The Longtermers series lifts the lid on the bikes that Cycling Weekly's writers ride when they're not testing the newest and the shiniest - next up is Hannah Bussey's 15-year-old race bike.
When the Kuota Kebel was issued to me circa 2007, it wasn’t met with the excitement that you might expect. I had made it as a pro-am rider and this was a free team bike - it should have been happy days, right?
I was apprehensive to enter into another relationship when I had just started going steady with another bike brand, having recently experienced absolute heartbreak that only someone who’s had their previous race bike driven into a low barrier on the top of a car could understand.
I remember ringing my friend who was, at the time, a professional cyclist in Belgium, and asking “what if I don’t like the bike though”. He responded with something along the lines of “opportunity and being grateful” albeit with a slightly more colourful language.
My concerns however, were completely unfounded. The Kuota Kebel was to be one of the best bikes I had, and still have ever ridden.
At the time, the world seemed to be surrounded by heavy lacquered block colours (mostly red), so the Kebel's raw 12k carbon weave finish was a pretty futuristic look.
The Kebel was Kuota’s mid-price point frameset, but one that shared the same geometry with the range topping KOM, a specialist climbing bike, making it an incredibly sprightly ride. Re-evaluating the tubing shapes today it really was one of the best road bikes ahead of its time.
It’s a blend of aero and endurance road bike geometry, with the oversized truncated down tube, wide and flat seatstays and chainstays which transition into narrow cylindrical tubes at the QR and centre-tapered top tube. These are design elements that can be seen on some of the best road bikes today.
If lined up against the Specialized Tarmac, the Kebel wouldn’t look out of place if it was lighter on the logos. It’s still so clean and considering the amount of miles ridden, air travel and crashes sustained, it’s still in surprisingly good nick. It’s only the rim brakes that give its age away.
The spec has evolved over the years. At the time, we weren’t gifted Gucci level equipment, so this often resulted in a ‘run-what-you-brung' mash-up for team bike set ups. I don’t recall what we were offered, but I put in some of my own dosh to upgrade to a 10-speed Shimano Dura-Ace groupset. The reality check of real-life adulting, once my best years of racing came to an end, meant a more affordable and practical groupset: Shimano 105. There’s a slight weight penalty, but it provides more than adequate shifting speed and reliability. The price tag makes this a no-brainer selection.
Back in the day, I also purchased two pairs of HED carbon wheelsets (Stinger 5.0s and 2.5s), which when on the bike made it look insane and were considered one of the best road bike wheels, helping me claim several national podiums. Racing the bike on the slightly less forgiving pavé of a Belgium kermesse however, led to the compromise of the Mavic Ksyriums, with the ability to always open the brake callipers a little wider on the fly should a more-than-likely crash pringle them mid-race.
I’m now on my third pair, having killed a couple of rims due to the delights of road gravel in brake blocks on wet days. They aren’t my dream wheels, but I’m a sucker for a money-saving deal and there’s seemingly always one on Ksyriums. I also love the brand’s customer service when rims do unexpectedly explode, and am just conditioned to hold on slightly tighter when passing a gate in a hedge on a blustery day.
It’s in the tyre department where I have always chosen my own no matter how many sponsored pairs were provided. Back then it was Continental GP3000, but nowadays my new go-to brand is Goodyear Eagle. Ideally these would be Goodyear Eagle F1, but a recent house move has meant that in order to get rolling again, I had to opt for the budget Goodyear Eagle Sport 28 clinchers, which are in fact probably ideal winter training tyres for anyone, but especially for tackling northern hills in mostly damp conditions. They provide that sweet spot of tacky grip and durability that allow you to corner and descend with confidence and with minimal risk of puncturing, without a big weight or rolling resistance forfeit.
I’ve always spec'd alloy bars and stems, originally a classic 3T stem and Ergonova bars, knowing that an impromptu race get-down probably won’t compromise their immediate integrity, and that a swift thump on the shifters will twist them round enough to change gear and stop to finish the race. They now sport a no-name brand of shallow drop alloy bars, the downside of constantly pillaging bikes for bits here and there over the years means my days of pernickety set-ups are long gone, and ‘good enough’ will suffice for a time-poor parent in order to just get a ride in when the opportunity arises.
NOW AND FUTURE CHANGES
When the Dura-Ace period was over for me, which comes to us all when we calculate the cost of replacement is three times the last car we bought, something had to go. I’d been testing bikes for a few years when my groupset became terminal, so opting for the highly commendable Shimano 105 was a lot easier than it would have been a few years before. That said, at heart I pine for this bike to still be dressed with Shimano’s top drawer groupset again. As a wise person once told me, if you can’t be fast, be shiny, and Dura-Ace is certainly a good looking groupset.
Same goes for wheelsets. While I would love to have kept the deep carbon wheels with a rim brake set up, it was only a matter of time before either the bottom dropped out of the market or the brake track dropped off the wheels. So I got a decent amount for the wheels before I had either killed them or the market had. But the bike does look mint with a pair of 50mm carbon hoops, even if it’s just to sit around cafés in the sun wearing fluoro kit and white shoes.
Less form, more function would be the upgrade to power pedals. I’ve sworn by Look Keo Classics, but would dabble in a pair of Garmin Rally power meter pedals, which in theory would make testing across bikes semi-straightforward, and perhaps entice me back to more competitive ways.
Liked this story? See more bikes in the longtermers series.
My riding these days consists mostly of snatched moments when life allows. Any allocated riding is often on a test bike, so my own bike gets little use. When it does, it’s the unforgiving hills of the north, the kind that don’t seem to ever have a true top and where you constantly seem to be riding uphill. In its heyday, the Kuota Kebel was a 'force majeure', part of a national title-winning team, and even helped me to rank in a few UCI races around the world, a far cry from its slower paced life now. It’s not seen the inside of a bike bag in probably five years, but parenthood means my competitive cycling has firmly been on the back burner. I would love to give it one more shakedown in the mountains of Mallorca for old time’s sake, although I’d have to give the setup a lot more consideration and have a much bigger pool of resources to really do it justice.
- Frameset: Kuota Kebel 12 Carbon
- Groupset: Shimano 105
- Stem: 3T ARX-PRO (11cm)
- Bars: Alloy, shallow drop, ergonomic
- Saddle: Decathlon women’s specific
- Wheels: Mavic Ksyriums
- Tyres: Goodyear Eagle Sport 28 clinchers
- Pedals: Keo Classics
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