ACE OF SPADES? KINESIS TRIPSTER ACE

£799.99 10.9 kilos (60cm as tested). Michael Stenning put the Tripster through its paces.

Aimed at commuter and “Cycle to work” scheme audiences, Kinesis Tripster Ace is an extremely competent, keenly priced all-rounder that won’t break the bank, or induce an attack of the vapours when left shackled to street furniture. ACE stands for “Adventure Commute and Explore”; though we’d describe it as a hybrid of cyclo crosser and commuter with some obvious mountain bike DNA. 

Frameset

 

Given semi/compact geometry has been the norm for a good 15 years, the Tripster’s horizontal top tube made our already large 60cm demo bike seem all the more statuesque. At 1m81, I’m distinctly average height but blessed with a leggy 33.5 inch inseam. Its’ proportionally long 55 cm top tube left me feeling stretched in spite of the relatively upright positioning - 57cm would’ve been a better fit.  

 

That’s about as traditional as things get though. Given Kinesis grew their enviable reputation building competitively priced, high quality framesets; we weren’t surprised by the standards of workmanship. 6061 double butted tubes are reassuringly thick, so less prone to dings, denting and other accidental knocks without feeling tank-like-perfect for daily drivers.

 

The shapely rear triangle is an obvious nod to the brands ‘cross and mountain bike heritage, improving mud clearance and softening the industrial beauty of those vertical frame ends and bold, yet extremely tidy TIG welds. 

Mudguards might not be sexy but are very practical practical and there’s comfortable clearance for these and 700x37c, or even a skinny 700x38 spiked tyre for when roads become skating rinks.Two sets of eyelets and seat stay bosses side-step the juggling act when introducing these with a decent rack. Disc specific design also creates a clutter free aesthetic. 

Some suggested a third bottle mount was needed on an adventure bike. In principle this sounds like a good idea, especially on longer rides/weekend touring-you could pop the most commonly needed tools in a bottle, leaving the others free for fluids. However, those beneath the down tube tend to get plastered in nasty, smelly gunge. Besides, this is a versatile workhorse, not round the world touring Lorry.

Talking of grot, we believe anything straying from asphalt should have a front collar slot, so wet stuff doesn’t get funnelled inside the seat tube. Given the otherwise impeccable standards, were slightly disappointed by the rear facing. Admittedly, we’re being picky and in practical terms a quick boot made from offcuts of scrap inner tube would stop trouble in its tracks. 

Most frames are pretty well finished these days and no surprise to find the post gliding cleanly in and out. Removing the threaded hardware confirmed the paint shop hadn’t cut any corners either. 

 

Talking of livery, in this instance, it’s a neatly applied wet spray 2-pac finish widely used in automotive contexts since the early 1970s. Durability matches that of traditional stove enamels and it can be oven or air cured, thus ideal for composites. However, this family of paints contain cyanide, which isn’t particularly friendly and requires strict licensing. 

 

The fork features carbon blades paired to an aluminium alloy steerer, which is an extremely reliable combination.  Ends feature the obligatory lawyers’ lips to prevent the front wheel popping out unintentionally should you forget to slip the quick release tight following a puncture and also feature mudguard/low rider eyelets. Frankly, we’re talking trailer if you’re looking at lugging more than two 20litre panniers and a rack bag.

 

Gloss black with subtle detailing continues the classy, yet extremely practical theme and I was pleased to see the fork wasn’t showing off any three ply weave-keeps it just under the radar when hustling through scabbier neighbourhoods. 

Wheels

 

These are another clever blend of in house kit and not overly sprightly but more than a match for towpaths, trails and poorly surfaced roads. Deep section disc specific 32hole Alex “District” hoops are tightly laced two cross to Shimano M475 six bolt hubs and have remained perfectly true throughout.  

 

These are pretty simple cup n’ cone affairs that lack the seal and bearing refinement found higher up their range but easily stripped and serviced. Avoiding river crossings, jet washing and other extremes along with annual helpings of stout grease should keep them trouble free for a good while.    

 

Stock 35mm Freedom trekking tyres offer a reasonable turn of speed and excellent cushioning from inclement roads, while still delivering surprisingly good traction through dry bridle path when run between 45 and 75psi. 

 

Reflective sidewalls cleverly coordinate with the frame’s decals; really bring the bike to life after dusk. 

 

Stout tyres are always welcome on a working bike and these have kept flints, glass and other nasties lurking in dung spattered lanes and town centres from spoiling our fun. 

 

Since we’re on the subject, the frame has plenty of scope for upgrading and those looking to exploit its potential could invest in a lighter set of hoops with better sealed hubs and ‘cross specific tyres for dirty weekends. 

 

Equally, riders stranded in the concrete jungle five days a week are arguably better served by fat slicks- question of horses for courses really. 

 

When pushed on greasy roads, the Freedom offer reassuringly good feedback and nominal squirm, so we’d be happy enough to upgrade once they’d started showing obvious signs of wear.

Drivetrain

 

People can be very sniffy about Sora and we’re not overly fond of black painted finishes but big S’s Cinderella road group is bang on for commuting. In this instance we’ve the 2x9 11-30 setup, offering plenty of scope for winching, cruising and bombing without the unnecessary weight and encumbrance of a third ring, which can also be a chore to keep sweet all year round. 175mm arms are proportionally correct and still provide decent ground clearance-even off road, especially with racier dual sided Spuds. 

 

Sora has been blessed with the hollowtech external B/B system for several seasons, which narrows the divide between its loftier siblings. The frame’s super stiff bottom bracket shell certainly helps and this increased rigidity is particularly apparent when stomping on the pedals, say accelerating away from the lights in a taller than ideal gear. Great news for powerfully built 90 kilo riders, though with the range and the Cinderella groups’ slick, dependable shifting, incidents should be few and far between.

