The legendary Kuwahara brand was resurrected a couple of years ago now, and with riders like Warwick Stevenson, Matt Pholkamp and Jeff Upshaw having been on board a Kuwahara in the past and present, they certainly have proven themselves race worthy. We reviewed the Laserlite Team 20" when they first came out and loved it, pretty much everything about it actually, but especially the way it handled and the way it looked. The modern design with modern technology but was still loyal to the long history of Kuwahara especially when the limited edition ET version was released.
The one problem that stood out with the original Laserlite Team bike was that the chain was so close to the rear seat stays it had a tendency to rub and take small chips out of the paint work. It's a simple problem to prevent if you get on to it early enough, but once the frame is chipped it's a bit late. Anyway it's nice to see that Kawahara have changed the rear of the frame and are now using hydroformed seat stays. This means the tubing is a lot narrower and gives the chain plenty of room, eliminating the problem completely.
Kuwahara lists these features on their website:
You can pick up a complete Laserlite Pro 24 in Australia for a touch under $1,000, now that's not bad for what you get, it's a good package, but it's possible you might want to make some changes. For example 175mm cranks aren't going to suit everyone, heavier cromo forks that might leave you looking for a lighter option, and everyone has a preferred tyre option already which may not be the Maxxis Holy Roller or it may not be 24 x 1.85. Any way you look at it, buying complete is a much cheaper option than just buying a frame and building it from scratch. That said the Laserlite Pro is available as just a frame.
The bike I reviewed is a modified complete bike. The forks were replaced with S&M Race forks, the ISIS cranks were replaced with the 2 piece Funn Hooker DH cranks with an external bottom bracket (the same type that comes standard on the Laserlite team issue) the tires and the pedals were also changed and to make it look a little different a chrome Envy rim was put on the rear.
The Laserlite Pro 24 is a sweet ride, there is no doubt about it. It did take a couple of minutes to get used to the steep 73° head angle, but once I got used to it it was game on. Some of the most important skills in BMX racing are the gate start, jumping and manualling, when we review frames and bikes we make sure we try everything we can to put the product through it's paces to give you a true indication of how it handles. Well let me tell you the Kuwahara passed with flying colours. It has a nice balance point for manualling at race pace through rhythm sections, at no point did I feel like we were going to loop out or struggle to get the wheel over the next roller. Jumping a new bike often feels a little strange, some bikes feel heavier in the front or the rear and react differently to different jumps. The Laserlite Pro 24 is perfectly balanced and handles exceptionally well when jumping. I must admit I was a little worried about gates, the 21.5" top tube length is fine for most BMXers but a little shorter than what I would prefer. After a few gates I noticed that I was getting a good snap without hitting my knees on the bars, not only that I was getting great gates. The hydroformed seat stays look a lot smaller than the original ones and Kuawahara have been using 6061 alloy instead of the original 7001 so I thought that might contribute to a little flex in the rear end, but it's quite stiff, which means more power to the back wheel.
The Kuwahara is the perfect race bike for those looking for something light and strong that they can build on, or maybe something a little better than entry level.
|Value for money:||5/5|
Check out www.kuwaharabmx.com for more info
Kuwahara is distributed in Australia by ECI (www.eciimports.com)
Reviewed by Shane Jenkins/bmxultra.com April 27 2009