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There's no doubt about it the Kinesis Decade Convert 2 is a good looking bike with its minimal, understated graphics, designed by UK artist Adi Gilbert ,and gloss black finish mated to black components it turns heads.
Riding through London it has had more than its fair share of admiring glances and people telling me that it is a 'sweet ride' and asking where they can get one (or where I am likely to leave it locked up!). Set up in its fixed gear guise, there is not a lot to this bike but what there is has been well chosen and put together, for a good compromise between durability and performance and as I've already mentioned it all looks good too.
Kinesis launched the Decade range of UK designed bikes to mark the 10 anniversary of the brand in Britain. The whole range, which also includes the Tripster, is available as framesets, with a few complete builds on offer too.
Like the Cotic Roadrat, and indeed it's Tripster stablemate, adaptability is the name of the game and on the Convert 2 this is mainly down to the clever ‘Swopout’ replaceable dropouts. Kinesis UK have designed a dropout that you can easily and quickly swap from vertical 130mm spacing to horizontal 120mm spacing for a track hub. Although only the 120mm spaced horizontal dropout is supplied with this build, the alternative vertical drop out with gear hanger can be bought separately for only £19.95.
The geometry is based around the Kenesis Racelight T frame, but with detail changes including shorter rear stays, keeping the wheel tighter against the seat tube and therefore quickening up the handling and giving a sharper snap on acceleration. In essence a road bike with a shorter wheel base which you notice when weaving through static traffic. All cable stops, brake, mudguard and rack eyelets are present to transform this bike into a full urban/utility/ commute bike. It is ready to take gears front and back if you want them at a later date.
The frame is made with slightly over sized double butted 7005 aluminium with very smooth welds rather than the fish scale welds that you might expect on a £600 bike. The curved alloy forks, mimicing Pinarello, give it an edge in the looks departments mated to the more traditional level top tube frame, and the internal headset keep the lines uninterrupted.
Being designed for the road, the geometry is not the twitchy, upright and tight angled that you get on a track bike but more relaxed giving you confidence at speed and the lack of toe-clip overlap means the front wheel won't foul your foot when doing slow, sharp turns. The bottom bracket is pretty low but our 54cm bike is specced with a 165mm length crank and I have had no incidents of scraping pedals.
That rigid alloy frame and fork combo does give a pretty stiff, unforgiving ride and the back wheel skipped about a bit over poorly maintained roads – it is lively enough to dance beneath you and skip back into line without any bother, but you do feel it in your wrists after a day out. The acceleration of this frame is fantastic, the short stays and the lack of any flex from the stays meant that even with the fairly tall gearing (48x16), getting away quickly from the lights wasn't much effort.
As I say, the gearing is tall, probably too tall for many, putting a 48T front ring with a 16T cog only gives you one skid patch… maybe two if you're and ambi-dextrous skidder, plus if you live anywhere with a slight gradient your work is going to be cut out! I suggest putting a 17T or a 19T so you can spin a bit easier and prevent wearing a hole in your tyre so quickly. On the scales, the complete bike (54cm) with pedals weighed in at 18.6lbs which is about 8lbs lighter than say a Charge plug.
Components wise there is nothing flash going on here. The Weinman wheels are good for an urban bike offering strength without being too heavy. Black spokes and black unbranded, sealed bearing hubs stayed true and spun smoothly. The fixed/freewheel flip flop rear hub only came with fixed cog and no freewheel. If you wanted to run it as a single speed you would have to buy and fit a rear brake lever and long drop brake calliper too.
The front brake is a very adequate Tektro dual pivot unit and space saving lever although the lever is on the left hand side in the US and continental style. This was of no bother since it is used very rarely, when I am feeling lazy but more annoyingly the lever could not be placed closer to the stem because the clamp on the lever is too narrow. A stiff and robust Oval Concepts alloy stem clamps generic alloy drop bars shod with cork grip. The short arm crank is unbranded but looks very similar to a Sugino and seems to transfer the power well. The no name alloy pedals ran smooth but anyone with feet bigger than a size nine would find the toe clips too short.
