An impressively specced alternative to more widely available brands, after a few years of selling direct, KHS UK are starting to build a dealer network for 2011. That inevitably means slightly higher prices, but our first impressions of the Alite 1000 would suggest that their bikes remain very competitive in terms of componentry.
Ride & handling: Confident on dry trails
The Shimano drivetrain, hydraulic disc brakes and set of fast-rolling Kenda tyres conspire to make this a good all-round trail bike, compromised only slightly by a very stiffly sprung fork. Try before you buy though – we’ve noticed a lot of performance variation in same-name RST forks over the last few years, so you may find one that feels great. If you’re a heavy rider or don’t plan to do much proper off-road riding, you may be happy with a stiffly sprung fork.
Despite our moans about the fork, it didn’t suffer from the harsh rebound thunk that so often afflicts bikes around this price.
The occasional pedal-to-ground strike that happened when we were powering into corners was a reminder of the Alite’s low (11.75in) bottom bracket. Fortunately though, that conspires with a very neutral geometry set-up to create a confident and stable handling feel at both low and high speeds. That’s what makes you feel like pedalling through corners in the first place. We soon get used to knowing when to lift the inside pedal.
The fact that the Alite is so light might add slightly to its overall agility and climbing ability, but the fast tyres are far more significant. The Kenda Small Block 8s are an ideal choice if you’re the sort of rider who waits for the trails to be dry, but it goes almost without saying that there are times of the year when you’ll have a very long wait. You’ll either have to get used to the predictable slide of their soft round profile or fit a set of proper wet-weather treads.
Frame: Well-shaped and practical
The 6061 heat-treated aluminium frame is considerably reinforced in all the places that really matter. There’s a neat, open-ended bridge gusset between the hourglass bulged head tube and the biaxially ovalised down tube.
The top tube is shaped like an ovalised triangle, with maximum weld contact areas at both ends. The box-sectioned seat and chainstays are curved for maximum heel and tyre clearance, rack eyelets emphasise utilitarian credentials and the seat clamp slot faces forward, so it’s out of the rear wheel spray.
Equipment: Poor fork but excellent extras
With so many manufacturers mixing different-brand drivetrain parts to hit price points, it’s good to see full Shimano kit on a bike at this price. Most gear set-ups work well these days, but full Shimano combinations usually feel just a little slicker, especially with the profiled chainring teeth dictating smooth front shifts. The Alite even has a Deore rear mech.
Fork performance varies enormously on bikes at this price. The RST (Rapid Suspension Technology) Omega offered here gives a theoretical 100mm (3.9in) of travel. However, the stiff spring and very noticeable stiction meant we struggled to get much more than 50mm (1.9in), even on high-speed, hard-edged hits.
The lockout dial on top of the right-hand leg is very effective, and welcome for getting to the trail on the road, but the spring preload dial on the left-hand leg is largely redundant when such hard-sprung internals are fitted in the first place.
We have no long-term experience of the durability of Bengal’s hydraulic brakes, but their Helix 3s look excellent and performed superbly, with good lever modulation and reach adjustment, and stopping power that didn’t even rely on a bedding-in period.
We were very happy with the light WTB rimmed wheels too. The tread pattern on the Kenda Small Block 8 tyres may not be a great option in winter mud, but they’re excellent in the dry, keep rolling speeds high and have a high enough overall profile to boost comfort. That's useful when a frame is as stiff as the Alite 1000.
The bar, stem and seatpost are decent, KHS-branded offerings, with a soft WTB saddle giving the back end another comfort boost.
Overall, the KHS is a well-designed and reasonably well-specced bike that should please experts as well as beginners. The price is a fair bit higher than the company's previous offerings but is still competitive compared to most of the big names.