Kinesis Racelite GF_Ti frameset  £1399.99

9/10

Delivers the goods on speed, lightness, comfort and longevity, some toe overlap is the only thing to spoil the party

Weight 7910g   Contact  www.kinesisbikes.co.uk

by Stuart Kerton   September 30, 2011  

Kinesis GF_TI riding 1

New for 2011/12 a titanium Gran Fondo frameset enters Kinesis's Racelight range, using the tried and tested geometry of the scandium version which we're testing alongside the GF_Ti as an experiment in comparing frame materials directly. The GF_Ti is all about taking advantage of titanium's ability to deliver a frame that's comfortable, durable, and long lasting.

Our test model has had a busy time with a mix of miles in the sun, rain and the odd hurricane thrown in for good measure encountering pretty much anything its likely to get thrown at it. As a bonus the scandium Gran Fondo has been ridden alongside on the same roads and in the same conditions with virtually the same finishing kit giving us a real insight into how much or how little the frame material does make.

Designed in the UK the Ti3AL/2.5V (2.5-3.5% Aluminium, 2-3% Vanadium) frame is manufactured in Taiwan from stress relieved double butted tubing. Titanium frames are renowned for their slight flex which is often attributed to the ride comfort so to keep things tight at the business ends the downtube is ovalised, horizontally at the bottom bracket, vertically at the headtube. This along with the larger diameter created by the intergrated headset gives a greater surface area to weld to, ideal for stiffness and longevity, speading the loads and forces over a larger area. Kinesis have been using integrated headsets for a long time and have no reported frame damage or reliability issues so the use of this style is obviously not a problem from their point of view. At the tail end the chainstays continue the beefed up theme from the BB area while the slender curved seatstays highlight the designers intent to use the comfortable 'give' of the titanium tubes.

The overall finish of the frame is a work of art with tidy welds throughout including double passes on the higher stressed areas. The real beauty is in the detail though, the engraved logo on the headtube is the first thing you notice and it really gives the whole frame a look of quality. Everything is welded including bottle bosses and rack eyelets, there is not a rivet in sight all adding to the longevity of the frame. A neat 'chain keeper' on the right hand stay to keep the chain tension tight when the rear wheel has been dropped out is a nice touch, something I never knew I needed until it was there. Industrial looking machined 7mm thick dropouts housing fixings points for rack and mudguards are in contrast to the bullet ended seat and chain stays they are welded to. A neat finishing touch is the machined titanium seat clamp, mating with the frame beautifully and matching the engraved headtube for looks.

The classic style lends itself to whatever build you're after, both the high end race orientated look our test model was adorned with or a more retro vibe (think Brooks saddle, 32 spoke wheelset) wouldn't look out of place. The brushed natural finish and subtle graphics all add to this neutral style and actually hide the varying tube profiles.

Available as a frameset comprising of frame, carbon forks, carbon seatpost, headset and titanium seat clamp giving you the flexibility to create a build relating to budget, ability, pose level etc. We'll take a quick butchers at what ours came with though just to whet your appetite.

The Reynolds Thirty Two carbon clinchers are first thing to catch your eye, a 32mm deep mid -section race wheelset weighing in at scant 1351g. A price tag of around 1700 quid though is pretty steep but the overall ride quality goes someway to reflect this. Using 20 DT Aerolite spokes front /24 rear mated to DT240S hubs with the nipples inverted inside the rim stiffness is high and the lightweight rim certainly aids acceleration as you flick up through the gears. Reynolds supply their own brake blocks with their carbon rims and braking in the dry is brilliant with excellent modulation as the heat gets into the rim, twisty descents see you creating gaps between you and following riders due to how late you can brake and scrub off speed without fear of locking up. The flipside of this is in the wet, you're better off taking your feet out of the pedals and slowing down using your socks. Basically it's a case of nothing, nothing, nothing, brakes grab and lock up!! To be fair this isn't exclusive to the Reynolds wheels as all carbon braking surfaces are pretty much the same.

