Pez gets a little help from Zipp, Easton and FSA to build a bike that this tester will never be worthy of ... ever.
I have to admit that when Kuota called and said "you have to ride the Kalibur!" what my ears chose to hear was "you have to stick yourself at lactate threshold and stay there till your liver comes out your ass."
Such is my enjoyment of the time trial.
But 'round that same time we nailed a set of Zipp's 909s and FSA had a one-off set of Prototype cranks that needed borrowing.
Add the horrible news that it would have Easton's Carbon Attack bars, combined with a critical mass of Vunder-parts meant that I couldn't say no (as if ...).
The Kalibur is a full carbon frame and fork built to cheat the wind, put your power into the wheels and do it on a diet.
And as is standard Kuota, it comes in three colors; Carbon, Karbone and Carbonelli.
Clear-coated sweetness that says "Here I am, naked for all the world and pretty sure you like me." Unlike most of the girls that have said that to me, the Kuota pulls it off without need for blinders, an address change, and years of abuse from my buddies.
Easton let us have a taste of their insanely nice all-carbon Attack bars and it was a perfect match. Typical of Easton, the Attack is, first and foremost, well-built.
For me, Easton Carbon parts have been dependable through the range, meaning I have never felt the need to baby an Easton product just because it's carbon.
The design feature I like next best (other than your ability to choose your own stem and build quality) are the little carbon wings that the forearm pads mount to.
They are like tiny spring boards that soak up shock by the ton while allowing good lateral adjustability.
Internal cable routing is another plus on the attacks (note: we left plenty of slop in the cables so that the lucky bastard that gets to keep the bike can trim them once he's fit). They also have sizing and group set options.
The cranks are something that you might see peeking into Eurobike (or on to a select Pro team bike), but these haven't been seen on anyone's test bench till now.
They are a working prototype version of FSA's K force crank, and are coupled with a not yet available "super" bottom bracket that features massive bearings pushed way to the outside, but no so far out that they whack your Q factor (they are still inside when you're done mounting it).
The cranks feature reinforced, Shimano-like, chain rings with a smooth outer and lots of tooling detail inside. Another interesting note is that FSA only used the checkerboard carbon material on the outside of the swing arms, but left its silky Pre-preg carbon fiber on the inside (noted with the yellow "1" on next page image).
Yellow "2" is a sweet little detail, on the bottom bracket and down tube section, of a reinforced area where a slight rib bulges out a bit in a spot where they wanted a bit more material.
That is at the bottom of the deep section down tube and rather than expand the entire area, Kuota just gives it a little tweak to get the job done for stiffness rather than bulk up too much.
Working your way up the down tube, Kuota actually dimples the surface a little with inset letters for the Kuota logo.
I should be a better photographer than I am to capture how cool it looks, but this is what you get.
The head tube is a slight barrel-shaped deal, and the top tube has a channel that runs its length for reinforcement and box-shaped design that wraps slightly around the head tube. It tapers as it goes back to the seat tube.
The seat tube is beautiful when left as plain carbon. It has a deep inset that follows the wheel form very tightly and ends in a very slick seat post.
It's hard to look past a very cool dimpled disk from Zipp. But taking it all in, the overall look of the Kalibur from the back is just plain slick.
The seat post is formed for the bike and has a firm frame clamping design and a very good seat clamp that adjusts well in small measures instead of being indexed. That's important for fitting.
Finishing off the back side are the stays. The seat stays are thin as the wind sees them and fat at the sides. Same for the chain stays.
Also note that the chain stays get a little bigger in the center for stability.
Down the road
OK, So picture a guy on this level of TT rig and that new "not yet available" Specialized TT helmet headed up the road.
Unless that person is cooking along at 30 MPH it's the single worst case of gear overkill imaginable (OK, so tossing in Mario's "skinless skin suit" could have made it worse).
I pretty much felt like only testing this stuff out between 1 and 3 in the morning to limit my chances of being spotted (while simultaneously toying with the not-so-cycling-friendly police in Paradise valley by slinging through stop signs on what would be a cyclo-stealth vehicle).
But I realized that in Phoenix, I could ride in 105-degree afternoon heat and not get spotted either, so I chose that. [Note: this article originally appeared in September 2004.]
The most interesting thing I felt, on a well-fit TT bike set up to perform like this one, is that there is a spot some place just north of 25mph that you feel like it's actually easier going faster (of course it's me, so holding it for some place south of 20 minutes was about it).
