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Kuota Kobalt review

8 Nov 2017
Verdict:

If you're after a first sportive bike, or are a strong rider looking to upgrade, the Kobalt is a belter of a bike

Cyclist Rating: 
Price: 
£1,899

Kuota claims the Kobalt to be ‘ideal for cyclists looking for the perfect sportive bike’, so we’ve high expectations.

Being the Italian firm’s entry-level carbon road bike, we’re interested to see just how good a bike at this price range can be with a decent set of wheels.

Often, they’re the first thing we’d upgrade, but the £1,899 built of our Kobalt test bike includes Mavic Cosmic Elite wheels as standard.

It’s also one of the first bikes we’ve tested with the new Shimano Ultegra groupset.

Frameset

The monocoque carbon frame’s gently sloping top tube is an endurance classic, tapering from a 140mm long head tube to sweep into flared, rounded-profile seatstays.

The oversized down tube hints at ample stiffness, while deep-section chainstays suggest big power inputs will easily be translated to the rear wheel.

Internal cable routing allows electronic groupset wires should you want to upgrade further down the line.

Although our test bike is rolling on 23c rubber, Kuota claims the frame has clearance for up to 28c.

The Kobalt’s frameset also employs differing fibre lay-up depending on its size, to create a bike that’s as well tailored to its rider as possible.

Although pitched firmly at the sportive rider, the measured steering geometry hints at a sharper tool than you’d expect, with a head angle of 73.7° very firmly in the race bike category.

Allied to a short wheelbase of 973mm, this makes for an entertaining ride, although it does possess a certain amount of stability to temper its otherwise keen-to-corner nature.

Groupset

Shimano’s new-for-2017 Ultegra R8000 kit is showcased on this bike. Girder-like cranks and more aero brake callipers are the highlights, along with new ergonomics to the brake hoods and a larger shift paddle on the levers.

An 11-32 cassette provides a whopping range of gears, while the 50/34 compact chainset means you’ll never struggle for a gear on even the most testing climb.

Finishing kit

Alloy Deda kit is used for the 120mm stem and 400mm handlebars, which provide a good fit for our 5ft 9 build.

Deda’s alloy seatpost provides enough damping to isolate your chamois area from road vibes, while the San Marco Concor saddle is a welcome place to perch for hours on end.

Wheels

Mavic’s Cosmic Elite wheelset costs £370 to buy separately, so to find these semi-aero alloy hoops on this bike at just a £200 premium over the standard Shimano RS010 wheels is a bonus.

Sealed cartridge bearings are maintenance-free, and the 20-spoke set-up on the rear wheel is arranged in such a way as to counter forces on the drive side.

The Cosmics wear Mavic’s own Yksion Elite rubber – we’ve never totally gelled with these tyres, mainly owing to concerns over wet-weather performance, but their rolling resistance feels low, and Mavic claim a respectable weight of 205g each.

On the road

This bike is one of those rare few that seems to gel perfectly from the off. Kuota has put a lot of thought into fit – a necessity given that the Kobalt is available in a wide range of frame sizes, from XXS (45) to XXL (61) – and our size S model was immediately familiar in its comfortable reach to the bars.

At thie same time, we also immediately felt assured that its steering geometry could be more than up for some eager cornering.

First impressions prove well founded as the Kobalt tips into the first corner of our test loop on fresh tyres with a willingness that almost takes us by surprise.

Note: do not attempt to carve downhill on box-fresh tyres if you can help it… Considering that a shot across the bows, we spent the following hour coaxing the Kuota round turns to get the tyres scrubbed in, and instead of aiming for every apex concentrated on revelling in the comfort of this package.

Despite an undeniably stiff set-up, the bike has more than enough about it to keep harsh road buzz from the contact points, and the set-up of the front end – with perfectly proportioned bar and stem – keep our hands in an ideal position to negotiate narrow back roads, and with enough immediacy of steering input to swerve the worst of the potholes.

When the going gets rolling, the impressive pick-up of speed is noticeable, aided by tyres that excel in a straight line and wheels that are eager to spin up.

In the bigger gears it’s possible to get some serious power down, and progress becomes as rapid as lungs and legs will allow.

Faced with an uphill section of our loop, the Kobalt dispatches short climbs in the big ring – its relatively low weight and the way in which this bike can be levered from side to side adds climbing to its skill-set.

By the second half of our ride, the tyres are ready for some committed cornering action, and we’ve no significant grumbles about comfort.

This is a stiff bike, however, so you need to expect a certain amount of vibration on rougher roads.

Get it on a smooth stretch of road, however, and the feeling of connection to the tarmac compels you to lay down some serious wattage.

Handling

We knew it was coming, but the way in which this bike attacks corners will be a massive plus point for quicker sportivists, and even those of us who just like a fast ride (no matter what tempo we originally went out to achieve).

The combination of a racy, 73.7° head angle and a measured seat angle of 74.6° cants the rider over the front end of the bike, into a position that really allows you to attack the road, with a riding position that’s good for hours of riding on the hoods, or for head down, on-the-drops action.

Downhill sweepers are dispatched merrily, with the new Ultegra brakes instantly delivering sharp performance if you pull a big handful of lever, while the measured way in which they knock off speed in smaller increments on the approach to corners is truly excellent.

The bike’s fairly lengthy bottom bracket drop contributes to a slightly lower centre of gravity; combine this with even the confidence provided by 23c Mavic rubber, and you’ve a recipe for fast, comfortable progress through turns.

There’s no doubting this bike supplies a remarkable level of performance for the money. If you’re looking for a first bike for long rides that won't break the bank, or are a strong rider looking to upgrade, this is a belter of a bike.

Ratings

Frame: Instantly comfortably, with sporty geometry. 8/10
Components: We're plenty impressed with Shimano's latest Ultegra. 8/10 
Wheels: Mavic Cosmic Elite are a cut above cheaper wheels. 8/10 
The Ride: Fast and agile but also comfortable to go with it. 9/10

Verdict

Delivers remarkable performance for the money. If you’re looking for a first bike for long rides that won't break the bank, or are a strong rider looking to upgrade, this is a belter of a bike

Geometry

Claimed Measured
Top Tube (TT) 533.8mm 531mm
Seat Tube (ST) 469mm 469mm
Down Tube (DT) N/A 612mm
Fork Length (FL) N/A 372mm
Head Tube (HT) 140mm 140mm
Head Angle (HA) 72.8 73.7
Seat Angle (SA) 74.2 74.6
Wheelbase (WB) 973.5mm 973mm
BB drop (BB) 72mm 69mm

Spec

Kuota Kobalt
Frame Carbon frame and fork
Groupset Shimano Ultegra R8000
Brakes Shimano Ultegra R8000
Chainset Shimano Ultegra R8000, 50/34
Cassette Shimano Ultegra R8000, 11-28
Bars Deda RHM02, alloy
Stem Deda 02, alloy
Seatpost Deda RSx01, 27.2mm
Wheels Mavic Cosmic Elite
Saddle San Marco Concor
Weight 7.68kg (size S)
Contact dhwagencies.com

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