Stanforth Kibo Expedition Bicycle – 26 Inch Wheel Steel Frame Touring Bike

A look at the original Stanforth Kibo expedition bicycle. This 26 inch, steel frame touring bike exudes style, class, and most importantly, reliability.

expedition bicycle

Stanforth Kibo Expedition Bicycle

Three months after being loaned a Stanforth Kibo expedition bicycle to test out, I am in a pretty good position to give it a final review.

During this time, I have ridden it unloaded and fully loaded, on sealed roads and rough single tracks, and in rain and shine. In short, it's been given a bit of a thrashing. Many apologies Simon Stanforth!

My Stanforth Touring Bike Review

As this review is likely to be a bit in depth, you might want to make yourself a cup of tea before you go any further. If you just want the short version however, here it is:

The Stanforth Kibo is a well thought out, excellently designed bike that can just as easily take you around the world in comfort as it can to the shops and back. British built, steel framed, 26 inch wheeled touring bikes don't get much better than this, and as an expedition bicycle, it offers incredible value for money.

Ok, that's the short version over with. Let's get cracking with the longer one, which will explain why I think all that.

The Stanforth Kibo – Appearance

It's pretty clear from the outset, that the Stanforth Kibo has been designed with style in mind. The aesthetics of the bike are well thought out, and have you ever seen Continental Retro Ride's look better on any other bicycle?

The use of a Brooks brown leather saddle, and Velo Orange brown leather gripped handle bars is a bold move that also works well.

Where Urban meets Expedition

Stems on both the seat post and handlebars are chrome coloured, as are the cantilever brakes. The black gloss finished steel frame completes the ensemble, giving it a classic almost retro look.

Stanforth themselves have used the moniker “Where Urban Meets Expedition”, and I think that about sums it up really. It's “old school” appearance will certainly have fellow cyclists chatting to you.

On looks alone, why ride a boring Dawes or Surly, when you can pedal around the world on a far more unique and individual looking machine such as the Kibo?

The Stanforth Kibo – Expedition Bicycle

So ok, it looks nice, but we all know that looks aren't everything. Is it any good? Well, give it more than a cursory glance, and you will soon realise like me, that the bike is made up of well thought out, solid, reliable components. It's probably best to put them into categories –

Kibo Steel Frame

As far as I am concerned, steel frames are the only type that should be considered when choosing an expedition bicycle. This is not the place to go into why that should be, so you'll just have to take my word for it!

The Stanforth Kibo firmly ticks this box with a frame which is hand built in the UK, and composed of British Reynolds 631 steel.

The frame and forks are lugged, and have bosses for three bottle cages, rear and front racks, and mudguards.

Powder coated for durability, it is resistant to chips and scratches, and has a black gloss finish.

This all goes in some way to emphasise the bikes retro look, but at the same time, sacrifices none of the things that go towards making a quality expedition bike.

The weight of the steel frame is hardly a consideration at all when loaded down with panniers, and its strength and high build quality is readily apparent.

Wheels and Tyres on the Stanforth Kibo

The Stanforth Kibo is a 26″ wheel touring bike, which really is the only sensible choice when it comes to expedition bicycle wheel size. Wheel quality counts, and the use of Rigida Sputnik 36 hole rims, in terms of wheel strength, is about as tough as its going to get.

Broken spokes are the bane of a cyclists life when touring, but with these beauty's, its far less likely to happen. Of course no wheel is indestructible, but start off with the best, look after them well, and they will see you through many happy years of bicycle touring with minimal issues.

The hubs are Shimano Deore, and I can vouch for these being a good choice of hub for any expedition bicycle.

Stanforth Kibo expedition bicycle

Bike Touring Tyres

If there is one instantly noticeable thing about the Kibo, its those white Continental Retro ride tyres. Aesthetically, it's a perfect choice for this bike, and sets it off brilliantly. The question is, would I use these on a bicycle tour?

That's debatable. Most people, myself included, would prefer to tour with Schwalbe Marathon tyres. They have proven themselves over the years to be long lasting, and extremely puncture resistant.

There is just no way they would look as good on this bike as the Retro Rides do though! I would probably answer this question then, by saying that I would stick with the Retro Ride's for tours of a month or less, but would probably swap them out for Schwalbe's on an extended tour.

Transmission on the Kibo Bicycle

Stanforth Kibo Expedition Bicycle
I did say that I had thrashed the Stanforth Kibo expedition bicycle!

