Kinesis Maxlight XC130 X9 review£1,049.99

Aggressive trail hardtail

BikeRadar score4.5/5

Kinesis’s Maxlight lightweight hardtail frames have been a popular race and trail build-up option for years. The latest XC130 extends their more extreme riding potential. It's a light, lively but technically tenacious trail ripper for extreme cross-country.

Ride & handling: Fitness-flattering featherweight that's not afraid to push the limits

You don’t have to look much further than the XC130's 11.02kg (24.29lb, without pedals) weight to realise it's going to be a more capable climber and accelerator than many of its price rivals. It dances away from heavier and bigger-wheeled bikes as soon as kicking out of a corner and scrabbling up a climb is on the agenda. 

There’s no shortage of stiffness from the 26in wheels and sculpted frame either, so it feels taut and driven however much torque you put through it. Even without a tapered head tube and wide bars, the relatively steep steering angles mean the Maxlight is always interested in the fastest, shortest turn through tight singletrack and we never had to drag it round by the scruff of its neck.

Add pliable WTB Bronson tyres that love to wrap their supple carcass around roots and sneak their extended side knobs into loose loamy surfaces, and the XC130 is an absolute blast for fast-and-loose woods riding. The flexible tyres, soft start of the smoothly progressive fork and flex from the rear stays and seatpost also help to smooth out trail chatter and hardpack ruts well too.

There does come a point where the Kinesis's smaller wheels start to struggle in comparison to the 29in hoops now found on many of the bike's price rivals. The flipside to the easy acceleration is equally easy deceleration, and the emphasis is very much on bodyweight shifts and stabs of power to stop the bike stalling through random root or rock sections.

Equally, its hop-and-chop agility means it’s more likely to get shoved off line or bounced into the bushes at high speeds so you’ve got more work to do as a rider. Lightweight, responsive trail involvement rather than steady steamroller ignorance is a big part of why you’d choose a hardtail over a full-suspension bike, though, and that’s what the Maxlight delivers in spades.

Kinesis maxlight xc130 x9:
Kinesis maxlight xc130 x9:

Low complete-bike weight makes fast, technical singletrack a blast

Frame: Lightweight but tight riding all-rounder; non-tapered head and IS mounts could do with updating

Kinesis-built frames have always been among the most obviously shape-shifted hydroformed machines and the XC130 is no different. The non-tapered head tube is slightly dated now, but an in-moulded top tube gusset and ‘real’ welded down tube gusset mean it’s firmly attached.

The top tube has a squared-off cross-section while the down tube is more subtly shaped. A conventional bottom bracket makes finding spare crank bearings easy and the clamp-on front mech means a clean conversion to a single chainring system as long as you don’t need ISCG mounts. The skinny seat tube puts shock-shrugging flex under your saddle and there are no seat tube bottle bosses to stop you dropping the post low. 

The chainstays use continual shape changes to keep chainring and tyre clearance generous before they end at lightweight open-web dropouts. The slim, round stays have a gentle ‘S’ curve to squeeze between fat ankles and chunky tyres too. Sizing from 42 to 54cm should suit most riders and there are three colour options. The frame-only option is well priced at £350 too.

Equipment: Lightweight tubeless wheels and tyres amplify 26er advantages; aggro riders will want wider bars and tyres

Kinesis are now offering complete bikes and the X9 is the top option (the X5 is £899.99). As the name suggests, it's a SRAM X9-based build. The shifters have had a useful upgrade for 2013 in the shape of X0 style bearings for longer, smooth shifting through the continuous outer cables. 

The tubeless-ready WTB rims and tyres are a massive acceleration and responsiveness boost to the bike. They underline the ride with a really supple feel too, although you may want to upsize to 2.3in to go properly hard across rocky terrain.

The X-Fusion Velvet fork is a consistently controlled and reliable trail tamer without breaking the bank, and you can choose between 80, 100 or 120mm (3.1, 3.9 or 4.7in) travel fork settings when you order.

The Tektro Orion hydraulic disc brakes are consistently controlled and the FSA and WTB saddle finishing kit is trustworthy, cost effective gear. The non lock-on grips will probably loosen over time though, and more aggressive gravity surfers will likely want to take the 750mm Strut carbon bar upgrade for £100.

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

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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