- Dialled Bikes Kobe Ti
- £699 (frame only)
- Dialled Bikes
Hurrah for the sizable bike manufactories of the Far East. Bike snobs may turn their noses up at Taiwan-made frames, but if it wasn’t for Taiwan then we wouldn’t have such a great choice of bikes…
Here’s how it works. If you have the good fortune to be Giant or someone, you own a frame factory and can make what you want in huge quantities very cheaply. If you happen to be a framebuilder yourself, you can make what you want but only in very small quantities and at quite a cost. Inbetween fits everyone else, mostly designing their own frames and contracting out the actual manufacture to someone else. And the contract manufacturing game is now sufficiently streamlined that pretty much anyone with a good idea and a basic ability to draw can get themselves a sensible number of what they want at a sensible price.
Which brings us neatly to the Dialled Bikes Kobe Ti (you can Google for “Kobe Tai” if you want to know where the name comes from, but probably best not to at work…). It’s another of those bikes like Cotic’s Soul – the product of someone’s desire for a bike that nobody quite made.
The Kobe is designed for XC, but not head-down, arse-up, 180bpm XC. More ride up, find an interesting way down, pop to the caff and repeat XC. The intention is light without being skittish, handling biased towards the descents and enough stoutness to tackle all those little playtime bits you encounter on rides without turning into a full-blown freerider. Sounds good to us…
If you’re familiar with the Surly Instigator or Litespeed Kitsuma, the Kobe’s profile will ring a few bells. It’s the swoopy dropped top tube that does it. It’s there for two reasons. The first is practical – the Kobe’s designed to run up to a 125mm travel fork so inevitably ends up quite tall at the front. The curved tube gives you an inch or two of extra standover without making the back end so small that you have to run a 450mm seatpost. The second is aesthetic – it just looks a bit different and interesting.
Of those bikes it’s similar to, it’s most similar to the Kitsuma. That’s because both bikes are made of titanium. And it’s here that another benefit of Taiwanese build becomes apparent, for the Dialled costs about half what the Litespeed does… Sure, we’re not talking super-exotic tubing here. The Kobe’s built from plain-gauge 3Al/2.5V tubing, with a bit of subtle oversizing for stiffness. But it’s all very neatly done, with some top attention to detail.
It’s things like the beefed-up head tube and BB shell ends, tidy gussets, swoopy seatstays, neat dropouts, all having clearly been thought about and splendidly executed. You could spend more and get slightly more even welds, but equally you could spend more and not.
Geometry is simultaneously conventional and unusual. A 70degree head angle corrected for a typical 125mm travel fork with about 30% sag isn’t that out of the ordinary (although there’s still only a handful of hardtails that’ll happily take such a long fork), and the seat angle is par for the course at a smidge over 73degrees. 16.5in chainstays are on the short side of the usual range. The main point of difference is the top tube length. The Kobe is available in two sizes, 16.5in and 18in, with top tube lengths of 21.25 and 22.1in respectively. Whichever way you look at it, those are short.
But it’s intentional shortness. Short bikes are faster handling, flickable bikes and that’s the way the Kobe’s designed… Oh, and it’s disc only – not a canti boss in sight.
Dialled Bikes doesn’t do complete bikes, so there’s not much mileage in rambling on at length about the stuff on our test bike. Just for the record, though, we found ourselves with a reliable mix of tried and tested solid stuff – LX/XT transmission, XT brakes, Conti tyres, Race Face bits and bobs, Fox TALAS fork – none of which gave us any cause for complaint. Overall bike weight was a whisker over 26lb.
Let’s get this out of the way first. The Kobe Ti isn’t the best-climbing hardtail we’ve ever ridden. The short cockpit and high front end make it difficult to get into an efficient position and you never really feel like you can get as much power out of yourself as you’d like. But on the other hand it holds a line fine and it’s easy to manouevre if things get technical. In most cases it’s best to just not be in too much of a hurry on the ups.
The trade-off comes when you point it back down again. The steeper and nadgerier it gets, the more the Kobe likes it. It’s easy to get way over the back for steep drops and it feels handy and flickable in the air. And the compact, low-slung frame inspires confidence in the techy stuff. You have to work at it, though. This isn’t a bike that rewards the lazy rider. But put the effort in and you’ll find it pleasingly responsive to weight shifts and steering inputs.
If we had to pick one word to describe the Kobe, we think we’d have to go with “woodsy”. It likes corners, drops and rootiness. It’s less of a fan of really high speeds and sustained climbing. And that’s fine by us – all bike design is a compromise, and the world of bike would be a dull place indeed if everyone chose the same priorities…
Dialled Bikes has come up with a pretty single-minded bike here. This is a bike that sees climbing as a necessary evil to attain the main challenging descent event. It’s not for everyone, but if its priorities match yours, this is a well put-together frame at a bargain price.