By Tom Demerly.
Given the number of new athletes coming into triathlon and the economy putting pressure on bike prices the 2012 Kilo C is one of the most important bikes in our industry.
“Bottom line: This is the most tri bike for the least money”
It’s easy to argue that Quintana Roo got the 2012 Kilo C, the newest version of the venerable Kilo, very right. It is a strong convergence of value and features with proven Dan Empfield innovated Quintana Roo frame geometry.
The Kilo is an evolution of the earliest triathlon bike. The first widely available tri bike was Quintana Roo’s Superform. This became the Kilo, originally named for its 2.2 pound, one kilogram frame weight- an impressive figure for a bike in the late 1980”s. The kilo later spun off the Tequilo model and other female specific models. Interestingly, Quintana Roo started as a female-only bike brand before the Superform was innovated by Dan Empfield and Ralph Ray.
Other bike brands learned the benefits of a steeper seat tube angle, longer front/center and more stable front end. The frame geometry ideas of the Quintana Roo Superform/Kilo family, the angles of the frame that help influence how the bike feels, spread across brands. Now Empfield’s triathlon frame geometry is the de facto for brands like Cervelo, Felt, Trek, Specialized and others. Empfield’s innovations have since earned him a spot in the Triathlon Hall of Fame.
The benefits of a triathlon bike, as designed by Dan Empfield in the original Superform, Kilo and newest Kilo C are:
- More comfortable and relaxed, “open” angle between femur and torso.
- Designed from the aerobars back: Made for aero position.
- Better stability and easier/safer to ride in the aerobars.
- Better comfort since the weight of the torso is supported by the skeleton (humerus bone in the bicep area) and not a muscular contraction.
- Better run performance after cycling as documented by the Garside Study.
(Ian Garside, Dominic Doran, Journal of Sport Sciences, June, 2000)
Going from front to back on the new Kilo C we find two component gems right away: Genuine Shimano brand wheels rolling on Continental tires. That QR opted out of the mystery-meat original equipment wheel brands is admirable, as is the choice of the robust Continental tires. This wheel and tire combination will hold up to hours and miles of training and be dependable on race day. From the 1970’s any retro bike grouch will tell you tires and wheels are a key feature, and QR got the wheel and tire choice on Kilo C very right.
Another legacy, innovative product from Quintana Roo was the original carbon fiber, blade shaped, aerodynamic fork. Called the “Carbonaero” this fork was a $300 upgrade to high end bikes when Quintana Roo released it in the late ‘80’s early ‘90’s. The new Kilo C uses an updated version of the aerodynamic Carbonaero fork with an alloy steer tube and carbon fiber legs. This fork is good enough that nearly every tri bike for two decades used it or a knock-off of a similar design. It’s not light weight, but it is aerodynamic and provides nice steering in combination with the frame geometry.
Few bike specs are entirely perfect and, if QR made a single slip on the new Kilo C, they picked a common place to do it. The brake calipers on this bike are mystery meat. They use a one piece molded pad. I would prefer a cartridge style pad that swaps pads easily to carbon specific pads when you buy race wheels (and this bike is absolutely worthy of race wheels).
The barrel adjuster on this brake caliper was difficult for me to adjust and the quick release is plastic. It looks and feels… cheap. It does stop better than it looks and holds adjustment well. A bonus is pad height adjustment. These calipers have a very wide range of pad height adjustment. If QR went economy class on the calipers they gave us a business class upgrade on the new brake levers. The old Dia-Compe 188 is finally dead. The new brake lever feels and returns better than the old 188’s, the rudimentary brake lever on early QR Kilos. It also has a nice black finish. The brake ensemble works well on the Kilo C, even if the calipers are uninspiring.
The cockpit is an alloy Profile ski bend aerobar that is lightweight due to minimal hardware but lacks adjustment other than elbow pads. This isn’t a problem since the elbow pads conveniently adjust fore/aft in about 1 cm increments. Between the stem and elbow pads you’ll be able to get your cockpit where you need it for most riders.
