It's pretty rare that a company can enter an industry with scene-stealing innovation and still have the staying power to be around years later. The fact that Kestrel began in Santa Cruz, California and stepped into an industry dominated by European design and thinking made them stand out even more. Kestrel has been consistently upping the ante, beginning in 1986 when they were the first in the industry to introduce bladder-molded monocoque carbon frames; reducing the aerodynamic drag and weight of lugs and improving ride and handling characteristics. Meanwhile, all of this progress was taking place at a time when triathlon as a sport was still in it's infancy. They continued in 1989, among other innovations, to reveal the world's first all-carbon triathlon bike: the KM40. In 2001, it was the first one-piece, molded carbon road handlebars that was introduced to the world, and the impressive list of cutting edge products goes on. Chris McCormack began his relationship with the brand in 2003 with his first Ironman win on a Kestrel and there are plenty more fans of their crazy fast frames. Ironman Champion Andy Potts, 2009 Giro d'Italia Champion Denis Menchov, 2008 Tour de France winner Carlos Sastre as well as a number of other professional cycling, triathlon teams and athletes have ridden their Kestrels to the podium.
Time after time, Kestrel has consistently proven that they are willing to think outside the box and put the effort and research into developing faster, more comfortable bikes for consumers. For over a decade, the Airfoil was the preeminent TT frame for Kestrel; the signature feature, no seat tube, was carried through each new version. In 2010, the Kestrel 4000 was added to the line-up with many of the same features as the Airfoil as well as the return of an aerodynamic version of a seat tube. The return of the seat tube not only added stiffness and power in every direction of the frame, but also made the frame once again UCI-legal.
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The Kestrel 4000 is a product of many hours of testing in the A2 wind tunnel, with special attention being paid to rider comfort. The designers added a bit of suspension to the seat tube and a little bit higher stack. The theory is, that regardless of how aerodynamic the position is for the rider in the cockpit, if the athlete is so uncomfortable that they need to shift around or break aero, stress and fatigue will set in and overall speed will be compromised. The 4000 strikes the perfect balance, allowing for a degree of additional comfort and only compromises the slightest amount on rider-free aerodynamics.
The adjustable seat post allows for a seat tube angle ranging from 72.5°- 80° with two-clamp reverse to maintain ideal aerodynamics. Internal cables and housing, not only add to the properties, but make bike mechanics very happy. Seat stays are tapered to the back as well as both sides of the chain-stay; the non-drive side sporting an additional channel for proper air flow. This bike is fast- crazy fast.
The full build purchase of a Kestrel 4000 Pro SL is available in Shimano 105 components, Shimano Ultegra and SRAM Red (MSRP: $3,179- $7,499). The crown jewel of the line, is the 4000 LTD Dura Ace Di2 (MSRP: $10,599). With high-end TT bikes, it's pretty common to see a mix and match approach to keep cost down. Bicycle manufacturers will often put the higher end components where they're most noticeable and down grade the others. One of the things I loved about Kestrel, is that all the components are standard. If you buy a 4000 with the Ultegra, you know you're getting the same level of quality or better on all components; and that includes the crank and cassette.
Another big bonus of the 4000 is that Kestrel offers the bike in six frame sizes. A smaller rider isn't going to need to get as low as a taller rider. The extremes of the size range (47 cm- 59.5 cm) reflect the designers extra effort to take their specific needs into account, and adjust the dimensions accordingly. What this means for athletes is that with a proper bike-fit, you have access to a better aerodynamic position based on your own physical build, not what someone in a wind tunnel has decided the standard age-grouper should look like.
The result of all this hard work is a fast, stiff-framed TT bike that rides smooth and is more comfortable than it's competitors. I was able to move seamlessly from my last TT bike into the 4000 and have been pleased with my decision to make the change. I was mildly concerned about changing frames purely because of sizing. The Kestrel 4000 fit me within 2 cm of my ideal F.I.S.T. Fit recommendation; surprisingly close to perfect. Amber Foster, a member of the TriEdge-Kestrel Womens Triathlon Team commented, "[The Kestrel 4000] fits really well! I think as a short person it is hard to find bikes that fit well and Kestrel does a great job. I love how my bike rides... it is smooth! The frame is a good set-up, geometrically. I have felt like I have had great legs getting off the bike onto the run this year."
The understated styling is clean and classy, and Kestrel is continuing the sleek styling into 2013 version of the 4000, (see below). While the look is drool-worthy, it's the comfort that sold me on the 4000 frame. My previous TT was super stiff, and while it touted supreme speed, I couldn't take the hours banging around in the aero-bars. I found myself often riding on my pursuits on rough road; completely defeating the purpose of the aerodynamic properties. Though the technical difference to accommodate comfort with the 4000 is subtle, it translates to a softer ride and smoother pedal stroke. And for me, a much faster ride.
Kestrel 4000 Series 2013
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For more information about Kestrel products go to: www.kestrelbicycles.com
To see the full 2013 Kestrel line-up, go to: www.2013kestrelbicycles.com
To find Kestrel bikes near you, go to: www.kestrelbicycles.com/explore/find.a.dealer