£1,500 can buy you an impressively specced bike, as this is one of the most competitive price points on the market. We review four
We've sung the praises of the Kuota Kharma Ultra before, so how will it fare this time round against the stiff opposition put up by the Boardman Pro Carbon, the Kinesis KR510 and the Wilier Mortirolo Mirage?
Dealing first of all with the handling, the Kuota and the Kinesis were the two bikes with longer wheelbases and higher weight. The Kuota weighs 19.7lb and with a wheelbase of 98.5 it has a stable ride feel. It's great through high-speed turns with plenty of feedback letting you know how much grip you've got left. It's a dream to take through a succession of hairpins on a descent.
The Kuota Kharma Ultra frame is a 12K carbon monocoque design paired with a carbon fork with alloy steerer.
As you might expect, a relatively heavy bike isn't going to make the best climber, but it's a fact that a good frame counts for a lot and the Kuota is very capable of converting the larger power inputs required to climb fast into good forward progress. It's only really on the longer climbs that you feel it's holding you back. You need to be fresh to enjoy it most, so you can dance on the pedals and be impressed by how little flex there is around that whopping bottom bracket intersection.
When it comes to sprinting, if we had to call it, the Kuota is probably the best on test. Once again, the frame design gives little of your precious power away, particularly through that hugely oversized bottom bracket and head tube. It’s a solid feel for sure.
In terms of comfort, the Kuota Kharma Ultra falls short of being exactly ‘comfortable’ so, much as we dislike the term ‘compliant’, thanks to its massive overuse, the Kuota does kind of fall into that category. It’s a firm-feeling frame, and we’ve already mentioned how much lateral stiffness comes from the hugely oversized down tube, head tube and bottom bracket, but there’s sufficient dampening for it not to feel harsh over bumps. So we guess that’s a long-winded way of saying it’s compliant.
In other words, the frame is stiff enough that it’ll kick you off the ground, or out of the saddle, if you clout a pothole or big bump, but when you come back down again, there isn’t a spine-tingling impact. It’s got the balance just about right, and is all the more impressive due to its integrated aero seatpost, as this is something that we’ve often found increases the transmission of road shock to your backside.
Keeping with an italian feel, Kuota has specced Deda parts. You get a Big Piega bar and Quattro stem. The Shimano 105 groupset is right on the money - with nothing new to report it does the same workmanlike job that it's always done and is a perennial safe bet.
The things holding the Kuota Kharma Ultra back are that it’s a bit of a porker at not much under 20lb, and while weight isn’t the be all and end all, it’s a concern by modern bike standards. Bear in mind the Boardman, for the same money is 4lb lighter.
If it was a beauty contest, we think the Kuota would win. It’s all subjective of course, but most of us agreed that if you’re looking to uphold an image, then it’ll get you a few admiring looks.
The ride quality of the Kuota Kharma Ultra was excellent, showing that the appearance wasn’t all show and no go. The frame is a great design, probably the best balance of stiffness and comfort here and if the stated weight of 1,260g is accurate, it’s not the frame that’s responsible for its bulk. It simply deserves a better spec, which is available by the way, but outside of our budget for this test.