The mechanical side of slowing down on our build was taken care of by TRP's magnesium calipers and price per gram these are even more extreme than the Reynolds wheels at just under £400 for 210g of material, a mere 50g saving over the alloy / Ti versions (£120) that we've tested on the scandium Gran Fondo and no noticeable improvement in braking power at all though!!

The 11spd Chorus levers, front and rear mech took care of the shifting duties and worked spot on throughout. The shift was light yet still refined and these were some of the best Campag shifters I've used to date.

FSA supply the SLK UD carbon / Kevlar handlebars paired with a matching aluminium stem. This setup has been on quite a few top end test bikes we've had pass through and it never fails to impress. The bar is stiff but the carbon allows enough flex to compliment the comfort of the frame and the shallow drop works well with the higher front end. The SLK Light compact chainset completes FSA's dominance and certainly looks the biz with the wide hollow crank arms and machined chainrings while the 50-34 setup is perfect for long hilly hours in the saddle.

The Oval saddle deserves a special mention, I know saddles are a personal thing and I seem to get on with most but the Oval has seen me rub chamois cream into areas that I never knew existed. No matter how I adjusted it was the same, more than likely due to the large width leaving a lot of material rubbing the inside of your legs as you ride.

Out on the road the overall comfort shines through from the moment you set off, the 2m radius seatstays (found to be the best compromise after many designs tested) absorbing the majority of road buzz before it reaches your rear end. This allows you to get off at the end of the ride feeling a lot less fatigued at your contact points. Weighing in at 7.9kg (17.4lbs) our test ride was by no means heavy but the GF Ti feels so much lighter on the move, yeah the carbon rims will remove a lot of revolving weight but mostly it is down to the sorted geometry it shares with its scandium sibling. The taller headtube and lengthened chainstays (in relation to their race frames) make sure weight balance is spot on front and rear which is most noticeable on the hills. While climbing you don't get the usual feeling of pushing the bike up through the pedals, it just feels like its attached to your feet and coming with you, almost like running in mid air.

On the downs that balance allows for great control through the corners with just a small shift of body position, the frame again absorbs the bumps along with the carbon fork allowing you to stay on your selected line. The fork works well with the frame matching the ride perfectly, stiffness is there but a small amount of flex keeps the comfort where it is needed. At the tail end of a sportive or audax on unknown roads this is always a welcome advantage, any tightening bends or surface imperfections can be dealt with even when your reactions might not be as sharp as they were at the start. Everywhere else the frame just gets on with its job and a lot of miles can be covered with very little effort. This isn't to say the GF Ti is uninspiring to ride, it is just on the lively side of neutral and any effort you lay down will be transferred straight through the pedals to the tarmac.

Verdict

At £1399 for the frameset the Gran Fondo represents good value for money, there are cheaper (and many more expensive) titanium frames out there but the overall finish and ride are worth paying for. It is comfortable, fast and fun to ride and the ability to build it up to your own specification ticks pretty much every box. Toe overlap was the only real negative and that was without mudguards, not a major issue out on the open road but hit some traffic and it could soon become a concern. While we're on the subject of mudguards, if you want to go full length you're limited to a tyre width of 23mm, 28mm is possible though if you're willing to go commando. The review of the Ragley Cragg Vale back at the beginning of the year highlighted that this is an issue for some with a lot of riders wanting to run at least 25mm in the winter months. If you're happy with 23mm tyres, as an all rounder the Gran Fondo Ti is a cracking bike taking the sharp handling and performance of the scandium version but with added comfort. At just under 1.5kg for the frameset it is pretty light while being built to take a knock or two, trust me I tested it (the bike shrugged off a couple of scratches while 4 weeks on I've still got whiplash and a broken bone in my foot) and the beauty of titanium is a quick hand polish and it is as good as new. All in all the titanium frame delivers the best of all worlds, speed, lightness, comfort and longevity with only the toe overlap spoiling the party. It is one of the most sorted frames I've ever ridden and for everything except for out and out racing it will provide everything you need.

