Not everyone has the cash to buy the Tour de France wonder machines on the market. More people are looking for a good value in a high performance carbon road bike. This is where bikes like the Kuota Kharma Race come in. Many of the features of the higher end models with a much more modest price tag. Four years ago a frame like this would have been on a $6000 bike. Now the complete bike is less than half of that.
The Kharma Race is available as a complete bike or frameset to build how you like. The complete bikes are available with Shimano 105 or Ultegra, or SRAM Rival. I tested the Rival equipped bike. While a review of the group will be for another article, it works flawlessly. Shifts are fast and precise with a good lever feel.
The heart of any bike is the frame and what a heart the Kharma Race has. The swooping curve of the top tube draws the eye to the aero seat cluster. All the tubes flow into one another. Unusual for a bike of this price, the frame tubes are aerodynamically optimized to help you cut through the wind. This includes a cut out for the rear wheel in the seat tube and an airfoil shaped seat post. As wind drag accounts for over 90 percent of the resistance when riding on level terrain, every little bit helps. The fit is a little more relaxed than it’s higher end siblings, with a slightly shorter top tube for a given size All of the tubes are shaped to give a good balance between aerodynamics, stiffness and weight. And being an Italian design, a certain flare is apparent that you don’t see from a lot of the big brands. You will stand out on the local group ride on a Kuota Kharma, as they aren’t the standard cookie cutter bike.
But that is just the construction. The ride quality is the real star of the show. When I stated earlier that this would have been a top of the line frame a few years ago, I wasn’t exaggerating. I used to ride the Orbea Orca and that is what this bike reminds me of. Stiff but not harsh. Light and responsive. Handling is quick but not twitchy. Just very well balance with a good road feel. When you jump out of the saddle to sprint or climb a hill, the power is driven to the rear wheel. This doesn’t ride like a company’s starter carbon fiber bike. If you put on a set of race wheels on, you will be able to contest any ride or race you have the legs for.
The build kit that comes with the bike is solid with Deda bar and stem, Selle San Marco Ponza saddle and Shimano R-500 wheels. You may find the need to swap cockpit parts as the fit of these won’t be for everyone, but is usual with any bike. The only area I would suggest upgrading if you want to race or just get maximum speed, is the wheels. The Shimano wheels are fine as a training wheel but the aren’t either light or aero enough for a race wheel. If you haven’t ridden deep carbon fiber rimmed wheels then you won’t find it an issue.
The Kharma Race fits my criteria of being a working class bike. It’s light but tough. Good value with performance well above it’s price tag.