Gear ratios are all important when it comes to bicycle touring, especially if you are cycling up steep hills with heavy loads.

It comes with a nine speed setup, providing 27 gears to choose from. The rear cassette is a Deore 11-34 and the triple chainset is 22-32-42. Front Deore and rear XT derailleurs complete the transmission.

There's not a lot more to say really. Quality touring bicycles all have similar setups for the same reason – It works.

Related: Best bike saddle for touring

Brakes on the Stanforth Kibo bike

The Stanforth Kibo comes with cantilever brakes as standard, and it is the only choice of component that I do not agree with.

There are two main problems with cantilever brakes. Firstly, they are fiddly to readjust, and secondly, the cantilevers are not flush with the frame, and stick out an inch or two either side.

When using the Kibo as an urban bike, this would not be a major issue, but in my mind, its is a problem if using it as an expedition bicycle. The reason for this, is that the rear panniers in particular have a tendency to rest on the cantilever brakes, forcing them on every now and again.

You can get some idea of where the brakes stick out, with the pannier behind
You can get some idea of where the brakes stick out, with the pannier behind

Would V-Brakes be better?

Normally, you only realise this when the going has been hard for a few miles, and you get off and look to see what is going on! The accepted solution is to angle the rear rack in such a way as the panniers no longer rest on the brakes.

This does work, but means that any aesthetics that were provided by the use of cantilevers are lost because the rear rack is at an ugly angle.

Additionally, the strength of the rear rack may also be reduced. In my mind, good quality v-brakes are the best option for an expedition bike (don't even mention disc brakes!).

I've talked to Simon about this, and he says that although the cantilevers are standard, he would be happy to supply the Kibo with V-Brakes if requested.

Gear and Brake Levers

On the Stanforth website, Sturmey Archer thumb shifters are listed, but the model I was given to try, came with Sunrace M90's. Simple thumb shifters work well on an expedition bicycle such as the Kibo, as there is so little to go wrong.

Either shifter would be fine, although the Sturmey Archer's would look more elegant. The brake levers are Shimano Tiagro, which are basic but functional. Again, little can go wrong with them, which is always a bonus.

Handlebars and Stem

As I've mentioned earlier, the bike comes with brown leather grips, which look great, but are perhaps impractical for bicycle touring. Simon said so himself, and suggested that they be swapped out for ergo grips for tours of more than a couple of weeks.

I totally agree with this, as the last thing you want is to start getting oil and muck on the leather. That said, I used them for the entire three months, and they didn't stain or mark at all. Comfort wise though, ergo grips and end bars would be more suitable for long distance bicycle touring.

Quill stems for bike touring

On to the stem – At first glance I had my reservations about the quill stem, because it just didn't seem solid enough. I questioned Simon Stanforth about this, and his reply was –

“I wanted to mention the rationale behind the stem.

I've gone for a quill riser stem as I believe the benefits of being able to very quickly alter the bar height outweighs the strength arguments. As the bike is designed for all terrain touring, the bar height will need to change for different types of cycling, with the quill stem this can be done in a matter of seconds. The Nitto Fu-82 periscopa stem is made from a single piece of forged aluminium so it is strong. For more aggressive off road cycling the stem can be lowered reducing any flex.

I've biked off-road hard on my 80s MTBS with quill stems and there's never been any issues. They seem to be a part that doesn't break and having spoken to people on retrobike I've never heard of it happening.”

Stanforth Kibo Cockpit expedition bicycle

A Challenge for the touring bike!

Now rightly or wrongly, I interpreted that as a challenge to see if I could break it!

For three months, I have had it extended just past its recommended maximum point, and hammered the bike up and down hills to put some strain on it.

The result – It's still in one piece!

So, I totally agree that this is a quality stem and very unlikely to break.

Would cyclists consciously raise and lower it depending on the terrain they were cycling on though? I'd love to hear some feedback on that – Would you?. I'm not entirely sure that I would myself, but I don't come from a mountain biking background.

Headset on the Kibo

The Kibo comes with a Tange Levin headset, which really are built to last. Considering that some are still going strong from bikes 30 years of age or older, its a great choice of component.

Bike touring racks

I am not including the racks as part of the review. This is because the Stanforth Kibo is priced up without them, in case people wish to ride it as an urban bike rather than an expedition bicycle.

The model I tried out came with Tubus racks attached though, and these are an excellent choice for bicycle touring.

Stanforth Kibo expedition bicycle

Stanforth Kibo Expedition Bicycle – Conclusion

I guess I've already summarised this in the short version of the review up above, but let's give it another go, beginning with the price.

