Product Review: KHS Tucson

Tucson on Trail

Who:
From KHS’s website: KHS Bicycles Inc. was founded in 1974 as an American-based company distributing the KHS brand of bicycles. Its mission is to design, manufacture and distribute moderately priced and high quality bicycles and accessories. Since that time KHS has grown into a brand respected for quality, value, and integrity with distribution in more than 30 countries around the world.

Product Tested:
KHS Tucson

Website’s MSRP:
$ 1,099.99

Specs:
Frame True Temper Verus Full CrMo, Double Butted top & down tubes
Fork Rock Shox Tora 318 Solo Air 80mm, All travel changeable to 100mm
Headset Cane Creek Threadless
Rims Sun Rhynolite 29″ w/eyelets
Hubs Front Alloy Disc
Rear Shimano Disc, QR
Tires Kenda Karma Kevlar, 29 x 2.2, Folding
Spokes 15G FT/14G RR Black Stainless, 32°
Front Derailleur Shimano Deore
Rear Derailleur Shimano Deore
Shifters Shimano Deore Triggers
Chain KMC Z9000
Crankset Truvativ Blaze 44/32/22
Bottom Bracket Truvativ Howitzer Splined outboard cartridge bearing
Cassette SRAM PG950 11-34, 9 Speed
Pedals Wellgo W41 Clipless
Seatpost Alloy micro-adjust
Saddle WTB Pure V Race
Handlebar Truvativ XR 31.8, Triple Butted
Stem Truvativ XR 31.8, 3D Forged
Grips WTB Weirwolf Dual Density
Brake Levers Tektro Alloy
Brakes Hayes MX4 cable disc, 6″ rotor
Color Flat Gray Brown
Frame Size S, M, L, XL
Tested size Medium

About Me:
6’0� 210lbs, 27 year old male. I’m a mountain biking enthusiast who enjoys rocking the big 29er wheels.

Testing Grounds:
Fullerton Loop, Whiting Ranch, Chino Hills State Park and the streets of Placentia

First Impression:
Initially, I was apprehensive about riding the Tucson. The image on KHS’s website was blah. The paint color was blah and the components were blah. Nothing about the bike excited me other then the fact that it was 29er. That all changed the minute I saw the Tucson in person.

Internet images can do some amazing things including making a very good looking bike look ugly. The actual brown color, with a hint of purple, is so much better looking than the picture on the the KHS website. It’s not going to win any bike beauty pageant awards, but the color choice plus the matte finish are distinctive and appealing without being tacky and loud.

The components package, though nothing exciting, performed accurately and reliably throughout the testing period. Everything worked very well (more details below) and special props go out to the sturdy wheels and light weight tires which contributed to making this bike feel very fast.

Strengths:
The Tucson is a fast bike. I’m still not sure what makes it fast, the slightly smaller frame, the light tires, the geometry or maybe a combination of these factors. But whatever it is that makes this bike fast, I appreciate it a lot. Every time I got on the Tucson I felt faster than on any of the other bikes I have recently ridden.

The wheelset on the Tucson is a good combination of solid parts and durability. I’ve fallen pretty hard on this bike while riding on the pavement and after the fall I was positive that I had thrashed the wheel. But after I got myself cleaned up, I went to check out the bike (the wheels in particular) and I could not find any problems. In fact I finished the ride and have continued riding the wheels without a second thought.

Because the Tucson is a size smaller than the bikes I normally ride (a medium, when I normally ride a large) I’ve felt that this bike was easier to do jumps and drops with. The wheelset has been entirely agreeable under these situations and have held up very well even under me.

Wheelset

The Kenda Karmas are a fast set of tires. They’re relatively light and have great low profile knobs that lessen rolling resistance. I would have thought that the low profile knobs would wear out quickly, but this is not the case. The tires look like they have plenty of tread life left. The Karmas also excel on dry hard packed trails, which has been pretty much all I’ve been able to ride the in Southern California.

The Deore components are not top of the line, but they are workman like and I appreciate that. I’m still not a fan of Shimano triggers, I just prefer SRAM’s thumb/thumb triggering and 1:1 actuation ratio. But, I appreciated the fact that the Shimano components never had any problems even when shifting under a heavy load. I also like knowing that I can easily upgrade these components or keep them for as long as I have the bike, because they will perform well and last a long time.

The WTB grips & saddle are comfortable. Actually, the grips are surprisingly more comfortable then what I thought they’d be. Over the past few months, I’ve purchased numerous grips to try on my rides. The WTB grips are definitely in the top 2 of grips I have tried. For me they are a near perfect blend of thickness and softness. They have been comfortable on rides an hour to a few of hours long. I’ve also found the Pure V saddle to be a very comfortable all around saddle. Some find it to be a little wide, but for my derriere, it’s a perfect match.

Triangular Downtube

Lastly, the steel frame exhibited desirable flex yet was strong because of the triangular tubing. Hopping between my aluminum 29er and the steel Tucson, I could begin to feel the difference the frame material brings to the ride. The jumps that normally jarred me on the aluminum 29er seemed slightly more forgiving on the Tucson. Small bumps that would chatter my teeth were also slightly muted on the Tucson. Because of this, my ride experience always seemed more comfortable on the Tucson versus my other aluminum hardtails.

Weaknesses:
The Tora fork is a solid fork for this bike. It is adjustable and provides plenty of travel for cross country riding. But I did have a difficult time with the lockout on the fork. Maybe it’s just this fork in particular but whenever I locked the fork out I still had about 30 mm of travel. Even after adjusting the air pressure in the Tora the 30 mm of travel did not go away. In comparison my Reba when fully looked out moves less than 10 mm.

I can only surmise that because the Tora does not have an external floodgate (unlike Reba) Rock Shox did not not want the Tora to blow up if you’re locked out and hit something hard. I wish this wasn’t the case because going from 80mm of travel to 30 mm locked out is decent but if it were to fully lockout it would be superb.

I also did not like the Wellgo W41 clipless pedals. The first problem with them is that they seem to only accept genuine Shimano SPD’s cleats not generic knockoff SPD’s cleats. If you happen to have generic SPD compatible cleats on your shoes then you’ll probably need to drop about $15 for actual Shimano SPD’s.

pedals

The second problem with them is that they would unclip at the most inopportune times. I’ve been riding clipless SPDs for a few of years and I can clip in/out when I want to clip in/out. However, with the Wellgo pedals, I was constantly clicking out when I was not ready to. I remember one particular incident when I was riding a sharp switchback into a steep grade. As I cleared the switchback and began climbing the pedal released my cleat. I ended up having to put my foot down on a technical section I am normally able to clear. What a bummer.

Summary:
The KHS Tucson is a well conceived 29er. It hits a niche, steel geared hardtail 29er, at a very competitive price point as compared to its parts spec sheet. If you’re looking for a fast yet comfortable steel geared hardtail then the Tucson is it, just change the pedals.

For more info about the KHS Tucson, click here.

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