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:

Frame
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.

Weaknesses:

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!


Summary:

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!

Memorial Day Weekend Ride Report

This Memorial Day Weekend Joe, Priscilla, our friend Christine and I did some riding at a couple places. Our first destination was Fontucky to ride the world famous Southridge XC course. What’s great about Fontucky is that this place has a XC course, DH course and a 4X section. Nationals are held here every year and some of the biggest names in the business show up.

Anyhow, Priscilla has been itching to do some races and the last time we were at Fontucky she didn’t like the trail. But since then they’ve carved out some new sections that eliminated the parts that she didn’t like. This trail is pretty fun, but can be brutal…especially if you’re on a single speed. Joe and I macho’d up and both rode our SS rigs.

I’m not going to lie, Joe and I walked up some of the toughest parts of the trails…no shame in that. At the end of the 7 mile course, we played on the 4x track. It’s pretty similar to a BMX track and you have to do allot of pumping much like a pump track…and it comes with some sweet berms!

I love stuff like this so I made a few passes on the track. I’m sure I was going way slower than what some 4x racers ride this thing through, but it was really fun!

Weee!

I made a little video of our adventures at Fontucky…enjoy!

Then on Monday, the three of us decided to meet up at El Moro, its basically the Crystal Cove State Park in Newport Beach. But as we drove down there, dark clouds were hovering the area. As soon as we got there Joe, who had arrived earlier and was waiting for us, said that the trail was closed due to some rain that occurred last night and early this morning.

It sucked to see this sign…

We were all pretty bummed out, so Joe led our caravan down to Santiago Oaks in Orange/Anaheim Hills.

Once we got there, we geared up and about a mile into the ride, we saw a rider who stopped and was obviously staring at something…a big rattler! From what I’m hearing from other riders, these suckers are coming out all over SoCal to get some warm spring sun…

Pretty eh…this is the view we were treated with.

Here’s a shot of the girls right before we got into some single track.

and Joe doing his “queso” pose.

Today I was riding the new test bike that we have at HQ, the KHS XCT 535. The bike is set up as a mix of XC and trail bike, and so that meant climbing was doable and bombing down trails was a must. Santiago Oaks has some really nice, groomed single track with plenty of technical sections that can and will beat you up if you’re not paying attention. The trail varied in terrain, from hard pack, clay, baby heads 1-2 footer drops and chutes. What’s cool was the XCT 535 was able to handle everything that Santiago Oaks had to dish out.

Priscilla got a new haircut, its cute huh?

Joe and I broke off from the girls just so we can have some extra fun. It felt like we were flying down some of the trails and it was really cool to ride with Joe because I feel like he and I have the same riding style. So that means we were both speeding through some of the hardest parts of the trail. In the shot below, it was pretty gnarly.

Right before it is some single track that has some exposure on the left side. I came around the corner way too fast and looking at where I had to go, I felt like I ran out of options. I braced myself to go over the bars and luckily I sat way back on the XCT 535, so far that it felt like the rear tire was buzzing my butt! I tried to slow down as I entered this section but any time I tried to, my rear wheels would skid and I’d lose control momentarily. I figured, I’ll feather the brakes, but I was still going too fast for comfort. As I pointed the bike exactly where I needed to go, the bike responded, and the suspension was very forgiving…I made it without eating it! Phew! I was so relieved.

When I finally got down, Joe joined me at the bottom and we waited for the girls to show up. But these two riders appeared and Joe and I were doing some trail side commentary. The first guy started loosing control right at the beginning and slid down sideways with one and sometimes both feet on the ground. But the fella made a great recovery and rode through. The second guy came along and he freaked out and held onto his bars while both legs where on the ground trying to slow himself down. Luckily he was able to make it down without getting hurt. So now it was the girls’ turn. They were smart and walked that portion of the trail. I don’t blame them, that section is pretty scary.

