Pedal Force RS2 Review - By Steve Cooper
- Semi-compact sloping top tube geometry
- Weight: 960 g (M)
- High modulus carbon monocoque
- Head tube for 1-1/8" Campagnolo Hiddenset or FSA Orbit CE compatible integrated headset
- Seat post diameter 31.6 mm
- Clamped-on front derailleur 34.9 mm
- Sizes: XS, S, M, L, XL
- Warranty: 5 years
- MSRP Frameset: $800
The Urban Dictionary defines a red headed step child as "a person or group treated without the favor of birthright." In some ways that fits the Pedal Force RS2. But lack of a pedigree is not this bike's sole defining characteristic. Like many a hot red-head, this bike has that desirable "it" quality, and when your friends lustfully check her out on the street, just smile.
About six weeks ago, UPS delivered two suitcase sized boxes, with an extra large RS2 carbon fiber frame, an FKR8 fork, a SRAM Rival build kit, Fulcrum Racing 5 wheels and some well pedigreed components including a Ritchey WCS bar and stem, Michelin PRO3 rubber, and a Selle Italia Flite Gel Flow saddle.
Unpacking box number one, I was surprised. The frame was a looker. Sexy lines draped in vibrant gloss red and white, with carbon highlights throughout. With matching carbon fork and carbon seat post, this was clearly unexpected; honestly, I was excited.
The second box contained a SRAM rival group in retail boxes, the wheel set and skewers, handlebar, stem, Cinelli bar tape, headset, tires, tubes, rim strips, a fork expander plug and all the manufacturers' manuals. The hook was set; I came up with some quick excuses to justify jumping into the build.
Fork and frame details:
The high modulus carbon monocoque RS2 frame is constructed from precisely layered 3K carbon weave, in the same Asian factory that builds many prestigious and expensive brand name carbon frames. It's not fair for me to include those big names here, so I'll withhold the gossip and let you reach your own conclusions on that front.
The visible portions of the almost seamless fabric layup are very straight and smooth, with no ripples or abrupt transitions. The bottom bracket intersection cleanly flows into a short wishbone with triangulated chain stays, and above to the round seat tube and it's beefy down tube. As the down tube angles to the head tube, it tapers aesthetically into a svelte pentagonal sectioned tube that looks laterally strong. The top tube and head tube form a sturdy junction, with the modestly sloping top tube tapering and arching down with a stylish organic curve as it intersects the seat tube. A just-thick-enough wishbone continues the top tube's bowed lines, with triangulated seat stays fluidly curving into aluminum rear dropouts. The derailleur hanger is replaceable. Molded indents allow for tire clearance on the seat tube and chain stays, and a second molded indent above the bottom bracket provides front derailleur clearance. BB threads were clean and did not need facing. The RS2 is clearly a sturdy, sophisticated frame that displays an abundance of carbon fiber expertise without sacrificing style.
The FKR8 (product name kudos!) fork is constructed with the same high modulus 3K carbon weave as the frame. The carbon steerer transitions into the low-profile sloping crown, then flowing into flattened, swept-back aerodynamic blades which straight taper to the aluminum front dropouts. Carbon layup is similarly straight and not visibly seamed.
However, there are a few blemishes and cut corners you should be aware of. The pop-rivets that hold the shifter and brake cable stops in place looked like something right off the shelf of your local hardware store, as did the chrome sheet metal screw that fastened the shifter cable guides to the bottom bracket. The rear brake drilling hole was a little on the rough side, but hidden once the rear brake is mounted. Last of the blemishes would be the drilling just behind the bottom bracket for the front derailleur cable; it turns abruptly at a sharp angle upwards from the guide, looking like there'd be a little friction to detract from front shifting (note: appearances aren't all they seem, shifting seems fine). Many carbon frames use a curved stainless guide tube to provide smooth cable actuation.
