PezCycling News - What's Cool In Pro Cycling : Kuota’s KOM Gets Pimped and Tested

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Kuota’s KOM Gets Pimped and Tested
A few years back, PEZ ran what was pretty much the first review of a Kuota product in North America. We knew they were on to something with the Khan, but had no idea that Kuota would continue the new product push to the extent they have throughout their line.

Kuota brought curvy carbon full bikes to market long before companies that are now well known for sweeping style were still knocking out metal front ends with straight carbon chain stays. Kuota have also been rolling out forks with 1-1/8”x 1-1/4 steering tubes for more than 5 years… That you’ve not associated some of these things with Kuota is understandable as they’re still not a household name despite massive growth. They’ve not won a Tour yet (not that being associated with winning a Tour is a plus lately) or played the brief and silly game of “est” (light, stiff, harsh…) that seems popular with manufacturers right now. Kuota seem to focus more on advancing a complete bike than trying to market a niche, so the fact that you may have missed them doesn’t surprise me. But it would surprise me if you could miss this!

Click the thumbnail above for the Grande version


I’m fairly sure you’ve not seen this version available retail… In fact, unless you’re a maniacal moto fan, you wouldn’t do as I did and pony up the extra cash to get something like this rolling. I’ll also admit that asking you to look past the paint here may be difficult, so a weight weenie pal from Belgium (thanks Pieter) sent me his insanely pimped version to calm your eyes before talking about the bike, without loosing the least bit of bling…


lightweights, Clavicula, AX… Euroyummy

About The Bike

The frame it’s self is a carbon monocoque front triangle. That in and of it’s self sounds a lot like a lot of other frames, but this one’s a little different.

For starters, the KOM comes in lighter than most monocoques. In a size small, our tester rolls in @ 883 grams. That’s in the range of a couple of other superlights available, but the one’s you would more readily recognize are tube to tube construction rather than a monocoque. While tube to tube is building bikes that are arguably ahead of most monocoques in the stiffness to weight game, Kuota have simply upped the game with regard to monocoque construction. We’ll talk about the most recognizable difference later, but for now we’ll do a once over…

Up front, what has become a standard big fat head tube is set to house a fork that features Kuota’s long standing 1-1/8 to 1-1/4 flare. It just makes sense to have a big header now, as the down tube and top tubes have also grown and need something big to hold on to… And yeah, we had to Pez the Nokon Cables
and get some color in there…



The top tube is an inverted Reuleaux triangle (hell no I didn’t know that till today). What that means is an upside down triangle with rounded corners. That makes sense as the flat top resists side movement and the rounded part’s good with twist fighting…



The down tube is a bit of a square with rounded corners. This one’s function comes from its size and the shape allows for some of the increased overall volume of the tube where it mates with the head.



Of course the canned standard Bottom Bracket shot… And lots of folks make mention of the shape of the KOM’s bottom bracket having that interesting looking gusset like structure, then they show you the standard picture…



Big neat lump… But when I looked at this I thought “why would they want that there as it looks like it would reinforce vertical stiffness (meaning a harder ride). I pretty much knew that the Kuota guys design well, so I thought there needed to be a different angle, but others have reviewed the bike and only showed the “big side shot”.

From top down you get the point…



You’ll note the otherwise plain round seat tube flares out and takes much wider shape at the bottom, but you’ll also note that the gusset flares out as well, helping prevent the side flex at the BB which makes much more sense than the generic (“to help stiffening”) mentioned in other reviews that left off that there’s good stiffer and bad stiffer in bikes…

Also a plus for some people is that the KOM lets you use pretty much anyone’s crank set. In our case the improved and damn nice set up from Pulsion that not only looks insanely pimp… Note that Gold chain is a Yaban superlite that shifts VERY well and is also a product from PROMOLOGIC (as are Nokon cables).



The Pulsion set also feature a BB set up with some of the smoothest bearings we’ve ever seen that didn’t have Phil Wood stamped on em. They also don’t have a Q factor blown out to suite Rodeo cowboys which is a plus.



And althought standard Keo’s are a regular for us, this bike had to get the Look KEO HM Ti set up, as standard checker weave top and long fiber bottom, along with the red tail made these a “pimp-perative”…



Rolling back from the bottom bracket are the chain stays that get a side to side flex resisting fattening aptly called Kuota optimized lateral stiffness. One of my favorites here is the little crest at the mating point of stays and BB, but it’s also right here that I wonder if more meat could also be placed to resist side load as the stays thin down quite a bit. That said, this frame needs no more stiffness, and certainly not in exchange for lost comfort just to make up from some weak ass marketing guy who can’t sell anything but an “est” bike.



These roll back to a replaceable rear Der hanger that’s not found on some ultralight bikes but should be. Of course seeing this in a sea of bling might get passed you as the Nokon’s are added to a Tiso lock ring and pulley wheel.




And it’s hard not to pick up on the KCNC cassette from FairwheelBikes.com. This is a great upgrade (at a reasonable cost) from the very heavy stock cassette and it’s well thought out as it machines multiple cogs from a single block which greatly reduces the potential for damage to freehub bodies…



And when the freehub body is that of Zipp’s ultra pimped Zed Tech wheels. , you want to take care to treat things kindly lest you ding the bling.




One of the reasons you see Zipps on test bikes is the huge benefit of simply swapping a freehub body to go from Campy to SRAM (shimano) cassettes, but the reason you see em here is that they make a sick-quick 404 and can mate it with gold nipples, logos, and the pimp-dimp hubs.



We also held em on with new Ultralight QR’s from Tiso (that come in other colors and have a lever that actually lets you have lever-age…).