If you're going to the Cycle Show this weekend have a go yourself as word on the street is that the GF Ti is going to be available for test rides.

road.cc test report

Make and model: Kinesis GranFondo Ti frameset

Size tested: 54

About the bike

State the frame and fork material and method of construction. List the components used to build up the bike.

A titanium frame with a carbon fork and seatpost designed in the UK while being manufactured in Taiwan

Tell us what the bike is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about the bike?

"This totally new frame uses the proven geometry of the Granfondo Sc and our own Custom Drawn Ti3AL/2.5V tubeset, the outcome is a superbly finished, smooth riding frameset, designed to go the distance and last for years. If speed, comfort, distance, adaptability and durability top your list, then this is the frameset for you." A frameset that will do everything you ask and last you a long time.

Frame and fork

Overall rating for frame and fork
 
9/10

Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?

Beautifully designed and crafted

Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?

3Al/2.5V titanium tubing, butted and pre-stressed to create the ride feel from day one

Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?

All the info you'll every need is here http://www.kinesisbikes.co.uk/technical/racelight/gf_ti

How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?

It fitted like a glove to be honest, everything in proportion and well balanced

Riding the bike

Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.

Very, stiff yet that small amount of flex to give a sublime ride

Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?

A perfect balance of stiffness and comfort

How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?

Yes very, no feeling of flex anywhere

Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so, was it a problem?

Yes, a problem in traffic if you forgot about it

How would you describe the steering? Was it lively, neutral or unresponsive? lively enough to keep you on your toes

Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?

Perfectly balanced and very easy to ride even when you're tired after a long day in the saddle.

Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?

Even the horrendous saddle couldn't take away the comfort from the frame

Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's stiffness? would you recommend any changes?

FSA's SLK chainset is very stiff enabling you to get the power down

Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's efficiency? would you recommend any changes?

The whole setup works together

Rate the bike for efficiency of power transfer:
 
9/10
Rate the bike for acceleration:
 
9/10
Rate the bike for sprinting:
 
8/10

not really what its about

Rate the bike for high speed stability:
 
9/10
Rate the bike for cruising speed stability:
 
9/10
Rate the bike for low speed stability:
 
9/10
Rate the bike for flat cornering:
 
9/10
Rate the bike for cornering on descents:
 
9/10
Rate the bike for climbing:
 
8/10

The drivetrain

Rate the drivetrain for performance:
 
9/10
Rate the drivetrain for durability:
 
9/10
Rate the drivetrain for weight:
 
9/10
Rate the drivetrain for value:
 
8/10

Tell us some more about the drivetrain. Anything you particularly did or didn't like? Any components which didn't work well together?

Campags Chorus shifters provided a beautiful precise gear change

Wheels and tyres

Rate the wheels and tyres for performance:
 
9/10
Rate the wheels and tyres for durability:
 
8/10
Rate the wheels and tyres for weight:
 
10/10
Rate the wheels and tyres for comfort:
 
8/10
Rate the wheels and tyres for value:
 
7/10

Tell us some more about the wheels and tyres.Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the wheels or tyres? If so, what for?

Perfect in everything but the rain with lightweight and great braking. They didn't feel much different to the Reynolds wheels on the scandium version which are £700 cheaper though

Controls

Rate the controls for performance:
 
8/10
Rate the controls for durability:
 
8/10
Rate the controls for weight:
 
9/10
Rate the controls for comfort:
 
9/10
Rate the controls for value:
 
8/10

Tell us some more about the controls. Any particularly good or bad components? How would the controls work for larger or smaller riders?

