Kestrel Bikes Reviewed – Your Complete Buyer’s Guide

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Throughout the past four decades, Kestrel Bikes have made a name for themselves in the triathlon and road racing market. Over the course of this history and their rise to great prominence in the racing world, Kestrel has consistently outdone themselves, always putting out lighter and faster models than before.

Kestrel Bikes have been used by a number of championship racers, but this does not mean they are only for professionals: Kestrel Bikes are made for thrill-seekers of all kinds. If you are considering a Kestrel Bike either as a hobbyist or a serious competitor, we have everything you need to know here.

group of cyclist at bavarian road cycling championship


Behind the Scenes: The History of Kestrel

When you purchase a Kestrel Bike, you are getting the result of almost 35 years’ worth of labor, trial and error, and the pursuit of excellence in biking technology. That history serves your purchase well, as Kestrel has evolved into a leading brand for racing bikes.

Kestrel was founded in 1986, born out of a divorce of sorts. Two competing factions within Aegis parted ways over a dispute about manufacturing. The team who went on to form Kestrel preferred a frameset design over a more tube and lug design; Kestrel and others also used the carbon fiber frame first pioneered by Aegis to revolutionize modern bicycles.

Very soon after their formation in 1986, Kestrel launched their first bike: the Kestrel 4000. From the moment this all-carbon, fully aerodynamic bike hit the market, Kestrel has been busy continuously introducing new innovations and new models.

Kestrel has been lauded for the introduction of bladder-molded monocoque carbon structures, and if you are new to bike racing, you may have no idea what this means or why it matters. Here is a hint: it has nothing to do with a cyclist relieving her bladder, though we know there are plenty of cyclists who wish there was some kind of magical technology for this!

Bladder molding refers to a process where organic hollow shapes are created out of composite materials. In layman’s terms, this means a bicycle frame can be constructed with fewer components and made lighter to boot, all of which makes you faster.

Kestrel’s impressive growth to a leader in the cycling industry also includes these highlights:

1988: The MX-Z, the first all-carbon mountain bike, is introduced by Kestrel.

1989: Kestrel came out with the EMS and the KM40. The EMS was an important innovation for Kestrel and the entire industry, as it brought the carbon fork to cycling. Kestrel’s KM40 would be known as the pioneer for carbon bikes for triathlon competitions.

1992: Kestrel introduced another exciting model, the 500Sci. This bike was Kestrel’s first with the tubeless seat design.

1995: Kestrel released the Rubicon Corp.

2002: A full carbon monocoque mainframe with an FSR rear suspension system are the boast-worthy features of the Kestrel Edge.

2003: Chris McCormack, a Kestrel partner, wins the Ironman.

2007: The RT-700 is named Outside Magazine’s Bike of the Year.

2008: Advanced Sports International acquires Kestrel.

2010: Kestrel launched the 4000-time trial/triathlon model.

2012: Kestrel launched the RT1000.

2013: Kestrel launched their lightest bike to date, the aptly named Legend.

2014: Kestrel introduced an upgraded Talon triathlon/road bike.

2015: Kestrel outdoes its own work again, with the lightest bike in their history: the 10.99 lb Legend LTD.

2017: With speed not to be outdone by weight, Kestrel ups the ante again with the fastest bike they have ever produced: the 5000SL.

2018: Shifting back to weight, Kestrel introduces their lightest frame in the Legend SL.

adventurer with his bicycle on top of the mountain

The Technology Behind Kestrel Bikes

While it is easy to think of carbon fiber frames as expected or ordinary today, they were revolutionary when Kestler brought them to the market in 1986. This pioneering spirit has led Kestrel through each new iteration of its bikes, as the company consistently strives to be leaders in racing and mountain bike innovation.

For the average cyclist – the one who straps bikes to the back of the car for a family vacation or occasionally peddles the neighborhood with their kids – there is not much thought given to the ins and outs of how the bicycle frame was designed and constructed. If you are upright on two wheels and moving forward, it is getting the job done.

But serious cyclists understand why every design specification on a Kestrel bike, even the most minor details, are about increasing speed. These are bikes used by champions, and the technology reflects that.

Carbon fiber frames, pioneered by Kestrel, are favored over other fibers (like plastic or glass) for several reasons. Carbon fiber has a low thermal expansion, is lightweight, can withstand high temperatures, and is incredibly strong. These bikes are certainly tough and made to last.

The frame designs in Kestrel bikes are fluid and sleek; they maximize speed and wind resistance.

bicycle lane logo printed on road

Road, Triathlon, and Mountain Bikes

If you are shopping for a Kestrel bike, there are plenty of great options available. To narrow down which Kestrel model is best for you, the first question is, do you need a road bike, a triathlon bike, or a mountain bike?

And we should clarify here that if your budget allows it, there is nothing wrong with buying more than one.

Kestrel manufactures bikes that can be used for road racing/triathlons and mountain biking, and within these categories, there are also options for everyone from beginners to experts.

Kestrel road bikes include the Legend SL, Talon X, and RT 1100 series. These are outstanding bikes built for speed and performance. For triathlons, Kestrel offers the impressive 5000 SL series.

