In 2009, to celebrate 10 years of designing bikes in the UK, Kinesis launched a new range – Decade – aimed at the enthusiast. The Virsa is its all-rounder, one that straddles cross-country and trail riding duties. It replaces the Virtue, keeping many of that model’s well-liked features and adding a new headtube to bring it bang up to date.
Ride & handling: Hard working but with rear end harshness and a poor fork
With a ride position that’s slightly biased towards the cross-country end of the scale, the Virsa is an efﬁcient machine for ticking off the miles. There aren’t any handling vices lurking, save for a slight tendency for the front end to wander on very steep, nose-of-the-saddle uphill grunts, though that’s easily sorted with a forward weight shift.
There are some caveats. Relatively slender tube walls give a hint of steel’s ability to ‘zing’ in the rough, but it’s spoilt by the wishbone rear end putting back some harshness that might otherwise not be there.
And while the fork is one of the better not-Fox-or-RockShox offerings we’ve seen, it can’t match the big names for high-speed smoothness when the hits come hard and fast.
It’s these seemingly minor niggles that prevent the Virsa from shining. Whether it’s the frame’s slightly harsh character, the fork’s lacklustre big hit performance or a combination of both, it lacks the inspirational je ne sais quoi that constantly has you reaching for a bigger gear or the harder line.
Frame & equipment: Versatile head tube and dropout options for personalised builds
That head tube is a big 44mm job, providing a solid anchor for the top and down tubes as well as adding a dose of torsional rigidity to the front end. It also means you’ve got a choice of steerer and headset options – the zero stack, 1 1/8in setup our test bike came with, or an external lower cup for a tapered-steerer fork to stiffen things up even more.
The multiple choice approach to front end setups is mirrored out back, with swap-out dropouts giving a bolt-on choice of vertical or horizontal slots, so you can go singlespeed. A box gusset up front provides some reassuring extra strength, while epic mud clearance at the rear – thanks to bridgeless chainstays and a wishbone seatstay – plus the forward-facing, mud-dodging seat clamp provide clear clues to the Virsa’s UK design roots.
You can buy a bare frame for £350, or a complete bike with SRAM X5 or X9-based builds. Our test bike came with the X9 2x10 setup with wide-ranging 11-36T cassette, air-sprung X-Fusion fork in 130mm trim and Tektro’s Orion hydraulic discs with pimpy carbon lever blades.
We like the Virsa’s no-nonsense honesty, versatile build options and price. It would beneﬁt from a better fork – we’d take a downgrade in transmission components to pay for it – but the frame isn’t quite good enough to stand comparison with the best of the rest.