The XC130 is Kinesis’s long-travel (130mm) hardtail. More light and long than heavy and burly, it's designed to be ridden for hours over a variety of terrain – the sort of riding most of us do. Although Kinesis’s blurb makes no immediate mention of fun, the XC130 inherently delivers plenty.
Few bikes offer mile eating efficiency and devil-may-care abandon together in the same package, but the XC130 does. It’s similar in feel to the original Whyte 19 – before it got slacked out and beefed up slightly – with an inspiring zip and spring in its step that'll appeal to riders looking to cover fast mileage together with technical thrills but without the steroid bolstered bulk.
Ride & handling: More than able to push the limits of speed and technicality
130mm of fork travel is longer than would be expected for ‘all-day riding’, at least by past standards. However, with the inevitable travel creep that's seeing cross-country race bikes grab 120mm of travel up front, it’s not as strange as it might seem.
On the trail such theorising is left by the wayside as the XC130 delivers an impeccable all-round ride. It's planted and poised on the climbs, thanks to its combination of a 425mm back end and 600mm top tube that, although not exactly long, allows you to put the hammer down yet still tackle the gnadgery stuff.
The Kinesis revelled in technical climbing challenges and we cleaned stuff that other bikes left us ﬂoundering on. If you need more reach, run a longer stem (ours was ﬁtted with a 90mm stem and 660mm wide bar). Point it the other way, and the balanced ride continues.
Treading a line between stable and nimble, the XC130 is surefooted at high and low speeds, and is more than capable of tackling steep and technical terrain handsomely. It won’t eclipse the very best pure-breed technical trail tamers – and nor is it fully featured as they are, with tapered head tubes and ISCG chain guard mounts – but it'll hold its own.
Where it truly comes alive is on undulating singletrack, where its light weight and direct power delivery conspire with its sorted geometry to tear the hind legs off the trail. If you live for fast yet furious trail riding yet have a smooth riding style you'll love this bike.
The light weight of our build no doubt contributed to the bike’s penchant for galloping along in all trail situations but it highlights that – whether you buy it as a frame only or as one of the new SRAM X5 or X9 based builds – this is a frame worthy of upgrading to unlock its smiles per mile potential. Although the frame-only package doesn’t include a seat clamp or bottle cage bolts, it's still good value at £340.
Frame: Well designed chassis, and good value too
Kinesis mountain bikes are designed in the UK by Dom Mason. Dom’s approach to bike design centres around “Correct detailing. Quality. Affordability. Innovation. Adaptability” – an admirably pragmatic mix. The frame is made from Kinesis’s own hydroformed Kinesium tubing with a zero-stack head tube to help keep the bars low.
To cope with the extra forces of the longer fork there’s a purposeful welded gusset on the traditionally round down tube, while a hydroformed ‘gusset’ beefs up the top tube/head tube junction of the rectangular top tube, ﬂaring towards the head tube junction to maximise the weld area for stiffness.
Mud plugging is an obvious concern that Mason has addressed by the use of bridgeless S-bend hydroformed chainstays that deliver very reasonable mud clearance for tyres up to 2.35in widths – yet still have space to just about squeeze in 2.5in rubber. A forward facing seat slot minimises the amount of crud that’ll ﬁnd its way into the seat tube, too.
Gear and brake lines are tucked out of the way under the top tube, with traditional cable slots and hose clips. Although the provision for continuous, fully sealed gear cable routing would be appreciated by severe weather stalwarts the use of traditional cable stops does allow for easing ﬂushing and cleaning of gear cables.
The hourglass seatstays aren’t the slimmest but nor are they the harshest, and help deliver a comfortable ride. The brake mount is International Standard (IS), rather than post mount, but the dropouts are forged and feature a replaceable mech hanger.
There’s only one set of bottle bosses in the traditional down tube position, but this does allow for an uninterrupted drop so you can lower your saddle right down and out of the way for snag-free pushing of the limits on techy terrain.
If you’d prefer not to self-build the frame, Kinesis also offer two complete builds – a SRAM X5 based one, and an X9 one (£1,230, and £1,500 respectively); both using impressively performing, yet reasonably priced X-Fusion forks, FSA and WTB ﬁnishing kit, and Tektro Auriga brakes.
Kinesis built our test frame up with a smorgasbord of lightweight kit – including Reynolds’ impressive but very expensive Carbon AM wheels – to emphasize the frame’s potential: the result is a bike that tips the scales at an impressive 10.7kg (23.6lb) for the largest size, excluding pedals. So it’s light, but certainly not ﬂighty.
This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine.