By Tom Demerly
The Quintana Roo Kilo is the first ever production triathlon specific bike. For the 2011 model year the venerable, dependable Kilo is back with the same excellent, relaxed triathlon geometry built for comfort in the aerobar position. The new version has a few valid updates that make it better than any previous version for entry level triathletes.
No discussion of the Kilo is complete with a brief retrospective. Dan Empfield and Ralph Ray developed the steep seat tube angle bike- the triathlon bike, specifically for use with aerobars in the second half of the 1980’s. Empfield characterized the bike as “Designed from the handlebars back…”
The first production steep seat tube angle triathlon specific bike, the Quintana Roo Superform, was a handmade cro-moly frame with a wild paint scheme that was different on every bike. The bike used a very steep seat tube angle somewhere around 80 degrees. The bikes were hand built by Tom Teasdale in Iowa. Empfield and Ray discovered that a steeper seat tube angle opened the angle between the rider’s torso and femur bone in the aero posture. The result was a more relaxed, open posture when riding with aerobars.
“The result was a more relaxed, open posture when riding with aerobars.”
Innovator Boone Lennon of Scott Sports wrote the “sacred passage” that was the early Scott DH aerodynamic handlebar, but Empfield and Ray created the “Rosetta Stone” that made aerobars work with bicycles and athletes. Without Empfield’s original steep seat angle Quintana Roo Superform the aerobar would have not been as effective. Until the development of the Quintana Roo Superform athletes were slamming saddles forward on traditional road bikes and throwing off the handling by putting too much weight on the front wheel.
In the 1987 Ironman New Zealand Ray Browning used one of Empfield’s early Quintana Roo Superforms with considerable success. He had a 17 minute lead after the bike- much of it attributed to Empfield’s innovative Quintana Roo bike. A more detailed version of the account can be found here, authored by Dan Empfield himself: http://www.slowtwitch.com/mainheadings/features/superform.html
While the results with Quintana Roo bikes were stunning the reason why they worked may not have been fully understood until June of 2000 when Ian Garside and Dominic Doran published a university study popularly called “The Garside Study”. The Garside Study was a biomechanical test that put subjects on road bikes for a given duration while mounted on indoor trainers. Immediately following a time trial on road bikes they would transition, triathlon style, to a treadmill run. Garside and Doran recorded their times along with other metrics. The results strongly supported the theory that athletes were able to run faster after riding a steep seat tube angle bike like the Quintana Roo Superform and Kilo than after riding a road bike.
“The results strongly supported the theory that athletes were able to run faster after riding a steep seat tube angle bike.”
The early Quintana Roo Superform evolved into a more advanced bike called the Quintana Roo Kilo, named for its 2.2 pound, 1 kilogram frame weight. The bikes were elegant and advanced, with superb ride quality and the innovative Empfield geometry. Some early versions sported a vibrant green color scheme. In the first years of its development this reviewer raced on the Superform and the Kilo in several versions. The bikes were dependable and fast, comfortable and effective at facilitating the bike to run transition. The rest of the bike industry lagged behind until the release of the molded carbon fiber Kestrel KM40.
Quintana Roo changed hands and Empfield went on to develop and promote other technologies including triathlon media. He is now the owner and publisher of Slowtwitch.com and a member of the Triathlon Hall of Fame.
As Quintana Roo’s owners after Empfield, Hyde Athletic (Saucony Shoes), found it difficult to maintain QR, the American Bicycle Group, or “ABG,” bought Quintana Roo and combined distribution with Litespeed Bicycles in Ooltewah, Tennessee. Over the next few years, they infused much of the original innovative spirit from Empfield’s era back into Quintana Roo. That brings us to the current 2011 Quintana Roo Kilo, perhaps the only bike in triathlon that can claim a genuine historical legacy in our sport.
Historical relevance aside, the 2011 Quintana Roo Kilo is the same game-changer as the 1989 Kilo. The only difference is how it changes the game. The 2011 Quintana Roo Kilo leads the entry price point triathlon category with good frame design, solid entry level component spec and a re-designed frame with more comfortable, real-world geometry.
“A key upgrade to the 2011 Kilo is the taller head tube for better fit and position- for the way triathletes really ride.”
Beginning with the front of the bike Quintana Roo made a key upgrade to the 2011 Kilo. One of the things almost every triathlete- especially newer triathletes- do is raise their cockpits using a stack of headset spacers. A better solution would be to build in additional head tube height on the frame to improve front end stiffness, handling and overall comfort. It may even be more aerodynamic to add the height with the frame head tube than using an unattractive stack of head tube spacers. For 2011 every Quintana Roo Kilo frame size has a taller head tube. On the key frame size Medium the head tube has grown a whopping 4 centimeters from 9 centimeters to 13 centimeters- about the same number of spacers most riders would want on the older version. The Medium Large frame size goes from an 11.5 centimeter head tube up to an improved 16 centimeter head tube. The Large goes from 14.5 centimeters to 18 centimeters and the Extra Large grows from a 17.5 centimeter head tube to a new 20 centimeter head tube.
