There are entry-level bikes and there are entry-level bikes. At £1,880, the new Kaon is the most affordable model in Isaac’s range but this is still a performance machine built around a unidirectional carbon frame, and it comes with a complete Shimano 105 groupset.
The Isaac brand has been around for over a decade, although the company went into voluntary liquidation three years ago. It has been under new ownership since then and is now back in the UK via Jungle Products.
Isaac make only carbon-fibre framesets and bikes. The Kaon is a new model that takes over as the entry-level option from the £2,580 Boson. Although clearly not cheap, it makes Isaac considerably more accessible than previously.
The carbon monocoque frame is matched with a full carbon fork. As is the case on loads of performance bikes these days, the Kaon comes with a tapered head tube that takes a standard 1 1/8in headset bearing at the top and flares out to 1 1/4in at the bottom. Just that little bit greater diameter in the frame and fork can make a big difference to the front-end stiffness.
Although the bottom bracket is a standard, outboard BSA type rather than an oversized design, the frame section it sits in is huge - you could fit half a dozen bottom brackets in there. The triangle-section down tube is a burly piece of work too that looks like it’ll provide rigidity through the centre of the bike… although looks can be deceptive, of course, so we’ll have to wait until we hit the roads to confirm that.
The geometry is fairly typical for a race bike, our 58cm model coming with parallel 73° frame angles and an 18cm head tube. Slam the stem right down onto the headset and you can get yourself as low as you’ll want to go. Isaac have recently added to the size range, by the way, and now offer frames as small as 47cm, the largest model being 60cm.
In terms of components, the Kaon comes with Shimano 105 across the board – 105 being the third tier after Dura-Ace and Ultegra. It loses virtually nothing to its more expensive stable-mates in function, it’s just a little heavier – and even there we’re not talking about a massive difference. Isaac have decided to go with a compact chainset (with 50 and 34 tooth chainrings). Some people might prefer a standard setup with larger gear ratios on a performance bike like this, although that’s just a matter of individual preference.
The wheels are Shimano R500s which, despite being a budget option, should last for ages if our previous experience of them is anything go by. They’re not particularly lightweight but if you keep the loose bearings clean and well greased you’ll have no problems with either performance or durability. The Schwalbe Durano S tyres have treated us well in the past too, providing a good compromise between weight and durability.
The alloy cockpit comes courtesy of FSA. The OS-190 stem is 3D forged and then CNC machined from heat-treated 6061 aluminium while the Vero Compact bar is double butted to lose some weight.
The handlebar drop (the vertical distance from the top section to the end of the bars) is just 120mm compared to 150mm on FSA’s deep-drop bars, which makes your ride position just a touch more relaxed when you rest your hands down there. Compact bars actually comprise the majority of FSA’s range now with even a lot of pro racers opting for them over a traditional design. FSA provide the seatpost too and you get a just-flexy-enough Selle Italia X1 saddle to sit on.
Isaac reckon the Kaon offers a more compliant feel than some of their more expensive models - a touch more long-ride comfort. We’ll soon find out if they’re right because we’re heading out on it right now. Look out for our full ride report on Road.cc soon.
Mat has worked for loads of bike magazines over the past 20 years, and been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. He's been road.cc technical editor for seven years, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. We send him off around the world to get all the news from launches and shows too. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a youthful 45-year-old Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a past winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer.