Bike Review: Kestrel Bikes

“Thinking of buying a Kestrel Bike for your next big race? Read the review below and let us help you decide!”

Kestrel Talon Road Bike

Kestrel Talon road bike review

Kestrel Bikes – Kestrel Talon 105 Road Bike Review: Aerodynamic and Efficient Out on the road, the enemy of speed is aerodynamic drag

1. Straight-line aerodynamics. Yes, this bike is very fast on the flats and gentle rollers.
2. Cornering. Not a crit bike for sure, but carving down a mountain pass at 55mph it is steady & will go where you point it–thankfully!
3. Solid “feeling” bike. Inspires confidence.
4. Steady handling. Likes to go straight, so feel free to sit up and say, “look ma, no hands.”
5. Dressed up right, a very sexy bike.
6. Neither strength nor weakness, it has pretty average power-transfer. Depends on what you’re comparing it too.

Weaknesses: 1. Durability. The Talon on made it 3500 miles & 100,000 feet of climbing. The first 2000 miles were great. The next 1500 were Hell. I now know that micro-cracks were beginning to form inside the seat tube, allowing the seat post to slip down. The longer I rode it, the more cracks, the worse the slippage became. And yes, I actually use a torque wrench.
2. Advanced Sports now owns Kestrel. The lifetime frame warranty is now a huge pain. It took 4 warranties & over a year before finally getting them to replace the frame. They sent me a new binder bolt–useless. They sent me washers to space out the binder bolt, thinking I wasn’t getting enough torque. Useless. Now I know that micro-cracking is a known issue to them…they just hope that the warranty process becomes so frustrating that you just buy another bike–maybe a Fuji (another one of their brands.) Customer service is very poor and, at least in my town (of 1,000,000 people), no one carries Kestrel anymore. That should tell you something…when no one in a city this big and this cyclist friendly, with well over 2 dozen shops, will carry Kestrel, things have gotten pretty bad. Will Kestrel even be around in 10 years?
3. The bike is a bit heavy, even for an aero bike. But then again, a pound shouldn’t really matter if the bike is used as it is meant to be used–to slice through the wind (not to climb, not to constantly re-accelerate).
4. Great descender, not such a great climber, but again, that’s not it’s purpose.

Bottom Line:
“Reviews” of bikes that you’ve just bought are not reviews, they are initial impressions, and as such are useless to the consumer looking for objective information in order to make a wise choice. Just sharing how great your NEW bike is or feels doesn’t help others, which is the purpose of a review. In fact, the word review implies that you’re looking back on something you’ve had for a while. For long enough to fairly judge the product impartially.

My review is of the 06 Kestrel Talon, built as a road bike with DA7800 & various wheelsets, depending on the event. I’ve road raced, climbed plenty of mountains with it, done numerous centuries, and two 200k brevets on this bike. I have several bikes, however, so the miles are spread out over time.

From other ‘reviews’ I’ve read, let me say this: it all depends on where you’re coming from. From any aluminum bike, the Talon will feel smooth as though it just eats up the bumps. From a higher-end frame, however, the Talon is extremely harsh. Same thing with power transfer. Same with weight. Though heavy by today’s standards, it’s not actually ‘heavy’ and will feel feather light compared to most AL bikes. But again, it will feel heavy if you’ve ridden–I mean many miles–on a higher end carbon bike. So when you test ride bikes, keep in mind what you’re comparing the bike to, and what you SHOULD be comparing the bike to. You should compare the bike to what you want to do with it, not to your old ride.

That said, the conversation on geometry is pretty cut & dry. No, this bike is NOT made for long days in the saddle. Can you do it? Yes. I’ve done it many times. But if your goals include longer rides (like centuries and brevets of 2,3,600k, etc), then this is NOT the bike for you. It’s also too heavy to be a truly competitive road racer, nor does it handle or accelerate quickly enough for crits. If you like TTs, triathlons, longer road races where the pack opens up, the course is relatively flat, and sprinting is nill, then this IS a bike that would work. It’s all in the geometry. A 10-11cm head tube = shorter rides with a stronger core. A taller head tube, even a couple centimeters, allows for a more comfortable position on the bike = longer rides. Even a lot of pro teams are going to slightly ‘relaxed’ geometries. Research is showing what common sense should have told us, that comfort allows for longer durations of power output. The most aero position (i.e. short head tube) increases fatigue, reducing duration of power maintenance. In English, the longer you stay scrunched up, the short the distance you can cover, despite being more aero. So ride the Talon happily on your shorter rides. Race it if you want to. For the money, if they’ve fixed the seat tube problem, it is a good value. But don’t expect to finish a 110 mile road race or even ride and NOT be crying for your chiropractor or massage therapist.

But whoever said that this bike was being considered for RAAM is beyond hopeless. Did he mean the RT1000 with a 16cm headtube (as opposed to a 10-11cm Talon). Then yes. That bike was designed to be comfortable and ridden for hundreds of miles at a time. I’ve heard the RT1000 was ridden by team 4mil in the 2011 RAAM, tho I’m not sure. But people don’t ride the Talon long distances unless they have too (say, riding Ironman on a shoestring budget). Or unless they have something masochistic to prove–like me–as in, I know it’s uncomfortable but I can still do it!

In the next few weeks I’ll be getting a new Talon frame (free warranty after trying for over a year), probably a 2011 model if I judge the new company correctly. Hopefully the durability will have improved, but it will be quite some time before I’ll be able to speak to that. In the mean time, I’ll happily ride my heavy steel Surly or my flyweight comfy SuperSix. The Talon will take it’s place as a backup bike, or one to use occasionally just to mix things up.

I hope this review is more useful than the initial impressions given by new owners. And in case you’re wondering, yes, I used to sell bikes (including Kestrels, back when they were actually Kestrel), so I have a lot to say on the matter. Now I coach endurance riders, so, I have even more to say about the importance of FIT and of buying a bike that meets your needs/ambitions rather than ego or simply because it’s so much better than your last bike.

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