KHS XCT 556 - First ride review£1,749.99

Long-travel trail ride

BikeRadar score4/5

KHS bikes have built up an enviable high value reputation in recent years. The new 556 is a lighter, tighter, retuned-shock version of the popular 555, and is one of the few really good full-suspension bikes for under £2,000 that we’ve tested so far this year.

We’ve no complaints about the RockShox Revelation RL Dual Air tapered fork or the triple-ring SRAM transmission which, together with the tough Mavic XM317 wheels, make this bike capable of tackling almost everything on this island. Just make sure you keep the bike the right way up so the otherwise powerful Avid Elixir 5 brakes don’t get air into their lines between rides.

Ride & handling: Versatile and confident-feeling bike

The consistently controlled front fork syncs with the well-proportioned cockpit and slack 67-degree head angle to produce a versatile, confident-feeling bike. The short stem and laidback (70-degree) seat angle means the front end comes up easily for manuals and wheelie drops, and with tyres switched, the bike is stiff enough up front to drive hard through corners, with the back end flex within acceptable limits.

After we had serious spiking issues with the Monarch shock on the first sample, KHS UK went back to RockShox and switched it to a much lower compression damping tune. This makes the bike more fluid and controlled over bigger hits and square-edged bumps, lets it squat into corners more predictably and improves traction on technical climbs. The floodgate lever still lets you stiffen it up for longer climbs though, so it’s a double-win that will now come as standard on all UK 556s.

Frame: Geometry more relaxed for greater stability at speed

For 2011, KHS have added a tapered head tube and new tubeset to save weight and add stiffness over the 555. The four-bar suspension set-up and rocker linkage are lighter and the geometry is more relaxed for greater stability at speed. There’s still room for a conventional water bottle mount and tyre clearance is reasonable around the asymmetric rear end. Lateral linkage stiffness is bearable rather than brilliant though, and you’ll need to trim the long seatpost slightly in order to drop the seat right down.

Equipment: Well specced for the money

The Dual Air 15mm Maxle bolt-through axle Revelation fork is the best trail fork in its price category and the Monarch rear shock has been specifically re-tuned for UK riders. The SRAM transmission gives a super wide 30-gear range for grinding up the steepest climbs, the Avid Elixir brakes are potently powerful and the Q2 and Truvativ cockpit is well proportioned. The overall weight is low for this bike’s cost and travel category too. The Mavic 317 rims are old favourites too, but the puncture-prone WTB tyres need to be swapped for something tougher and grippier to let the bike reach its limits.

Guy Kesteven

Freelance Writer, UK
Guy started filling his brain with cycle stats and steaming up bike shop windows back in 1980. He worked the other side of those windows from '89 while getting a degree in “describing broken things covered in mud" (archaeology). Dug historical holes in the ground through the early '90s, then became a pro bike tester in '97. Guy has ridden thousands of bikes and even more components the world over since then and can remember them all in vivid, haunting detail. Can't remember where the car keys are, though.
  • Age: 45
  • Height: 180cm / 5' 11"
  • Weight: 68kg / 150lb
  • Waist: 76cm / 30in
  • Chest: 91cm / 36in
  • Discipline: Strict sadomasochist
  • Preferred Terrain: Technical off-piste singletrack and twisted back roads. Up, down, along — so long as it's faster than the last time he did it he's happy.
  • Current Bikes: An ever changing herd of test machines from Tri bikes to fat bikes and everything in between.
  • Dream Bike: His Nicolai Helius AM custom tandem
  • Beer of Choice: Theakston's Old Peculier (not Peculiar)
  • Location: Yorkshire, UK

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