The Kinesis Gran Fondo Sc is part of the eight frame Racelight road range which has something for the racer, distance rider, sportive rider, TT'er, commuter and tourer – pretty much every type of road cyclist then. The Gran Fondo is designed to ride like a race bike but with the geometry tweaked a bit to give a slightly more forgiving ride. I tested it alongside the new Gran Fondo Ti and it was interesting to compare the Easton alloy tubing with the renowned comfort of a titanium frame.
By adding scandium to their high strength aluminium alloy Easton increases its weldability allowing it to be used for bike manufacture rather than using the lower yield strength 6000 and 700 series. This in turn allows smaller diameter tubes to be created which removes the harsh ride often associated with oversized aluminium frames.
The 1420g frame feels lighter than the figures would have you believe and the solid build should assure longevity (interestingly it is also lighter than its titanium stablemate by about 60g… or 2oz in old money). Tapered tubing puts the strength where it is needed and allows some movement where it isn't for a bit of compliance, ideal when riding on a typical British road surface. The scandium alloy tubing takes a lot of the road buzz out due to the smaller diameter of the tubes and helped out at the rear by the addition of carbon seatstays.
The almost 'steel feel' of the ride, with a kind of absorbent yet stiff quality keeps you feeling fresher over long distance events and fits with the manufacturer's intention of designing a fast but comfortable frame for audax and sportive type rides. With slightly longer chainstays and headtube than their race machines Kinesis have managed to create a very balanced bike, something that's mirrored on the GF_Ti which has matching geometry. The downtube and toptube are flared at the headtube end allowing for a large weld area to keep things tight and it certainly works out on the road with no sloppiness from the front end under hard efforts or braking. Descending is a dream thanks to both the aforementioned headtube and geometry allowing changes of direction and speed without fear of upsetting the weight balance.
While sold as a frameset comprising frame, carbon forks, carbon seatpost, headset and seat clamp both the titanium and our version of the Gran Fondo came built up with virtually the same finishing kit creating pretty top end builds. Obviously the components have a large impact on how a bike rides but the similarity in finishing kit between the two should help us highlight any quirks with the framesets that might be attributable to the difference in frame material.Like the GF_Ti the frame is designed to take short drop brakes so that you can fit higher end more race oriented brakes that does make for issues if you're fitting guards though, but more on that later.
The Reynolds Attack clinchers are a 32mm deep mid -section race wheelset. With a weight of 1405g acceleration is rapid and the low revolving weight makes a welcome benefit when climbing. Radial DT Aerolite spokes 20 front / 24 rear (2x & radial) connect the full carbon rim to the hubs. Reynolds supply their own brake blocks with their carbon rims to work alongside the coating they apply to the braking surface. Paired with the TRP dual pivot calipers braking is superb 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. Braking in the wet is pretty horrendous though with the pads grabbing the rims sharply once the water has been cleared from the braking surface. Continental GP4000 tyres have a high level of grip wet and dry, wear rates are pretty high as well but thats the trade off for soft rubber. Puncture protection was good though with no signs of cuts or flats after a mix of wet and dry back lanes through hedge cutting season plus the usual potholed A roads.
Campagnolo's Athena 11spd levers plus front and rear mech mated to an FSA SLK Light chainset completes the drivetrain. Shifting was solid and consistent, although not quite as refined as the Chorus on the GF Ti. To be fair it was probably only noticeable when I was riding them side by side one bike and then the other as the differences are surprisingly minimal.
FSA supply the SLK UD carbon / Kevlar handlebars paired with a matching aluminium stem on our build. 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 lay up allows enough flex to stop the road vibration from irritating your ulnar nerve and the shallow drop works well with the higher front end.
As a complete build our test model was set up ideally for fast sportive riding with the lightweight carbon kit and wheels. The Selcof carbon seatpost working alongside the frame comfort means you really can spend long hours on board without the road vibrations fatiguing your contact points. The GF Sc is also adaptable, replace the carbon rims with more user friendly wheels with an aluminium braking surface and fit full mudguards and you have a winter training / audax bike. Rack mounts alongside the mudguard eyes can also be utilised for commuting or light touring. As mentioned above the balanced weight and ever so slightly relaxed geometry creates a very stable yet engaging ride. Stamp on the pedals in anger though and it will still fly, straight line speed when needed is much the same as any race bike. While not quite as comfortable as the GF Ti at just over half the price (£750) it's pretty much as close as you are going to get from an aluminium frame.
While nearly every box has been ticked so far an issue with toe overlap is a bit of a pain in traffic or making tight turns. This happens even without mudguards so fitting them only makes it worse. Like the GF_Ti without mudguards you can run tyres up to 28mm but fitting full guards brings this down to 23mm so even in the winter only race tyres are going to be possible.
Overall the Gran Fondo Scandium is well designed and built. The scandium alloy tubes provide comfort while also building into a stiff frame so that none of your power is wasted. Its ride quality and overall balanced feedback is where it plays it ace, benefitting the rider as time in the saddle increases. With mudguard and rack fitment providing huge versatility it literally can be a one bike does all, 365 days a year. It looks good too, (which we all know is important), in either the black or white colour option with a thick unblemished paintjob. It's getting on for half the price of it's titanium stablemate but it is certainly much more than half as good. If i had the money I'd go for the GF_Ti but if I didn't have that sort of cash I wouldn't be too upset at settling for the Gran Fondo SC instead. Other than the toe overlap issue, taking price, ride, finish and build quality into account there ain't much not to like.
road.cc test report
Make and model: Kinesis Gran Fondo frameset
Size tested: 55
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' words - "The GranFondo has plenty of 'race bike feel', it's no slack angled tourer, but the geometry is designed to be forgiving over the distance, with longer headtubes and chainstays, it's a versatile frameset too, with mudguard eyelets on frame and fork + rack mounts." As you can see from the review above they've created pretty much what they intended.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
The scandium alloy frame material is what sets this frame apart from most other aluminum bikes. The addition of scandium increases the weldability of higher yield strength alloys. Thus in turn allowing for smaller diameter tubing - less material = less weight. For the full low down take a look here http://www.eastoncycling.com/bike/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/RD-03-Scand...)
The stiffness aids accelaration and once up to speed it'll stay there all day.
Good solid welds look to be perfect for long term durability
Sensible weight to provide a fun ride without reliability trade offs
High comfort levels for an alloy frame
You're certainly getting what you're paying for
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Very well, as an all round long distance ride with performance to match. High levels of comfort, versatility and refinement
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Looks, balanced handling and comfort
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Did you enjoy using the product? yes
Would you consider buying the product? yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? yes
Anything further to say about the product in conclusion?
As an upgrade to an existing frame or a dream bike build the Gran Fondo Scandium provides a great base.
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,
Stu knocked out his first road.cc review back in 2009 and since then he's chucked the best part of seventy test bikes around the West Country, a couple of them quite literally! With three alloy and two steel bikes in his fleet he's definitely a metal man (that'll be the engineering background) but is slowly warming to that modern carbon fibre stuff along with fat tyres & disc brakes.
It's not all nostalgia though, after spending the last few years in product design Stu keeps banging on about how 3D printing is going to be the next big thing and he's a sucker for a beautiful paint job too.