Go Long

Kinesis RTD Road Bike
Photo: Roo Fowler – www.rupertfowler.co.uk

Earlier this year Kinesis UK launched their new endurance road bike, the ‘RTD’ – Race The Distance – with the endurance racer in mind.

The RTD is designed for repeated days in the saddle, providing all-day comfort without compromising on handling and speed. I was lucky enough to get my hands on one in late September and I’ve been racking up the miles on it ever since.

I didn’t want to rush to review this bike, I wanted to take some time to try it out on a few long rides in a variety of conditions and really get to know it before I committed pen to paper – or whatever the digital equivalent is – and I’ve recently crossed the 1000 km marker, so I now feel qualified to share my views with you.

Kinesis RTD
Photo: Roo Fowler – www.rupertfowler.co.uk

Now I know that you’re probably thinking that because I’m a Kinesis brand Ambassador, I have to only say good things about the RTD. But If I didn’t like it, I wouldn’t ride it, so the fact that I’ve ridden over 1000 km on it in just a few months at the ‘back-end’ of the year ought to tell you something. I’ve done long days in the saddle in all weathers, I’ve ridden it fully-loaded with bikepacking kit and also taken it out on the Sunday club run with just a water bottle added.

I’ve completed a number of 200 km-plus rides on it now, mainly in wet conditions, and have to say that I’ve really fallen in love with this bike. I never thought I’d find a bike as comfortable as my Racelight TK3 to ride over long-distances but the RTD is everything that my Racelight is and a lot more besides.

Kinesis RTD against a wallThe RTD’s lightweight Scandium alloy frame is designed for riders just like me who spend long days on the bike, often with luggage attached. Kinesis have spent a lot of time developing their Scandium tubing, using a method of production that allows them to create lighter tubes and more intricate shapes, resulting in a lighter and stiffer frameset.

The RTD’s frame geometry has been tweaked to make it slightly more laid back than the Racelight, in order to provide all-day comfort, but not so relaxed that it compromises on speed.  The scandium frame is accompanied by the new Columbus Futura fork, a lightweight, 12 mm thru-axle, carbon monocoque fork that provides masses of clearance for a road bike, allowing up to 34c tyres, which is also drilled to take a full mudguard.

I’ve been riding my TK3 since 2013 for all of my long-distance events and audaxes and have always been very comfortable on it but during TCR no.5, on some of the sketchier road surfaces that we encountered, I felt limited by its inability to fit a wider tyre, especially with a mudguard fitted. This limitation became even more apparent to me earlier this year when I purchased my Tripster ATR which I primarily bought for riding gravel but, because of the ability to fit a wider tyre, I ended up touring on last year with 40c slicks fitted. However, despite a comfortable and really fun trip, it lacked the responsiveness of a road bike on the tarmac.   

Kinesis RTD at Beeley Moor
My current set-up on Beeley Moor – 30c tan wall Challenge tyres and full ‘Fend-Off’ mud guards.

For me, the RTD is the perfect solution – a light frame with endurance racing bike geometry, which is like a supercharged, updated version of my TK3, but with the capability to take a much wider tyre, providing a more comfortable ride and the versatility to tackle less-than-perfect road surfaces and the odd bit of gravel when required. I’ve found that it handles well on descents, feels light and responsive when climbing, accelerating and cornering. It feels very stable too, even when loaded up with bags – the perfect bike to ride endurance races like The Transcontinental Race on, which is exactly what Kinesis set out to create.

I’m currently riding my RTD with a 30c tyre and Kinesis Fend-Off full mudguards which is a great combination for a winter road set-up. I recently rode an audax in bad weather that featured a 1.5 km section of rough, puddle-filled, cinder track and while quite a few of my fellow riders stuttered and struggled along on their 25mm tyres, I just breezed on through on the RTD, soaking up the lumps and bumps of the rough surface without getting covered in mud – I might have been a little smug about it at the time.

Cyclist on dirt track
The odd dirt track poses little problem for the RTD.

I opted for a flared handlebar as I’ve has an issue with being able get down on the drops with a bar bag fitted on a conventional handlebar. The Ritchey Evomax bars are a good fit for me. I like a wide bar for stability and the flare enables me to get down onto the drops even when I have my large 14 litre bar bag fitted.

