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The Isaac Kaon is Isaac's entry level road offering - insomuch as a bike costing the better part of two grand can be called that. Mat's 'first look' gives you the whole technical lowdown on the bike, so I'll skip straight through to how it actually rides on the road.
You might notice from a couple of these photos that the Kaon's tubes are, well, oversized. Literally, these things are gigantic. I mean, the bottom bracket shell extends nearly all the way up to the 50T big ring for goodness sake.
The result is a front triangle that gives no quarter when aggressively manhandled. There's absolutely no detectable flex in the bottom bracket or the head tube area which combines with the fork to deliver tight, direct cornering.
Despite its entry level billing, the Kaon's geometry feels pretty racey - probably down to a shortish head tube and parallel 73 deg head and seat tube angles in the 58cm size tested. The result is a bike with 56mm of trail which is pretty much bang on the generally accepted 'best' compromise between stability and agility in a race bike.
Descending many of the steep and uneven roads up here in the Lakes, the Kaon inspired confidence when late braking and attacking off-camber hairpins. Credit here is also due to the 105 brakes which are brilliant and give nothing away to more expensive options in terms of power and predictability.
My only issue with the geometry is that I experienced a small amount of toe overlap when waiting at traffic lights. This should be conditioned with the disclaimer that I do tend to push the limits of bike geometry in this respect as I wear size 46 shoes with cleats slammed all the way back. While it didn't impact my riding in any way, riders with larger feet could experience more difficulties.
As with a lot of oversize tubed carbon bikes, the road feel is very much dampened, which results in an eerily quiet ride. In general, the faster you go, the better the damping qualities and the better the comfort. It's a pretty unique feel, vastly different to the springiness of steel or Ti, or the directness of aluminium, but it feels great when really pushing it.
In both looks and ride quality, the Kaon reminded me very much of the Giant Advanced 3 12 which is no small achievement. It may be Isaac's cheapest model, but the Kaon is a quality frame that deserves to be used as a basis for future upgrades.
Those who judge a bike by looking at the component spec will inevitably be disappointed with the Kaon. In a price segment where you can often find carbon bikes decked out with full Ultegra, the Kaon offers up the more modest 105 throughout, combined with Shimano's cheapest wheelset – the R500. Luckily though, the Kaon is much more than a collection of parts, it's a proper race bike and as such the price tag is more justified.
And the reality is that even though some will complain about the 105, it is nearly indistinguishable from Ultegra and even the top of the range Dura-Ace. Shifting is fast and smooth, and the brakes are still the industry benchmark in terms of power and modulation. Front shifting is a step down from Dura-Ace as the latter's brilliant composite outer chainring technology doesn't trickle down to the cheaper groups. If you're careful about not shifting under load however, then you can easily do without this. In fact, the only major difference apart from the weight is that the crankset is a pretty ugly piece if I'm to be honest.
Whilst on the subject of the crankset, the 58cm size tested came specced with 172.5mm crankarms which seems like an odd choice. Everyone I know who rides a 58cm is on 175mm cranks so this inclusion is a bit odd to say the least. Luckily, Isaac informs us that customers can choose to spec any length cranks they want, but it could catch some people out.
Unfortunately, the Kaon is only available with compact gearing which seems like such a shame for a frame so capable of being raced properly. The 11-28 cassette is another concession to the current trend for sportive-friendly bikes. Don't be fooled though, while the Kaon is most definitely capable of being ridden in this capacity, it also excels when being pushed hard during a race.
Onto the wheels and the real weakness in the Kaon's armoury. The R500s are a good, solid wheel that will stand up to abuse, but at close to 2kg, they really hold the frame back. A swap to some mid-range 1600g aluminium clinchers really improved the ride experience no end, and when paired with some race ready carbon tubular hoops (Reynolds Assaults for reference), the frame's true potential was unleashed.
The Schwalbe Durano S tyres on the other hand are a great all-round choice for riding and racing. Fast rolling and grippy in most conditions, they maybe lack a little in the puncture protection department but add to the Kaon's smooth riding character.
The finishing kit all comes courtesy of FSA and their more 'value' oriented product ranges. The FSA compact handlebar shape is a personal favourite of mine and other testers. The shallow drop and short reach make it very easy to set up the handlebar position as all the hand positions are quite close together. As a result, most people will find they can spend a lot more time in the drops than on a more aggressive bar where the difference between the hoods and drops is just too great.
The only real mark against the Vero bars is that they are a tad flexy when really pulling on them aggressively. However, unless you happen to be man 1 in the team sprint, this really isn't going to affect performance in any meaningful way and may in fact provide some additional shock absorption.
The seat post head is a similarly utilitarian aluminium number. The head is a 1 bolt affair which is simple to use and makes adjusting the saddle a breeze. The purchase on the saddle rails is rock solid and I never experienced any slip despite a few clumsy encounters with some potholes. A Selle Italia X1 completes the package with a shape similar to the ubiquitous SLR but a little flatter and with more padding.
'Entry level' top end bike that delivers an outstanding frame for the money and the ideal platform for future upgrades.
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Make and model: Isaac Kaon
Size tested: 58cm
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?
The Isaac copy for this bike is a real joy to read:
"I am the youngest creation of the Isaac program. I am a very attractive priced bike with a lot of advantages. Just like all the other carbon bikes I am based at the Isaac philosophy: because of using state of the art carbon and carbon most modern techniques it is possible to fabricate our frames with the highest efficiency and propulsion The carbon structure and the building of the frame is even more important than just a low weight bike with a very high stiffness. Combining of different types of carbon makes it possible to realize stiffness without losing comfort."
"I am Kaon and I am waiting to accelerate with you"
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Frame Technical Specifications
Headset: 1 1/8-1 1/4 Tapered
Seatpost: FSA SL-280 31.6mm
Fork: Isaac UD Monocoque
Group: 105 black
Crankset: 105 compact 34-50
Wheel set: Shimano R-500
Tires: Schwalbe Durano S
Saddle: Selle Italia X1 Flow
Handlebar tape: Trivio cork
Handlebar: FSA Vero Compact
Stem: FSA OS-190
It's difficult to really judge a carbon frame on construction quality, but the Kaon looked well put together and the paint and clearcoat was well done.
As a frame only, the Kaon would get a 9, but the heavy wheels and heavier component selection do make their presence felt whenever the road goes uphill.
The bike is running just as smoothly at the end of the test period as when I first put rubber to Tarmac.
Again, overall weight is really let down by the wheels and cheaper component spec. The frame stiffness does balance this to some extent there is no wasted power whatsoever.
A dampened ride that only gets better with speed. Some may complain of feeling "disconnected" but the reality is that the high frequency damping keeps you fresher longer into a ride.
Once again, frame only, the Kaon would be right up there but the spec isn't the most competitive at this price.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Everything about the frame.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
The heavy wheels.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes.
Would you consider buying the product? Yes.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes.
Age: 20 Height: 190cm Weight: 70kg
I usually ride: Giant TCR Advanced 2 My best bike is: Canyon Ultimate CF7
I've been riding for: Under 5 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, sportives, mtb,
For 5 years, racing was my life and I went all the way from a newbie bonking after 40 miles, to a full-timer plying my trade on the Belgian kermesse scene. Unfortunately, the pro dream wasn't meant to be and these days, you're more likely to find me bimbling about country lanes and sleeping in a bush on the side of the road.