Kestrel mountain bikes are offered in the MXZ series, including MXO Pro and MXO Team bikes. They are nimble and light but also tough enough for any terrain.

man riding mountain bike during day time

Kestrel Reviews

To guide your buying choices, we will look at four popular models, offered in order of lowest to highest price point.

Talon X Shimano 105

Weight: 18.35 pounds
Frames (cm): 48, 52, 55, 57, 60
Fork: KSL Carbon, 1 1/8 inch – 1 ½ inch tapered carbon steerer
Wheelset: Oval Concepts 327, 700c 20/24H rims
Tires: Vittoria Zaffiro Pro, 700 x 25c, folding

Kestrel’s Talon X is a reliable choice for a lightweight yet strong bike. You might consider this the “entry-level” model in Kestrel bikes, but that does not mean it is not a powerful bike.

The Talon X is constructed with 800k carbon fiber, and each frame size has unique tube lengths, diameters, shapes, and carbon layups. Whether you are 5 feet tall or 6 feet five inches, there is a Talon X model that will give you an incredible ride.

Pros: A great bike for the price, lightweight, adjustable seatpost that can be set up for triathlons

Cons: Some users report microcracks in the frame after extended use and want to see more stopping power in the brakes at high speeds.

talon x shimano 105 mountain bike isolated on white background

RT 1100 Shimano 105

Weight: 19.11 pounds
Frames (cm): 45, 58, 51, 54, 57
Fork: KSL full-carbon, 1 1/8 inch – 1 ½ inch tapered steerer, FM disc 12 mm TA
Wheelset: Oval Concepts 524 DISC, 700c 24/28H rims
Tires: Vittoria Rubino Pro, 700x28c, folding

The RT 1100 is a fantastic option in the $2000-ish price point. Shaped seat stays on this model offers extra comfort on uneven terrain, and the hydraulic disc brakes ensure durability. This is a solid choice for everything from 75+ mile rides to quick runs around town.

Pros: The variety of frame sizes ensure a good fit for any rider, and the sturdy carbon frame makes it a reliable choice.

Cons: The saddle is bad (you will likely need to replace it), and the wheelset is heavy.

rt 1100 shimano 105 red mountain bike

Legend SL Shimano Ultegra

Weight: 15.66 pounds
Frames (cm): 48, 51, 54, 57, 60
Fork: KSL full-carbon, 1 1/8 inch – 1 ½ inch tapered steerer
Wheelset: Oval Concepts 723, 700c 20/28H tubeless compatible rims
Tires: Vittoria Zaffiro Pro 700 x 25c, folding

The Legend lives up to its name as Kestrel’s most lightweight bike, built for performance and speed. The one-piece molded structure with no bonded joints gives serious riders an incredibly sophisticated frame.

Pros: An aggressive race design built for winning (and it is also comfortable)

Cons: The Legend models can get extremely pricey. (The SL Shimano Ultegra is the least expensive of the three models)

legend sl shimano ultegra mountain bike


Weight: 25.30 pounds
Frames (in): 15.5, 17.5, 19, 21
Fork: RockShox SID RL, 1 1/8-1/1/2 inch tapered steerer, 100 mm Travel
Wheelset: WTB i23 TCS, 32h thru-axle sealed hubs, TCS rim tape installed
Tires: Maxxis Aspen, 29×2.1 inches, EXO, tubeless-ready, folding

The MXZ series from Kestrel includes the PRO and TEAM bikes – offroad beasts ready to take on rough terrain. The XC-inspired geometry on the MXZ pro gives the rider incredible control and turns out terrific performance.

Pros: A sturdy mountain bike that stands up to the elements and offers riders plenty of control.

Cons: The rims are on the heavier side, as is the bike itself.

mxz pro mountain bike isolated on white background

These are just four of the bikes offered by Kestrel, and it is important to note that before you purchase one, especially if you are planning to order one online, that you are fitted at your local bike shop.

You could shell out thousands of dollars for a state of the art racing bike and still fall flat with a last-place finish if the bike is ill-fitted for your size and needs. A professional dealer can help you determine the best fit and model for your size and shape (and you can still order the bike online if you can find a better deal than the one the dealer is offering!)

That takes us to our final point, and it is a very important one.

Kestrel Bike Assembly

Here is Kestrel’s information regarding assembly, as noted on their website: “For your safety, we do not provide assembly instructions and require all Kestrel bikes to be assembled by a professional mechanic at a bicycle shop. The importance of professional assembly cannot be overstated.

It is one of only two requirements that need to be met for the bike to be covered under our warranty policy (the other being that you are the bike’s original owner). If you are interested in having warranty coverage on your bike, please take your bike to your local bike shop to have it assembled and adjusted by a professional bicycle mechanic”.

Therefore, you will need to factor assembly into your budget when purchasing directly from Kestrel. There ARE options to purchase assembled bikes online, but you will not have the warranty coverage described above. This may not be an issue for all riders, but it is important to understand this before making such a significant purchase.

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