What's Cool In Road Cycling

PASTA ROCKET: Kuota’s Kredo Ultra

So I was looking for another pimp project and right on cue, just like last year and the year before that, Kuota pop up with a new bike. That’s pretty par for the course as, more frequently than several better known competitors, Kuota seem to always have a new design up their sleeve.

In the case of my new ride, Kuota chose to take a few of the lessons learned in pro sponsorship to do a front to back performance retool of their work horse race frame and introduced the Kredo Ultra.

Of course, they’re all for artistic expression and Kuota offer custom painting for all of their models in North America. But in this case I wanted to play around again with my other 2 wheel passion and roll out another MotoGP themed bike.

So while Kuota sent me a stock red/white themed Ultra, I immediately flipped it to Xtreme Airbrush Designs for a personal (not for sale) rendition of current MotoGP world champion Casey Stoners Ducati GP08, except this one’s a “Desmosebici”.

click the thumbnail pic at the top for the jumbo view

While building it up, there were a couple things that made sense to apply along the way and help in the pimp process landed in the form of limited edition ‘Nerds’ stoppers from Zero Gravity. These are the stiffer version Negative G brakes spec’d with all Ti hardware with the first sets made to sell through Hub bikes as a benefit to Brian Malloy.

We also landed one of the first sets of white inline adjusters to go with the all white cable set up from Jagwire. Not sure if they’re yet available, if not, they will be shortly and with the little gold stops too.

And honestly, with this color scheme, how could we not Make The Leap???

Kuota provided their slick new Cranks…

These would look nice enough if they were just regular cranks and the bearings do run smooth, but it’s the latest twist to these cranks that make em special. Look closer at the ends and you’ll see a bit different pedal insert.

Swapping inserts makes the new sticks adjustable in length.

But before these cranks could arrive, I mounted SRAM Red cranks and what have become my exclusively used standard Look Keo Carbon pedals.

And one of those Jagwire Cables routed to Tiso’s front mech which actually works very well with the Red set up. (and Tiso’s red bolt’s don’t exactly look too bad.

And I strapped on Bontrager’s XXX-Lite Carbon clinchers with Tiso’s Red QR’s.

Actually, at the time this bike was built up, SRAM’s Red group was on especially short supply and about the only folks with the parts I needed in hand were Cycleco. They bailed me out and let me buy the one demo set in existence at the time, so they get a Thank You! and a fork logo/shout.

Kuota’s not let their house components go without development either and I initially intended to go with custom painting their Katch bars and stem.

The bars are short reach and shallow drop with a bend that is semi ergo / semi old school round and just a bit of top shaping. Both the shape and bend are really conservative and I would guess (though bar shape is a personal thing) that a lot of folks would find them comfortable. They are also VERY easy to run internal cables through as the slots have a comfortable amount of room.

The stem was also a very clean item. Very good finish quality and hardware and a nice grippy-stipple inside to allow you to torque the bolts to spec and not worry as much about slippage.

That said, we did need a bailout for stem length because the Kuota gear was just trickling into the US (though it’s available now) and we were a size off of what was available. 3T really have a few nice things rolling again and are distributed through Velimpex Marketing. Their team stem seemed damn near tailor made for this project (note, the white 3T lettering on the face plate is a Pez tweak)

Up top was the finishing bit of Pimp available and something you’ve seen loads of in the tour and in the Pro Peloton in general and that’s Selle Italia’s Team edition Flight.

Normally these come from Pronet Cycling, the North American distributors, but this one came directly from that well known land of old world Eurocharm…

Oklahoma City.

Tornado alley’s Schlegel Bicycles were ready to make a quick trade with me to get me more color matched.

The Bike?
That Selle Italia saddle sits connected to what I like to call ‘EST’ instead of ISP.

