Finally, I got out for a decent ride. I managed almost 60km around the Cheshire lanes along with, or so it seemed, just about every cyclist in South Manchester. The blue sky and crisp air on a Sunday morning had proved irresistable after so many weeks of frozen gloom. Even more important for me was the fact that it was the first opportunity to ride my new bike in anger.
After the crash that wrecked my trusty Principia I couldn’t bear the thought of being off the bike for the countless weeks that it will take me to pursue the perpetrator for compensation so I flexed the credit card in order to get back on the road (note to car driver, since I use my bike for commuting to work I’ll be adding the credit card interest to the claim). Jon at Bicycle Smithy went beyond the call of duty by working until seven on a Friday night to finish the build and it was with some excitement that my shiny new Kinesis KR810 wheeled out of the shop.
Actually, the only new bits were the frame, bars, stem and seatpost, everything else having been salvaged from the wreck. The wheels were my trusted Mavic Ksyrium SL Premiums as both of my Open Pro rimmed winter wheels were also wrecked. The KR810 was a step up in quality of frame for me and the budget wouldn’t stretch to a new set of wheels too, I’ll just have to wait for the compy.
The?KR810 is a full carbon monococque construction made with high modulus carbon fibre and comes with a similarly constructed front fork. This type of construction is where the frame is made as a single piece in a mould meaning that there is no need for lugs or joints to join frame tubes making a stronger and lighter frame. The high modulus bit basically means a higher quality carbon fibre (think more, thinner filaments of carbon and less air bubbles and gaps allowing for less material for greater strength). ?The result is a frame that weighs a jaw dropping 985grams in a small size, and a fork that only adds a further 385grams. Once you’ve added headset, gear hanger, cable adjusters etc, you’ve still got a frame/fork combo of under 1.5kg – that’s light!
The current list price of the KR810 is ?1200 (you get a Selcof, carbon wrapped seatpillar included in the price) and with a bit of hunting around or haggling, I’m sure you can get a bit knocked off. Compare that to other high modulus carbon fibre frame offerings for well known manufacturers such as Trek or Cervelo and you begin to realise that the Kinesis is fantastic value for money, however, all that high spec would count for nothing if it rode like a dog, so how did it feel?
The first, most obvious feeling is one of lack of mass. Fully built the bike is a shade over 7kg and that’s using an old style Dura Ace 7800 group set. If you built this thing with Sram Red and some superlight upgrade bits it would be easy to get well below the 6.8kg UCI weight limit. It’s so light that my 5 year old daughter could lift it! This makes it very easy to move off the line.?Acceleration?is immediate and rapid – much more responsive than my old bike. The massive bottom bracket is super stiff, and I couldn’t detect any flex at all. The chainstays look equally beefy and, as far as I can tell, pretty much all of your effort goes into forward motion (which is kind of the point 🙂 ) The lack of mass also leads to extremely responsive braking which was quite a surprise for the first few grabs of the brake levers.
The KR810 is my first full carbon bike and I wasn’t quite sure how the ride would compare to my old alu frame. Oddly, the difference is most noticeable on a smooth road. The carbon does such a good job at soaking up the vibrations and feedback from the road that it leaves you feeling oddly disconnected so smooth is the ride. On a normal British road you can still feel all the bumps but there is a definite deadening of the shock. This seems to have a noticeable impact on the fatigue that you feel. After a hard 2 hours my muscles were tired (it’s the first ride of that length I’ve done since before Christmas) but I experienced none of the “battering” that my alu frame dished out. My sit bones also seemed quite happy with the ride. I’m hoping that this will lead to better endurance and faster recovery from long rides as I build my fitness again.
After such a long lay-off I’m not fit enough or brave enough to really test the handling of the frame. The Tracer fork has an interesting reverse rake and the fork stays look just as substantial as the chain stays. The massive box section tubing where the top tube meets the head tube might not be the most aesthetic, but it does succeed in giving the impression that the front end is designed to be solid and predictable. The bike seems extremely well balanced and so far hasn’t surprised me. I actually like frames to be quite sporty, my first frame was a dural Vitus and was all steep angles and short tubes making for a bike that demanded constant concentration. The Principia, on the other hand had an extremely long top tube (think saddle to handlebars) making the whole thing a much more relaxed affair – too relaxed for my liking. The Kinesis’ top tube is fully 3.5cm shorter than the Principia (I’ve lengthened the stem to 110mm to reduce the difference to 2.5cm) making the ride more responsive than the Principia, but not as twitchy as the Vitus, in other words, ideal.
The Kinesis KR810 frame is of a quality that demands a decent set of components to build it up, and as I was already very keen on Oval’s carbon R900 road bar (damaged in the crash) it seemed sensible to stick with Oval kit for the build. As both Oval and Kinesis are supplied by Upgrade bikes it enabled me to swap the Selcof seatpost for a full carbon Oval R900 seatpost to match the bars and stem for a relatively small premium. I also needed to get a longer stem so upgraded my R700 carbon alu stem to the full R900 carbon wrap job. The result is a gorgeous carbon finishing kit to go with the frame. I also added white Nokon cables which are, I grant you, a bit of an extravagance, but they are highly effective and look the part. Dura Ace 7800 might be superseded now, but it’s still very light and efficient and I’m quite happy with my gear train. The only differences to the full Dura Ace group set are a Hope ceramic bottom bracket which is lovely and smooth and a set of TRP920 brakes replacing a worn out Dura Ace set.
The KR810 is a bike that demands to be ridden fast. There are more aesthetically pleasing frames out there, but I doubt you’ll find a frame as effective and light as this for anything like the price. I have no excuses for not setting personal bests on the bike this year – as long as we get some weather decent enough to get the miles in.
Kinesis KR810 on PhotoPeach
As always, all kit in this review was bought and paid for by me. I’m still waiting for the day when someone offers me some free kit to try out 😉