We’ve been impressed by the price-to-performance ratio on KHS bikes recently, and this Alite 3000 race hardtail has blown us away.
Its low belly, racey position and spiky fork make it more focused on competition than chaos – but if you’ve a whiff of whippet in your riding DNA this bike is unbelievable value.
Lighter and faster than most sub-£1,000 hardtails we test, with the bonus of custom tyre and stem choice, this looks set to be a standout bike in 2010.
Ride & handling: Electrifyingly fast and implausibly light for the price
With some of the fastest tyres around and a genuinely raceable weight (26.1lb/11.8kg without pedals), the KHS is a proper whippet by any standards.
Stiff power transfer from the big rear stays means all the torque you can muster from your legs or through the wide bars is turned into a spurt of trail dust with every pedal stroke.
While the low-slung frame makes it look compact, the low front end sets up a naturally aggressive position that encourages you to drop your elbows at every opportunity.
The handling is spot-on for purpose too. It commits you to a more forward weight placement than many other bikes at this pricepoint, which makes getting the nose up over stuff a bit harder, but removes any doubt about front wheel traction in fast corners or up steep climbs. The low bottom bracket means great cornering stability too, although you’ll tap-dance a lot pedalling through the rough.
The wide bar has no shortage of leverage for wrestling the bike into tighter turns than natural and, while the default one was fine for fast cross-country work, KHS will spec a shorter or longer stem depending on your tastes.
We got on a lot better than expected with the Manitou fork, which is based on the Minute chassis rather than the R7. It’s stiff enough and small to medium smoothness isn’t far off the RockShox Recon forks on other bikes at this price. But you do get sharp spikes off bigger drops, and reliability is uncharted.
This fork spiking combines with the stiff frame and low belly to make the KHS less suitable for really off-piste riding, but the carbon seatpost should take at least some of the sting out of rocky situations.
Frame: Muscular chassis with minimal weight
The Alite frame is a proven pro-level race unit with a victory in the legendary La Ruta multi-day mountain bike endurance race in Costa Rica already under its belt. It’s a real looker too with the metallic mango paint getting polished bare metal highlights shining through.
Structurally, the big bobbin-shaped head tube for the internal headset is backed up with an open forked throat gusset on the thinwall down tube. The expanded top tube tapers back to a stepped top tube/seatstay junction that allows for a mud-stopping forward-facing seat slot.
Twin bottle cage mounts will keep thirsty riders happy, while the super-low frame weight (3.6lb/1.6kg) will please anyone with a competitive streak. The complete bike weight was enough to make us triple-check our digital scales too. At a clear pound-and-a-half lighter than most of its competitors it’s a phenomenal weight for such a well priced ride.
Equipment: Outstanding value kit selection
The air rather than coil sprung Manitou fork saves 100g over the Recons on other bikes in this price range, and KHS have also chased out every gramme possible elsewhere.
The SRAM X.9/X.7 transmission is excellent for the money and the Mavic/Quando wheelpack is light too. KHS UK offer a choice of Kenda's superfast Small Block 8s or all-condition Nevegal tyres when you buy and they’ll also swap to your preferred stem length too.
The Silverado saddle and decent quality wide bar add comfort without excess weight and production bikes will be even lighter thanks to a carbon-shafted seatpost. Considering that you’re getting proper clipless SPD pedals as well, the Alite’s value for money is just remarkable.