It's such a strange expression: 'That looks like a fast bike'. Strange? Well you know that a bike's speed is only defined by the engine you stick on top of it. There has to be a sports scientist somewhere who has tried to conduct a study of which bike is the fastest - and if they haven't then maybe they should. Perhaps it's a difficult problem to solve? Well if it came to a fast bike comparison I'm sure that this bike will be well up in the running.
Five years ago Kinesis launched their first 'Racelight' frame, which was: 'Designed for the club racer as an affordable upgrade to a quality alloy frame with carbon fork.' There are now three frames in the Racelight line up, the 'KiC', 'RC' and 'T',with all these frames being UK designed. This bike, the RC compact, uses oversized power bulged Kinesium tubing and high modulus carbon seat stays, it costs very little and packs a powerful punch.
And over the years their frames have won several awards too:
Kinesis are very proud that they are associated with many of the world's leading bike brands as a frame builder. Once upon a time most of the frames that came out of Taiwan were only made from 7000 series aluminium. 6000 series was the reserve of some high-end US manufacturers and heat treating didn't really become a regular thing in mass produced aluminium frames until quite recently.
Kinesium sounds like something a cosmetics company invented to condition your hair. But beneath the tech speak, the RC uses an exclusive 6000 series, custom drawn, double butted tubeset which is incredibly lightweight and strong. With a claimed 25% more strength than 7005 series. The 'power bulged' top tube and seat tube give rigidity and direct power transmission, the down tube features an 'Aero' top section and ovalised base for maximum stiffness at the bottom bracket. Add in a carbon seat stay and voila, the desired comfort for this particular diesel engine, they are delicate and totally opposite to the front end of the bike. The welding on the RC is impeccable. It has lightened and smoothed headtubes and BB and these smooth welds are covered in a deep red lacquer.
Forks made by Kinesis have been on bikes for a very long time. They built many MTB forks before they started on road carbon (they were one of the first to build an all carbon fork) and now they can build a carbon fork that is light, strong and excellent value. The RC has one burly front end. A fat headtube is welded to some beefy tubes and the overall look is in total contrast to the elegance of the seat cluster and rear stays.
Out on the road
Cornering is where the RC really hits the spot. The combination of Velomax wheels, steep head angle and grippy Challenge tyres made for bags of confidence. The RC felt as if you could push it far further and it wouldn't mind much. Sprinting and accelerating are equally exciting. Cruising, once you are up to speed, is effortless - although at times the 175mm cranks felt a little over zealous for my little legs. Basically this is one silly-fast crit bike, it would be perfect for city centre crits like Guildford, where there are cobbles, climbs and sharp corners.
Velomax Orion II wheels are suitably lightweight and super sturdy, they are hand built and yet have that exclusive complete wheelset look about them (lovely looking hubs). The shallow section and double butted spokes add in a little radial 'give' and the tyres made for a comfortable ride aboard our RC. These wheels are a delight, especially after riding deep section wheels on the last couple of test bikes. They smooth out the road and generally help the bike out, especially across rough ground (it sailed over cobbles) and where it is otherwise challenged (road buzz from the upright front end).
Shimano Dura Ace 9 speed throughout created a thoroughly civilized feel to the bike. Everything did what it was told and the Shimano Dura Ace drive train is always a good choice. This frame would quite happily match it's performance but from a price perspective a fully 10 speed '05 Ultegra equipped RC would still weigh around 18lbs and cost well under £1500, even with a snazzy finishing kit. So it's clear that you get value as well a razor sharp handling.
Oval recently won the Tour of Spain with Roberto Heras at the helm. The Oval kit is lightweight and strong offering a choice of carbon and aluminium bars, stems, forks and related add-ons. The Oval bars are a subtle ergo shape and the carbon adds some extra comfort to the steering. The stem looks lovely but is a pain to adjust with the bolts hidden around the back and hard to get to. I have heard that Fizik saddles are comfortable, they are not for me. Upgrade (Kinesis and Oval distributors) do have deals on offer for those wanting to match a finishing kit with a frame. Ask at your local dealer.
On the downside I would be very careful when choosing the front end arrangement, basically there needs to be enough steerer to set the bars at a respectable height, our test bike was a little low at the front, but this shouldn't be a problem with a new purchase. Kinesis set a considerable bench mark for value a few years ago with this bike. You have to keep reminding yourself that this frame only costs £350. OK so it doesn't have the badge appeal of something Italian, but it has a pile of features you'll never get at this price from a continental frame. The RC is one fast bike, make no mistake.
|Good: Bags of race ready value|
|Bad: Not much.|
Frame sizes: 45, 48, 50 & 55 [c/t] (compact)
Size tested: 50 (55 cm top tube)
Frame tubing: Kinesium 6000 series aluminium
Fork: Kinesis Carbon with aluminium steerer
Headset: Condor Integrated Aheadset
Crankarms: Shimano Dura Ace 175 mm
B/B: Shimano Dura Ace Octalink
Pedals: none supplied
Chain: Shimano Dura Ace
Freewheel: Shimano Dura Ace 9 speed 12-23
F/D: Shimano Dura Ace 9 speed
R/D: Shimano Dura Ace 9 speed
Shifters: Shimano Dura Ace 9 speed
Handlebar: ITM Carbon Super Over 42cm
Stem: ITM Carbon
Tape: black corky stuff
Brakes: Shimano Dura Ace
Tires: Challenge Criterium 700x23c
Saddle: Fizik Arione
Weight: 17.22lbs/7.78 kgs inc. Speedplay pedals
Price: Frame as shown £349.99 fork £114.99
Contact: Upgrade - 01403 711611