Kestrel Legend SL ReviewNovember 30, 2016
- Outstanding value for DA-spec’d bike
- Very light
- Comfortable, compliant ride
- Tubeless-ready rims
- Instability on fast descents
- Frame flex lowers efficiency
The Kestrel Legend SL is highly enjoyable for everyday riding, and performed well under most conditions, but it was simply a bit too flexible to compete with the others in sprinting and especially descending. The position and flexibility of the frame gives it a considerably more comfortable ride than most road race bikes, and for enthusiasts or occasional racers this probably outweighs the sacrifice in efficiency. But for riders who crave powerful accelerations, long breakaway efforts, and especially hair-raising descents, it falls substantially short compared to the rest. That said, it’s an incredible value for the right rider.
For a Road Race bike, the Kestrel Legend SL offers a surprisingly smooth and comfortable ride. Compliance is high throughout the frame, and the position felt natural and comfortable even on longer rides. Fast descending however resulted in substantial “speed wobble” (see Descending/Handling below for more) which forces the rider into an unnatural position to counter this, while adding stress to arms and shoulders.
Though the Kestrel Legend SL is extremely lightweight (at just a hair over 15lbs), the stiffness-to-weight ratio is not as impressive, since the frame has some excessive flex, especially in the BB and front end. This results in a bike that climbs very well, especially in the saddle, but has issues during sustained accelerations and during sprinting and descending. The combination of flex underfoot, resulting in wasted energy at this point of power transfer, and in the front end under torque from the upper body during heavier efforts, results in noticeable loss of efficiency. This will be less noticeable for everyday enthusiasts, but those looking to race (or crush their riding buddies), will be disappointed.
As we mentioned above, the Kestrel Legend SL’s light weight is a big bonus in climbing and overall efficiency, especially under less aggressive, more sustained efforts like long gradual climbs or riding with the pack in the flats. Climbing is even more enjoyable with the bike’s comfortable position and forgiving ride. But when things really kick up—either the pace or the grade—the bike’s flex sacrifices efficiency. Even enthusiasts will notice the flex slightly, and for bigger and/or more powerful riders, the problem will be substantial.
As mentioned previously, the Kestrel Legend SL’s Achilles heel is descending—the bike suffers some serious speed wobble when speeds get into the 30’s and above, and this is especially problematic when the road is bumpy. It never got out of control, even over 40mph, but it’s quite unnerving and makes for slower, more cautious descents. General handling however was acceptable. Some minor flex through tight, back-and-forth turns is noticeable, but nothing that forces slowing down. If you prefer the less twitchy handling of Endurance bikes, and you descend more carefully, this may be a better option than the others in the Race group.
Components, Drivetrain, Shifting and Brakes
The Kestrel Legend SL features what has become the industry standard: Shimano Dura Ace 11-speed. While drivetrains have become a personal preference for many, our testing has consistently shown DA, and its little brother Ultegra, to be the smoothest shifting and most reliable of the majors, while also remaining easy to work on. Shifting is simply amazing—smooth, fast and quiet—and there are plenty of gears for all but the nastiest mountains or heaviest sprinting on the 11-28t cassette with 52/36T front rings. Also unlike many DA bikes, the lack of internal cable housing on this frame means there are inline micro-adjusters for both derailleurs—this may add a few ounces but it’s so much easier to make minor shifting corrections even on the fly. Our only complaint about DA is the considerably higher cost, which we don’t feel is worth the minor weight savings over Ultegra, unless money is simply not an object.
Our test bike featured full-carbon seatpost and handlebars and alloy stem by Oval (although the online spec is Zipp), and a Prologo saddle with Ti rails. These are high-end relative to the bike’s price and Oval is known for well-built components. The bar was especially comfortable with a wide top and ergo contours. The Prologo saddles are very light and comfortable, but some riders will lament the lack of a cutout under their nether regions.
The Kestrel Legend SL features Oval’s 724 alloy wheelset, which while not a super high-end set offers an excellent combination of light weight and all-around performance. Climbers will love the ultralight sub-1300g weight, and the 24mm depth is just enough to add minor aero savings. They’re even stiff enough to stand up and sprint on, although under heavy power there is some flex. Unfortunately the 22mm width is narrow for today’s wider tires, resulting in less-than-ideal performance in cornering and overall traction.
Scott Boulbol- Faculty
Boulbol wrote the book on trail running in Colorado.Scott Boulbol is a freelance writer who has been working in the outdoor and cycling industries for about 15 years. He lives near Boston.