Kinesis have a distinguished history in cyclo-cross, producing a well respected range of frames, good enough for National Championship status no less, and a veritable cutlery drawer of forks in both carbon and alloy. The RC09 fork is the culmination of all their knowledge and experience in this field, a particularly muddy field. Rather than a "Me Too" fork with a different sticker on which is all too common these days the RC09 has been designed from the sloppy ground up to meet the quirky demands of an hour in the muck.
The RC09 is full carbon aside from the canti mounts and dropouts and at 489g (claimed weight is 460g) with an uncut steerer is plenty light, as light as some considerably more pricey forks. The fork doesn't come with a carbon steerer bung so you'll have to factor that small expense into your piggy-bank robbing.
The fork is 405mm long from axle to crown which is longer than some CX forks, this might be worth checking if swapping forks on a frame that's been designed around a shorter set of tines, although saying that these were run on a frame originally designed for a 390mm fork and the gently slacker head angle given by an extra 15mm in the leg gave only the very slightest blunting to point-and-shoot steering. But the extra length in the fork does have the benefit of giving fistfuls of vertical mud clearance.
There are vestigial eyelets on the drop-outs, filled in so you can't use them for dumbing down with mudguards or racks, this isn't a touring or commuting fork, and while we're down there there's the usual annoying idiot-pandering safety-tabs on the dropouts.
Setting the Kinesis fork apart from most other 'cross forks is that it's been specially designed to accept it's own dedicated crown-mounted brake-hanger. Available as an extra for £9.99 the hanger simply bolts through the crown with a small raised ridge on the front for the hangar to key into so it doesn't move around. The hanger is slotted to help with cable maintenance and in a perfect world the hanger would be threaded and have a cable-adjuster screwed in there. It's not a perfect world. The hanger is an add-on option if you are predisposed to suffering from the dreaded cable judder that's a legendary bugbear with carbon forks and cantilevers, the use of the fork-mounted cable-stop will put an end to your woes.
It could be a redundant extra though as the RC09 was completely free from the dreaded fork judder so the cable-hanger was left gathering a patina of dust and oil on the workshop bench. The lack of chatter looks to be down to clever fork design, the upper-half of the fork is gloriously fat and robust to cope with braking forces and below the brake bosses it tapers and swoops down gracefully to the fork ends to introduce flex and comfort, and talking of brake studs they're mounted as flush as possible to the fork blade so minimising any un-needed flex in that department. All of this resulted in absolutely no hint of judder, chatter or vibration from the fork under braking over any terrain and no matter how clumsily the brake levers were grabbed.
This braking confidence coupled with the sturdy where it matters to slim where it's needed tapered fork design creates a front end that encourages riding harder and faster than normally would be considered on a carbon 'cross fork. The RC09 was pedalled furiously into bumpier and trickier situations just to see what would happen, and nothing ever did, it's such a poised and sure-footed fork that it was quite easy to get into trouble with it, but then it's so trustworthy it was just as easy to ride out of trouble too.
On a drizzly Sunday morning the Kinesis fork makes for a stunning weapon in the race armoury, lack of chatter, steering predictability and tracking assurance meant braking later into corners, taking the more picturesque line and keeping pedalling when the competition was backing off, leading to more places being gained than could strictly be seen as fair.
And for just general riding about on a cyclo-cross bike down unsuitable trails at unsuitable speeds then the RC09 was an absolute hoot as it can be piloted with the attitude of a rigid mountainbike fork, almost. They refused to be bounced off line and even under extreme duress the fork would merely complain with a gentle flutter that could be described as polite trail feedback. The downside to all this is that they're not as supple as other more fancy and/or twangy carbon cyclocross forks that are better at isolating the rider from trail buzz and the RC09s slight harshness can be felt through the palms but that's definitely a small trade off for not being afraid to wang the front brake on and the forks general enjoyability.
Lightweight, elegantly purposeful looking, cantilever only but judder-free, mudguard and rack averse to keep the breed pure, supremely confident carbon cyclo-cross fork, and good value for money too. If you've suffered the infamous carbon 'cross fork vibration-of-death in the past and been put off then you need to try these, if you're a racer that's not afraid of the gutsy move then you need these, if you like to ride your cyclo-cross bike on trails more suited to mountainbikes then you need these too. Probably the best carbon cross fork you'll ride, and the most fun.
road.cc test report
Make and model: Kinesis RC09 CX Fork
Size tested: n/a
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
Kinesis modestly say that they've always led the field in Cyclocross frame and fork design, and their latest RC09 fork is way out front again with it's super lightweight, 460g monocoque construction and radical leading edge blade shape. The optional brake hanger coupled to the advanced blade shape, allows powerful, judder free braking that is just not possible with other manufacturers, outdated designs. The forged alloy hanger keys and bolts to a specially shaped crown and eliminates the need for a steerer mounted hanger.
Modest or not we'd agree with all of that, although they have been a bit economical with the weight, it's still a great fork and you probably won't even need the brake hanger.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Full monocoque construction including a 1 1/8'. 300mm long carbon steerer, rake is 45, crown height 405mm and claimed weight 460g.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
A benefit to both racing and general playing out, the best carbon cyclo-cross fork I've ridden, probably.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The price to weight ratio, the reliable control, the lack of brake judder terror.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
It's not as supple as some other forks and the length of the fork might bother some with frames designed around a shorter one.
Did you enjoy using the product? Hell yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
About the tester
Age: 42 Height: 180cm Weight: 73kg
I usually ride: It varies as to the season. My best bike is: The one I\'m on at the time
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, cyclo cross, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mtb, Fun
Jo Burt has spent the majority of his life riding bikes, drawing bikes and writing about bikes. When he’s not scribbling pictures for the whole gamut of cycling media he writes words about them for road.cc and when he’s not doing either of those he’s pedaling. Then in whatever spare minutes there are in between he’s agonizing over getting his socks, cycling cap and bar-tape to coordinate just so. And is quietly disappointed that yours doesn’t. He rides and races road bikes a bit, cyclo-cross bikes a lot and mountainbikes a fair bit too. Would rather be up a mountain.