Review: 2011 Talon SL by Kestrel
My first impressions of Kestrel’s 2011 Talon SL could best be summed up as “solid.” The frame sports traditional geometry (top tube parallel to the road), and is designed to be aerodynamic. In order to achieve this the down tube has a deep cross section and the seat tube hugs the rear wheel fairly close. Set-up with Ultegra, Oval Concepts’ 700 series package and built using Kestrel’s high end 800k carbon, the test bike (57cm) weighed in at 17.98 lbs. About a pound and a half lighter than the standard Talon model. A bit on the heavy side, it was important for me to remember the purpose of the bike, being an aerodynamic model not a traditional road bike like the RT 1000.
The wheels, Oval Concepts W745 clinchers, fit well aesthetically and purposefully with the rest of the bike. Carbon 45mm deep hoops are plenty aerodynamic for an Ultegra build, while the alloy rim provides the braking reliability expected by an out-of-the-box bike. The only surprising parts on the bike are the Oval 700 brakes. They perform great but made me realize that just four years ago boutique brakes not manufactured by the big two (at the time) were rare, now they’re ubiquitous.
Upon riding the bike my impressions of it being a solid bike were only reinforced and to me this was a very good thing. The bike tracked perfectly — later I’d find out the bike would be a top descender carving around corners very confidently. It’s not a ride to whip around a tight crit corner, but pick a smooth arc for a line and the bike will bring you from point A to point B flawlessly. Take your hands off the bars for a bit to get some food or stash a jacket and even mid pack you know you’ll hold true.
The aerodynamics of the bike and the general characteristics of it make for an ascent I wouldn’t call lively. When you picture climbers attacking each other in the Pyranies, imagine Indurain or, more recently, Ullrich dieseling through at a sustained pace and you’ll understand the Talon SL up hills. Aside from it’s confidence inspiring handling, the place where the Talon SL shines through is predictably in the flats. The bike felt efficient and inspired the type of riding where I draped my arms over the tops or got low in the drops and motored
Overall, I’d recommend it to someone looking for a very capable entry into the higher end race market. The wheels can be turned over to training wheels once an upgrade becomes necessary. Bigger riders and those with a lot of power will appreciate the frame. A spindly climber might want to look elsewhere. I came about this bicycle in the context of being used for RAAM and other endurance events. I think it will be beautifully suited to this type of riding. With it’s stability and comfort, endurance racers will be comfortable and confident as the days get dark and the mind gets tired.
Finally I’d be careful sizing this bike and would consult closely with your bike shop. Kestrel’s sizing structure is based of off top tube length. Which although reasonable is a little bit out of the ordinary, and since top tubes historically run a bit short compared to labeled frame size it could be easy to accidentally order a frame size too large.
– by Emiliano Jordan