As far as value for money goes, your £600 pounds gets you a well designed, adaptable frame and forks which, as is, offers a very dependable urban trainer capable of transforming into a sporty machine or all weather ride. A Specialized Langster may cost £150 less and share many similarities like having an alloy frame but it is a few pounds heavier and doesn't have the flexibility of being able to run gears.
The 'thinking man's fixed', a well thought out bike that can swap between fixed and geared by simply changing the dropouts. Ideally suited as a training bike or an urban cruiser (although a larger gear at the back will be needed).
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Make and model: Kinesis UK decade Convert 2 Fixed
Size tested: 54
State the frame and fork material and method of construction. List the components used to build up the bike.
Frame: Double butted 7005 alloy with smooth welds. Alloy fork.
Crankset: Alloy Forged, 165mm x 48T, black.
Pedals: Alloy road w/half clip
BB: Sealed Cartridge.
Rear Cog: Q2 Alloy, 16T, Gold Anodized.
Chain: KMC Z30.
Rims: Weimann SP17 Alloy, Doublewall, Black.
Hubs: Alloy Flip-Flop Track, Black.
Spokes: 14G Stainless 36°, Black.
Tyres: Kenda Koncept 700x23c, Kevlar, Black.
Headset: FSA Orbit.
Saddle: San Marco Ponza Power.
Seatpost: Kuk polished Alloy 27.2 350mm.
Handlebar: Alloy track bend, Black.
Lever: Tektro AL720.
Brake: Tektro Dual Pivot, Black.
Grip: Black Cork Tape.
Stem: Oval Concepts R300, Black.
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?
Urban cruiser, suit typical urban cyclist, training bike, adaptable to be a sportif player or commuter, although you might want to swap out the fork if you were riding big miles
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
Superb quality of finish for a bike of this price. Nice smooth welds and understated graphics make it look very slick. The bend in the forks like a tame version of a Pinarello fork lends more visual appeal.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
Double butted 7005 alloy. Stiff, unforgiving, light.
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
73 head, 73.5 seat. Road geometry. Shorter chain stays reduce stability at high speeds but improve acceleration and agility. Alloy fork has sharp tracking but you will feel it in your wrists after a day in the saddle.
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
This bike is well proportioned, a good reach
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
This bike is stiff and lively, often skipping down the road, especially over uneven road surfaces! Great acceleration, good stability and sharp tracking steering. Not a choice for a all day riding, a pair of carbon bars would be a good upgrade or a pair of carbon forks to dampen road buzz.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
This bike is rigid making it feel even lighter than its 18.6lb weight.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
Stiff, short rear stays made this bike charge off the line.
Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so, was it a problem?
No toe clip over lap. Toe clips would be a little small for people with feet greater than a size 9.
How would you describe the steering? Was it lively, neutral or unresponsive? Direct steering, very communicative.
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
This bike is lively and exciting. I found myself spinning out around town despite the tall 48x16 gearing. Ideal for short rides.
Tell us some more about the drivetrain. Anything you particularly did or didn't like? Any components which didn't work well together?
Having a quality chain is an important component to any fixie.
Tell us some more about the controls. Any particularly good or bad components? How would the controls work for larger or smaller riders?
A good upgrade would be to change the bars to a carbon set to dampen road vibration. Also, if you are one to use the brake often you might want the front brake lever on the right so a new one of these will have to be purchased.
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes
Would you consider buying the bike? Yes
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Definitely
Anything further to say about the bike in conclusion?
Great value bike. Sensibly specced. Great frame. Great looks. Great expectations.
Age: 36 Height: 78 Weight: 178
I usually ride: Sparton, brakeless fixed My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, sportives, fixed/singlespeed, mtb,