First ride: KHS XCT-535 £979

Solid budget trail bike

BikeRadar score 3.5/5

KHS are well known for their 4X bikes, which have been ridden to glory by the likes of Dale Holmes and Melissa Buhl, but they actually produce a massive range of machines. We decided to check out their cross-country trail offering, the XCT-535.

Ride & handling: Likes to be ridden hard – otherwise budget shock's failings become clear

This bike is no lightweight, but KHS have put that extra material to good use because the frame is flex-free and confidence-inspiring, even when pushed hard.

Setting the bike up to eke out all of its 140mm (5.5in) of travel is a tricky procedure though, because the placement of the swing link gives a sharply rising shock rate.

To get an active ride we found we had to run sag at close to 40 percent of the shock shaft travel. Even then, the X-Fusion shock conspired against plushness as compression was over-damped, even when wound fully off.

On the plus side, KHS have got their angles bang-on and the well sorted geometry helps the bike muster some impressive speed on singletrack and when descending.

In fact, the rising rate shock and harsh compression damping actually work much better when ridden really hard and stonked though corners and the rough, where a harsh riding style gets the suspension moving.

The XCT is never going to be a plush ride and you’ll have to push it hard to get anywhere near using full travel, but the angles and frame stiffness do help overcome some of its rear suspension traction shortfalls.

Frame: Strong, good-looking chassis with genuine Horst link rear end

Looks can be deceiving and the XCT certainly looks far more expensive than its sub-£1,000 price tag. The 140mm-travel (5.5in) frame has a one-piece upper shock mount and swing-link pivot spanning half of the down tube, dissipating shock forces through an impressively large area. The dropped top tube is braced to the seat tube with a neat monocoque span.

Rear suspension is via a genuine Horst link four-bar system, helping to keep the suspension active when on the anchors, with the shock being driven by a swing link to tune the shock actuation ratio.

A neat, reinforced, integrated headset head tube and open-ended down tube gusset finish off the clean looking, hydroforming-free frame.

Equipment: Great component spec for the price, with kit from RockShox, WTB and FSA

Given that this bike costs £979, the spec is spot-on. RockShox Tora 302 Solo Air forks give a lot of bang for their buck, and the Shimano Deore shifters and SLX rear mech function perfectly.

WTB’s Silverado saddle is comfortable from the off and their Speed Disc XC rims can take a beating. FSA provide the 680mm-wide trail-friendly XC300 bars and the Moto chainset with external bottom bracket bearings.

The X-Fusion O2 RC air shock is a hint towards the budget price, but it’s adjustable for both rebound and compression with a lockout. Kenda’s Tomac Nevegal tyres are the excellent DTC dual compound type normally seen on much more expensive steeds.

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