Kinesis GranFondo tested
Over the years, carbon fibre has become the requisite material for which to build bicycle frames, becoming the first choice for most people buying a bicycle. But as the black stuff becomes ever more omnipresent, there’s a growing choice of company’s offering alternative options.
Which brings us nicely to the GranFondo. The UK arm of Kinesis, headed by the chaps at Upgrade Bikes, has long been renowned for its aluminium frames. Equally well designed and keenly priced, they’ve found a place in the hearts of many UK cyclists.
So when it came to designing its first sportive specific frameset, the obvious choice might have been to borrow some of the blueprints from its carbon KR-810, but instead, they chose a different path. This led them to Easton’s doorstep, and the purchasing of a very fine Scandium tubeset. And what they’ve done with this tubeset is to produce one of the nicest bikes I’ve had the pleasure of testing.
For the tubing Kinesis paid a visit to Easton - purveyors of top quality tubesets - and came away with a bundle of the company's Sc7000 Scandium tubes. Scandium is added to aluminium to improve strength, with the increase in strength allowing for less material and thinner wall diameters to be used, resulting in a lighter frame.
The heart of the tubing lies in the tapered walls and the flared ends, which provide a large area of contact along the entire length of the tall headtube. These flared ends on both the top and head tube ensure strength and stiffness without any significant weight penalty. With these tubes a classy and understated frame has been designed and smoothly welded together - build quality is excellent, as those familiar with previous Kinesis frames will no doubt have come to expect. Into the externally machined head tube plugs a fork designed in tandem with the new frame, and they've incorporated carbon into the seatstays, and dubbed them ‘Carbonstruts’.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect is, beside the frames obvious leanings towards sportive riding, is the inclusion of mudguard mounts, opening up new possibilities of this bike being called into service through the year. Versatility, it appears, is the bikes middle name.
And all the numbers talk sportives, with Kinesis describing the GranFondo has having “plenty of 'race bike feel', it's no slack angled tourer, but the geometry is designed to be forgiving over the distance, with longer [but not too long] headtube and chainstays."
For this 57cm tester the head and seat angles are 73.5 degrees, the wheelbase is 100.5" and the headtube is 17.5". Sizes available include 51, 54, 57, 60, 63cm (c/t), with colours Deep Blue Metallic or Black Cherry Metallic, with contrasting white/titanium decals. Claimed weight for a 54cm frame is 1.38kg.
Perhaps the best way to purchase a GranFondo is to buy the frame, fork, seatpost and headset package which costs £695, and build with your favourite parts. For this test Upgrade Bikes supplied a bike bedecked with a Campagnolo Centaur groupset, with a 50/34 chainset for making easy work of hills. Uprgade distribute Tektro and Oval, so these brands filled the braking and contact points – no complaints were found here.
Wheels are from the Reynolds stable, the £350 Solitudes representing the first step onto the range. 31mm aluminum rims are laced together with 20/24 spokes and the all-up weight is 1550g. Tyres are Vittoria Open Corsa Evo-CX 23mm which boast a new Kevlar SiO2 3D Compound with added silica, for reduced rolling resistance and better grip, and a PRB puncture resistant belt placed under the tread.
For those who have not spent much time on a quality aluminium frameset, it may seem all too easy to quickly dismiss the GranFondo. Indeed, with much attention being focused on carbon fibre and the latest super light frames being released each year, the question might be why bother with aluminium.
But that would be to miss out on one of the finest rides you might ever encounter. Scandium is a marvellous material to build a bicycle frame; its weight, stiffness and ride character are all equally balanced in perfect harmony creating a sublime experience. There’s a touch of the steel feel when riding the GranFondo, but without the extra weight and with a dollop of extra responsiveness.
The measurements picked by Kinesis haven’t been plucked at random, but clearly by designers who acutely understand the target rider for the GranFondo - and that’s somebody who wants a fast riding but all-day long comfortable steed. This is one of the most pleasantly surprising bikes to pass through the RCUK test net in a long while.