The benefits of the new front end are increased rider comfort, better positioning, easier fitting and better steering. There was no price increase with this improvement.
The Quintana Roo Kilo uses the original version of the aerodynamic, bladed carbon fiber fork that Empfield developed years ago- then called the “Carbonaero”. This is attached via a standard 1&1/8” head tube assembly to a conventional round head tube that is welded to an oval, horizontally oriented top tube and an airfoil shaped down tube. The entire main frame is AN6 heat treated aluminum tubing. The seat tube retains an aerodynamic shape but has a utilitarian round tube at the bottom bracket to facilitate an easy to use bolt-on derailleur clamp. Early QR Kilos used a brazed on front derailleur mount that was excellent but lacked the serviceability of the newer clamp styles. Seat stays on the frame are also airfoil shaped and the all-important chainstays use a Serotta-esque bend to add stiffness. The derailleur hanger is replaceable and the rear drop out screws are well designed and adjustable. Details on the frame include a dependable, replaceable seatpost binder nut assembly and easy to maintain external cable routing. In short, there are no mistakes on this bike. The frame even includes a pair of bolt-on water bottle mounts, something missing from a few $10K+ superbikes.
Component spec on the 2011 Quintana Roo Kilo is value oriented but dependable. The aerobars do not adjust for length but the elbow pads can be oriented a few centimeters fore and aft for tuning your position. The new version of the Profile aerobars has a pleasing and anatomically efficient ski bend for a neutral wrist angle and the bike uses excellent controls including original Shimano brand Dura-Ace bar end shifters and decent brake levers with a firm return spring. The stem is a nice CNC machined four bolt affair with a conventional front-plate clamp that makes flight casing this bike a breeze.
Wheel spec is utilitarian with a mystery-meat OEM (original equipment manufacturer) wheelset that wears the Quintana Roo brand, has a machined aluminum brake-track and is shod in an excellent pair of genuine Continental tires. This tire spec blows away other entry price point tri bikes. Since a pair of nice tires accounts for about 6% of the overall bike price this is significant.
The drivetrain is shifted by the Shimano Dura-Ace shifters and uses an FSA Omega compact crank with 50/34 chainrings and a 110 millimeter bolt pattern. The cranks send power to the genuine Shimano cogset using a Shimano brand chain. Your smallest cog is an 11 tooth balancing out the high end gearing on the compact crank.
Brakes are an alloy OEM caliper with black finish and barrel adjusters that work just fine. The saddle is a utilitarian if uninspired original equipment saddle that works but will likely turn into a John Cobb customer with one of the excellent Cobb cycling saddles- a worthy upgrade.
The complete bike sells for $1450, a very strong value that leads the (barely) sub-$1500 price category from rivals like Fuji and Felt.
A second version of the Kilo is the Chicquilo, a female-market specific bike with pink graphics and a smaller size run. The ratios of top tube to seat tube and the stack and reach on this bike are the same as the non-gender specific Kilo so the primary difference is available sizes and color scheme.
How does it ride? Well, if a person who owned a $10,000 molded carbon fiber aero triathlon bike with a full SRAM Red or Shimano Dura-Ace and Zipp wheels rode the stock Kilo they would feel a difference. The key question is, is that difference worth $8,550? The answer lies with how hard it is for you to earn the extra $8,550. Of course there is a difference- but there are more similarities than differences since the Quintana Roo Kilo delivers the key technologies that make a triathlon bike work.
I found ride quality on the newest version of the Kilo to be surprisingly good for an aluminum frame. The taller head tube makes the front end feel more solid and sure footed, steering feels better too. You don’t feel the bumps too much on this bike largely owing to the depth of the rims and the nice tires. Front shifting has been improved by going to the smaller 110 millimeter bolt circle compact crank. This is a bike worthy of an Ironman distance race. Since the key component to bicycle performance is bike fit and position you’ll likely be better off on a basic, dependable triathlon bike like the Quintana Roo Kilo than something more expensive that doesn’t fit as well and isn’t specifically suited for triathlons.
The Quintana Roo Kilo is an original and the latest version continues that legacy admirably. For the new triathlete or the triathlete upgrading from a road bike to a tri bike the Kilo is a category leader that has to be on your very short list.
The new 2011 Kilos will be available in late fall/winter 2010 as Quintana Roo rolls out their entire 2011 line. We’ve already ridden the bikes at a Quintana Roo demo here at TriSports.com (when we wrote and photographed this review) and will have them ready to ship and deliver during the next few weeks.