Bike Test - Koga Miyata - Road Winner '05 - Road Cycling UK

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Bike Test – Koga Miyata – Road Winner '05


Back in the early eighties, when Duran Duran topped the charts and Frenchmen still won the Tour, there were very few complete bike builders. Raleigh and Dawes pretty much held up the UK flag whilst Peugeot and Vitus dominated the French market. Dutch bikes were looked at as quite a novelty. So when Koga Miyata entered the UK market for the first time, around that time, it was always going to be a risky venture.

Sure, there were plenty of other bikes available like Viscount, Claud Butler and Carlton (Raleigh), but the British cyclist is a conservative shopper so taking a risk with a new and unheard of brand wasn’t going to be easy.
In those days if you wanted a proper ‘racing’ bike you bought a frame and bolted bits to it, much like the top end pro bikes today. Groupsets were few and far between and a wheelset hadn’t even been thought of. Then came the mountain bike revolution and brands producing complete bikes (albeit mountain bikes) sprung up everywhere – a few years later these companies saw the potential in the road market too, and the rest is history.

Established in 1974 Koga are a partnership between Japanese and Dutch businesses and they make thousands of bikes for the bike-centric nation across the water from Dover. You see loads of Kogas in Amsterdam. But it’s not just commuter bikes you’ll find, as they also have a big interest in cycle sport. Koga sponsor road teams in Holland and build bikes for Leontien Zijlaard van Moorsel – the multi women’s World and Olympic champion on road and track.

So Koga Miyata are the Dutch company that tried out the UK market for a few years and then retreated to concentrate at home and elsewhere. But although they didn’t stay in the UK long they didn’t forget us – they are back this year with a bigger range than ever. In fact they have a bike for everybody including a folding mountain bike tandem and a variety of trail, trekking and touring bikes. At the sharp end they have racing mountain and road bikes that lead the way in the value for money stakes and this is a mid-range race bike for those with about a grand to spend.

For the Road Winner’s frame Koga have used a set of 7005 heat treated triple butted tubes and they’ve welded them together superbly. It is then triple hardened to add strength and longevity. For this price this frame is excellent quality and, at 1,485 grammes, it is one of the lightest frames of it’s class. The TIG welding is faultless and it is finished off with a deep lacquer.

There are too many stickers for my liking but the overall look is striking and quite ‘Euro-pro’, so it certainly looks the part. Neatly designed rear dropouts with an engraved Koga logo are a nice touch, the attention to detail is considerable.

Out on the road
I was expecting a bit of a hammering from this small, oversized tubed and aluminium stayed bike. Far from it. Triple butting seems to have taken the clichéd roughness off this diamond and although this isn’t as soft as titanium or carbon it’s nowhere near as harsh as the old-skool aluminium of 6 or 7 years ago. Aluminium frames like this certainly don’t deserve that ticket and there were times on the Koga when I thought I was on a steel bike (but in a good way).

Comfort is just a part of it, although this bike was a touch small for me the geometry is well sorted out – semi compact geometry with short chainstays gives you acceleration and tapered triple butted tubes help soften the road bumps. The Hutchinson tyres had to be rock hard to prevent winter flats but in the dry they do zip along well. My choice for UK roads would be a more generous Michelin or Continental mile eater, Hutchinson don’t do the Northern European climate road tyre very well.

This is a racing bike, make no mistake. Only the triple crank makes you think it’s been aimed at the Etapist and all day rider. The forks are direct and supple and the Carbon topped Cane Creek integrated Aheadset is impressively smooth. So steering is racey but predictable, especially in the sprint or when climbing.

Wheelsets are certainly here to stay. Mavic’s latest wheels are so popular now everyone wants a slice of the wheel pie. Shimano launched into the wheelset market about five years ago with an un-characteristic ‘futt’. The previous offerings from Shimano were, quite frankly, poor.

OK Shimano’s first wheels had good intentions: They placed all the weight in the hub and the spokes entered the side of the rim which apparently saved weight. Only it didn’t. These wheels weighed much more than their rivals and the side spoke elbows were worryingly close to the brake pads. Plus they decided to have hardly any spokes to support the already floppy rim. The result was a wheel that flapped around like a freshly caught fish in a boat and had all the riding qualities of a wheelbarrow.

