The Kinesis TK3 seems to have been one of the hottest bikes to hit the UK market in the last 6 months, with a great deal of press coverage and interest. The first few shipments have sold out so fast it’s been almost impossible to get hold of possibly adding to interest levels as this isn’t what you’d typically expect for a “winter” frame. I’ve now ridden over 500miles on mine and thought it was time to share some of my thoughts on the bike.
It may seem amazing that a “winter” bike should generate so much interest, especially when the general advice here in the UK is that you should “just get an old nail that you can thrash through the worst of the weather so that getting back on your good bike will be a huge step up”.
That view doesn’t work for me and never has. I’m fortunate in that I have some great summer bikes and I don’t want to ride an old nail in the winter. It’s hard enough making yourself get out during the winter and I don’t want to hate the bike as well as the weather.
Fundamentally Kinesis have always brought the same view to their “winter” frames – why would you ride something nasty – where’s the fun in that …. and actually you don’t need to. If you have a race bike or like to ride fast in the summer, why should you sacrifice all of the fun of that when the weather goes against you? I’m certainly completely on board with this logic.
When you consider the TK3’s pricing £550 for frame, fork, headset and seatclamp, you should also be able to see as I did that the cost of building a really good “winter” bike need not be extortionate. I had most of the components I needed for the build already in my garage and ultimately only really needed to buy new mechs, a chain and a bottom bracket. This is a classic approach to building a Kinesis Racelight – a new frameset, some old parts and some new. However if you want you can buy a full Tiagra 10 speed build via Kinesis for £1170, which is just over the magic thousand pound mark and frankly it’s a lot of bike for the money as I’ll try to explain.
When I collected my TK3 from Upgrade Bikes in early December, Dom Mason, the designer of the frame said to me that thanks to new tapered fork the TK3 is now really a 4 seasons race bike rather than “just” a winter bike.
Now that I’ve ridden over 500miles on the bike, the funny thing is that my views on it haven’t changed from the first ride in mid-December. Right from the first few kilometres the TK3 felt, light, lively, responsive and like a race bike. 500miles later it still feels like that on every ride to me. It has a lively quality that I’ve not experienced before in an aluminium bike and it’s a “chatty” companion out on the road giving lots of feedback from the road but that’s far from a negative, it’s part of the liveliness of the bike.
It responds well when you push on, it climbs and descends well, it’s fine to ride fast or to cruise along chatting to your riding buddies and I was still very happy after 4 hours on it during a recent 100km ride. The handling is good and the bike rides well enough that you can stop thinking about it and get on the with ride almost not noticing it being there.
The fundamental change and upgrade over the older TK2 is the change to the tapered fork and headtube. The new “Tracer 1.5” fork brings an extra level of stiffness to the front end but still takes long drop brakes. It’s here that the tremendous versatility of the TK3 (and good winter frames in general) comes through. I’m obviously running full length mudguards on the bike and these are a true joy for winter riding. As a rider I get so much less muck sprayed on me from the roads that my clothes and I stay clean and dry through some pretty bad road conditions. In fact, it’s usually just my overshoes that get muddy. Mudguards also protect my bike – it’s been a wet winter and riding with friends, their bikes have been filthy after 10km and my TK3 has been mostly clean after 100km.
Long drop brakes allow you to run bigger tyres as well as full guards and I’ve been running Continental GP 4 Seasons in 28mm, a first time for me. There’s no doubt that by “beefing up” the front end of the TK3 some comfort has been sacrificed for race bike performance, handing and feel and it’s fair to say from time to time I’ve felt this as I’ve hit big bumps or crossed very poor road surfaces but this is not an uncomfortable bike – it’s a stiff bike that’s lively. It feels like a race bike to ride but there’s also no question that 28mm tyres soften the edges off further and I think give you the best of both worlds. If you favour comfort over performance, you can definitely still be very happy on a TK3 especially on 28mm tyres. The only down side of the 28mm width that I’ve noticed is that it can reduce the clearance within the mudguards for stones, etc. I’ve had a few ping about inside the mudguard that I didn’t have when I was riding with some 25mm GP 4 seasons. Mudguard alignment is a touch less forgiving with 28s as well.