For geometry fans, the fork has a 1-1/8" thick walled carbon steerer, with a 45mm rake. Our 58cm short XL frame's dimensions are relatively long with a 59cm top tube, and an effective 61cm seat tube height. The RS2's modest 72.7 degree seat tube with its sportier 73.3 degree head tube and tight 101cm wheelbase yields quick, responsive handling that's still comfortable.
The RS2 head tube is compatible with a 45mm O.D. Campagnolo or Cane Creek integrated headset. The seat tube is 31.6mm. Pedal Force lists the XL frame's weight as 1040 grams with the fork at 380 grams, totaling 1420 grams.
Their website posts full geometry specs for all sizes, and as typical, smaller frame sizes are slightly more vertical in the seat tube and slacker in the head tube. With the top tube's curves, the frame's overall appearance looks more retro than compact, yet it provides the proportional sizing advantages touted in compact sizing.
In plain cardboard boxes, the packaging material was clearly selected to ensure the frame and build kit arrives intact, as did ours. The frame is bubble wrapped in the same box as the fork and seat post. The build kit and wheels fill a second box. Our build kit box had some small puncture holes, but everything inside was in perfect condition. And because everything came wrapped and protected in full retail packaging, it was like we'd just picked the parts off the shelf. The order contained everything needed except pedals to build our RS2.
Depending on which "expert" you listen to, the SRAM Rival group is ranked somewhere between Ultegra and 105. I'd place Rival components towards the higher end of that scale, with some advantages and disadvantages when compared to Ultegra. The Rival components are very easy to set-up and the Pedal Force/SRAM build kit supplied everything needed to complete the bike including shifter and brake cable housing, ferrules, barrel adjusters, cables, cable end crimps, rubber cable slap dampers and several different length front brake fixing nuts.
You'll need a few specific tools such as a Shimano Hollowtech II bottom bracket wrench, a Shimano cassette lockring tool, a set of metric allen keys, a good quality cable and cable housing cutter with crimper, and an inch pound rated torque wrench with metric allen key sockets. And for final seat and position set-up, a level, plumb bob and tape measure would help. I'd also suggest having a set of 1-1/8" spacers on hand before starting to adjust headset preload and set stem height.
SRAM has done a great job of designing easy access for all cable clamping bolts and the front derailleur band clamping bolt, with sufficient offsets to get an Allen key into position. The brake calipers have a flat for centering, point goes to SRAM for using a tried and true design. But the brake pads aren't as easy to hold and set as I would've liked, counter point to Ultegra. The double tap levers are very easy to tighten into place by folding forward the pliable rubber hoods, another nod to SRAM. The derailleur range limit screws are tighter than such small screws need to be, so be careful, don't get too ham-fisted when setting the hi/low positions or you'll mar the head.
Install the SRAM GXP™ bottom bracket outboard bearing cups with a your BB tool, and then install the crank. I opted for a compact 50/34 set-up to handle the steep Santa Cruz mountain climbs in our backyard. The left crank arm has an integrated self-extracting crank bolt, so no special tool other than the correct sized allen key is needed to install or remove the crankset.
When setting up the derailleurs, I noticed a split personality between front and rear. The rear was easy. It literally took minutes to get the perfect cable tension, limit settings and b-screw tension. The front was an altogether different beast. Positioning the cage was pretty standard. Once slack was removed from the cable however, the barrel adjuster needed to be fine tuned repeatedly to get the tension correct. Because the double tap front shifter has only two trim positions for each chainring, proper cable tension is critical to tune out cage rub. It took several test rides to really get it dialed in, now the front shifts just fine. Once set-up properly, both front and rear shift reliably, under any condition, with the only issue being operator error.
Installing the FSA Orbit CE integrated headset was easy. It's as simple as stacking the races and bearings on the steerer and in the head tube in the proper order, then sliding the steerer into the frame, lastly placing the headset's centering sleeve and adjusting race over the steerer.