The shallow drop bars, while expensive work well and provide comfort

Your summary

Did you enjoy riding the bike? yes

Would you consider buying the bike? yes

Would you recommend the bike to a friend? yes

Rate the bike overall for performance:
 
9/10
Rate the bike overall for value:
 
8/10

Overall rating: 9/10

About the tester

Age: 32  Height: 180cm  Weight: 78kg

I usually ride: Genesis Flyer  My best bike is: Ribble Gran Fondo

I've been riding for: 10-20 years  I ride: Every day  I would class myself as: Expert

I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, club rides, sportives, fixed/singlespeed,

 

10 user comments

Oldest firstNewest firstBest rated

A bit surprised they didn't go for long drop brakes and some decent tyre clearance as with the racelight t2 and tk2 frames. Maybe an aesthetic decision more than a practical one?

joemmo's picture

posted by joemmo [768 posts]
30th September 2011 - 21:30

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joemmo wrote:
A bit surprised they didn't go for long drop brakes and some decent tyre clearance as with the racelight t2 and tk2 frames. Maybe an aesthetic decision more than a practical one?

Sorry should of put this in the review:

The decision on the brakes is driven by the fact that using standard drop calipers gives a larger choice of high end componentry which this price/caliber frame is likely to be built up with.

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stuke's picture

posted by stuke [300 posts]
1st October 2011 - 21:52

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Thanks for the update joemmo, Spot on. Larger choice of higher end componentry was a major consideration. We have frames for winter training, long drop brakes and larger tyres, I wanted the GF_Ti to have 'sportiness' + all round performance and the capability to take full 'guards, but big tyres weren't high on the list. In fact the comfort that the frame gives makes it feel as if you are on 25's!

The GF_Ti has been so well received that maybe we will look at following it up with a frameset that is set up for long drop, 28's and larger 'guards...

Dom. Kinesis UK.

Dom's picture

posted by Dom [57 posts]
3rd October 2011 - 10:09

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Dom wrote:
..maybe we will look at following it up with a frameset that is set up for long drop, 28's and larger 'guards...

Yeah, the Shimano BR-R650 brake, while officially being a non-series offer for just this situation (up to 57mm drop) it's really Ultegra-level in the hardware and all the better for being shiny-silver IMHO. I've just finished reviewing a Longstaff Audax bike with 28mm tyres and 'guards and the braking was still superb despite the longer drop obviously (but apparently only theoretically) disadvantaging the leverage somewhat.

posted by nick_rearden [859 posts]
3rd October 2011 - 10:19

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I see your point about brake choice, you've only got shimano, tektro and miche to choose from as far as I'm aware. My racelight T2 has the BR450s on which are plain looking relations of the 650 but very effective - once you get rid of the stock pads

joemmo's picture

posted by joemmo [768 posts]
3rd October 2011 - 23:44

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(accidental double post)

joemmo's picture

posted by joemmo [768 posts]
3rd October 2011 - 23:45

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according to kinesis website 5 year warranty only?, for ti that seems quite short

posted by rex69 [40 posts]
4th October 2011 - 1:12

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That is our warranty period, but we always look at any claim on a case by case basis.
We are well known for our good customer care and will make every effort to look after you and make sure your Kinesis experience is a good one : ]

Dom. Kinesis UK.

Dom's picture

posted by Dom [57 posts]
5th October 2011 - 9:51

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I'm no expert but those head tube welds look niiice Cool Normally I glaze over a little when Ti is discussed or reviewed but not this time.

nick_rearden wrote:
I've just finished reviewing a Longstaff Audax bike with 28mm tyres and 'guards and the braking was still superb despite the longer drop obviously (but apparently only theoretically) disadvantaging the leverage somewhat.

I have to admit I do wonder whether there is much difference between those two brake systems. It would also be interesting to know whether a build for 28mm+'guards would really feel so different. And how much of the feel is due to those £1700 wheels? Questions, questions....

Simon E's picture

posted by Simon E [1884 posts]
11th October 2011 - 13:47

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Simon E wrote:
And how much of the feel is due to those £1700 wheels?

I run mine on Open Pros and I agree with all of the sentiments in the review above*. I'm sure it'd feel different if I snuck my Lightweights onto it, but the truth is there's just no need.

*Except the toe overlap - I only get that with the mudguards mounted, which isn't really unexpected.

posted by RichTheRoadie [86 posts]
29th October 2011 - 23:50

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