First ride: Kinesis Maxlight KM-210L (frame only) £300

Women's trail bike

BikeRadar score 4/5

Few female-specific designs are available as frame-only options, but if you’re looking to let your imagination run wild then this beauty from Kinesis is definitely worth a look.

Although the clinical moniker lacks allure, the paintjob alone drew envious stares from all angles when it was unveiled. We had this bike built up to our own specification courtesy of UK distributors Upgrade, so we had no qualms about hitting the trails hard.

Ride & handling: Fun ride that made us smile every time

The Maxlight KM-210L is something of a hardcore hardtail for the girls; the 70.5° head angle keeps handling fast and twitchy, but broad riser bars combined with plenty of cockpit space mean it’s easy to muscle the bike around on the trails – whether they’re pointing up or down.

The additional leverage afforded by a wider bar is of particular benefit to riders who have less upper body strength, as it maximises the leverage they can exert making short, sharp ascents on the KM-210L a relatively simple affair, with the bare minimum of having to ight the front end over steps and ruts.

The climbing performance is as good as you’d expect from a short-forked hardtail, with the short head tube and zero-stack headset keeping the front end low enough to accommodate a really efficient technique, and compact stays out back have a noticeable zip to them under hard, fast sprints over the top to the tea shop.

On the flats, Kinesis’s cross-country expertise shines out. Hammering through sweeping singletrack you come to appreciate the geometry that lets you get plenty of weight behind the front wheel, making the most of the toothy tyres to maximise traction and turn hard through the bends before stamping the power down to accelerate out ahead of the competition.

The Maxlight KM-210L is a balanced bike with plenty of poise that hides a cheeky side; it really is a whole load of fun to ride and our chosen build juggled the need for technical ability and out-and-out speed so effectively, we wonder why more stock bikes aren’t made this way.

Frame: Geometry keeps handling fast and twitchy

There isn’t a men’s equivalent to this frame in the Kinesis range, and that’s because it’s been designed from scratch with female riders in mind.

Seat and chainstays have both been rethought, with smaller diameters and lighter weights making the rear end as comfortable as possible for lighter riders who suffer on stiffer frames designed for heavier loads.

Neat hourglass bends in the seat- and chainstays reduce heel clearance issues, while leaving plenty of space for chunky tyres and mud, while the disproportionately large down tube resists twisting effectively.

Both disc and cantilever brake mounts come as standard; we’d prefer to see the latter removed, both to save a few grams and to acknowledge the commitment of the rider who is likely to go down the DIY route.

However, we accept that some buyers still value versatility over clean lines and that, strange as it may seem, some riders still prefer V-brakes over discs.

When it comes to geometry, Kinesis have stayed well away from the patronising super-short top tubes that inhibit riding stance for smaller riders.

At 550mm (17in), our large test sample struck a good balance between placing the bars within easy reach while keeping bodyweight evenly distributed between front and rear wheels, maximising control and balance.

A low-slung top tube offers lots of standover clearance; the whole package is laced together with tidy TIG welds, then wrapped in quite the loveliest paintjob we’ve seen this year.

It’s designed to take an 80-100mm fork, and while this may sound limiting, it’s worth remembering that longer forks start to reduce top tube clearance dramatically, causing problems on technical terrain for shorter riders.

Women are also often better placed to make more of a 100mm fork; it would be a generalisation to say that they’re always lighter and more graceful than their clod-hopping male counterparts, but they do tend to make up for a deficit in strength with more reined skills and are less likely to sit back and let the fork carry them through trail obstacles.

Equipment: Tweaking the spec to our own preference was a real treat

The beauty of building a bike from the ground up is that you can use your own riding experience to direct your hard-earned cash exactly where it’s needed.

If you’ve not been on the trails for long then your local bike shop should be able to offer guidance, but there’s nothing quite like hopping onto a bike that you’ve designed yourself and which feels instantly familiar as a result.

The build on the Kinesis was specced to our personal preference, so we really enjoyed setting it loose on our favourite riding spots where the burly tyres complemented the supple 100mm front end satisfyingly well.

It could have done with losing a little weight out back, as several riders criticised the slight imbalance between the superlight RockShox SID fork and hefty Reynolds rear wheel.

Our local trails are tough on wheels though, and if we were riding less demanding terrain, the Maxlight KM-210L would easily have accommodated a racier wheelset and some lighter rubber than the rock-friendly Geax Saguaro/Barro combo seen here.

We had no quibbles with the dependable Shimano SLX drivechain and although the Tektro Auriga Pro brakes take a while to develop true bite, the lever shape is spot-on for small hands and the price remains competitive.

Contact points were taken care of by Oval and Fizik; we’ve long been advocates of the Vitesse saddle for its unobtrusive feel and the bars, stem and saddle here are all no-nonsense parts that provide room for later weight-saving upgrades.

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