The Kredo Ultra has a very clean look that comes with ISP bikes, but didn’t require any cutting. The seat tube is just longer than most and extends above the frame further. (It can also be cut for those with mini-me like inseams)

That setup is what amounts to my favorite part of the ‘EST’ because unlike most ISP bikes, the seat post is a simple 31.6 size and, should you not like the setback, you can go buy another post (check with manufacturers to be sure you’re not past a maximum insertion).

Kuota are very practical about their ISP version and ISP in general. They understand that some companies claim a ‘critical stress point’ is relieved and performance is increased through increased stiffness, but their version is ‘It looks nice as it maintains the lines of the bike a bit better’.

Another area that is noticeably different on the Kredo Ultra versus the standard Kredo is at the lower end of the down tube near the bottom bracket. Like it’s KOM brother, the Ultra gets a bit of a stiffness boost in the form of increased tube volume and some shaping that is part of Kuota’s KOSM (Kuota Optimized Shape Management).

You might note that the down tube (going up out of the picture) gets larger / flares out a bit as it leaves the BB area in the picture above, but the volume and shape changes from the old to the new are really easy to see when you look at the old Kredo from the side.

And then see the New Kredo Ultra (below)

There’s actually more volume gain here than the picture might lead you to believe, but it’s not just the tube volume that’s different, and there’s far more to a stiffer bottom end than a big BB.

Kuota have also played a bit with the material type, fiber orientation and molding process throughout the bike to make the new Ultra noticeably more stiff in the bottom end.

The stays themselves still feature the comfort drive system with fairly dramatic shape / tube volume differences from drive side to non-drive, as the drive side needs to resist the far greater compression load under acceleration.

The seat stays still have plenty of dip to them to increase vibe and impact damping.

Up front the head tube still has the oversized bulge that Kuota were among the first in the industry to show.

And Kuota have been using a larger bottom bearing race and flared fork steer tube for years.

But then as a company that started in the fork business a long while back, I would expect them to be an early player in a smart design.

The fork itself doesn’t change much in outward looks but it does feel like it has a little less flex.

As Kuota are a bit busy wrapping up in Paris right now I can’t confirm if thinking there’s a bit more stiffness is down to me having a bad memory or a reasonably sensitive behind. The new Ultra could also be giving that sensation due to the overall more stable frame because a head tube that is twisting less could also make for a more firm feel up front.

Up top, Kuota design keeps the bow shape in the top tube.

And after watching some stress testing, including some high speed film replay, I can tell you that a top tube will bow a bit and spring with some impact / load. The new layup was made to facilitate that a little more without taking away from twist resistance.

Running down the inside of that bowed tube is a full length cable, including the housing, which is also a new feature of the Ultra.

The full housing run is actually really simple to do and, to my surprise doesn’t rattle round inside the tube like some internal sets ups do.

Well no big shocker, but after getting feedback from teams like Sierra Nevada from last year and from a few of the racers they now have in Europe, The new Ultra is a bit more race focused.

I tested this bike the way I test every other bike, which meant swapping out to house standard bar, stem and, strangely enough, I swapped to a different seat post, just to make sure that it was doable (yep, no problem). I also use the same clincher and tubular wheels (and tires) that I use for all tests and of course I use my own saddle. So the relative performance character is, erm, relative.

Kuota molded a little tighter, expanded and reshaped a few tube sections and played with fiber orientation and wall thickness and the result is a bike that gives improved stiffness pretty much everywhere.

The handling is more tilted toward folks that like more feel and feedback a more rigid chassis. If you’re looking for relaxed, silky and laid back, look some place else. But if you’re the kind of person that likes a quick response to steering and leaning, something more edgy, this one fits the bill. It’s stable, but it’s going to go where you point it in a hurry…

This is the paragraph where all testers tell you a bike moves forward when you pedal it… The Ultra does too. The better stiffness means less side to side movement down low than the older model and is on par with lots of the more highly strung packages produced today.

