Kinesis Racelight T2 review

It's almost a year since I was allowed to put a pair of pedals and Brooks B17 Standard saddle on to the Christmas present that was to become my winter trainer/commuter/club run/Audax bike.

So, belatedly perhaps, here is a Kinesis Racelight T2 2010 review.

kinesis_racelight_t2_2010_winter_bike_in_snow

Kinesis Racelight T2 2010: a winter training bike, amongst other things.

The Racelight T2 is sold at a RRP of £249.99 as a frame only, with Kinesis’s own aluminium fork available separately, or a carbon one for a further £70 or so. I’ve read a review in Cycling Plus that commented on the harshness of the ride with the aluminium fork. My bike has Dedacciai Black Rain carbon forks with mudguard eyes and I’ve never found them to be at all harsh. I have to confess that this is the only aluminum road bike I have ever ridden, so my comments should be read with that in mind.

kinesis_racelight_t2_2010_kitchen

With Tiagra rear derailleur and cassette before the pannier rack was fitted (23.5 lbs).

My wife bought me this 51cm-framed bike last Christmas. Most of the components came from a 54cm Ridgeback Horizon, minus the Ridgeback-branded parts that were swapped for reasonable quality equivalents. There was another saddle – and no pedals – when I picked up the bike on Christmas Eve last year. The whole thing – without pedals and replacement saddle – cost £610, which I think was a fair price. (Sticking with the confession theme, the bike was bought before I’d given it a test ride. Yes, I know…)

kinesis_racelight_t2_seat_tube

Excellent quality paintwork, but ugly welds compared to my 531 frames.

Another magazine review I read complained that the testers had trouble securing the seat post in to the bike’s seat tube, but I’ve had no problems. The collar that came with the bike was slackened off and tightened regularly when I would remove the seat post – with the saddle still attached – to treat my Brooks B17 with Proofide.

The Kinesis Racelight T2 2010 blackburn_ex1_near_dropouts

Those chunky, curvy seat stays certainly absorb road buzz, but can make the fitting of a rear rack a rather fiddly affair.

I wanted this bike to be a stopgap to take me through to last summer when I would get a Ridgeback Panorama. However, that never happened, in part because the Kinesis pretty much does everything I need it to do. Some reviewers have expressed concern about the near-racing geometry of the Kinesis T2, but it has never troubled me. My first ride, after the snow and ice finally cleared last winter, was of about 75 miles and – apart from the simple fact that I wasn’t really fit enough then – I had no trouble with the harshness of the ride. (It was also my first proper ride on Brooks B17 Standard saddle, so make of that what you will.)

Although the frame is pitched as an all-rounder, when it is sold as a complete bike it does tend to have race-specific gearing, and usually Shimano Tiagra-standard components or higher. But because I wanted this bike to do a number of things I changed the gearing to make it more suitable – basically lower. If, like me, you don’t push a really big gear and you want this bike to be appropriate to Audax-style rides, you might want to read about how I customised my cassette to give me a range of gears I could actually use.

kinesis_racelight_t2_deore_derailleur_sora_chainset

A mishmash of Shimano kit gives me exactly what I need for my budget:

Sora chainset and front mech; Deore rear mech; Tiagra/Deore cassette; and M324 MTB pedals.

Back to the Cycling Plus review and their suggestion that the bike would be fine for the commute or about fifteen miles before becoming uncomfortable. I have used the T2 to cycle to work – and to carry a laptop computer and other weighty gear – but I wouldn’t feel confident going on a long tour with the panniers heavily laden. I’ll keep my MTB for that, or maybe renovate my old Coventry Eagle Touristique. Instead I like to use a rack bag and my Altura Orkney handlebar bag for day rides. Presumably the reviewer for Cycling Plus was thinking about those aluminium forks when putting a limit on the bike’s mileage. I found the T2 ideal for a ride ten times that length when I cycled coast to coast one day last summer.

The only regular discomfort I’ve had is in my neck and across my shoulders. I put that down to being unfamiliar with the relatively low position I have the handlebars set to – I keep meaning to flip the fairly short-reach stem to see if that helps – which is actually lower in comparison to my other road bikes, in part because they both have larger frames. In any case, when I put together a number of decent rides the tightness in my neck and shoulders does go away. I only recently returned to serious cycling after an absence of many years, so I just need to get used to that unfamiliar position. (Or maybe in my mid-forties I should accept that I’m just not as flexible as I was in my twenties, and instead adopt a more upright position.)

kinesis_racelight_t2_puncture_road

It will take more weight, but this is about as much kit as I carry on my Kinesis Racelight T2.