So today this bike was pretty much my guardian angel. The KHS XCT 535 is still being reviewed but after today, I have come to realize that this bike is the shiznitz! In other words, it’s wickedly awesome!
khs xct 535

First Impressions: KHS XCT 535

The KHS XCT535 has arrived at the MtnBikeRiders HQ and the review process has been initiated.

khs xct 535

The XCT 535 is KHS’ line up in the world of XC/Trail bikes. The MSRP for this bike is $1599 and its equipped with some choice componentry, great geometry and outstanding performance.

Here’s the tale of the tape (specs):

Frame
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

The first thing I noticed on this bike was the sweet horst link suspension. I’ve ridden many Specialized bikes equipped with this magic suspension setup and I was always impressed with it. Knowing this, I knew the XCT 535 would be very responsive on the trail.

Licensed by Specialized.

Our test bike weighed in around 30.5lbs…that’s a bit lighter than some trail bikes we’ve tested. The Ibex Ignition is at 33lbs, my Giant Warp is at 34lbs, the Woodstock 707 came in around 33lbs.

I’ll get down to the nitty gritty about what I thought about the KHS XCT 535 on its maiden voyage. The bike is super plush. It handles really well on technical sections, climbs ok…but the fork has a lock out so that helps. Shifting was like butter…that’s a good thing! Oh man, the XT rear derailleur combined with the Deore shifters makes this bike easy to deal with. It never mis shifted or jumped gears while I was riding it.
khs xct 535

The XCT 535 really shows its true colors on descents. The John Thomac Nevegal 26×2.1 tires gripped the trail as if it they were claws. I’ve mentioned this already, but the bike really is super plush. The suspension responds really well to what the trail dishes and not once did I feel insecure of the bike’s integrity. I had a great time on it today.

But I’ll be doing more test rides on it to get a better feel on how this bike handles various terrains. In fact tomorrow we’ll be riding a trail that is going to allow me to ride the bike harder.

Ride Report: Aliso Woods with a flock of friends

This Saturday’s group ride let us to one of our favorite trails, Aliso Woods. We were joined by some of the regulars as well as some not so regular folks. One of the things that made this ride interesting for Priscilla was the fact that she was riding our newest demo bike the KHS XCT 535. We also mixed up our ride a bit by adding a second climb up Cholla. Joe Solancho suggested that we go up Cholla and then come right down Lynx which is right next to it. So after the fun downhill section of Lynx, we went up about 100 yards and started climbing again…ugh!
khs xct 535
Priscilla had later told me that the second time up Cholla she was able to do better on the climb since her legs were already warmed up. But for me, aye, it was just as tough as the first time.

We had a decent sized group out there this weekend, its pretty rare that another female rider gets to come along with us, but our friend Christine was there keeping Priscilla company.

It’s always fun to go in a big group of folks. What we’ve always practiced is that there’s someone that leads the group, then a person that stays in the rear to make sure no one is left behind. We also stop at certain spots to regroup.

Here’s Jeremy flexing, jk! Actually this is a photo of him after going over the bars. We were waiting for him at one point of the trail, and when he showed up, he explained that he went over when his front wheel got caught on a rut on Rock-It.

Here’s a picture that I’m really proud of. This is a shot of Priscilla (on the left) and Christine riding down Rock-It. Even though Priscilla is one of the faster riders at MtnBikeRiders.com, she has a harder time handling down hill sections of a trail. But since she had the KHS XCT 535, and the help of Christine (who recently took a Bike Skills Class), she was able to confidently make it down Rock-It without stopping! Now that’ a big deal! If you’ve ridden Rock-It before, you’ll remember how difficult it could be for the first few times. But after seeing Priscilla take this section on, I would have thought that she’s done it a dozen times before.

Other than Jeremy falling, there were no casualties to report. It was also great to see Lance rocking the big wheels on his new built Vassago Bandersnatch.
vassago bandersnatch

This is our mandatory group photo. Jeremy, Lance, Priscilla, David, Joe S., “Preacher Man” and Christine. I was the one taking all the photos and videos.

Here’s a short video of the ride.