Moving up the block, we see that the seat stays also get a bit of beef to help prevent flex.



You’ll also note the carbon brakes from TRPbrakes.com. These things are very good stoppers, are not simply a cosmetic layer of carbon as some folks think, and should absolutely be considered for your next build above stock brakes.

And if you think there isn’t enough Gold we actually took a set of M5’s at the last minute…



You know someone in the bike pimping business bleeds bikes when they see a preview picture of this bike and send you off a set of very expensive brakes when they don’t represent the company and have nothing to gain… Groupe De Tete’s Lance Johnson’s words were “you have to HAVE these brakes on that bike”. There’s some passion…

Kuota add a teeny bit of tuner part to the KOM in their new post clamp, but that’s not what’s neat about this picture…



The notable part is that Kuota have graduated to a double relief in the seat clamp area. Two slots (above) ensure that the seat tube conforms to the post and spreads the load better that the single slot commonly used.

Out front, Kuota go with what looks like a very conservative box shaped fork…



But turn it round and you’ll notice that there’s more meat hidden hear than in Britney Spears pants…



The fork is a very good match for the bikes complete character and it’s what we would expect from a company that’s been making forks for years. In fact, it’s worth mention and makes sense that Kuota have their roots in forks as forks are one of those critical areas on bikes that some manufacturers simply won’t mess with and need to farm out. Kuota have been innovators with the difficult stuff for years so it’s no surprise they’re good at bikes…

Topping things off is the bar friendly stem from Ritchey (who also have a single bolt seat post now that ROCKS) as well as Kuota’s EXCEPTIONAL Katch bars mated to SRAM Force shifters. (yep, that’s several bikes in a row as I am now either spec-ing or mounting SRAM to anything I have an option to do so…)



The katch bars have a nice short reach and shallow drop and a pretty neutral bend, as well as a semi shaped top section that provides good surface area without being “too shapey”. Of course nobody notices the double tap shifters next to the double taped bars and big thanks goes to Matt Taberg for keeping me from cutting my own throat in frustration doing this kind of wrap with that kind of tape!

RIDE THE DAMN THING!

It might be a bit tough to look past all the bling, but at its heart, this is a very well thought bike that absolutely lets Kuota play in the ultra light bike class…



We mentioned near the start of the story that Kuota’s KOM has taken a next step with their version of the monocoque manufacturing process as it’s one of the few that play in the same park with tube to tube builds in weight and stiffness. That said, it’s not simply low weight with high stiffness that Kuota bring with the KOM.

Kuota fully expected to have a bike that would sacrifice a bit of comfort, just as its weight class mates do, as a result of the materials used and the focus on stiffness. But a benefit of the manufacturing process that allows for more directional fiber orientation in and through the joints has given this bike a fairly smooth ride as well.

Personally I expected what I am used to in this type of bike… Fantastic weight and responsiveness with a ride that was better than should be expected given the very high stiffness, but not absolutely smooth.

What I got was absolutely adequate stiffness and power transfer and a very light feel, but with a less edgy ride.

That smoothness makes this bike a joy not just for climbing, but for going for the longer haul as well. It’s not Khan smooth. It is close enough that it really blurs the line between “race focused but kicker” and some of the more comfortable (and 2-3 hundred gram heavier) high end all rounders.

The slightly less edgy feel is also a treat where higher speed handling is on tap. Having something light can mean something a bit jumpy and jittery too, but the KOM gives you a lot more confident, less hectic feel than some in its class.

The fork mates well with the frame and has no ugly twist but with the 72 degree head and 48 rake the fork is working a little front to back in soaking up some buzz.

While the relaxed front end isn’t generally what I spec, but mated to something this light, the handling isn’t sluggish. The frame is stiff enough that even in high speed turning it’s not loading up and the fork doesn’t get wonky so your input is direct and that answers my handling questions well in the saddle.

The bottom end acts like it looks, solid… Today’s bikes at this level are great for the most part and the KOM is certainly not wanting for more drive stiffness. The KOM is at home in a standing climb but strap on some deep section hoops and it’s happy on the flats too…

All in all, this is a light weight bike that gives you race ready stiffness but in a package that tunes out some of the harshness associated with it.

As to what you think about the looks… Hey, this was my extra dollars flying north to get something that I wanted. Kuota are no strangers to paint, as is evidenced with their Sierra Nevada team bikes and the ones that Norman Stadler uses to destroy the field in his bike splits…


Mario and Mario explain to Norman how with a bike like this he could switch to breast stroke and still kick everyone’s ass…

They also laid on hot paint that for team Kodak Galleria Sierra Nevada this year…



And the team used it well, primarily with the power of Dominique Rollin at the head of affairs as he was here at the Milk Ras.



And Kuota didn’t mind at all that I happen to like MotoGP… So what if I post an oil company logo on my bike… At least I didn’t choose another tobacco company like last time.



Point is you may like anything from NASCAR to Formula 1 to wookie hair. If you want to step out a little, an extra coat of paint harms squat and can turn your bike into something special. With a starting canvas like the KOM, “special” is an understatement.

Have Fun,

Charles Manantan






Note: if you have other experiences with gear, or something to add, drop us a line. We don’t claim to know everything (we just imply it at times). Give us a pat on the back if you like the reviews, or a slap in the head if you feel the need!

PezCycling News and the author ask that you contact the manufacturers before using any products we test here. Only the manufacturer can provide accurate and complete information on proper use and or installation of products as well as any conditional information or product limitations.

Send your comments to: manager@pezcyclingnews.com

 

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