KHS have always focussed on the 'value' end of the product spectrum in the UK although in the USA where they've been established since 1974 they have a reputation for a wider selection including more exotic machinery. According to their Steve Wingham, this year we will even see some of the carbon bikes used by the CashCall KHS professional race team - more on them in a moment - but meanwhile, they're not losing the plot and forgetting who their key customers have been.
The bikes are sold direct through KHS's own UK website which in the case of the road bikes enables them to squeeze three models in beneath the vital sub-£1,000 Cycle to Work Scheme threshold. They're all based on the same frame - a hydroformed 6061 aluminium number that has already been a big success in its Flite 500 guise at £799.99. This year, though, from the end of this month you'll be able to buy this and two variants called Flite 500AK and Flite 500AK2 for £930 and £970 respectively; the difference being that the AK comes with Mavic Aksium WTS upgrade wheels and the AK2 adds Schwalbe Ultremo ZXHD tyres instead of the standard Kenda Kontenders.
The Flite 500 frame is unusual in that it has carbon chainstays at the rear in a one-piece yoke design to complement the carbon fork at the front. The idea is to smooth out the worst of the road harshness on a bike that along with its tallish modern-style head tube is designed to be quick and nimble, yes, but also comfortable for hours on end. There's also a carbon-wrapped seat post designed to assist in the same respect.
One thing we're immediately liking is that the drivetrain on this Flite 500 little family of bikes comes with a widest-possible 11-28 10-speed cassette which means that in accompaniment to the 50/34 FSA chainset, there are lots of low gears. Yes, we live in a hilly region and residents of Cambridgeshire might want to think about swapping for smaller sprockets but there are more hilly areas in Britain than flat. Fact.
Flite 500 stays at £800 but there are versions with posh wheels and upgraded tyres still for under the grand.
Also unusual is that you get Shimano 105 gear mechs and shifters - usually you'd be getting Sora or Tiagra gears here for less than £1,000. KHS contend that the money saved on a tried and tested aluminium frame with better components offers more sensible value for money and certainly isn't heavier than the cheaper carbon frames that make a big thing about 'breaking the £1,000 barrier.' This all remains to be seen as we have one booked for review but it's not like this is new and uncharted territory; these are big selling bikes in the US market where flaws in the price-to-performance ratio don't go unnoticed.
And speaking of USA nit-pickers, KHS have formed an alliance with probably the most famous American technical cycling writer Lennard Zinn, columnist for their 'Velo News' and author of one of the finest service manuals for cyclists 'Zinn and the Art of Road Bike Maintenance'. Zinn is famously tall at something like 6'6" - 1.98m - and has spent a lifetime of cycling frustrated by poor bike fit. Or, he was frustrated until he branched out into making his own special-size bikes and components for himself and fellow lofties. The only problem being that custom-made frames come out pretty expensive for normal people thinking of getting into cycling so Zinn got together with KHS and their own Taiwanese facility to design something tall but reasonably- priced.
The so-called KHS 747 is made in mixed diameter - ie larger than usual - Reynolds 520 double-butted steel tubing, a cro-mo fork, 105 drivetrain with a KHS 200mm compact crankset, 46cm bars, 36-spoke wheels and 130mm stem. The top tube length is 62cm and the headtube 25cm in a size they're calling XXL or 65cm. Price for all that in British money seems a very reasonable £1,399.99 but they haven't so far committed to shipping any yet. Steve Wingham is keen to hear if any tall Brits are up for it.
KHS Flite Team: high modulus carbon with nicely detailed finished and BB30, internal cabling, tapered head and elegantly slim seatstays.
All carbon Flite Team bikes coming later including Ultegra Di2
This version, the 900, gets Ultegra with Mavic Aksium wheels. There's Ultegra Di2, too.
OK, and what about those KHS team bikes? The 850-gram high modulus carbon frame designed by US road-racing legend John Howard will come in four builds. The flagship named Flite Team because it's used by the CashCall Mortgages KHS Racing squad comes with Dura-Ace and American Classic Sprint 350 wheels for £3,299, the Flite 950 is fitted with Ultegra Di2 and Mavic Ksyrium wheels for £3,199, then standard 6700 Ultegra with Mavic Aksium wheels comes on the Flite 900 for £1,999 and finally on the Flite 850 you'll be offered Shimano 105 for £1,699. These will all be arrivingas the season progresses, according to Steve Wingham.
KHS Flite 100 single speed still coming from Tokyo Fixed but the colour option is black now.