Aesthetics are important too and the attention to detail is another stand-out feature of the RTD for me. That striking monochrome paint job isn’t just eye-catching, it’s also functional. All the of black and striped areas are frame bag contact points, which allows me to protect the frame against rub with as much tape as I need without spoiling the overall look of the bike, whether the bags are on or off. The internal cable routing guides the cables through the head tube rather than the down tube which gives an overall cleaner look, and ensures that cables don’t hinder fitting bags to the frame. The frame also features three bottle mounts – essential on hot summer days in locations where amenities are sparse.

Kinesis RTD close-up

The RTD can be configured to run mechanically or with DI2, with a 1x or 2x set-up. I’ve gone for a Shimano Ultegra R8000 mechanical 11-speed drivetrain with a semi-compact chainset (52-36) and an 11-32 cassette. I chose to stay mechanical mainly because it’s one less thing to worry about needing to charge up if I’m riding in the middle of nowhere and get caught out, but that’s purely down to personal choice.

It’s also the first time that I’ve had hydraulic disc brakes on a road bike. Prior to riding the RTD, I’d often argue that I couldn’t see really see the need for disc brakes on a road bike, but I’m definitely a convert now. The Ultegra hydraulic disc brakes have great stopping power and modulation, especially in bad conditions. I’d describe myself as a nervous descender and a little too heavy on the brake, but on the RTD I’m definitely improving. My hands no longer feel like they’re about to seize up at the bottom of every long hill and I feel much more in control of the bike. This has given me the confidence to build up more speed on the descents and attack the corners.

Fitting good quality tyres also helps. The Challenge Strada Bianca tyres are, as you can probably tell by the name, made for the gravel roads of Italy but I have found them to be fast, lightweight and grippy on the road – a great all-round tyre that rolls really well and are comfortable too, so they’ll be staying on the bike for the rest of the winter and beyond. They’re hand-made and I have to admit that they’re not the easiest tyre to fit as they’re almost flat when they arrive in the box – it took three of us in the workshop to wrestle them on. However, they feature a puncture protection strip which has been doing it’s job very well so far, so I can’t tell you yet how easy they are to get on and off after being sat on the rim for a while but I’m hoping that they’ll have stretched a bit by now.

If I’m totally honest, when my RTD arrived, I didn’t see myself riding this shiny, new bike throughout the winter months. I expected to do a couple of 200km audaxes on it just to see how it handled, then put it away until the spring and carry on riding all of my winter miles on my beloved old Racelight TK3 but I’m afraid that since I took delivery of the RTD my TK3 has been steadily gathering dust in the hall. In short, I’m hooked.

Aside from aiming to qualify for Paris-Brest-Paris, I’ve not made any further plans for my long-distance adventures in 2019, but you can be sure that wherever my plans take me, I’ll definitely be riding my RTD.

Kinesis RTD - descending Cressbrook
Descending Cressbrook. Photo: Roo Fowler – www.rupertfowler.co.uk

SPECIFICATION:

The Kinesis Race The Distance is available as a frameset and forks from your local Kinesis UK dealer or online through the Kinesis UK website. However, a bike is very much the sum of its parts, so here’s a breakdown of my RTD’s spec:  

Shimano Ultegra R8000 mechanical 11-speed drivetrain with hydraulic disc brakes:  52-36 / 11-32

Ritchey WCS Evomax flared handlebar (42mm)

Ritchey WCS 80mm stem

Ritchey WCS carbon seat post (27.2mm)

Fizik Luna X5 women’s specific saddle

Racelight RL700 disc wheels – will be swapping out the front HUB for an Exposure Revo Dynamo Hub

Shimano RT800 Ice Tech Freeza 140mm disc brake rotors

Challenge Strada Bianca Open Road 30mm tyres

Kinesis Fend-off mudguards

Ritchey WCS bar tape in black

Shimano XT SPD pedals

Lezyne water bottle cages x 3

Lezyne tool bidon

The Kinesis RTD
Photo: Roo Fowler – www.rupertfowler.co.uk

Bella Luna

I’ve been shying away from updating the blog for a while. Mainly because I’m feeling a bit guilty about not getting the rest of my Transcontinental experience down on paper yet. Riding it was hard enough but writing about riding it is proving to be even harder. So, I’m going to procrastinate a little longer and write about my new Fizik Luna saddle instead.

