KHS Flite 500 £850

Top equipment for the coin

BikeRadar score 4.5/5

Sure, steady, comfortable and with an excellent parts package for the money, the KHS Flite 500 is a great choice for long days in the saddle, sportive riding or just exploring the country lane network. In fact, for the price it might just be the best sportive bike out there.

  • Frame: It’s unusual to find any carbon fibre in a frame at this price, and the Flite 500’s carbon chainstays seem to help reduce a bit of road buzz. The lack of mudguard eyes is a shame though (8/10)
  • Handling: With a spot-on combination of stability and manoeuvrability the Flite 500 will cheerfully convey you through long day rides and sportives as well as dodging potholes on the way to work (9/10)
  • Equipment: A Shimano 105 transmission is almost unheard-of at this price. Adequate brakes and decent finishing kit round out the package well, and the gear range will get you comfortably up and down most hills (10/10)
  • Wheels: Sturdy and dependable thanks to the Mavic CXP 22 rims, but not exactly light. We’d swap the tyres for something nicer and look to treating ourselves to some light wheels soon after (8/10)

KHS are known for great value and have pulled off quite a coup here. The features list reads like it should cost £100-150 more, with highlights that include a double-butted alloy frame with carbon chainstays, Shimano 105 transmission, a two-piece compact chainset and Mavic rims.

On paper, the Flite 500 might be the biggest bargain in its class. But a great specification means nothing if the bike doesn’t ride well, and the Flite 500 delivers here too. It’s calm and steady without being boring; perfect for sportives and general purpose riding.

The Flite 500’s handling and ride quality come from its combination of a well-executed butted aluminium frame, with a downtube shaped to stiffen the bottom bracket, and carbon fork and chainstays. A long head-tube creates an upright stance for town riding and sportives. The frame’s only significant  deficiency is a lack of rack and mudguard eyes. There’s room for Crud Roadracer guards though.

The most intriguing part of the Flite 500’s design is the carbon chainstays. After deliberately rattling the bike over some deeply ropey sections of so-called tarmac, we’re convinced the Flite 500 is less harsh than similarly priced all-aluminium bikes – not by a huge margin, as tyres make the biggest difference in this department, but it’s definitely easier on your backside.

Light, flexible 25mm tyres would have similar effect, and good ones would be grippier in the wet than the 23mm Kenda Kontender rubber fitted as standard. Aside from fit-related items like the saddle and stem, they’re the one item we’d change in the shop.

The Shimano 105 transmission does its usual unflappable job of flipping from gear to gear, which is why you find it on bikes that cost twice as much as the Flite 500. As is often the case though, there’s some resistance at the lever thanks to the cable routing. This is a problem that a good mechanic could fix but it would entail retaping the bar, a chore best avoided.

We were pleased to see KHS have gone with the widest gear range Shimano offer, mating an 11-28T cassette to the 50/34T chainset for a 122in high gear and 33in low. In other words, a big range that’ll cope with everything but the steepest climbs.

Tektro dual-pivot brakes take care of stopping the Flite 500. With cartridge pads, these units come from higher up Tektro’s range and deliver decent stopping power in the dry. When they wear out, upgrade them to Shimano Dura-Ace pads and they’ll stop well in the wet too.

The bar, stem, saddle and seatpost are KHS own-brand items that are the typical middle quality you'd expect at this price. Like the carbon chainstays, the carbon wrap on the seatpost seems to help absorb some buzz before it gets to your bum. Angle adjustment comes from a single bolt and notched cradle, so some riders may struggle to get it right for them, but we found the saddle comfortable for long rides.

While we found a few things to criticise here, overall the Flite 500 is a great package for the cash with an excellent transmission, good brakes and a frame that won’t get embarrassing if you upgrade the components over time. It was rock-solid stable on our favourite fast descents, including the 40mph plummet off Westbury White Horse, while still being a capable climber, limited mainly by the fact that £850 bikes don’t trouble the lower end of the weight range.

Best of all, though, is the Flite 500’s all-day comfort. We’d happily climb aboard it for sportives and club rides, because its absorption of road buzz helps keep you fresh and comfortable over poor roads and its calm handling helps get you home however tired you are.

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