Simplon does things a little differently to your average bike brand. Every Simplon is built to order when bought through your local dealer, so you get nigh-on custom levels of choice when it comes to components, drivetrain and wheels. I opted for Shimano’s brilliant new iteration of Ultegra, which offers Dura-Ace standards of smooth shifting and controlled powerful braking at a fraction of the pro group’s price.
- The Simplon Kiaro is one of our Bike of the Year bikes for 2018. To read reviews of the other contenders and the categories tested across road, mountain and women’s bikes, visit our Bike of the Year hub.
Simplon Kiaro frame and kit
The Kiaro is Simplon’s take on an endurance bike, which suggests more of a cruiser rather than anything rapid or racy. However, I’m happy to report that the Simplon has a real chameleon character.
When you just want to spin the pedals and cover ground it’s a willing partner. The frame and fork do a superb job of damping out road buzz alongside the lightness of the overall package and fine contact points — the well-shaped compact drop bar, wrapped in quality thick tape, and an excellent saddle from Selle Italia on top of a high-grade carbon seatpost that’s designed to offer a bit of flex.
The frame has been designed to offer compliance where needed and stiffness in key areas. The over-sized down tube and chainstays create a rock-solid undercarriage, and the top tube and seatstays are much smaller in diameter and flatter in shape to flex.
The frame’s construction is higher than average too. Rather than use a standard pre-preg carbon, Simplon uses a ‘hot melt’ method, which minimises the amount of resin in the process, and, unlike some, doesn’t use any solvents for the carbon fibre and epoxy resin impregnation process.
This lower resin-to-carbon balance means greater strength and stiffness while saving weight. It belies the Kiaro’s original positioning at the higher end of the Simplon range, and we applaud the company for retaining the high-grade frame in a true example of trickle-down technology.
I’m also impressed at the level of the finishing on the Simplon. The frame is flawless, and the Simplon-branded components are a step above your average ‘own-brand’ parts. The Mono-Rod carbon seatpost is a particular highlight and the use of a high-grade Acros headset shows attention to detail.
Simplon Kiaro ride experience
The Kiaro feels accomplished. It’s smooth when you need it to be yet sharp and responsive when you put the power down.
The frameset might not hit the latest trends for angular shapes, dropped ’stays and square-edged tube profiles (it did debut in 2016), but none of that matters when it rides this well. On the hills the 11-30 cassette proves a boon, as does the Kiaro’s brilliant chassis.
The Aksium Elite wheels are a solid mid-range set. Being the standard rim-brake version they don’t have quite as up-to-date a profile as their disc counterpart, and when paired with the Yksion tyres they feel a little on the narrow side.
The tyres work well enough in the dry but on wetter (and especially colder) days they feel a little firm and slightly ‘greasy’, being much more prone to breaking traction compared to similar products from Continental or Schwalbe.
Handling is more neutral than sharp and feels like a well-balanced bike. Better tyres would allow it to exploit that balance more in adverse conditions, but I’d happily live with the Yksions until it came time to replace them.
The Kiaro is an understated-looking bike, but under the unassuming skin is a tremendously accomplished endurance platform. It’s smooth yet swift, fast and forgiving.
It might not be as thrill-seeking as some of 2018’s latest models, but this Simplon will be a willing companion over the most challenging terrain and won’t let you down when it comes to ride quality and comfort.
Interested in what else is available at this price point? Have a look at the following list of tried, tested and reviewed bikes.