After a lull in their presence on the market -- a period dominated by Trek and Specialized -- Kestrel Bicycles is back with a lightweight ride that combines all the pros of carbon fiber with none of the cons. Swooping back to the top of the carbon fiber superbike peak with the Legend SL (short for "superlight"), Kestrel has built a bike with five-figure price characteristics but nowhere near a five-figure price tag.
In 1986 Kestrel engineers built the first bladder-molded monocoque carbon frame, a striking leap forward from carbon fiber tubesets that essentially mimicked conventional steel frameset construction. The Legend SL reflects that heritage: this is a race-ready ride sporting a 1.7-pound frame and exquisite finish work for the sport rider. The Legend SL is certainly stiff enough for pro-level riding thanks to 800K high modulus carbon fiber in both the frame and the EMS Pro SL fork, but it also has a frame geometry designed to absorb the beating delivered to your body during a ride.
The combination results in a ride feel that's simultaneously responsive -- sprint jumps are immediate -- and lacking in the unpleasant jarring vibration that comes with an overly-stiff, poorly-constructed carbon frame. Like the bird it's named after, the bike dives into descents with breathtaking steadiness. At speeds over 50 mph the bike was rock stable, with no hint of speed wobble; it was just as steady in the close quarters of a peloton clipping along at 27 mph. Entering a corner a little hotter than usual, the Legend was unfazed, with none of the normal rear-tire chatter of a stiff bike at the edge of its performance. In every turn the bike tracked predictably from entry to apex to exit, producing extra speed in and out. Sprints and power climbing benefit from a frame that's rock solid at the bottom bracket. Under our 200 pounds, most frames bend noticeably with a full power pedal stroke. The Kestrel gave nary an inch.
The Legend SL comes in three component groups: Dura Ace, SRAM Red, and Ultegra Di2, weighing 15.33, 13.26, and 16.61 pounds, respectively. Those weights don't come at the expense of component durability. The Oval wheels, cranks, seat and handlebars are engineered to stand up to season after season of riding. Our test bike, with Ultegra Di2, came dressed in black and white plumage, drawing appreciative looks and comments from other riders. Kestrel's top model with Dura Ace is yours for up to $1,000-$2,000 less than competitors with an MSRP of $6,450. But it's the ride, not the price, that garners respect -- and this bird truly flies over the road.
Excellence, innovation, craftsmanship, and an unwavering desire to challenge expectations -- these are the constants that have captivated our attention since Gear Patrol's inception in 2007. This year we're proud to announce the next step in our role as a champion of quality in product design and execution: welcome to the GP100. Our inaugural product awards are dedicated to honoring the 100 best consumer products released during the calendar year by companies of all sizes and scope.
The GP100 is not a ranking or a contest. These selections represent the collective expertise of our entire editorial staff, who have scoured every corner of the vast product universe -- from automotive and electronics, to men's style essentials, home goods, spirits and outdoors -- to find the inspiring and the practical, the ground-breaking and the traditional, the priceless and the accessible. In short: products that define or defy their respective categories to better the life of the modern man.
The GP100 is not a contest influenced by marketers or brands, nor is it a ranking by specifications as determined by uniform tests. Instead, it starts with a comprehensive list of nominees released in the calendar year, researched and compiled by our editorial team of obsessed experts across all of Gear Patrol's major areas of interest including Motoring, Technology, Style, Home, Spirits, Outdoor and Watches. Brands are not part of the selection process. Nominees are then debated in context of the past, present and future of their respective fields. Which selections stand as significant innovations, category busters or faithful monuments to the icons of history? Do they adhere to Gear Patrol's core tenets of excellence, design, utility and the spirit of adventure? Distilled to the following 100 items, the GP100 represents the best products on earth released in 2013 -- easily inspiring consumers and creators alike during their search for guideposts of excellence in a vast world of products.
Motoring Watches Style Technology Sports Outdoors Home Spirits
Jeremy BergerBen Bowers