This is the latest from Shimano and I am happy to report that it is a massive step on from the previous offerings. A huge gigantic leap in fact. Still not the lightest available but they out perform anything I have ridden at this price point (and some more expensive sets). They only cost £130 per pair and really look the business. A set of handbuilt wheels could be built lighter but I doubt they could be much cheaper, so at last Shimano component users have a cheaper alternative to Mavic.

With the quality frame, fork and wheels on the Koga you’d want a groupset to match. Shimano’s 105 is an excellent group but it does the budget end of race bikes and this bike is closer to being in the higher echelon. The brakes and gears work well, but after riding a Campagnolo Chorus equipped bike these brakes aren’t as progressive or as efficient. Gear ratios were handy for ‘zone’ training in the North Downs and you’ll welcome 30×25 in the Pyrenees. Koga have also made it easy for you in the future, you can upgrade this bike as things wear out and it would be a happy partner for Ultegra or even Dura Ace, should you want to treat yourself, as the Road Winner is a worthy platform for you to build on.

Contact points
All the added extras on the Koga are good quality and all ‘brand’ named. ITM bars are oversized so you’ll need new light brackets (how much of a pain is that?) and the bend on these was clearly designed by a man with Gorilla hands… I certainly couldn’t get them to fit right. The saddle matched the colour scheme but once again not my behind, and the Time pedals were a nice added extra I wasn’t expecting. The complete package was good and screams value, however the quality was certainly better than the Merida I tested a few weeks ago. You even get a decent mini pump and a bottle and cage. So you can ride it home.

Like their fellow Dutch big hitter Giant, Koga have a very well stocked and sorted stable. A bike for everyone and all of them are excellent value. Giant’s OCR with Full Ultegra (and the same 5500 wheels) will be a big contender as it is only £200 more. However I prefer the handling on the Koga and the frame quality and finish is a little better. The Road Winner could probably handle a group upgrade and would still be under £1500 – now that would be a nice bike.
Although this Koga isn’t the most exciting looking bike it’s going to offer reliable handling and function and for a first time racer or Etape contender. If you are considering a new bike at any price point I would certainly look at Koga they have some very well designed bikes with excellent packages and the value is remarkable. The carbon frame and the track frame are superb, well worth the ‘risk’.

The basics are spot on – the frame, fork and wheels are excellent

105 is good stuff but doesn’t quite match the Koga’s frame quality





Frame sizes: 50, 54, 56, 58, 60, 63 & 66cm
Size tested: 54 (54cm top tube)
Frame tubing: Tapered triple-butted heat treated 7005 aluminium

Fork: The Sword aluminium/carbon
Headset: Koga/Cane Creek A-head IS-22 Integrated
Crankarms: Shimano 105 triple 170 mm
Chainrings: Shimano 105 triple 53/42/30T
B/B: Shimano 105 Octalink
Pedals: Time RXE 275gr.
Chain: Shimano 105
Freewheel: Shimano CS-HG70 9-speed 12-13-14-15-17-19-21-23-25T
F/D: Shimano 105 FD-5504-S ø31,8 Silver
R/D: Shimano 105 triple
Shifters: Shimano 105 9 speed
Handlebar: ITM Lite Luxe Super Over 42cm
Stem: ITM Forged Lite Luxe Super Over 10cm
Tape: Koga Pro Grey cork
Brakes: Shimano 105

Wheels: Shimano WH-R550 Silver 16-20sp. 1.852gr.
Tires: Hutchinson Fusion Comp 700x23c
Saddle: Selle San Marco Base Black/Grey/Copper Orange (SC Carbon)
Seatpost: ITM Luxe ø27,2x270mm Satin finish
Extras: SKS RookieXL double shot Pump, Tacx Source Silver (Sport logo) bottle
and a Tacx Uni Black bottle cage
Colour: Anthracite metallic/Copper orange metallic

Weight: 8.6 kgs less pedals
Price: £1125.00


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