The gem of the bike is the carbon frameset. All the carbon fiber benefits apply: Carbon fiber is “anisotropic” or transmits energy differently in different directions. Metal alloys like aluminum are “isotropic” and transmit energy the same in all directions. Carbon provides a softer ride with more aerodynamic shapes but with a stiffer bottom bracket and is more durable than aluminum, cro-moly and even titanium. Every bike at the top of the Ironman series and the Tour de France- every one- is carbon fiber. There are few things you can make such a sweeping generalization about in the bike industry, but the trends and the engineering reinforce the argument that carbon fiber is just plain better than aluminum.
“Carbon fiber is a softer ride, more aerodynamic shapes, a stiffer bottom bracket and is more durable than aluminum, cro-moly and even titanium.”
The frame is long on hydration options since there are two sets of bottle mounts on the frame. You can use conventional cages, behind the saddle cage systems and aerobar systems in addition to the frame mounts.
Cable routing on this bike uses housing the entire length, a boon for triathletes who are notorious for poor maintenance and cleaning. The frame/fork package won’t be a star on the weight-weenies forum but let’s keep this in perspective; the bike is well below $2000 at $1799.99 MSRP.
“It isn’t just carbon fiber that makes this frame great. It’s also the geometry.”
A key feature on any triathlon bike is where you can locate the saddle: What is the range of effective seat angles you can achieve? True to Empfield’s original design philosophy you can go to 80 degrees effective seat tube angle on the QR Kilo C, meaning you will have a very comfortable position with an open angle between the femur and torso. More people will be more comfortable and likely run better off this frame geometry. It isn’t just the carbon fiber that makes this frame great. It’s also the geometry.
Saddle itself is a triathlon specific, nose padded saddle that feels darn good. If you use good cycling shorts while training and have a good bike fit you won’t need to play musical saddles.
Speaking of geometry the Kilo C comes in “T-Shirt” sizes for frame size names; Extra Small, Small, Medium and Large. The key metric in this opaque sizing nomenclature is the length of the top tube– which is related to the length of your torso. I am 5’9” tall with an 80 cm inseam and ride a 72 cm saddle height. I’d be on the size “Medium” with a 52cm top tube and a 110 mm or 120 mm stem since I have a long torso and sit at 81 degrees effective seat tube angle. Head tube height on the bikes is the new Quintana Roo set-up that is slightly taller for better comfort and aerodynamics. As you read QR’s geometry chart the center to top seat tube measurement will sound very high because of the seat mast. QR did a nice job of including a lot of possible fit coordinates in only four sizes.
The drivetrain on the Kilo C zigs when many bike brands zagged. This is a SRAM drivetrain using their 1 to 1 pull ratio shifters and derailleurs. The benefit is dependable shifting, minimal maintenance. SRAM drivetrains are fully cross-compatible from component level to component level. The crankset is an alloy FSA Omega that tracks with the current trend toward shorter cranks since our size Medium came with a 170 mm crankset turning compact 50/34 chainrings. And speaking of chainrings, these are stiff, machined FSA chainrings that turn an FSA chain and produce nice front shifting from small ring up to big. Power goes to the rear wheel through a 10 speed Shimano 11-26 cogset. The guys who spec out the drivetrain for QR didn’t miss a beat here. This is the best drivetrain you could have put on the bike at this price.
The best “sell” on this bike is to let someone ride it for a half hour then have them guess the price. Most people will peg the new Kilo C around the $2500 price tag. That guess is about $700 north of the actual price. The ride quality and component feel is not entry level. It fits, rides, shifts and brakes like a more expensive bike. The two primary impressions are great ride quality and beginner-level stability. The two hold-backs are corollary to the benefits: The bike is heavy and it doesn’t have nimble cornering. Neither of these things are an issue to the first time buyer. If anything the stable handling is a big boon for new aerobar users. On the flats the weight makes little difference and most entry level triathletes can save weight on the bike more readily by training more and eating less than by spending more on a lighter bike.
Quintana Roo’s Kilo is the bike that started it all and the newest version, the 2012 Kilo C at $1799.99 MSRP is the best yet successor to the long lineage of tri bikes from QR. Quintana Roo has never done it better than on the new Kilo C for 2012. Most importantly it gives the new triathlete a truly great tri-specific training and racing tool that provides a performance advantage for the cost of an entry level road bike they’d need to upgrade as they become more involved in the sport. That may be the greatest value in the new Kilo C.