Pedal Force includes their P2 carbon fiber seatpost with the full build kit. It's a 300mm x 31.6mm, gloss finished, high modulus carbon fiber post, with a three piece clamp and serrated post head. The serrations allow for secure locking, but sacrifice the subtle adjustments you'd find in a micro-adjust style post. The seatpost clamp has proper torque settings engraved, a nice touch. Follow those settings when clamping the post in position.
The Ritchey WCS bar and stem instructions list torque figures. Engraved rotation scales on the bar make it easy to gauge subtle tweaks. Once the saddle was in position, the pedals were on, the brakes and shifters adjusted, the bars wrapped with the included Cinelli tape, the tubes and tire mounted, and the wheels secured in the dropouts, it was time for the RS2's first test ride.
On the road:
Visually, the RS2 is a delight. The red, white and carbon scheme, with high gloss clear coat finish is brilliant, echoing color palettes found on high end European and US domestic carbon frames. Combined with the gracefully arched top tube and wishbone seat stays, with sculpted head tube that flows into the sweptback fork blades, the RS2 is always mistaken for something very expensive whether on a group ride, or parked outside my office when ridden as my commuter. The build complimented the colors with a white Flite saddle, white bar tape and white walled PRO3 tires. To the eye, it's a very sexy package with only one weird birthmark. The seat stay is emblazoned with four words "Pro Ultimate Racing Efficiency". hmmm…
On the road, the RS2's handling made a lasting impression. Another four words? How about these? Crisp. Taut. Precise. Nimble. When climbing, even when standing, the stays and BB exhibited only minimal sway, feeling light and tight, making it easy to deliver whatever power I had on tap. Descending was point and shoot reliable, with steering that's sharp enough to react fast to road imperfections, yet stable enough to hunker down and hold on for dear life on fast sweepers. Even on long, steady flats and rollers, the RS2 feels sporty. But short climbs, sprints and tight turns are what the RS2 lives for. If I were still racing criteriums, this would be a perfect choice. Great performance attributes at an affordable price is a hard combo to match.
The SRAM Rival shifting takes a little getting used to when compared to the Dura Ace 7800 group I've been riding over the last few years. It feels a little heavier; a bit notchier on upshift, and requires a patient pause for downshifts. After a few weeks of steady use, my Rival shifting skills have improved and are almost as smooth as my well practiced DA shifting. Rival brakes work great. Well modulated, predictable, smooth and confident. I never questioned going hot into any familiar descent. Ergos on the brake shifters? Awesome.The crank? No complaints and the chrome finish looks great. For my full 2008 Rival group review, click here.
I reviewed the RS2's Fulcrum Racing 5 wheels in detail here on RoadBikeReview. I'll add that these wheels were the perfect complement to other components in this build. The total package was all about function at a great price point, without any compromise in performance. And that it looked good was icing on the cake.
- Lightweight- fully built the XL came in at 16.49 pounds
- Well designed high modulus carbon monocoque frame and fork
- Solid power transfer yet comfortable
- Excellent all around performance handling
- Very attractive graphics and colors
- Easy to set-up- everything needed is supplied with the kit
- Race ready at a very affordable price
- Hardware store rivets and odd drilling for front derailleur cable
- A few rough spots from machining
- Seat stay verbiage that makes you go huh?
The Pedal Force RS2 is a hit. Its light, handles great, and has been a joy to ride over long distances, on hill repeats, on group rides and even for my 17 mile each way commute. It elicits compliments everywhere (really - everywhere) and stands toe to toe against bikes that cost two to three times as much. It may have an unusual pedigree, but the RS2 is a sexy red-head that performs like a pro.
Editors Note: Thanks to the folks at Pedal Force for sending along a correction that we'd like to share. There is a stainless steel guide tube for the front derailleur cable. It's not easily visible, but yes, it is nestled behind the bottom bracket, in the cable guide drilling; perhaps your reviewer should check into a stronger eyeglass prescription. 8)