For well over a decade after its early 90s heyday, titanium was seen as the ultimate ‘light as alloy, springy as steel material for hardtails’. Kinesis has matched those raw strengths with the latest must-have features to create a superb bike for skilled riders who like their singletrack tight and techy (we reviewed the 650b version last year).
Frame and equipment: old material, new tricks
Like steel, titanium tubes can be made into a very springy, twangy frame or something more solid and powerful in feel, and Kinesis has definitely gone for the latter, developing the tube profiles and geometry to give a tight, agile ride. While some Ti frames twist and fumble grip like a first time chopstick user, tracking precision and traction communication through both the beefy 34mm-legged, unicrown 120mm travel X-Fusion Trace fork and 142x12mm axle rear end is impressively clear.
The Sync's frame calibrations provide an agile 650b-ish character
Press the pedals and there’s no doubt you’re not losing power through the big press-fit bottom bracket or stout stays either. The direct mount rear dropout lets you remove the B knuckle from Shimano’s derailleurs and makes a dramatic difference to shifting precision, and the tapered top tube, post-mount brakes and internal cable routing add to the Sync's distinctively state of the art character.
Ride and handling: velocity vitality
Add a highly competitive complete bike weight and the Sync surges forward with inspiring purpose whether you’re punching out of a corner or charging the crux move on a steep techy climb. There’s enough length in the frame to keep your lungs full even with a relatively short stem.
While it thumps and bumps more than titanium fans might expect at slow speeds, adding speed ‘wakes up’ the inherent spring of the material, which skims off sharper edges like a planing boat as speed increases. The more speed you can add, the more pronounced this float becomes, making the Sync an addictively muscular and deeply rewarding ride.
Putting the power down soon brings the Sync's Ti flex to life
There's real traction through the Continental treads too. That’s particularly useful because the Sync has been deliberately designed to be as fast and responsive through the bars as it is through the pedals. The short front centre and relatively steep head angle doesn’t have the lazy, surefooted swagger of some slacker machines, particularly on fast and loose trails. But the relatively long back end and properly low bottom bracket mean there’s no obvious shortage of overall drifting and carving stability if you learn to trust it.
Its ability to turn in tight and hold it hard without lurching under or shunting straight on is a real gift on more twisty trails and particularly climbing turns.
The overall handling character is much closer to a 650b-wheeled bike, but with the extra roll over smoothness and speed sustain of 29erwheels. Perhaps it’s no surprise then that the small version of the frame is built around 650b wheels to preserve its responsive balance and overall dynamic. It’s worth noting that the Kinesis IX wheels and Strut carbon bars work really well with the Sync too, so collar and cuffs componentry certainly isn’t a compromise.
Specifications as tested:
- Size tested: M (also available in L)
- Weight tested: 11.55 / 25.46lb
- Frame: 3AL/2.5V titanium alloy
- Fork: X-Fusion Trace RL, 120mm
- Shock: N/A
- Max Tyre Size: 2.4in
- Chainset: Shimano XT, 38/26T
- Shifters: Shimano XT
- Derailleurs: Shimano XT (F), Shimano XT Direct mount (R)
- Chain: Shimano XT
- Bottom Bracket: Praxis PF30
- Cassette: Shimano XT
- Front: Maxlight IX rim, Maxlight hub
- Rear: Maxlight IX rim, Maxlight hub
- Tyres: Continental Mountain King II, 29x2.2in (F), Continental X King II, 29x2.2in (R)
- Brakes: Shimano XT, 180/160mm rotors
- Bars: Kinesis Strut carbon, 750mm
- Stem: Easton Haven, 70mm
- Grips: SDG ODI, lock-on
- Seatpost: Kinesis UD carbon, 31.6mm
- Saddle: SDG
- Headset: Kinesis/FSA
This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine.