KHS XCT 535 Review

This is the KHS XCT 535, a great bike…that’s pretty much all you need to know. But since we are professional reviewers, I am obligated at the same time privileged to provide our readers a thorough review.

Let’s get down to the meat and potatoes, if your a Vegan, the cucumber and carrots. I don’t want to bore you by repeating my first impressions of the bike, you can just read it HERE.

Here are the specs:

New Trail Design AL6061, 4-bar Horst bearing linkage 5.5″ Travel
Rear Shock Rock Shox Bar 2.1, air w/rebound adjust
Fork Marzocchi MX Lo, 120mm, variable compression lockout
Headset Tioga ZST2,Threadless,zero Stack
Rims WTB Speed Disc doublewall, w/eyelets
Hubs Front: Alloy disc, Rear: Shimano disc, QR
Tires John Thomac Nevegal 26×2.1
Spokes 14G black, 32°
Front Derailleur Shimano Deore
Rear Derailleur Shimano XT Shadow
Shifters Shimano Deore
Chain KMCZ9000
Crankset FSA Moto MegaExo 2-piece, 44/32/22
Bottom Bracket FSA MegaExo outboard catridge bearing
Cassette Shimano HG50 11-34 9-Speed
Pedals Wellgo M919 clipless
Seatpost Alloy Micro-adjust
Saddle WTB Silverado
Handlebar FSA XC-280B, 31.8, Alloy, 40mm rise
Stem FSA Alloy
Grips WTB Weirwolf
Brake Levers Avid FR5
Brakes Avid BB5 cable disc, 7″ front/6″ rear
Color Flat Brown-Gray
Frame Size S, M, L
MSRP $1599

About Me:

I’m about 5’7″ on a good day, I weigh about 190lbs, I’m husky and I can put on some hurt with any bike I ride. I am a Single Speed convert, 95% of the time I’m riding my SS. But I do love technical trails with ALL Mountain bikes.

Trails Tested:
The KHS XCT 535 has seen quite a bit of action in recent months. It’s been ridden at places like Turnbull Canyon, Fullerton Loop, Santiago Oaks, Aliso Woods (Woods Canyon, Rockit, Cholla, Coyote Run, and Dripping Caves).

Strengths: The XCT 535 is definitely a strong bike. It’s well versed to be ridden in XC conditions yet strong enough for you to take it through some of the nastiest and technical terrain you can think of. There are many great things about this bike that makes it unique. Well for one the Horst Linkage. I’ve ridden many Specialized bikes in the past and have always longed to ride other bikes with that same suspension linkage. Luckily the XCT 535 is equipped with it and its complimented by a 4 bar linkage.

A couple of things that stand out, the bike is REALLY REALLY fun to ride. Bombing down technical single track, rock gardens and 1-3 footer jumps makes this bike come alive. I really think that this bike has a potential to be ridden as a downhill bike, 4X (4 Cross), or Super D. Why? Well its simple really, the bike can handle just about anything you can throw at it and when it does, it laughs back at you, much like a fairytale giant would when the town peasants are throwing rocks and spears at him.

Let’s talk about the suspension. As you might have already read, the fork is a Marzocchi MX Lo, 120mm, variable compression lockout and the rear shock is a Rock Shox Bar 2.1, air w/rebound adjust. My favorite feature on the fork is the lock out. What’s cool is you can set how low you want it to lock. It also offered a very plush front end ride. The Marzocchi did an awesome job in absorbing the the trail. In fact this fork saved me from what could have been a REALLY bad crash.

Long story short, the trail I was on turned into a large rut. I had 2 choices, either ride the rut and go over the bars or try and get out of the rut, roll onto the embankment and hope that the suspension would absorb, and the tire would grab. Well sure enough, I’m writing this review injury free! The fork took in a few inches of travel to absorb the energy my husky self along with the speed I built up, and worked flawlessly. This is probably a good time to mention the grabbing power the John Thomac Nevegal 26×2.1 have. Man those things were awesome! I felt VERY confident taking any turn, riding any berm and the most technical trails with them.

