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.
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.
The 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.
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.
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.
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.
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