There was a little bit of wind each day, so there wasn't a constant speed that I could peg as the "magic number," but get into a rhythm and comfortable on the drops and whoosh the thing is just a freakin' breeze.
I would imagine that to be the case on lots of high end TT bikes with equal parts and good fit, but it's just been a while since I have forced myself into that position, and I have never come close to that feeling on other TT rigs even with much higher conditioning (and much lower age).
I can say that the Kalibur is a very comfortable bike to be on when you know that you're going to set your oven to "broil" and hammer at threshold. TT bikes usually have vibration damping as just about the last priority on the block, right after weight.
Not so the Kalibur, as even with the more vertical seat tube and fairly straightforward geometry, it was like scooting down a rubberized road. That was no doubt aided by Easton's little carbon wing pad platforms, as I got almost no vibration or jarring into my arms.
The stiffness is good on acceleration and that's aided by the low weight (and way high end wheels). The front end isn't the stiffest around on hard "out of the start house" charges, but there is a trade off to be had for very good overall comfort. And it is a very good climber for a TT bike (again helped by the weight).
I thought handling on the Kalibur would be its downfall. While it's not its strongest point, the Kalibur is on par with other TT bikes (which is to say that no pure TT bike handles very well compared to anything but another TT bike). It sounds like a knock but it isn't.
Where the Kalibur sings is at speed and that's where these bikes make their living. It stays very stable despite its low weight and I think the slightly flexy front makes for a little less twitchy handling as well.
As for low weight, Kuota has always been a player. They don't go overboard about it (as is evidenced in their high test scores for durability with the EFBE boys), but their bikes just seem to come out light and the Kalibur is no exception. The Kalibur scales in a little above 16, fully built. As TT bikes go, that's just nuts.
The closest cool-factor carbon TT frame in my book is Pinarello's Montello which costs more and adds almost 25% more weight, next is Colnago's C-45, also a little chubby. Both companies have Hot new super exotic TT machines for '05 though, so stay tuned.
Looking at photos of Pinarello's (really hot) not yet released new TT frame at Eurobike, and taking a peak at the Eddy Merckx new carbon road frame (also super-sweet), you have to draw comparisons to Kuota's Kalibur and Kredo. Not to say that two top-of-the-line brands wouldn't have gone with this formula on their own, but you gotta give brands like Kuota a wink for what they have been putting out over the past little while.
A while back we said that Kuota and a couple other companies are really putting pressure on better know brands to make changes that are more than simple cosmetics, and that is genuinely the case. The fact that some of the new guys are doing it at better prices is another bonus, as it's making some impressive bikes from big names more affordable. The big brands demand and get more money, and frankly they have earned it. But it's nice to see companies continue to push the envelope.
TT and Tri bikes usually wind up looking far better than they feel. All bikes should be properly fit to you, but none more so than a TT bike. I would like to see 6 sizes here instead of 4, but with Easton's Attack bars allowing you to pick a stem size and rise and Kuota having a pretty average seat angle for a TT position, chances are good for a fit with the Kalibur. That said, make no sacrifices in Fit with a TT bike. Not one.
Sounds funny, but makes sense that the bike that you'll be in the most consistent pain on needs to be comfortable.
The Kalibur isn't a bad price given that something like the Montello frame, fork and seat post alone sell for $9,500 at cool shop RAcycles.com, $9999.00 at Bikyle.com.
Spend $9,500 on the Kalibur and it will come with frame, fork, headset, seat post and a few other parts. Like for instance; a full Record build kit, Zipp 909 wheel set, Easton bars, FSA cranks (not the ones tested), a skin suit, helmet, Pedals, two sets of tires and a puppy (with shots!).
Pretty good deal, as the wife won't be mad at your new bike if you distract her with the puppy.
Yeah, you can spend less on other TT frames, but this one rides very well, fit me very well, and has heaps of ooooh and aaaah for money not typical of a carbon frame.
It will be interesting to see what happens to other people's TT prices over the next year
Want to chat with the Distributor? Check 'em out at EUROSPEK.
Charles Manantan, a self-proclaimed tech weenie, has been reviewing bicycles and accessories for www.pezcyclingnews.com for several years. Charles' written material has appeared in Bicycling Magazine and Cyclesport. For more of Charles' reviews or the total happenings at Pez, please check out Pez Cycling News.