 

Changes are every bit as dependable as Tiagra and 105, even under surprising amounts of provocation. However, the front’s a little agricultural and the rear doesn’t    sweep across the block-you’ll need to prod the paddles sequentially, which isn’t much of a headache say, meeting a sharp incline with 20 odd kilos en tow. Trickling through traffic at a snail’s pace, it’s never missed a beat, despite clumsy, last minute changes.

 

Electroplated cassette and chain look pretty and should hold off the salt monster’s advances. In any case, they’re cheap as chips to replace- bought online, we’re talking £15 every thousand miles or so, which is also handy for fettlers who fancy more tarmac specific ratios. 

Braking

 

Discs are here to stay and though fairly inexpensive by hydraulic standards, Tektro Vela are worlds apart from mechanical units, offering similar modulation and feel to some high end hybrids we’ve used recently. Hoses and callipers seem pretty tough, judging by regular spirited green lane and forest action and while cables are arguably simpler to repair, aside from replacing the pads and bleeding periodically, there’s bugger all to worry about. 

 

Really long descending on the big ring with a week’s worth of shopping following behind induces traces of fade but again, this is very minimal.

Contact Points/Finishing Kit

 

These continue the in house theme and are none the worse for it. Generally speaking, Dun doesn’t have us jumping for joy but these are really well finished, the four-bolt stem in particular.Big swoopy risers offer enormous amounts of leverage and a seriously retro mtb flavour. However, their width wasn’t compatible with my own, so left me feeling decidedly uncomfortable after 15 miles of open road cruising - especially when battling some unforgiving headwinds. Traffic jamming virility takes a knock too-squeezing through tight gaps requires more forward planning.

 

On the flip side, steering doesn’t feel remotely barge like and this additional leverage comes into its own off road, or when towing trailers/tagalongs. These are topped off with low profile WTB grips, which offer excellent purchase-in all conditions and reflective end plugs are another neat touch. I’d suggest something more forgiving for frequent rides on the wilder side, or in bare hands.

 

Aluminium alloy posts have fallen from fashion but hold the saddle up and love quick release racks/SQR saddlebags/ similar luggage.This one features an extremely reliable, albeit slightly crude single bolt cradle. Thankfully, it’s sheltered by the Tripster saddle, which is similarly serviceable, although not my dream perch given the fairly upright positioning, forcing weight disproportionately upon the buttocks.

Ride/Handling

 

While not particularly portly at 10.9 kilos, the Tripster is best described as solid and stoical, rather than a rapid responder. This was something of a culture shock coming from my ‘cross derivatives and lightweight tourers. Getting it up to speed proved frustrating to begin with, although you quickly learn to settle back to a smooth, even cadence and use the gears more frequently. 

 

It literally cruised at 17/18mph with only modest effort. Headwinds proved a bit challenging though-several blustery 30mile circuits confirmed my suspicions that these characteristics, coupled with big risers and their single hand positions aren’t conducive to mile munching. 

 

Trying to stay on the wheel of faster mates will frustrate both parties. Round town, snatching away from the lights or sneaking through tight gaps in traffic requires a more considered approach too. 

 

That said; upright positioning gave an unrivalled view of conditions and a more technical approach. Holes, Kerbs and other hazards are much easier to hop, while those beefy tyres will compensate for any minor mistakes-brilliant when you’re a bit bushed following a hard day’s graft. 

 

Leverage and swift, though predictable steering allows split-second changes in direction-opening car doors, smart phone zombies and similar dangers are effortlessly weaved around without losing tempo. 

 

These qualities translate really well off road. Along less technical sections of singletrack/forest trails, the delightfully balanced persona will give cross country mountain bikes a run for their money. Some minor buzz can be felt through the saddle and bars though this isn’t particularly intrusive, thanks to those carbon blades and easily cured with a carbon fibre or mid-range suspension seatpost.  

 

Gazelle like wouldn’t be the words we’d used to describe climbing prowess but it’s better than we’d expected given the chainstay length and overall wheelbase. Descending is a delight, holding its line impeccably-laden or otherwise and I soon found myself bursting into an ear to ear grin. 

 

While lacking the outright lateral stiffness of plain gauge versions, thicker walls mean there’s ample clout with trailers/tagalongs without denting compliance. Nudging 40mph at times, it wills you faster, safe in the knowledge it will carve predictably around sharper bends. I was unable to cajole any skittishness, let alone shimmy and those powerful brakes bring everything back under control in a heartbeat. 

Verdict

 

Overall, the Tripster ACE is a really well conceived package. £800 is still very competitive and even with moderate use; you’d recoup this plus the cost of a decent lock and accessories within the first year. Its more upright stance gives a brilliant view of conditions ahead and should offer improved control on icy winter roads.

 

However, allowing for the larger than ideal frame sizing, it does feel comparatively tame alongside lower slung, drop bar cyclo cross inspired commuter builds, which in our view, are much better bets if your priorities lean towards a machine doubling as capable trainer and club bike. 

 

Pros: Great overall package for “bike as car” utilitarian riding and short to middle distance commuting-especially with trailers/tagalongs.

Cons: Relaxed positioning means it’s less rewarding to ride on over longer distances

Michael Stenning

Verdict 4 out of 5; Fun, versatile workhorse for short to middle distance and/or mixed terrain commuting but there are better choices for road-centric riding. 

http://www.kinesisbikes.co.uk

PUBLISHED FEBRUARY 2016

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