Kinesis Maxlight XC130 X5 £1299

Great quality fast cross-country/trail ride

BikeRadar score 3/5

Kinesis's Maxlight frames have been the default ‘custom build-up’ option for British privateer racers for years. Now the company have added build kit options for their long legged, long distance XC130 chassis. The result is a smooth-riding speedster for those who aren’t after radical handling.

Ride & handling: Very light and responsive for smooth trail speed

The X-Fusion Enix fork supplied with our XC130 had a tight and choppy suspension action, but more significantly, it suffered from so much flex and steering twang that it undermined the bike's ride badly. For an extra £50 Kinesis will supply the bike with an X-Fusion Velvet. Having slotted in a test Velvet to check the difference, this upgrade is an absolute no-brainer in our view.

Even with the upgraded fork, the XC130 is still noticeably traditional feeling for a long-forked hardtail. The 69-degree head angle and relatively skinny front end, with a 90mm stem and 680mm bar, don’t scream “grab me by the scruff and sling me down the most technical thing you can find”. They require piloting and plotting a relatively careful path, rather than just letting you hide behind the saddle while the front end sorts out the mess you’ve made.

Having spoken to the designers it seems this is a deliberate choice based on customer ‘DIY frame build choice’ feedback from their UK dealers. There’s none of the steering flop up steep climbs or ‘chasing a wheelbarrow’ sensation you get from slacker bikes. There’s more room for deep breaths and out-of-the-saddle knee movement too.

Add impressively low weight and tubeless-tyre-enhanced smooth frame feel and you’ve got a very rounded, up, down or going-the-distance ride, rather than a compromised method of transport between the mental bits.

Frame & equipment: Upgrading the default Enix fork is essential

The XC130 has been around for a while and that shows in certain aspects of the design. The ring-reinforced head tube is straight gauge rather than tapered, the rear brake mount is IS standard rather than post-mount and the angles are close to conventional cross-country numbers. The heavy hydroforming produces a very light but power efficient chassis though, and the skinny 27.2mm seatpost soaks up trail buzz.

The big change for Maxlight this year is that designers and distributors Upgrade are offering complete bike build kits. There’s a SRAM X9 version with an X- Fusion Velvet 15mm-axled fork for £1,499 or the X5 based bike you see here for £1,229.99. Production bikes will get excellent WTB Bronson TCS tyres rather than summer-specific Nanos, along with a tubeless conversion kit.

In terms of shifter/gear function there’s surprisingly little difference between X5 and X9, although a running shifter bearing revamp on X9 is underway. But we’d definitely take advantage of the £50 upcharge to get an X-Fusion Velvet quick-release fork on board rather than the standard Enix.

This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.

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