It’s no surprise to me that the TK3 has made Road.cc’s top ten bikes of 2012. The Kinesis TK3 is a unique and high quality, affordable, all seasons race bike. Kinesis have delivered exactly what they say on their website – a true four seasons bike.
Having lived in Britain for a long time now and ridden in all weathers, I can’t imagine not having a bike like this in my stable. I absolutely believe that you need a good bike with full mudguards if not a great one. It’s also a very smart move by Kinesis to add the tapered fork and head tube to this bike. Modern race (and sportive) bikes are getting stiffer and in some cases less comfortable. As buyers many of us are looking for performance above all for our recreational riding as well as any racing. Cyclists are inherently competitive, whether that’s on a social ride with friends or on a race track.
However very few bikes can offer the race feel and performance of the TK3, with the enormous versatility afforded by the long drop brakes, full guards and even rack mounts. The reality of riding in Britain for me has been that you’re going to spend far more time on your all weather bike than your best bike, so it makes sense to make your all weather bike a really good one that you look forward to getting out and riding and don’t feel any pangs about “oh, not this bike again!”
Who should consider a TK3? Well I think there are several groups of riders that it makes most sense for: Anyone who races, should have a bike like this – in fact you could race one quite happily as well as train on it. The feel, handling and performance will likely give you a ride closer to your summer race bike than many other winter options. Friends at upgrade have told me several times that Kinesis Racelite frames are often owned by bike shop managers/owners and British pro-cyclists for winter training (and it’s true at my local bike shop).
If you’ve had an entry level road bike and are looking at taking a step up but aren’t able to or aren’t looking to have more than one road bike – this bike should be on your shortlist. It’s a great answer in that situation. When you get to the summer you could take the guards off but I’m not sure I’m going to bother and this bike would be at home on any sportive or commute.
I also think that for many riders myself included who have bought mid to high end summer bikes, you really need a great winter bike. You/I don’t want to take my best bike out and get crud all through a Dura Ace or Super Record drivetrain and you’d rather not ride than buy the traditional old nail. A Kinesis TK3 has a surprising amount of credibility out there as a fine bike and deservedly so – they are fine bikes and would make a terrific winter/wet weather foil to most mid to high end bikes.
Overall I think it’s a bike for someone who values performance, handling, liveliness and fun in their bike and wants to pay sensible money for it. The only person I don’t think it’s going to suit is someone looking for more of an armchair ride, who wants to total comfort over performance/responsiveness for say super long, low speed winter riding. In fact if you want more comfort, then check out the Kinesis T2, it’s cheaper still and doesn’t feature the tapered steerer/front end and quite the same tube shaping for stiffness and performance, so that might do the trick perfectly.
At £550 for frame, fork, headset I genuinely think this is a lot of bike for the money and I’ve been thoroughly enjoying mine. If the blue’s too loud or too blue for you, there’s also a really classy grey version that also looks terrific. Stock has been hard to come by as they’ve been that popular with shipments selling out in advance but more stock is due about now. If you’re keen you may want to pre-order via your local Kinesis dealer as I suspect this new shipment won’t hang about either. Don’t worry that we’re getting towards the end of winter – you’ll use it for a lot more of the year than you think.
My TK3 has become my go to bike for this time of the year, I don’t generally even think about getting my summer bikes (the non mudguard ones) out when I go to my garage. It’s a well designed, well made and finished frameset that can handle all the weather and the rider can throw at and comes back grinning for more. A TK3 is definitely a smart buy that’ll give you many thousands of miles of faithful and enthusiastic service.
I’ve not mentioned a lot about the technical details in this review as you can easily read them on the Kinesis website and I also commend Road.cc’s own excellent review of the bike to you.
My first look and build report was here:
My first thoughts when is was announced are here:
The Kinesis product pages are here:
The Road.cc review is here:
Thanks for reading