Recently, I was loaned a Stanforth Kibo bicycle to test out. Over the last few weeks, I have taken it on a number of rides in order to see what I think to it. Whilst I am not quite ready to give it a full review yet (that blog post will be in a weeks time), here are some general thoughts.
The Stanforth Kibo
It goes without saying that the Stanforth Kibo has a distinctive look to it. Clearly, this is either going to appeal to people or it won't. In terms of marketing, this is perhaps a double edge sword (not that I am a marketing expert!). The negative side, is that if you don't like what you see, then you are unlikely to be persuaded by the well thought out components which have been used. The positive side, is that if you do like the look of it, those same well thought out components will have you nodding in a satisfied, assured way.
Perhaps somewhat ironically, the thing that stands out most about the Stanforth Kibo, has little to do with its suitability or not as a touring bicycle. That's those white tyres of course, which are Continental Retrorides. It's an inspired choice of tyre, and really helps define the bike. In fact, it's difficult to imagine the Kibo with anything other than those tyres on. You could even argue that the Kibo is the bike that Retrogrades were made for! Matched with a Brooks brown leather saddle, and brown leather handlebars, this bike really lives up to its ‘Where Urban meets Expedition' moniker. Personally, I love the look of it! This is an eye-catching bicycle with style, as equally suited for urban and countryside rides as it is to being cycled around the world.
The Stanforth Kibo and Bicycle Touring
And this is where I come in. Because whilst the Kibo makes a great commuter or weekend bike, it is its suitability for bicycle touring that I am more interested in. It certainly has a number of good things going for it in that regard. This is probably due to there being an entire philosophy behind the hand-built Stanforth Kibo, and this sets it apart from indistinct mass produced touring bicycles such as Dawes or Surly. (No doubt I will receive a barrage of comments from Dawes and Surly lovers for that one!).
Anyhow, much of the philosophy and concept of the Kibo can be derived from a book called Bicycles Up Kilimanjaro, written by Richard and Nicholas Crane. Documenting the Cranes adventures cycling Africa's highest mountain, it is a great story to read. Simon from Stanforth sent me a spare copy he had, and it soon became apparent that the book and story has been an important influence on Simon in designing the Kibo. It's probably also worth mentioning that he is the son of the former owner of Saracen Cycles who supplied bikes to the Cranes! I imagine that a lot of the thought and inspiration for the Kibo's design comes from conversations or presentations by the Cranes themselves.
A solid steel frame, easily adjusted quill stem handlebar and Tange Levin headset all draw from the bikes used on the Cranes adventure. These components have stood the test of time, and the Tange Levin headsets on some 20 year old ATB's (All Terrain Bikes) are still going strong. I don't agree with all the reasoning behind other component choices though. The cantilever brakes may add to the aesthetics of the Stanforth Kibo, but in my opinion, V-Brakes should be the only choice for bicycle touring. I will talk about that in the forthcoming review however.
All in all, I've really enjoyed these last few weeks riding around on the Kibo. It's a bike I have come to appreciate for the thought put into it, and the high quality of the build. It is also a conversation starter! As I mentioned, I am working on a more in-depth review of the bike, which will go live in a weeks time. If you want to find out more about the Stanforth Kibo before that, here is their website – http://www.stanforthbikes.co.uk/