetrain. Anything you particularly did or didn't like? Any components which didn't work well together?
As you can tell from our review of the R8000 Ultegra groupset, there really is nothing to dislike.
Wheels and tyres
Tell us some more about the wheels.Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the wheels? If so what for?
The wheels themselves are pretty good, solid performers but they have no place on a £5,000 bike. An upgrade to something lighter and possibly more aero makes a massive difference to the performance of the FX.
Tell us some more about the tyres. Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the tyres? If so what for?
The same as the wheels really: perfectly adequate in their own right but something grippier and faster rolling is what the Prince FX needs.
Tell us some more about the controls. Any particularly good or bad components? How would the controls work for larger or smaller riders?
A full complement of carbon fibre components is exactly what I'd expect at this price point and it's decent stuff. I especially liked the compact shape of the handlebar drops.
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes, it's a blast.
Would you consider buying the bike? No, it doesn't deliver enough of an improvement over cheaper bikes I've ridden.
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? If they have deep pockets.
How does the price compare to that of similar bikes in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
Its price is high, especially against something similar like the Storck Fascenerio mentioned in the review.
Use this box to explain your overall score
Take price out of the equation and the Prince FX is a very good bike with an excellent frameset, but it doesn't deliver a huge amount more than the cheaper competition to justify itself when you do add value into the mix.
About the tester
I usually ride: This month's test bike My best bike is: B'Twin Ultra CF draped in the latest bling test components
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, club rides, sportives, fixed/singlespeed
Stu knocked out his first road.cc review back in 2009 and since then he's chucked the best part of seventy test bikes around the West Country, a couple of them quite literally! With three alloy and two steel bikes in his fleet he's definitely a metal man (that'll be the engineering background) but is slowly warming to that modern carbon fibre stuff along with fat tyres & disc brakes.
It's not all nostalgia though, after spending the last few years in product design Stu keeps banging on about how 3D printing is going to be the next big thing and he's a sucker for a beautiful paint job too.