We’ve looked at several KHS bikes in recent months and they’ve all been impressive value for money. Despite its low price, the 29in-wheeled Tuscon is a great performer, with user-friendly handling and a decent spec.
Ride & handling: Conservative geometry builds confidence but gearing isn't ideal
Once up to speed, the KHS rolls along happily. The Kenda Karma tyres give a good compromise between rolling resistance and grip, and their high-volume casing contributes to comfort too.
The Tuscon has slightly more moderate steering geometry than some other 29ers, especially rigid-forked ones, and feels a little less flighty as a result. Given that its price point is likely to attract relative novices, that’s probably a good idea.
We don’t think that 11-32T cassettes are a good choice for 29ers, though, especially not entry-level ones (posh ones can get away with it by virtue of low weight). Larger wheels make the same chainring/sprocket combination a higher gear.
If you’re used to using 32/34 on 26in wheels, you’re going to find yourself in the granny gear rather more often than you might like on the KHS. You can get 36T bottom sprockets without having to go to 10-speed, so there’s really no excuse.
Frame: Chassis is worth upgrading despite low complete bike cost
At first glance the KHS appears to be a subtle forest green colour. Get closer though, and allow the light to catch it, and you’ll realise that it’s actually a rather fine glittery finish that’s almost iridescent in sunlight. If nothing else, it encourages you to keep the bike clean!
The frame to which the paint is applied gives little clue to its budget status. It’s made from butted and hydroformed 6061 aluminium, with an extensively-shaped top tube that’s almost octagonal in section and vertically flared at the front. The down tube is mostly round, with a slight horizontal ovalisation at the bottom bracket.
A small gusset under the down tube strengthens the junction with the surprisingly conventional straight head tube. The frame is long, with a 23.8in top tube on the medium size, so if you’re sizing bikes by their top tube you may well end up with a smaller frame than you’d ordinarily choose.
Overall, if you’re thinking of dipping a toe into the 29er waters, you could definitely do a lot worse than the Tuscon. Parts may wear out but the frame’s worth hanging onto and gradually upgrading.
Equipment: Solid spec, with the exception of wooden-feeling disc brakes
Plugged into the head tube is an 80mm-travel (3.1in) RST M29 Air, which isn’t a fork we’ve encountered before. It’s air-sprung, with adjustable rebound damping and a lockout lever. Watch out though – the lever turns in the opposite direction to the usual ‘clockwise to lock’, which can catch you out until you’re used to it. It’s a perfectly competent fork otherwise, and has a long offset to speed up handling.
We’re used to £600 bikes having some pretty cheesy parts on them, and 29ers tend to be less well equipped than their 26in-wheeled equivalents – 26in parts like tyres and forks are made in much larger quantities, bringing their price down. KHS seem to play by different rules though.
The transmission is all from SRAM, with a Firex GXP crank, X7 rear mech and X5 shifters. The wheels are anonymous hubs laced to decent WTB Speed Disc rims, which are shod with big volume but low-treaded Kenda Karma 2.2 tyres and there’s also a healthy slab of Truvativ Stylo finishing kit.
The only weak parts of the spec are the rather cheap looking – and wooden feeling – Bengal Helix brakes, of which the best that can be said is that they’ve got a good name. Actually that’s not entirely fair – the levers are ambidextrous, with a rotating reservoir so it always points up, which may be useful to some riders. They do the job, but they’d be the first things that we would upgrade on this bike.