KHS XC 604 - First ride £850

Superb value full-sus

BikeRadar score 4.5/5

It’s rare to find a sub-£1,000 full-suspension bike these days that’s worthy of wholehearted recommendation, but the KHS is one of those uncommon breeds. Very few of its component parts point to the budget price and the ride feel is as good as on many bikes costing £500-600 more.

Ride & handling: The best sub-£1,000 full suspension bike we’ve tested so far this year

Right from the off the KHS feels just right. It doesn’t suffer from the slightly cumbersome over-weighty feel that afflicts so many of the sub-£1,000 full-sussers we test. On the contrary, it feels much more agile than its 29.8lb heft would suggest.

You only really notice the weight on long steady climbs, but no more than you would with any other 30lb bike: the efficiency of the rear suspension design means you don’t feel as though you’re losing pedal power compared with your hardtail mates, so you’ll have a fighting chance to keep up.

Elsewhere, it deals with everything you point it at with the sort of skill-flattering flourish that is usually the preserve of far more costly bikes. The Manitou Drake fork in particular is a breath of fresh air compared with the usual downmarket forks we see on budget suspension bikes.

It’s a bit of a surprise, and a real joy, when forks and shocks work as well as this at a price where most are compromised by poor suspension performance. Of course, the big question for many riders will be whether this is better than a hardtail at the same price.

The answer, annoyingly, is both yes and no. Yes, because it turns the ride experience over rough terrain into a well controlled fun-fest that allows you to get away with far more ill-advised trail lines than you would on a hardtail, and you’ll also feel more comfortable and in control while you’re doing it.

And no, because the best hardtail offerings at this price will still tip the scales at 3-4lb less, and therefore will pedal up all but the roughest hills a fair bit faster as well as feeling more sprightly in acceleration. On a typical cross-country race course, a hardtail would still be faster for most riders.

For messing around in the woods, or for those who simply like to ride without the finesse that a hardtail can demand, the XC 604 is one of the very few sub-£1,000 full-suspension bikes we’d recommend. The parts specification and ride is better than any other full-susser we’ve tested at this price. In fact, it’s better than a lot that cost hundreds more.

While the pricetag has something to do with cunning parts choices, it has more to do with the fact that KHS's UK importers are selling direct. After all, cut out the dealer network and you delete one of the profit margins in the sales chain, which is fine as long as you don’t mind having the bike delivered to your door in a box.

Frame: Proven four-bar rear suspension and spot-on angles

The XC 604 offers a classic Horst Link four-bar linkage back end that feels remarkably well controlled with its rocker-activated X-Fusion O2 RC shock. There’s just over 100mm of travel on offer and the platform damping lever turns all the way from bump-eating plush to locked out, although the pedal efficiency of the frame design ensures that you’ll rarely feel the need for full lockout. The rebound damping is dial adjustable and effective too.

Frame-wise, the straightforward round tubed design has loads of standover room and is reinforced behind the head tube. The geometry is spot on for aggressive cross-country trail riding, with the long top tube (23.75in on our 19in model) keeping things flat-back efficient on power sections. There’s also a single set of bottle cage bosses.

Equipment: Excellent spec for the price, including a decent budget fork and Hayes discs

It’s usually the case that the biggest letdown on a sub-£1,000 full-susser is the fork, but that’s not the case here. The Manitou Drake isn’t a common choice on production bikes these days, but its performance is excellent, as befits its £350 pricetag.

The ‘Absolute’ platform damping lever on top of the right leg is an effective way of setting up your fork to behave exactly as you want it to. It’s easy to change on the fly too, from incredibly plush in progressive stages all the way to completely locked out for fast climbs and sprints. The rear-mounted arch looks tidy and does a fine job of helping to keep wheel tracking dead stable.

We’re still not quite sure how KHS have managed to hang such a decent bunch of parts on the XC 604 as well as such a good fork, but they have. The rear mech is Shimano XT, backed by Deore shifters and front mech, and a decent Truvativ Firex crankset and external bearing bottom bracket.

For stopping duties, the Hayes Stroker brakes are powerful, but ours were painfully screechy in the wet. The wheels are well built too, using unbranded hubs laced to Mavic X317 rims shod with grippy and reasonably fast-rolling Kenda Nevegal treads. The 27in FSA handlebar and WTB Silverado saddle are better choices than you’d usually find on a full-susser at this price too, as are the twin-bolted seatpost and quad-bolted stem.

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