Kinesis have taken quite a while to produce their first big-wheeled mountain bike but the FF29 impressed instantly. It combines the low weight and direct ride response advantages of a quality aluminium frame with bang-up-to-date 29er geometry. The result is a lively trail character that'll seduce the big-wheeler cynics as well as impressing those looking for more hard riding thrills than has until recently been the case with 29ers.
Ride & handling: Like a very fast 26er, but smoother
The FF29 frame is stiff when under pressure, which is great for out-of-the-bends acceleration and on climbs, but the big wheels, fat treads and careful saddle choice prevent it from feeling too harsh, muting the hard edges left after the softer roll of the big wheels has worked its magic. It's a bit more chattery over rough ground than some of its steel-framed rivals but it makes up for that in terms of absolute speed.
The long, low, lively geometry combines with the short head tube and stiff but light overall design to produce one of the most enticing high-speed big-wheelers we've tested at this price. But a lot of thought has gone into the fine detail, and the result is a bike that, while often feeling more like a race bike, is also one of the best hard-hitting trail hardtails available.
Put simply it's a very fast, very stable, still reasonably comfy and very lively bike that would be equally at home on race circuits or all day rides. It'll happily accept a 100mm-travel fork, but a 120mm fork like the Marzocchi Micro Ti 44 supplied with our test frame opens up the ride potential to riders looking for more hard hitting control than a pure cross-country race bike can offer. The purists who like to to stay more closely in touch with mother earth can opt for a Kinesis Slide 29RL fixed-blade carbon fork for another £200.
Frame: Well thought out chassis with light and lively feel
The FF29 (Kinesis tell us FF stands for F****** Fast) is a classy looking beast that comes in Met Grey or Diamond Black if you don't like Sick Green. Kinesis use 'Super Plastic Formed' shaping technology for the top and down tubes. This is essentially hydroforming but using higher temperatures than normal to build more complex shapes into very thin walled tubes.
The 'Kinesium' tubes are made from 6000 series aluminium, which is claimed to be 25 percent stronger than the more common 6061 but without a price hike. ‘Supertapered’ seat- and chainstays probably help to muffle the harder edges of vibration over rough terrain, and there's still plenty room for big tyres without the back end feeling unduly long. A short tapered head tube and curvy down tube combine to achieve a low front end with plenty room for big fork tops to turn without hitting the frame.
With its SRAM X0 drivetrain and a smattering of classy finishing components including costly Reynolds carbon wheels, the bike Kinesis sent us was one of the lightest and liveliest big-wheelers we've tested. The wheels push the full bike price up to around £3,000 but with less exotic mid-range hoops it would be easy to score a sub-25lb build for under £2,000. Our test model tipped the scales at 23.8lb (10.8kg). Claimed frame weight is almost exactly 4lb.