As of writing this, the Stanforth Kibo costs £1,495 with the specs I have mentioned, and for a more in-depth list of these, you can visit their website – Stanforth Bikes.

With this in mind, I think that when it comes to pure value for money, it's really not going to get much better than this.

The components are excellently thought out, the build quality is among the best I have seen, and it's looks certainly make it stand out from the crowd.

There is a bit of individuality about the bike of course, but also that satisfaction of knowing that it really is built to last, and is up to the job.

In conclusion then, whether you are planning a two week bicycle touring holiday, or an around the world ride, the Stanforth Kibo expedition bicycle can do it all. British built, 26 inch wheel touring bicycles really don't get any better than this.

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7 thoughts on “Stanforth Kibo Expedition Bicycle – 26 Inch Wheel Steel Frame Touring Bike”

  1. I have two rather similar bikes – one for city/light tour and the other set out for full on expedition touring which has tandem chainstays, fork blades and oversized Reynold steel tubing. They were both built by a frame builder to my specifications. I can perhaps comment on some of the points raised by others.

    1) A quality quill stem should be absolutely fine. Most traditional mountain bikes from yesteryears had quill stems and many of those are still in use. Touring bikes are not meant for extreme mountain biking and a slight flex in the stem actually helps in dampening the road bumps. In terms of up and down adjustment, it is certainly quite helpful especially for older riders. When you set out on a tour or in the beginning of the cycling season you may start with a more upright position, However, as you get used to being on the bike, you can lower the handlebars.
    It is surprising how profound the effect is on your shoulders, back and how the bike handles even with a minor change in handlebar height. The only issue is that the stem would occasionally creak due to dust and grime and all you need to do is to pull it out, wipe it off and apply a bit of grease. I have used my bikes for several years with a fair bit of weight on trails and hills without a hitch.

    2) Fully agree with the point raised by the author about canti brakes. I have them on my road bike but specifically went with V-brakes on the expedition tourer. Standard cantilever brakes do not have the stopping power unless you go for certain specific ones like Tektro.

    3) The leather wrapping on my handlebar (with gel wrapping underneath) has lasted now for over 10 years and several thousand miles of riding including snow and rain. Still looks great. It is aesthetically pleasing and functional. All you need is to rub a bit of Brooks leather goop on it once every few months.

    4) It has been suggested that the Hollowtech setup is less substantial than the traditional bottom bracket but I have not found that to be the case. They are both equally good and you can choose either of those.

    5) It is gratifying to see an expedition bike that also looks beautiful. Please look at the 1980s Miyata, Specialized and Raleigh. They were very pretty bikes and somehow had a ‘well-balanced’ design. Even today many people would stop to admire them. They somehow looked right. Some people prefer function over form but if you get both, it is better. The fact is that most ‘touring’ bikes end up as commuter bikes outside the touring season and a nice looking bike is a pleasure to ride.

  2. Beautiful bike. Geometry reminds me of the Raleigh Moonrun.

    A big flaw I guess when it comes to components is the use of a Hollowtech crankset instead of a square axle with solid cranks, like SKF & Sugino f.e.

    greetz – john

  3. Good review of what looks to be a great classic expedition tourer.

    Regarding stem height and he quill stem, they are all certainly tough enough for heavy use, however the adjustability argument is a bit of a furphy. Most people just set the stem height to suit then leave it there. I’ve never adjusted the height while on tour.

    Those coloured tyres might look grand but they wear faster than black tyres. It’s the carbon in black tyres that makes them harder wearing.


  4. Hi there,
    Thanks for the well presented review of your Stanforth Kibo.
    I had a titanium bike with some similarities made for me in 2009. This is still my favourite bike and will almost certainly outlast me.
    May I offer a few comments on componentry ?
    I am using TRP cantilever brakes and these are the best of the kind I have found.
    At Middleburn we are convinced that a wide range double is best for this sort of touring. It works better than a triple and we can offer 22-40 or even 20-40 crankset ratios using our INCY detachable spider combination, now available for square taper or thru’ axle bottom bracket system. Compared to some imported drive gear it is a bit more expensive, but it has the abiding virtue of being really long lasting and made by us in Hampshire.
    The rest of the bike, handlebar, saddle, etc. comes down to personal physique and consequent preferences but I notice your high seat cluster for ease of shouldering.
    We offer a huge range of combinations and I would welcome the chance to show you what we do in person.


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