Luna_sml Lots of people have been asking me how I’ve been getting on with it and I can honestly say that I flippin’ love it.

I didn’t realise just how much I loved it until I got in the shower last Saturday night and now I feel the need to tell everyone how fantastic it is. So what happened in the shower on Saturday night that made me fall completely in love with my Luna? Well, nothing happened and that’s the point.

Let me put this into context. Last Saturday I rode a 200km audax and when I’ve had a long day on the bike, even if I’ve had a reasonably comfortable ride, it’s often when I jump the shower afterwards and the hot water hits that I notice if things are little sensitive in the saddle area. On this occasion though, nothing – no stinging, no redness, no chafing. In fact, my bum didn’t really feel like it had been sat on a bike at all, never mind for 10 hours.

And it dawned on me that since I started riding with the Luna just over a month ago, I’ve already ridden almost 1000km on it and I’ve hardly had cause to notice it, which is exactly how a good saddle ought to feel.

If you’ve read any of my previous posts you’ll know that last May I started riding with the Luna’s sportier companion, the Fizik Luce, on my Kinesis – the bike that I would be riding the TCR on. The Luce and I had a few teething troubles and it took me a long time to get comfortable with it on longer-distance rides. However, I kept persevering with it and rode the TCR on it without too much trouble. I did have some soreness, especially on my pressure points, but I kind of expected that I would’ve had that with any saddle after riding 220km a day for 20 consecutive days. So, overall I was pretty happy with the way that the Luce performed.

Luna_sml_2Fast Forward to this October, when I saw the new Luna previewed on the Extra stand at the Cycle Show. The Luna X5 has been designed primarily for off-road use but I could see straight away that this new design offered a different solution to the issues that I’d personally had with the Luce on rides of over 200km.

The narrow nose and front cutaway that I loved so much on the Luce are also present on the Luna but the angles on the wingtips are not as pronounced and the area under the sit bones offers more padding, so perfect for very long days (and nights).

Just like the Luce, the Luna comes in two different widths (I’m riding the regular) and comes in carbon and alloy versions. The alloy version weighs in at 255g, a mere 25g heavier than the Luce and well worth it for the extra comfort that I’ve experienced.

Although the Luna has been designed with female mountain bikers in mind, I think that ultra-endurance riders, who are often in the saddle for 12+ hours a day – whether on or off road – will definitely welcome the flexibility, support and extra comfort that this saddle provides.

I know that other people’s saddle recommendations should often be taken with a pinch of salt, as we’re all different shapes and sizes, but I really do love this saddle and for my requirements it’s spot-on. I’ve moved the Luce over to my summer road bike, which is where it is best suited and I’ll be riding on the Luna on all my long-distance adventures next year.

Now I’m looking forward to my long days in saddle even more than usual. I might even spend a bit more time on some of that gravel that I’ve developed such a liking for and I’m sure the Luna will be up for it too.

 

Are you sitting comfortably?

 

For most of my cycling life I’ve ridden a bloke’s bike with a bloke’s saddle but that changed  back in 2014 when I tried out a Fizik Arione Donna saddle. All of the previous women’s-specific saddles I’d tried were either too wide at the nose and too padded at the rear for my liking but the Arione Donna was based on Fizik’s men’s race saddle, the Arione. It was stiff rather than spongy but it flexed instead, it wasn’t too wide and it had a channel down the centre to relieve soft tissue pressure. For the following three and a half years my Arione Donna and I did a lot of miles together – over 22,000 in fact – and we’d been fairly happy together.

However, in an ideal world, saddles need replacing every couple of years and I decided that before the TCR I should invest in a new one and get it worn in in good time.  So imagine my dismay when I learned that Fizik had discontinued the Arione Donna and replaced it with their new women’s specific Luce.

Fizik’s UK distributor, Extra, very kindly gave me a Luce (pronounced Loochay – Italian for ‘light’) to try out. Fizik have spent a lot of time developing and testing the Luce, consulting women riders of all types throughout the process and it is aimed at a much wider ‘all-round’ audience compared to the Arione Donna which was primarily aimed at the racing market.

