Designed and developed during the last millennium, Pinarello ESPADA was way ahead of its time. It was the bike that Miguel Indurain used while breaking the Hour Record. One of the most iconic bikes ever produced, it is also known as “Pinarello Sword” because espada means sword in English.

This spectacular bike was Pinarello’s answer to Chris Boardman’s Lotus superbike, the Lotus Type 108 (originally known as LotusSport Pursuit Bicycle), designed by the famous English bike designer Mike Burrows.

Pinarello Espada (Pinarello Sword)

Pinarello Espada (Pinarello Sword)
Pinarello Espada. Note that in this later version, the front brake is behind the front wheel, unlike the previous versions. This makes the bike even more aerodynamic.

Carbon-fiber frames have a longer history than most people think. According to Wikipedia, the American bike producer Kestrel produced the world’s very first all-carbon bicycle frame in 1986. But before then, there were hybrid designs, like carbon fiber tubes bonded to titanium or aluminum lugs.

After the adoption of the carbon-fiber by cycling in the late 1980s, bicycle designers quickly realized they had carte blanche to create whatever shape they found to be most aerodynamic, no matter how outlandish. This innovation was also unhindered by overzealous governing bodies.

The early 90s were a halcyon time for road bike development. The steel era was (sadly) drawing to a close and the use of many materials now considered commonplace was being pioneered.

One bike which still stands out from this era is the Pinarello Espada (Pinarello Sword), four of which were custom made from carbon fiber for one Miguel Indurain, former Hour Record holder, and five-times Tour de France winner. The bikes were designed in association with F1 Engineer Ing Giacchi. The particular example belowwas photographed at the recent Campagnolo 80th Anniversary event with its former rider.

Miguel Indurain with his old Pinarello Espada (Pinarello Sword) at the Campagnolo 80th Anniversary event
Miguel Indurain with his old Pinarello Espada (Pinarello Sword) at the Campagnolo 80th Anniversary event

Meaning “sword” in Spanish, Pinarello Espada was designed and built with input from an aerodynamics engineer who worked in Formula One. Monocoque carbon shells can provide greater stiffness and less weight than a traditional diamond-shaped bicycle frame.

The Espada was built specifically for Miguel Indurain and first used on the track when he broke Graeme Obree‘s hour record in 1994. Three other versions were subsequently produced, with later models complete with gears and internal cables hidden within the monocoque frame for use on the road.

Fausto Pinarello, the son of Giovanni Pinarello (the founder of Pinarelo bikes) can complete the story:

“There were only four of these bicycles made: two for the road and two for the track – just for Indurain. We developed this bike in 1994 when there weren’t the UCI rules on bicycle design and you were free to create truly special bicycles. We developed this bike in collaboration with Ing. Giacchi, an aerodynamics engineer who has worked extensively with Formula One racing. We realized that we couldn’t make a bicycle with this kind of shape in metal so we decided to use carbon fiber.”

“The first version was made for track, for the world hour record and then we modified it for the derailleurs and internal cable guides (for the road). Of course, this bike was made to measure for Indurain, so the carbon fiber molds still exist. The cost of each frame mold was about $5,000, not counting manufacturing costs. Indurain did break the world hour record on the Espada, but he had never done it before.”

Fausto Pinarello adds Espada is still his favorite bike ever.

“You can characterize me as the Espada,” he says. “And Miguel is Pinarello.”

Miguel Indurain riding his Pinarello Espada
Miguel Indurain riding his Pinarello Espada
Pinarello Espada Miguel Indurain version
Pinarello Espada Miguel Indurain version


M. Özgür Nevres

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