Without rack and bar bags this is a lively and responsive ride. Having said that I am comparing it mainly to my Raleigh Road Ace, which itself can still shift after all these years. Unfortunately, I can’t push the high gears on that bike any more (actually, I’m not sure I ever could). The T2 is balanced enough to have safely carried me at speeds above 50mph earlier this year, although with hindsight I should probably have slowed down that day (it’s okay, my wife won’t read this). I’m happy that this is a frame worth the expense of fitting upgraded parts when the current entry-level kit wears out – I already have an Ultegra (English thread) bottom bracket ready and I hope to build a pair of wheels on Shimano 105 hubs – but they do the job for now.

I have finally got round to writing this post partly because the site was getting quite a few hits for Kinesis Racelight T2 review. If you are reading this because you are thinking of buying this frame, and I haven’t answered any questions you may have, please leave a comment and I’ll try to answer as best I can. Similarly, if there any required images of the T2 that aren’t shown here or on the Kinesis web site, let me know and I’ll try to help. In the meantime – and in the spirit of winter training bikes, and the practice of slinging them together from bits of stuff lying around – here is a random slideshow cobbled together from photographs I’ve taken over the past year [and later]:

Overall verdict:

performance
build quality
paintwork
value for money


Updated specification as at November 2015:

Chainset: Shimano Sora 105 (5703) 170mm 50/39/30
External bottom bracket cartridge: Shimano 105 (5700)
STIs: Shimano Sora 105 (5703)
Front Mech: Shimano Sora 105 (5703)
Rear Mech: Shimano Deore XT M772
Cassette: Shimano XT M771: 11*/13/15/17/19/21/23/26/30/34
(* replaced with 12T first position sprocket from a discarded Tiagra cassette)
Chain: Shimano HG53 Ultegra 6600
Pedals: Shimano M324 5700 SPD-SL
Brakes: Tektro 356 Dual Pivot silver Shimano BR650
Rims: Mavic Open Pro black 28 hole
Hubs: Shimano 105 (5700) Black
Spokes: Sapim double-butted stainless silver
Tyres: Continental Gatorskins 700x25c
Saddle: Brooks B17 Standard black
Seat Post: Black ITM 27.2mm unbranded carbon fibre 27.2mm
Bar: Unbranded black alloy
Stem: Black ITM Racer
Bar Tape: Black Cork Tape Specialized Phat handlebar tape
Headset: (hidden)
Seatclamp: Outland black alloy
Mudguard: Full Length 700c Silver Chromoplastic
Fork: Dedacciai Black Rain carbon forks with mudguard eyes
Pannier rack: Blackburn EX1
Bottle cages: Blackburn Comp

Kinesis Racelight T2 review

Kinesis Racelight T2 2010: the build as at November 2015

14 comments on “Kinesis Racelight T2 review”

  1. Patrick wrote:

    Good review Chris. A bike review is better after a year's use, when you've really got to know it and adjusted things to suit your needs. Is Kinesis Racelight T2 just the frame? I assume so. I'm sceptical of reports of 'harsh rides' or distance limits with particular forks or frame materials (aluminium versus steel). They tend to be subjective, not measurable, except perhaps with a heavily loaded bike. I reckon the tyres are the crucial factor.

    By the look of it your bar tops are roughly level with the saddle. That is my optimal comfort v performance rule of thumb and I'm over sixty. If not, yes, flip the stem. I did that. We bought our Panoramas from looking at the catalogue – no test ride. The same with my more recent bike. As long as the size is right.

    I know what you mean about the welds, and they always seem more pronounced on aluminium frames than on steel. My Giant frame has neater welds at the ends of the top tube and head tube than the BB and chainstays, but the ones on my son's lovely Specialized Secteur are the same as yours.

    Good luck with Arnie's new wheels!

  2. Hilary wrote:

    Great review Chris and I loved the slide show at the end. I'm glad to know Im not the only one who takes endless photos of their bike!
    I've not had much experience with aluminium framed bikes – I had a Giant FCR for a while which I didn't really get on with but that was for many reasons other than just the frame material. TIG welding is never going to look as good as a traditionally brazed frame but it does the job.
    I've seen pictures of a Kinesis Racelight with a blue and white frame that looks very pretty – but then I've got a thing about blue bikes! :)

  3. Alan wrote:

    Bike comfort is a complex thing: the frame, tyres and pressure, spoke tension, saddle and its position, bars and position — they all interact. From what I've read, aluminium or carbon fibre frames can be just as comfortable, or uncomfortable, as steel.

    And what is comfort? The most comfortable steed in my stable is a folder with squidgy tyres and rear suspension. It floats over potholes. But riding it is hard work: I could ride it all day without aches, but I'd get nowhere.

  4. Mary wrote:

    Hi Chris
    Great review, glad you enjoy your new machine, its a joy when its all comfortable. But a proper fitting bicycle is a hard thing to come by, as Alan says, the frame, saddle etc bars and cyclist position are all important. I now know the difference between a bike that fits me (my Hetchins is ACE, and a bike that simply does not! – I hate my Dolan winter bike – now for sale...)

