For the last 5 years Marion has ridden a purple, steel and flat bar touring bike across continents,
to start out it was built with a Specialized carbon fork with Zertz inserts that were supposed to smooth the ride (They didn’t do much!) then later a crazy heavy Surly steel fork. The steel frame cost £50 on ebay, it was heavy, basic but to be fair served its ‘sentence’ until it started to fall apart on out last trip to the Balkans! It was time for an upgrade to something faster and more appropriate for the riding we do……
The new Kinesis Tipster AT is an intriguing bike. It doesn’t quite sit in any category. An all road, CX, gravel, rigid MTB and more. With the first shipment now in stores and available as a frame and fork only it’s fascinating to see how people will build theirs up. A suspect very few will copy Marion’s pretty unique take on the what the Tripster AT should be.
The Kinesis Tripster AT Frame
This is a lightweight Kinesium aluminium with Tripster AT full carbon fork. The frame takes up to 700x52mm tyres – that’s pretty massive! The fork is limited at an impressive 45mm. The frame also takes 650b wheels with up to 2″ tyre width too.
The details include inboard disc mounts, bolt through axles and slick internal cable routing. A 27.2mm seat post and tapered head tube.
You’ll notice the saddle seat post is only just out of the frame and looks too big maybe. However this is to let Marion fit the most bikepacking luggage possible, the size was stretched to a 54cm frame from the 51cm that she might have choosen on another bike. It works and gives her more options than on her old smaller bike.
Tibetan Budhist Mantra on the frame an optional extra:
What makes this bike and will surely see it be a success is that it is so flexible and well thought out. The extra bottle cage under the down tube – to the variable bottle cage position to clear a frame bag.
Then there is the style details with input from the great Mike Hall. A number of quirky graphic designs across the frame reflecting the style of the TCR and making it one of the most attractive bikes out there.
Or this on the down tube:
The most obvious choice that stands out on this build are the flat bars Marion has specc’d. The bike is marketed as drop bar and that was the obvious choice. However as trendy as drop bar gravel bikes are at the moment, Marion likes the comfort, control and riding position of flat bars and the choice of contact support when partnered with Ergon GP2 grips with micro bar ends. They aren’t hipster but this is about practicality. Drop bars allow you to get more aero and to stretch the position out but they compromise luggage space and control.
Kinesis carbon Strut bars cut down to 720mm with a 50mm stem is the cockpit choice. There is space for bar bags, snack pouches and the new Lezyne Super GPS we will be using. I’ve used these bars on my Enduro bike and they’re really strong, a hidden gem snuck away in the Kinesis range.
To accommodate drop bars it needed MTB gearing.
Shimano XT 2×11 shifters with a clutch rear mech still
Praxxis Zayante M30 32:48 crankset (Yes the XT shifter copes with this range!) Light weight strong cranks.
XT 11spd 11:36 cassette
This extends the range beyond a 1×11 setup so was the logical if less fashionable choice!
TRP Spyke cable pulled disc brakes.
Why cables? Well in the Balkans Ed’s SRAM Force Hydros stuck on and needed bleeding, maybe the altitude or the heat, who knows but this made us realise that mechanical brakes make more sense on remote trips.
Tracking down mechanical MTB pull ratio brakes would be hard these days, but as ever TRP can be relied on and the Spyke is a fantastic and hopefully reliable option. Paired with RWD pads and rotors. I particularly love the muck cover over the TRP Spyke caliper to keep debris from the pads – why don’t more brakes use these? I guess for heat dispersion on more powerful hydros, but still a neat touch.
Wheels and tyres
Kinesis Cross Light HD wheels.
– These have served Ed well after miles of abuse. These wheels feature brass rather than alu nipples so are stronger for rough gravel.
Continental Travel Contact in 700x42mm
-Served us well and puncture resistant tyres. They roll well, grip OK on gravel in a straight line but not too much grip however with the side lugs they corner well.
We liked the idea of tubeless Vee Tire Rails as these have really impressed us recently. However the temperatures are likely to get towards 40 degrees in the desert. The risk is that the sealant dries up and we’re left with minimal puncture resistance. We went with what we’ve used before on trip to this part of the world.
How does it ride?
Fast. I have to remember this is a gravel bike with 40mm tyres and not rail it like a fat tyre mountain bike off road. It tempts you into riding rough trails but the low weight lets it roll fast and climb well on tarmac.
The bars feel a bit too wide still and maybe need cut down to 700mm. The frame being designed for drops feels shorter when the flat bars are fitted but I have a larger size than I would normally ride which means it feels good still and maybe a slightly longer stem than the 50mm one might be fitted for the trip to Mongolia. The larger frame size means the seat post is only just out the frame but this means the frame fits a large 17l bar bag on the longer head tube and it means water bottles and a frame bag fit fine. Or I can use two 1.5l water bottles in the normal cages. The apidura 17l largest size saddle pack fits on with decent clearance, however it really needs a bit more seat post out of the frame to ensure a perfect fit. The shape of the classic series bags is OK but the dry series bags sit higher and don’t fit on as well. It would be a too tight on a 51cm but the 54cm is perfect. The stand over height is also still good despite me up sizing.
The full review will be here after we have hopefully ridden 1800km in Central Asia, the big question is how will it compare for comfort with the old steel touring bike……