Kinesis is a company that, up until now, has concentrated on making aluminium frames. And they’ve done very well out it, honing a fine reputation and introducing many new features (they were the first to use hydroforming) onto their frames.
Right now however it’s all about carbon, and Kinesis launched the KR-810 earlier this year. We saw it first at the London Cycle Show last October, and got pretty excited about it when we spotted it.
The design of the KR-810 was a collaboration between Kinesis International and the UK arm of Kinesis. The international guys wanted to focus on a race specific frameset, but the UK guys wanted the frame to have a broader appeal, specifically to focus on the growing sportive scene (which seems to be sprouting new events on an almost weekly basis).
With that in mind, a frame that promised to be race and/or sportive ready was released. The geometry leans towards what we commonly find on bikes designed for the comfort desired by those riding big miles. In the KR-810 that translates into a frame which has a slightly longer wheelbase than a more race-orientated frame and a longer head tube for a raised front end. The designers haven’t taken it too far away from a geometry suited to racing however, with the frame nestling somewhere in between the two.
The frame is made from 3K carbon monocoque around a semi-compact geometry. The amount of top tube slopeness [eh? ed.] on each of the five frame sizes is tailored – so there’s more sloping on small frames for better standover and less on larger frame sizes. Kinesis quote 1,160g for a 54” frame, which is not entirely unreasonable.
As we’ve said already, the frame aims to be stiff yet comfortable, not a combination that easily go hand in hand. The ‘Kbox’ bottom bracket, much as you’ll find on most carbon frames, is heavily reinforced with many extra layers of carbon to ensure this area, under considerable load much of the time, resists flopping about. The ‘A-Frame’ seat stays merge into a large flat wishbone, with tall flat dropouts capping the stays where they meet at the dropouts.
While it’s all pretty and nice behind the saddle, the front half of the frame continued to split opinions during the time we had it. In fact during the Victor Ludorum preview ride we got loads of attention and enquiring glances at the box section front end. An integrated head tube is braced by box section top and down tubes, which create a very flat side front end. It certainly keeps the front very stiff though, and I noticed this the moment I threw my leg over the saddle. While the down tube retains its profile throughout its length, the top tube ovalises as it reaches the seat tube.
Not content with sticking a existing fork onto the new frame, the designers opted to design the Tracer, a new carbon fork designed for the KR-810. Light – 358g – and a monocoque design with a forward facing blade design, it matched the frame well.
Kinesis supplied our test bike with a nearly full complement of Shimano Dura Ace components – no complaints there – with only Textro TRP carbon callipers interrupting the Shimano flow. As you’d expect on a bike coming from Kinesis, there was a healthly smattering of Oval finishing kit; stem, handlebar and seatpost – but again no complaints here: it’s all quality kit and for a change we won’t complain about the fiddly nature of the reverse mounted stem front plate bolts…
Upgrade, the chaps behind Kinesis UK, recently took over the distribution of Reynolds, and this was our first chance to put the company’s wheels to test. Reynolds has made itself a solid choice with the company’s popular Ouzo Pro forks: they’re hoping to transfer that popularity to its previously unknown-until-now wheels. If you’re thinking Reynolds is a steel tubing specialist, you’ll not have realised then that the company setup a US based Composites division, concentrating on the development of carbon fibre.
The KOM wheels are one such example of the products now coming out of Reynolds. Firstly, they’re extremely light – just 1,063g a pair – and are based around a shallow 23mm carbon tubular rim. Residing inside the hoops are DT Swiss 240S hubs, the design of which is specific to Reynolds, with 20 front and 24 rear DT Revolution/Competition spokes. Shod in 270g Vittoria Corsa Evo KS, which we seemed to have to pump up nearly every day as they had a worrying tendency to lose air rather quickly.
Weight of the complete bike is a hill busting 14.7lbs – no excuse for not being first to the top of every hill then! Sizes available are 44, 47, 50, 54 and 58” – we tested the 54”.
As well as our usual assorted riding (riding to work, training rides into the hills, crit races etc) we took the KR-810 to the Victor Ludorum preview ride. The roads and hills of the Newbury countryside (yes I didn’t know there were hills around Newbury either) which the 100km route snakes through provided a perfect test bed for the bike. This is, after all, the type of riding that Kinesis expect the KR-810 to be used for.
But first impressions weren’t that favourable. The front end immediately felt on the lively/skittish side, and it took a bit of tinkering to make the handling a little more planted. In the end, we surmised that the frame has a rather long top tube, and that with the short stem fitted, placed the front end a long way out front. With hindsight, I might have been better on the 50cm (with a 56cm top tube) rather than the 54cm I tested (with a 58cm top tube tested). Added to that, the front-end is also very stiff and feedback through the bars was surprisingly high for a bike which is intended to be comfortable on sportive-style events. Experimenting with tyre pressures eased the problem, and we found running 95ish PSI a happy compromise.
Handling gripes aside, the KR-810 is a capable bike. The upside of the handling gripes we experienced was a lovely agility when flexing the bike around. The low weight, all 14.7lbs of it, made climbing, as you’d imagine, a cinch. In fact, if you’re not first to the top of the hill on this bike you might as well hang up your cycling shoes right now. And while we found too much feedback through the front-end, the same criticism can’t be aimed at the rear triangle – it was smooth as a Rolls Royce on even bumpy crumbling-to-pieces B-roads.