Then we have the the rear shock. It’s butter. It’s the Shiz-nits. It’s Da-bomb! Seriously, the rear shock had no bob and it was really easy to set up. Once I dialed in the rear shock, I was happy. There really isn’t much more to say about it other than that thing worked well. Not once did I feel that the rebound was either too quick or too slow. As long as I followed the directions on setting it to my weight, sag and all that, the shock worked. But I’m sure the FSR linkage helped.

That’s another thing I do have to mention. The Horst Link suspension is a dream. I’ve been on all sorts of suspension bikes, from single pivot, to 4 bar, nothing compares to the Horst Link that is set up on the XCT 535. Its almost difficult to explain the big difference between that and a single pivot, but I’ll do my best. Single pivot, or any other 4 bar set up (without Horst) could be like driving a really cheap car…let’s just say a Hyundai Excel. But riding a bike with Horst, would be like riding in a nice big Cadillac. It really is plush and offers a responsive handling as well as a way that makes the trails seem flatter than what they really are.


I have 1 compliant. The bike is chunky. I did find myself having a hard time climbing with this bike on long and slow inclines. Perhaps I am just out of shape, but I definitely felt its weight going up some of the climbs. But here’s the thing, even with that, the XCT 535 does climb well. I never experienced the front end popping up during my climb due to a messed up geometry or too long of a fork. If you’re patient enough, and can/want to stay on the granny gear the whole time, the bike WILL get up the hill with no issues.

Coming off my single speed that weights about 5lbs lighter and geared with a 32/18, I had a hard time getting up some of the hills with the XCT 535 because I couldn’t stand spinning on the granny gear. However, there is a big pay off when you start to go down, makes all of it worth it!


The KHS XCT 535 really is a great bike. Other than the weight affecting my climbing, then again I could lose a few pounds myself, the bike overall is an awesome ride. Going downhills is when the bike becomes really alert and responsive. I feel that the marriage between the parts and bike compliments its intended purpose of an ALL Mountain and Trail Bike. Just think of the frame and the components like a really sweet and perfect married couple. So sweet that its almost unreal. Well that’s the feel of this bike, its sweet.

The frame was pretty stout, meaning this thing was bombproof. One of the concerns I have for full suspension mountain bikes is how the rear end would have too much play, or lateral movement. The XCT 535 rides as stiff (frame) as a hard tail, and that’s good because the last thing I want is a bike’s rear end that hesitates or flexes.

The geometry isn’t too XC where you’re leaning too far forward, but its not too lazy where you feel like your on an exercise bike at the gym or on a DH bike, its a compromise of both worlds that gives the rider a comfortable riding position in which they can attack and be aggressive at the same time.

Priscilla even had the joy of riding the XCT 535 through Aliso Woods. Because of the XCT, she was able to ride down a technical rocky bed called Rock-It for the first time. Previous attempts would make her get off her bike and walk the rest of the way. But with the XCT 535, she made it down the trail and she knew that it was that fancy suspension that got her down the mountain.

Here’s our beef-cake being weighed…around 30.4lbs

If you watch this video, you’ll see me hustling the trail with the KHS XCT 535.

So you now probably wondering if I would recommend this bike? If you’re looking for a that can do just about everything in this world. Then the answer is YES. Go get one, you won’t regret it!

8 Replies to “KHS XCT 535 Review”

  1. Could you add the bike weight to the spec sheet? It’d be easier to find that way.

    I’m wondering if it would have been better to spend a little extra go get my wife a DS instead of a hardtail. Oh, well, at least she has a cushy fork.

  2. Quote: “I’m about 5′7″ on a good day, I weigh about 190lbs, I’m husky and I …”

    Dang ! dude broke out the word ‘husky’. That’s like saying my old girlfriend wasn’t fat… she was big boned.Sorry man , I’m just saying…

  3. For misspelling John Tomac’s name, KHS should be ashamed. And you should have known better, too, ya dang husky whippersnapper! He’s only one of the most celebrated MTB racers of all time!!!

  4. The 535 is beefy. But if someone’s looking for a lighter version with an upgraded component spec, there’s always the XCT555. The 555 is the same bike, but on speed(faster and lost a lot of weight).

    “Going downhills is when the bike becomes really alert and responsive.” <–I’d say this statement describes this bike in a nut shell. The 555 gives you a lighter ride with an XC feel when going uphill, then its like the bike transforms into a light freeride bike. PLUSH.

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