IMG_0651

When the Luce arrived my initial thoughts were a little sceptical as the shape is quite a radical departure from the Arione Donna. The Luce comes in two different widths and I’d been sent a regular but it is still wider than the Arione Donna and has much more pronounced, angular ‘wing flexors’. It also has a narrow nose and a thin central cutaway area. However, I was pleased to see that the overall stiffness of the Luce is very much the same as the Arione and it is also very light, weighing in at 230g for the alloy version.

I fitted it to the bike and tried it out on indoor sessions for the first two weeks in order to make sure it was set up correctly before venturing out on a longer outdoor ride. Despite my reservations about the different shape my first impressions on a 100km ride were very positive. I was especially happy with the narrow nose and cutaway and I found that I didn’t need to keep repositioning myself very much at all to relieve soft tissue pressure toward the end of the ride.

After a few more successful shorter distance rides it was time to up the mileage. I had 300km and 200km back-to-back audaxes so this would give me the opportunity to try out the Luce on two consecutive long days in the saddle. As expected the first 100km were very comfortable, in fact the first 160km were, but beyond this distance I started to encounter a bit of soreness just under my bum cheeks where the very angular wing tips kept digging in. This slowly built up from a mild annoyance around 200km to full-on chafing at 300km and it wasn’t helped by the fact that the wing tips seemed to line up perfectly with where the pad was stitched into my bib shorts causing the stitching to rub against my skin.

The last 50km of the ride was a very wriggly affair as I squirmed around trying to prevent the tips from digging in and doing any further damage. Needless to say I was pretty disappointed to discover that the saddle that had been pretty much perfect for 160km was no longer fine at 300km, especially considering most of the riding I currently do is over 200km a day. I certainly wasn’t looking forward to getting back on it to ride another 200km in the morning.

The next day, a long shower, a liberal application of Doublebase cream and some fresh bib shorts made all the difference and getting back on board was nowhere near as bad I as I was expecting it to be. In fact I began to wonder if I’d imagined some of the pain as everything was feeling pretty comfortable in the rear end department. Again, all was good for around the first 160km and then the discomfort started to set in as those wingtips started to dig in. Thankfully, the ride was hillier than the previous day and that enabled me to spend a bit more time in and out of the saddle so things didn’t get quite as uncomfortable.

Since my long audax weekend I’ve spent a bit of time readjusting the saddle position slightly – I’ve moved it back on the rails by around 3mm and lowered it by 2mm – and have since been out on a few other 200km-plus rides but the pattern keeps repeating itself and I never manage to get much further than 160km before those angular wing tips get me squirming around to find a comfortable spot.

For me personally this really is a saddle of two halves. The nose and cutaway area is amazingly comfortable – much more comfortable than the Arione Donna was in this area –  but the Luce’s wide, angular wing tips at the rear are perhaps a little too wide for my sit bones. Although I’ve got fairly chunky thighs, my hips are on the narrower side compared with other women and I think that a narrower saddle, or at least one that sits within the confines of the pad on my bibshorts, would suit me better. I’ve tried numerous pairs of shorts with it and the edge of the pad always seems to line up with the edge of the wing tips. Unfortunately the Luce only comes in two fittings – regular and wide.

Maybe I’m expecting too much to find a saddle that is both light and comfortable over very long distances. A saddle that’s comfortable for 100 miles isn’t necessarily comfortable at 200 miles and because the majority of us don’t ride 200 miles in one sitting it’s probably not something that a saddle manufacturer takes into consideration too much – women’s saddles (and probably quite a few men’s) just aren’t designed to be ridden ultra-endurance distances.  I guess if I’d never have ridden on the Luce for more than 160 kms in one go then I too would still think that it’s a great ride.

In short, if you regularly ride distances less than 160km and / or you have wide sit bones then the Luce will probably be an excellent choice for you.

As for me and the TCR, it’s now less than a month away so I’m going to stick with the Luce and grin and bear it. I don’t have the time to try out another saddle at this late stage and the Luce’s front end is still so much more comfortable than my Arione so I’m not inclined to put my old saddle back on either – I’ll let you know how I get on.

Other Fizik Luce reviews:

Total Women’s Cycling

Bikerumor