Titanium is a material whose popularity has survived the vagaries of fashion.
Briefly glimpsed in the pro peloton more than a decade ago, it is now the choice only of a few racing teams. But for many bespoke bike builders, titanium remains the material of choice. Its incredible durability makes it a realistic contender for the “bike for life” longed for by many, though whether a frame of any material can remain compatible with constantly changing component standards is a separate debate.
The Granfondo Ti is the premium model in the Kinesis UK Racelight range, a titanium frame with a relaxed geometry, paired with a pleasingly curved carbon fork. A bike with an accent on comfort, but whose light weight delivers a sprightly feel, the Granfondo is, as the name suggests, a machine aimed at the sportive set.
Handmade from a double-butted titanium tube set (the website details a 94 per cent titanium, three per cent aluminum and two-and-a-half per cent vanadium mix), the GF Ti is a high-quality offering laden with pleasing details. The seat stays deliver the comfort implied by their gentle curve away from the down tube. The welding is uniformly neat, contributing to an understatedly elegant appearance accented by white “baked on” logos and a beautifully engraved head badge. The subtly shaped down tube is equipped with cable adjusters made from hard wearing alloy which, on our test model, were anodized in a snazzy blue. The 7mm bullet-shaped drop outs are reassuringly sturdy without sacrificing the frame’s aesthetics. And if we assume that anyone seeking a “bike for life” will have a variety of purposes for their sole machine, the inclusion of mudguard and rack mounts will be welcomed. The distinct curve of the 550 gram, carbon-legged DC21 fork is another subtle contribution to the GF Ti’s stately appearance and its sprightly handling.
We found the GF Ti unexpectedly fast, more than capable of delivering a rapid but stable ride. Perhaps beginning our test after months on a steel-framed winter steed cast it in an especially flattering light, but the GF Ti felt fast and responsive, dancing forwards in response to any serious application of power to the pedals. That said, it proved to be a sure footed beast, undemanding of supervision. An early test ride took place in Baltic conditions, but despite the threat of ice, the predictable handling soon inspired sufficient confidence to throw the bike into corners; a challenge it handled with aplomb. Climbing proved to be the GF Ti’s forte, its low weight allowing it to rocket up climbs. It proved stable during long, seated ascents, and stiff on short, punchy climbs taken out of the saddle. On descents, the GF Ti’s stability was again a welcome factor. We took it down a couple of 1:10 gradient slopes: one tight and twisty with plenty of braking required, and another almost entirely straight and a test of nerve. The GF Ti performed admirably on both, inspiring confidence on the straight road and following the line accurately through the hairpins of its curvaceous counterpart.
At this stage, we need to highlight the carbon wheelset with which our test model was supplied and the significant contribution it made to the GF Ti’s performance. The Reynolds Attack is a 32mm carbon clincher, whose light weight performance was especially notable on climbs. The deployment of a reasonably light wheelset (1405g) on a durable titanium frame is nothing short of inspired. Riders seeking to avoid a nervous, unforgiving carbon race frame, but concerned by the weight penalty of steel, may conclude that a reduction in revolving weight is the most effective.
The Kinesis UK Gran Fondo Ti impressed us. Surprisingly light and fast for a frame whose materials and geometry lay no claim to raw speed, it was a pleasure to ride. Undemanding of rider input, the GF Ti proved stable and confident, and went where we pointed it without fuss or surprise. It was at its best going uphill, and while its ability to accelerate from corners and into sprints was adequate, its low weight delivered a consistently fast cruising speed.