A substantial number of miles have passed under the wheels of the Time RX Instinct since our ‘first look’ at this French offering in mid August.
The £2,550 frame and fork, equipped here with a full Shimano Ultegra groupset and a selection of Easton components, combined to form an inviting machine to pull from the quiver. Its ease of use in a wide variety of situations perhaps gives a clue to the true intent of this French built, carbon steed.
Our medium sized frame (55cm from the bottom bracket centre to the top of the seat tube), has parallel 73/73 head and seat tube angles. A reasonable, 166mm length head tube allows the rider to configure a ‘tall’ set up for a more upright position, or, as in our case, to drop the 120mm Easton EA70 stem onto the Time Quickset top race, and still obtain a low, flat position.
The identity of the RX Instinct is difficult to decode before riding. Time position this frame in their ‘race’ category, but with a slight softening of the ride for comfort compared to, say, the RXRS Ulteam and ZXRS. Its short wheelbase, a feature noticeable to the naked eye, and discernible in the ride from the first pedal stroke, suggested to us a machine more intended for speed than comfort.
Our ‘first ride’ impressions suggested this was a quick handling machine. The long stem and short wheelbase allowed us to put weight through the front wheel easily; a significant change from the more relaxed handling of the machine we’d left to test the Time, one that needed to be hustled through the corners. The same technique on the RX Instinct is not advised. This is a precise machine, and blunt, powerful moves will overwhelm the front end. A delicate touch isn’t a necessity, but this a frame that rewards smoothness.
The same might be said of the rear end, clearly one on which time has been spent at the computer testing various shapes and forms. The rear triangle is comfortable, but didn’t dull the ride, or isolate our test pilot too greatly from the road. The BB30 bottom bracket and chainstays proved sufficiently stiff and Time’s claims that the latter are resistant to the compressive forces exerted by effort proved accurate.
Climbing was a joy on this frame, largely due to the rear triangle. The short wheelbase left us feeling on top of the bike during out of the saddle efforts on steeper ascents. If possible, we’d recommend absorbing a slightly greater dent in the wallet and equipping the RX Instinct with Easton’s EA90 SLX wheelset rather than the SL’s supplied with our test bike. The 132 gram weight difference is noticeable and in our opinion worth the extra investment.
On descents, the clean, precise handling of the RX Instinct inspired confidence, and its ability to absorb bumps delivered great grip, although it’s perhaps worth repeating our cautionary note: this is a bike that rewards a ‘slow in, fast out’ approach; throwing it around with careless abandon will not bring out the best qualities of the frame.
Its defining quality is an ability to fight flex while absorbing the minor impacts of an uneven road surface. Our test pilot actively sought bumps and imperfections to thoroughly work the frame over. The rough back roads on one section of our usual, 90-mile test loop did not unsettle the bike. The back end easily coped with seams, potholes and loose surfaces.
The ‘Safe+’ branded Time fork is extremely good, tracking well in hard corners and absorbing vibration. Additionally, the EC90 carbon bar went someway to neutralising road buzz at the front as well, although good quality bar tape provides a more immediate resolution to the problem of front end vibration (your opinions in the forum, please). Generally speaking, we’d call ourselves fans of the shape of Easton bars: the Test Rig is equipped with EA70 Aeros, for example, but those are wrapped in PRO gel tape. The tape supplied here with the EC90s wasn’t as good, but the superior bar did a sterling job.
In summary, we consider the RX Instinct a fine machine. It represents a considerable investment, but the engineering is excellent and the full in-house manufacturing en France is to be admired in our view. It is a frameset, however, that left us in a quandary. Able to ride in a fast paced bunch, to go the distance in gran fondo, and a willing accomplice on solo expeditions, the RX Instinct performed well in a host of categories without excelling in any single area; a jacques of all trades perhaps, and in that category, number one.