    Love the look of this bicycle, it verges on the traditional and avoids all the garish paintwork that adorns many road bikes these days.

    :)

  5. Mary wrote:

    LOVED your slide show, it took me a moment to find out how to make it go, but your pictures are great!

    Dont bicycles look sad when they have a puncture... like they have let their riders down... :)

  6. Alan wrote:

    Mary wrote: Dont bicycles look sad when they have a puncture… like they have let their riders down…

    They do! When I saw the picture, I immediately wanted to rush in and help!

  7. Garry wrote:

    Agree totally with Patrick. This "harsh ride" that reviewers go on about in magazines, is all in their heads. All materials give the same ride. It's all in the tyres etc. This was tested some years ago when these "experts" were asked to ride bikes with covered up frames. None of them could tell what they were riding.
    I've a carbon fibre bike, two steel bikes and three aluminium bikes at the moment. I've also ridden a magnesium framed bike, and in steel have ridden pig iron, 501, 531, Vitus tubing, Columbus tubing and God knows what else. All felt the same to me!!
    Happy New Year everyone.

  8. Sven Felsby wrote:

    I ride a Kinesis T2, a Kinesis KR-510 and an old steel frame singlespeed. I would agree that "harsh rides" was due to other factors, but I use the same tyres and the singlespeed feels totally different – much more rough and unforgiving. But it's still fun to ride. If it isn't the frame, I don't know what it is...

  9. Chris wrote:

    Hi, Sven. I wonder if geometry could be a factor? Also, I have two old Reynolds 531 steel-framed bikes. When I was looking to get a new bike a guy in a shop tried to steer me away from steel. And because my old tourer was also rusty he said some technical stuff about the properties of steel and how they can lead to a less forgiving ride over time. I'm not sure about that claim. During my last big ride I felt some discomfort in my shoulders. I had carbon forks on that bike, and lower handlebars. But, hey. As you say, it's all fun.

  10. Sven Felsby wrote:

    Geometry, very likely, Chris. But maybe they are right when stating that carbon forks are more "comfortable". I really don't know.
    The SS: http://www.cyclofiend.com/ssg/2007/ssg077svenfelsby-0407.html

  11. Chris wrote:

    Tidy bike, Sven. I thought I recognised your name – I remember your T2 picture from the Kinesis web site some time ago, and I now see you've let them know about your KR-510. From time to time I think about getting a single speed bike – the immediate area near me is flat apart from a few bridges – but I'd struggle to convince Mrs Bailey that I need six bikes :sad:

    If you're are a fan of old-school Shimano 600 you may like to see some kit on my Raleigh Road Ace post.

  12. Sven Felsby wrote:

    First, I forgot to compliment you on your T2 build – nice to see that I'm not the only one using large sprockets! May I suggest you tried a Tubus pannier and saved a pound? 😉

    Oh, the Ralegh Road Ace post made me drool...

    I got my singlespeed frame from a bike dealer's scrap pile for 25 Euros, and collected the parts from sales and ebay. The most expensive part on the bike is the Mavic rims! Mrs. Bailey might appreciate a similar approach?

  13. Charlie wrote:

    Hi Chris, nice review! I hope the frame is still going strong nearly three years on! I'm torn between which size to get- a 51 or a 54 – and noticed that you have the 51! How tall are you please, if you don't mind me asking? I'm looking for a winter frame to replace my very compact spesh allez (size 52, with a 48 seat tube c-t – strange sizing). I'll also be doing Lands End to John o' Groats on the frame so will want a comfortable upright(ish) position – and I've heard the T2 has a long reach? Can this be remedied by using a flipped up short stem, like you mentioned doing? Cheers, Charlie

  14. Chris wrote:

    Hi, Charlie. I'm 5'8" with a 29 or 29.5 inch inside leg.

    The bike is still going strong. I added a pair of Shimano BR650 ('Ultegra') long reach brake calipers recently and I feel more confident when I need them most.

    I dare say you have already read that the T2 2010 frame puts the rider in a long an low position. I have got used to it – both of my older drop bar bike were too big for me and the position on my T2 is probably about the same. I understand that the 2013 model has a longer head tube, although I haven't spotted anything on the Kinesis web site about this. Here's something from the comments following a review on the road.cc web site from earlier this year:

    it looks like they've added about 25mm to the headtubes across the range now, which makes sense. My T2 is from the older stock and even with 25mm of stem spacers it's a sporty position. I have found it comfortable for long rides though its defintely more of a weekend tourer than an epic adventure bike.

    I don't know about the length of the top tube on 2013 models. If necessary you can fit a shorter stem, or one that is more angled, or both. (I can't say I've noticed any problems with toe overlap with the 51cm frame. Whether this is because I simply deal with it – or there is none – I do not know at the time of writing.) Best wishes – you can build a good bike around this frame.

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