This bargain cross-country full suspension rig’s four-bar linkage back end keeps things very nicely controlled indeed. Grippy but fast-rolling Kenda Nevegal tyres are a performance bonus and the Marzocchi MX Pro Lo fork is good for the price.
KHS’ XC604 looks similar to the Carrera Banshee that it was tested alongside. The basic frame design is similar, but it’s 2.49kg (5.5lb) lighter and has 50mm less suspension travel at each end at just over 100mm. That makes it far more of a cross-country bike than the Banshee and it’s light enough that climbing isn’t a chore.
Ride & handling: great all-round
The frame geometry of the 604 is perfect for cross-country riding, but relaxed enough to tackle steep, technical descents.
The all-in weight is just over 30lb (13.6kg), which is light enough to get up hills without causing excessive grunting but also robust enough to boost roll-through confidence elsewhere.
While the 100mm suspension travel is less than you’ll find on some similarly-priced bikes, it’s still more than enough to absorb most of the big hits.
The XC604 is one of those bikes that’s easy to get up to speed and then holds a rolling momentum, even on trails that tend to challenge bike handling.
It feels confident through the rough stuff, which encourages you to keep pedalling.
Overall, it’s a great all-rounder that rides better than, and has superior equipment to, many of the better-known brands.
Frame/Chassis: keep it simple, stupid
Almost every frame we look at these days is dripping with big swoopy hydroformed sections and tube shapes that appear to put the good old fashioned plumbing approach to shame.
But the technological approach to tube-forming doesn’t always result in a frame that performs technically better, or even one that weighs less.
KHS have kept things simple in the XC604. The main frame uses round tubes, including a double-butted down tube, while the rear subframe tubes are all box section.
This still makes good engineering sense and everything is well reinforced to protect the frame from rough cross-country trails.
A head-to-down tube gusset helps to protect the main tubes from front end impacts, while a bracing tube – designed to support the top of the seat tube – is placed above the low standover top tube.
The rear suspension configuration is a classic Horst Link four-bar linkage set-up, with a link on the chainstays rather than the seatstays to modify the axle path and decouple the braking from the suspension. A short, neat rocker bridges the top of the seatstays to the top of a RockShox Ario 2.1 shock.
The cabling and hose are tucked away under the top tube, and there’s a single set of bottle cage bosses.
The fork is a Marzocchi MX Pro Lo Air model with 100mm of travel. There’s a lever on top of one leg to adjust compression damping all the way to locked out. It possesses excellent rebound damping, which is adjustable via a dial at the bottom of the right leg.
Equipment: better than average
The components are better than average for a full susser at this price.
The drivetrain matches a SRAM X-9 rear mech with a Shimano Deore up front, has X-7 shifters and a Truvativ Firex GXP crankset.
Shimano hydraulic disc brakes perform admirable stopping duties and the wheels and tyres account for a substantial 800g weight saving on those of the harder-hitting Banshee.
WTB’s SpeedDisc rims are shod with grippy but fast rolling 2.1in Kenda Nevegal John Tomac signature tyres.
A Truvativ stem and 25.5in riser bar suit the bike well, the unknown Q2 seatpost does the job and the WTB Silverado saddle is comfy enough as race-style perches go.
Nice bonus: the XC604 comes with Wellgo clipless pedals.