Remember your 3m frame protector tape so you can put a teeny piece on the non drive chain stay if you’re a heels in guy as the Kuota’s bulge might have you occasionally tap it. Some forum folks have suggested this happens And I can see why, but I have never had a problem and have been on Kredos for a few years.

Comfort is still good on the Ultra. Kuota’s KOM was another bike that shouldn’t be as comfortable as it is given the bottom end stiffness and the Ultra is in the same ball park (though the KOM is a bit more smooth). I might grab Kuota’s Khan frame if I wanted an all day, all week type bike, but I’ll take the KOM or Ultra for those days where you show your friends how much you care by trying to make them throw-up matching your pace changes.

And So:
The advances that Kuota bring to the table are pretty much what I would expect from a company that were the pioneers of pimp.

Ask lots of folks now “who were leaders in funky carbon?” and lots might say Pinarello because the Prince is so recognizably funky. That’s fair and I am a HUGE fan of Pinarello, but in 2003 the prince was an Aluminum frame with straight carbon stays…

While Kuota’s Khan was way beyond Aluminim and straight stays…

Pez brought you the first look at Kuota’s Khan in 2003

Kuota have had one of the best and broadest lines of carbon bikes available for years. WAY more complete in product than they’ve been recognized for. And part of that lack of recognition is down to lack of pro peloton exposure. So this year they jumped in the deep end and sponsored Agritubel. As always, Kuota were conservative in their expectations and said “maybe in a few years we might have a Yellow, but some companies try for ever and don’t have the success they would like.”

So it was both very satisfying for me and funny at the same time when, in what seemed like the first 5 minutes of their pro tour life they land the yellow Jersey…

Kuota’s humble and conservative business style is in contrast to it’s designs and aggressive development and product introduction cycle. It doesn’t seem that long ago that they were expanding from the fork business.

Hasta la bye bye fork machine…

And darn near before dust settled into the spot where the fork machine was, Kuota’s new bicycle frame side were collecting show trophies.

I asked Mario Comalli (on the left, shown with Brother Ermanno) what frame technology will be in the future and the answer pretty clearly defined why Kuota continue to drive forward.

“The future is today because new fiber and resin are available every day.”

It’s that attitude that has brought 3 new TT / Tri bikes and a host of new road frames to the market in just the last couple of years.

Here’s to looking forward both to what Kuota already bring to the table AND to what they have in store.

You can find Kuota pretty much everywhere now. Their North American Distributors are here at Kuota North America. The company’s home site is Kuota.it.

The Kredo Ultra is shipping now and sits at a pretty attractive at $2999 (over at Plano Cycling). The Katch Bars and stems and Kuota’s new cranks are also shipping and SRAM Red has been rolling for a while now (but then you already saw it win the Giro).

Lastly, it has come to my attention at the Laguna Seca round just gone by, that in each case I have made a MotoGP World Champion’s edition bicycle (4 now), the World Champion lost the next year. I am fully aware of this streak and will come right out and say that it is with that in mind that I acknowledge that I am a huge Valentino Rossi fan and, if he should hold off Casey Stoner, I will not produce a Fiat 46 bike. I will also say I love what Casey Stoner and Ducati have done and offer my apologies for intentionally casting my Mojo upon your current season.

Oh Yeah, and I get the Tobacco / cycling thing. I had someone on a forum suggest and originally intended to use the team’s bar-code logo. I think it’s crappy that Ducati take tobacco money and I wasn’t about to make the half assed effort of covering it up. I thought it a kinda an anti smoking brand add when placed on a bike. In fact, I actually did go the “subliminal tobacco” route once before and actually had people upset that I “played the game for the tobacco companies” by using their cover-up logo…

So I thought “why not get it out there this time and make waves”…

I’m also pretty damn sure that nobody will take up smoking and have already heard an ear full of negative, which was kinda my point. Not everyone needs to agree with the thought behind it, but probably all of us agree with this logo.

Have Fun,
Charles Manantan

Thanks for looking.
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