Exclusive, expensive but above all a winner.
The Pinarello bicycle is by far the most successful, with 30 wins in the Giro d’Italia, Tour de France, Vuelta: the longest prize list on the planet. From Villorba to tracks all over the world, where technical performance and beauty go hand in hand. Founded in 1952 by Giovanni Pinarello, the company is now controlled by the private equity fund L.Catterton, but it has not lost its soul.
“The minority shareholder is still Giovanni's heir,” assures Federico Sbrissa, Chief marketing officer, “and the company remains strongly Italian.” There is still the technical expertise and meticulous attention to detail, but what remains above all is the story: a promise of speed that has been kept for years. The credibility of the brand is unbeatable. “Pinarello is the most representative and prestigious brand of road cycling. It produces unique pieces in terms of performance and price, with a very narrow and highly specialized range of products.”
Established by a “failed” former cyclist, who finished last in the Giro d'Italia decided to open a store, since the 1960s it has sponsored great teams right up to the very top with Miguel Indurain, the cycling legend who won everything there was to win on a Pinarello. The years that followed were also glorious with the teams from Deutsche Telekom, Sky and INEOS.
“We produce the best performing bikes in road cycling: our range is specialized. The bike the champions ride is the same that we sell to 'mere mortals', amateurs or professionals. Work with the teams has led to the design of products that have changed the world of cycling,” continues Sbrissa, “and we have reached the very top with Dogma, now in its tenth edition, which boasts a unique design.”
Design and technique that are also appreciated abroad: “We sell all over the world, over 80% of our turnover is made outside of Italy. The main markets are the USA, the UK, Japan, Spain.
Does it make a difference being Italian? “Abroad, certainly yes: the history of cycling is Italian and there were once numerous historic companies. There are still some prestigious brands but they haven't had our results. Many foreigners are charmed by Italy and many remember the feats of Italian cyclists. We are also very popular in Canada, Thailand and Malaysia.” Who are your customers? “Racing bike enthusiasts, naturally wealthy ones. We hold 30% of the top-of-the-range market.”
The price of a Pinarello bicycle starts at €7,000 to the public and the best-selling ones are in the €15,000 range. But the Bolide F, the ultra-specialized time trial bike made for a champion like Filippo Ganna, can reach up to €40,000.
But do these works of art have a market? Does cycling have a following among young people?
“The Tour de France,” says Sbrissa, “is one of the three most followed sporting events in the world, reaching 3.5 billion television viewers. Thanks to pay TV and digital, the public can also watch far-off competitions that are held at different times. The audience used to be pensioners and children; now, many young people are getting involved.” And there are increasing numbers of the new generations getting into cycling…. “Yes, cycling in general has a large following, as demonstrated by the creation of more and more cycle paths, inside and outside of cities. The pandemic caused a real boom in popularity, with demand reaching up to three times the supply, in particular for e-bikes, which are impossible to find in Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands. But this phenomenon is linked to mobility and cycle tourism, irrelevant for our segment. However, we can hope that this attention to bicycles reaches as far as competitive cycling.”
But hasn't the surge in demand and the international economic situation led to a shortage of materials for you too?
“Yes, deliveries are very late even in our sector: the supply chain has gone mad. For a Shimano gearbox, delivery has reached two, even two and a half years, when it used to be 60 days. We suffer from rising fuel prices and transport difficulties.”
What is more important at the moment: developing new materials or improving the design?
“Pinarello is the company that has invested most in design and we boast a lot of customers who love the aesthetics. Amateurs also buy our bikes because they are beautiful. Many ask for a customization, with a particular color. Then of course we are looking for innovation, such as some components printed in 3D and made of the very latest materials.” And the spearhead is Dogma? “Almost half of our turnover depends on this bicycle developed with the Sky/INEOS team that has become the most successful in the history of cycling, but also the most aesthetically original and the most valuable.”
And to make these exclusive models, do you find it difficult to find suitable mechanics, as many Italian manufacturing companies complain?
“We are having difficulties but our brand is well-known and the work here is coveted. We need highly skilled mechanics and it is not easy to find well-trained young people. However, we do get former amateur cyclist enthusiasts.” This is why our corporate welfare includes the free use of a bicycle for one year (for people employed for at least six months on a permanent contract). Six or seven women employees also accepted the offer and consequently got involved in cycling for the first time. It's a way to make people love what they make, and transmit this love to the public who follow the races from home. “TV is not enough: we are very active on social media. But we also want people to meet us and see our bikes in person. Next year we are going to invest heavily in retail, with a network of specialist stores. And then there are events and exhibitions in Italy and abroad.”
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