There’s a lot of history at Crystal Palace. It’s where the Great Exhibition of 1851 was held, in a huge glass and iron greenhouse, 1,848 feet and 408 feet wide. It was built to showcase industrial, military and economic innovations. Well, it burnt down and now the only evidence of its existence are the wide steps that once led up to the entrance. More interestingly though, Palace was also the venue for the howling, snorting and tyre screeching of Formula One cars during the 50s, 60s and 70s. The last time a car graced the circuit was in 1972, when motor cycle legend Mike Hailwood averaged 103.39mph in one of his soujourns into a F1 car. That’s fast!
These days the only noise and commotion comes from racers in a weekly crit race held on a section of the old F1 course. Every Tuesday evening riders pit themselves against the challenging course, an arrangement of sweeping curves, tight hairpin bends, off-camber corners and a killer hill. And when there’s a good turnout you’d better get your elbows out as the racing is guaranteed to be very close and frantic.
Bike choice, while not critical, can make a difference. The course favours something of the fast and low-slung vareity, and which handles like a dart. Light and accurate steering is a must for the tricky corners – a decent pair of tyres is a good purchase too. With Kinesis’s latest incarnation of their budget racer, the £350 RC2 is a great bike for the demands of Palace. The pricetag might not indicate it’s racing credentals, but it packs a lot of performance for the price. It’s often outclassed lining up on the start line at Palace, but get it rolling and any thoughts that it might not be able to keep up are quickly dashed. It’s fast, frighteningly fast, and threatens to rip your lyrca clean off.
The RC2 up close
The RC2 from Kinesis is a firm favourite amongst the RCUK test crew. But, not wanting to rest on their laurels, the RC2 has been continually developed, tweaked and modified. For 2006 the biggest change is a revised front end for the smallest frame, and a new grey paintjob for the whole range.
Not so long ago when looking to buy a new frame, much of the choice would be something made from Aluminium, but with the rapid uptake of carbon that’s no longer the case. Aluminium still has a place in the market though, it’s cheaper than carbon for a start. And there’s still a lot of development being spent with the material, as we’re witnessing with the current hydroforming trend.
Using 6061 T6 aluminium, the RC2 sits in the middle of the Racelight range. From the side, there’s a hint of a cut-and-shut having taken place: the front is big and burly while the rear stays are on the skinny side. The top and down tubes are ‘Power Bulged’, designed to put more metal in key areas, for example around the head tube, while the down tube is shaped into a drag reducing aero shape. The tubes are all beautifully welded together, a process Kinesis call ‘UltraSmoothWeldProfile’. It reminds us of Cannondale’s classically smooth welding finishes.
To take the edge of the harshness sometimes associated with Aluminium, the seat stays use carbon, and are ‘tuned’ for the desired ride feel. Theres’s a wishbone at one end and tidy dropouts at the other, and the carbon is neatly bonded into the aluminium.
Kinesis have been making forks for a long time and for several bigger name brands, their new ‘Energy’ carbon fork turned out to be a spot-on match for the frame. The bike pictured is shown in the new ‘Gloss Battleship Grey’, new for 2006, and also with the brand new decals. It’s a combination most people fell in love with.
You can buy the frame for just £350. It’s available in three colours and five sizes. Kinesis also do a range of builds. Our test sample came with a full Shimano Ultegra 10 grouptest: faultless, and Mavic Ksyrium Elites: again faultless. All finishing kit comes from in-house brand Oval, which is all quality kit, light and durable. For a bargain £799 Upgrade will sort you out with a 105 equipped bike.
The aluminium/carbon mix makes for a very responsive ride. Chucking it round the swoopy Crystal Palace circuit the bike responded exactly how we wanted it to: predictable and immediate. In fact, the RC2 likes to be man-handled around the corners, as cornering seems to be the bikes favourite. Dare yourself to run into a corner without dabbing the brakes and it’ll slingshot you out the exit without even a sniff of understeer.
Steering is precise and there’s enough feedback from the Energy carbon forks that you’ll get through any situation without cause for concern, through twisting roads you’ll feel you’re on the Nemesis rollercoaster at Alton Towers – only without the nauseating queues. And it keeps on going till your eyes are haemorrhaging water [pity Dave’s not quite as quick as Mike Hailwood tho’ – ed]. The full Ultegra groupset and Mavic Kysrum Elite wheels, while there isn’t much that hasn’t been said before, did a faultless job.
Our slight annoyance we discovered, and this is only on roads that aren’t billiard table smooth, is that the frame can deliver a little too much information for out liking. Perhaps we’ve just become soft from riding too many carbon frames, but we can’t deny that the frame is stiff and the feedback is great. It’s just perhaps a little too much feedback. On smoother surfaces though, and particularly around the London crit races, this translates into a super quick race machine.
Despite the price of the frame, we think it has the depth to be fitted out with a much higher spec. Many people will likely buy one as a second bike, but it’d be perfect for those getting into road racing and want something quick without the high pricetag. It would make for a great bike to gradually upgrade the components as they wear out.