The Kinesis Racelight is considered the winter training bike by professionals and amateurs alike. Good, solid, double butted tubing in a racey geometry is how it got this image. In a new build for 2012, with Tiagra 10sp, R500 wheels, a carbon fork and FSA finishing kit, does the bike still hit the mark as a true all-rounder?
Let's begin with the weight. Including 'light' in a name is gutsy but the T2 warrants it at 9.5kg. We're not talking UCI rule-breaking here, but for a fully-specced everyday bike, it's an impressive figure (when I checked, my winter machine was 11.8kg). The svelte 7005 aluminium tubing is where the bulk of this weight saving is made and also makes for an attractive classic design in three colours: black, white and baby blue. It almost looks like a steel frame, but thought has gone into the material at the crucial points; large oval chainstays, bulky BB and tapered head-tube serve to limit any effects of aluminium fatigue and create a very solid ride.
The Racelight is still comfortable, thanks to the slim seat stays and carbon fork that our test mdel came with, which did a good job at removing road buzz, ensuring the bike was a pleasure to ride during even long stints in the saddle. The fork comes at an extra £70 on the alloy build – well worth it in my opinion. Both forks are curved to increase rake, ensuring the bike is not too twitchy - great if you've got a set of panniers on the back.
The bike comes with full-length mudguards, along with eyelets and tabs for panniers. Even with mudguards, clearance is still a strong point - although 25mm Kenda Kriterium tyres were included it's possible to go up to 28mm.
The reach on this bike is quite long ('race' in the name is the giveaway), and while I did find it comfortable, it is something to be considered if you are looking at this primarily as a tourer. Give it a ride to find your fit if you can. A long headtube does mean you can get the bars higher if you require.
The build list is a solid set of components, which should last a while and be cheap to service. Shimano's Tiagra groupset worked flawlessly during the test, with the 50-34 compact chainset and 28-tooth rear sprocket a nice helper around the hills of Bath. The hoods on Tiagra are of the older, larger Shimano style, providing a good base for your hands - ideal when they are bulked up in winter gloves. An FSA finishing kit includes a carbon seatpost, which helps take out a little bit more road buzz. Another good choice is more Shimano in the form of R500 wheels - just whack some more grease in the cones every few months.
The Racelight is an enjoyable ride up and down the hills, and didn't leave me wishing I was on my carbon race whippet. The frame ticks the comfortable, all-day ride box, and with the pannier mounts makes an excellent commuter or tourer. Just make sure you will be happy with the more 'athletic' frame sizing.
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Make and model: Kinesis Racelight T2 Tiagra
Size tested: 56cm
State the frame and fork material and method of construction. List the components used to build up the bike.
An aluminium frame with carbon fork (£70 extra over alloy one). Build list:
Chainset: Tiagra 10sp 172.5mm 50/34
STIs: Tiagra 10sp
Front Mech: Tiagra 10sp
Rear Mech: Tiagra 10sp
Cassette: Tiagra CS-4600 10sp 12-28
Chain: KMC Z-9000
Brakes: Tektro R-539 Black
Wheels: Shimano R500
Tyres: Kenda Kriterium 25c Black
Saddle: Selle San Marco 'Ponza Power Lux'
Seat Post: K-UK Alloy 27.2
Bar: FSA Vero Compact 31.8 420mm
Stem: FSA OS 190, 31.8, 100mm
Bar Tape: Black Cork
Headset: FSA Orbit
Seatclamp: Black Alloy Bolted 31.8
Mudguard: Full Length 700c Black Chromoplastic.
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?
Squarely aimed at racers looking for a Winter training bike, Kinesis are also trying to market it as a commuter/tourer.
It certainly hits the mark as a training bike and with pannier mounts it makes a great touring bike too - just make sure the geometry will suit.
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
Can't fault it really. I can appreciate the clean lines, whilst a bulked up BB and ovalised chainstays kept the bike solid.
The paint job is worth a comment too, two tone and well finished with painted, rather than stickered logos.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
7005 series aluminium for the frame with a 7075 alloy fork for £935 or DC07 carbon fork for £999
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
The frame geometry is where the bike gets the 'race' in its name with a longer reach than you might expect on the touring/commuting bike. The racey crouch can be remedied if necessary, thanks to a tall headtube and swapping the stem for something shorter with a little more angle.
Both forks include a bend to increase rake and slow down the steering of the bike. A nice feature when loaded up with panniers and generally steady riding.
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
As stated above, reach is more akin to a race bike but the height offers the opportunity to get the bars up if you need to.
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
I found the bike a joy to ride - I can see why it has been such a popular line. It achieves the old stiff but compliant task well. The carbon fork is defiantly worth the extra £70, providing a noticeable damping of road buzz.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
Yes in a word. A bulky BB ensures the aluminium doesn't move too much. Thin seatstays and a carbon seatpost combine the with the carbon fork to dampen the rough British roads.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
As above, it felt great for an aluminium bike with lesser spec Tiagra components.
Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so, was it a problem?
Not that I noticed, even with the full mudguards. Probably due to the large rake created by the curved fork.
How would you describe the steering? Was it lively, neutral or unresponsive? Neutral I'd say - just what you want from this kind of bike.
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
I personally found the 420mm bars a bit narrow for my liking, which negated some of the benefit of the longer wheelbase.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?
As above, the bad point for me was the 420mm bars - oddly narrow for a bike like this.
The good: a Selle San Marco saddle was inoffensive and I like the big grip of the Tiagra hoods.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's stiffness? would you recommend any changes?
A bulked-up BB area helped out with the stiffness. The R500 wheels perhaps left a little to be desired but you wouldn't really want anything more on this bike.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's efficiency? would you recommend any changes?
I'm not sure I'd want to change anything really. The Tiagra groupset is the perfect choice for a hard wearing, trusty bike.
The longer wheelbase does make it feel a bit sluggish off the gun.
Good, with a large rake.
Narrow 420mm felt a bit odd to me.
Surprising good, even kitted out with mudguards.
Can't fault the Tiagra.
Tiagra isn't aiding the bike's 'light' name.
Tell us some more about the drivetrain. Anything you particularly did or didn't like? Any components which didn't work well together?
Nice big hoods are ideal when your hands are covered in warming layers. The drivetrain was flawless for me.
As you want on this kind of bike
No punctures during testing, can't say much more than that.
Again, like Tiagra, these aren't keeping the weight down.
Cup and cone wheels are nice and easy to service and should go on for a long time.
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?
All worked well, can't see any fault with the choices.
Tell us some more about the controls. Any particularly good or bad components? How would the controls work for larger or smaller riders?
The big grips might be too cumbersome for small hands.
Anything else you want to say about the componentry? Comment on any other components (good or bad)
An FSA carbon seatpost reduces road buzz.
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes.
Would you consider buying the bike? Yes.
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes.
Age: 23 Height: 184cm Weight: 66kg
I usually ride: Orbea Onix (Carbon) - Summer, Orbea Asphalt (Alu) - Winter My best bike is: Orbea Alma G10
I've been riding for: Under 5 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Semi pro
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo cross, club rides, mtb,