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Kinesis R1 review

14 Oct 2020
Verdict:

A simple, versatile and highly effective single-ring all-rounder

Cyclist Rating: 
Price: 
£1500
For 
Well geared • Excellent comfort • All-year potential • Sprightly performance • Classy looks
Against 
Touch on the weighty side • Wide bars won’t suit everyone

Performance road cycling – most notably professional racing – has had a distinctly on/off relationship with single-chainring machines in recent years. But the Kinesis R1, equipped with just one 44T ring up front, allows this simple setup most typically seen on off-road bikes to shine.

'The R1 was introduced this year to complement the G2, which has been our very successful £1,500 ready-to-roll gravel bike,' explains Kinesis marketing manager Rory Hitchens.

'With the R1, we wanted another complete bike that was no-nonsense, lightweight and spritely to ride, with all-day comfort. And a bike that would handle in a well-mannered way when the roads turned nasty in winter.'

Kinesis has nailed that brief with the R1, a bike that packs enough performance to excite, more than ample comfort and a versatile setup that’s ready for almost anything the coming months will throw at us.

The single life

Single-ring setups on road bikes can get a bad rep, but here’s why I like them: they’re ridiculously simple to operate, even easier to maintain and offer a comparable spread of ratios to a standard two-ring arrangement (the biggest gear of 44-11 on the Kinesis R1 is roughly equivalent to 50-12, while its smallest gear of 44-42 isn’t far off a 34-32).

The one element of Sram’s 1x system with the capacity to irk is the large jump between gears. Thankfully, the Apex groupset deals with gear swaps slickly, and of course it’s all done from the right-hand lever, leaving your left hand to concentrate solely on the rear brake – although you will invariably attempt to change into the big ring at least once, only to find the fixed-pivot brake lever has no gear paddle attached…

Ready for anyone

The joy of the Kinesis R1 is its simplicity. It’s a plug-and-play road bike that will cosset newer riders as much as it will satisfy old hands.

'We are aiming this R1 at all-day riding, and quite possibly a person who’s buying their first decent road bike,' says Hitchens. 'This year, thanks to what’s being termed the "Covid bike boom", we’ve seen a new customer entering into cycling – one who’s been off the bike for a few years. We wanted to make them comfortable straight away.'

That side of the remit has been achieved, with the R1 providing a comfortable place to sit for hours. The voluminous 30mm tyres rolling beneath it offers better road grip than their knobbled profiles suggest too. With 70psi in the tubes they provide very good absorption of shocks and ripples in the road.

It’s not quite Sherman tank territory, but certainly armoured personnel carrier-like in the way it rolls over anything the tarmac can throw at you.

The aluminium frame also packs some zing – the straight-tubed frameset already looks delightful, but its performance belies the bike’s 9.37kg weight.

Ups and downs

When Hitchens refers to the Kinesis R1 as 'pacy rather than racy', he’s hit the nail on the head. There’s an injection of vim when you push hard, but this isn’t a bike you’ll find yourself haring into corners on.

Those sizeable jumps between gears are most evident when climbing local hills, but they’re fed back in urgently enough when heading down the other side on the descent.

Also, I didn’t feel the R1 was in need of a smaller ratio for hilly terrain; it’s well-geared for most eventualities. There’s plenty of leverage from the bars to get the bike turned and tracking its line through sweeping bends. And those handlebars are worth a second look.

At 440mm wide on the size M bike here, they initially seem too wide, especially when you consider there’s also a 10° flare to the ends of the drops.

Hitchens explains the thinking: 'Opting for a range of wider bar widths across the frame sizes was a conscious decision. Firstly, we think the person coming to this bike might already be used to wider MTB bars and will feel at home on a wide, flared bar, with more control in the drops.

'Secondly, the wider handlebar has capacity for bike packing, accommodating a bar bag, plus there’s plenty of room for handlebar furniture such as lights, GPS unit, phone bracket, even a bell…'

Versatility as standard

The Kinesis R1 has potential not just for year-round use, but also multi-terrain rides. The 30mm Schwalbe tyres (to be replaced by Continental Grand Sport race tyres on the R1 from February 2021) can be run with full winter mudguards – Kinesis Fend Off guards are £55 per pair – because the frame clearance will still accept tyres of up to 34mm.

Beyond this, continuing the no-nonsense approach of its stablemate, the gravel-ready Kinesis G2, the R1 could just as easily be equipped with a set of lightweight off-road tyres, such as the 33c Challenge Gravel Grinder which can be run tubeless, for blasts on local green lanes.

And if you’re really not sold on the idea of 1x, there’s a new Kinesis R2 arriving in 2021, wearing a twin-chainring Shimano Tiagra 4700 groupset.

But, take it from me, the single life has more than enough benefits to outweigh the perceived disadvantages.

The Kinesis R1 might not be a race-ready, turn-on-a-sixpence road rocket, but neither is it pretending to be. It’s a simple and effective introduction to road riding, a horizon-broadener, and it reminds me why I fell in love with cycling in the first place.

Spec

Frame Kinesis R1 double-butted 6061 alloy frame with full UD carbon fork 
Groupset Sram Apex
Brakes Sram Apex, hydraulic discs, 160mm front and rear
Chainset Sram Apex, 44T
Cassette Sram PG-1130, 11-42
Bars Kinesis 6061 alloy, 440mm
Stem Kinesis 6061 alloy, 90mm
Seatpost Kinesis 6061 alloy, 27.5mm
Saddle Selle Italia X3
Wheels Alex Rims Draw 1.9P, Schwalbe G-ONE Speed tyres, 700 x 30
Weight 9.37kg (size M)
Contact kinesisbikes.co.uk

All reviews are fully independent and no payments have been made by companies featured in reviews