Great value all-rounder that with a few tweaks will make a great specialist machine too
Weight: 9933g Contact: www.kinesisbikes.co.uk
Kinesis have this bike down as a true all-rounder, with the FiveT being touted as a (deep breath) cyclo-cross/tourer/winter trainer/commuter. So is it a true do-everything bike or a jack of all trades and a master of none?
The Kinesis Crosslight family has a rich lineage and a strong following in the cyclo-cross world, insanely popular underneath the journeyman 'cross racer and definitely not shy of the podium either, such heritage shows through in the FiveT frame. Made of "Kinesis Double Butted 7005" tubing to a "race winning Crosslight geometry" it troubles the scales at 21.9lbs without pedals, so it's no lightweight race whippet, neither is it a chunky old barge. The quality of the frame is excellent, the welds are clean and tidy, and we think the sharp black with blue graphics make the bike look classy and a considerably more expensive machine, it's also available in a Tech Blue/Off White "colourway" which we might like even more 'cos it looks faster, and it's generously sprinkled with a whole pit-bucket of details harvested from those years of cyclo-cross experience.
Showing off it's hour of hell leanings most obviously the slightly sloping 'Ergo' top-tube is dramatically flattened on the underside towards the rear in an attempt to add comfort to shouldering when running the barriers. It's a sound idea in theory, but in practise as you never carry a bike completely flat on your shoulder, especially in the rough and stumble of a ‘cross race, the flat section never rests square and the sharp corner where the flat bit transitions to the curve of the tube digs into your boney flesh instead. Nice try though.
Other features are the ‘aStay’; the right-hand chain-stay that is heavily ovalised for mud and crank clearance, a gusset at the down-tube to head-tube junction for extra strength when crashing over roots and potholes or chunky touring. The rear brake and gear cable run along the top-tube to keep them out the mud and on the right-hand side away from body-parts when shouldering, yet the cable for the front-mech is routed under the bottom-bracket to avoid any seat-tube mounted roller mud-magnet complications. The front-mech cable stop on the down-tube has a somewhat superfluous cable-adjuster, we'd rather have one for tweaking the rear-mech on the move, but it's a nice feature shared on the rear-brake hanger, so points for gritty mid-ride pad-wear slack adjustment there. Although there isn't a front-brake cable adjuster so we'll have to take that point right back off again.
The frame comes blessed with twin bottle-cage mounts to upset the race purists but please the multi-taskers, a replaceable rear-mech hanger and even an old-school chain-hanger pip on the right-hand seat-stay, splendid. There's a full complement of rack and mudguard mounts on the frame although nothing at all on the carbon forks, which is a schoolboy error. Although if you downgrade to the alloy fork and save yourself £70 in the process you'll get mudguard eyelets. Sadly we had to file away a non-essential bit of our rack to get it to fit past the chunky alloy tubes of the seatstays, that might be worth checking.
Hanging off the front of the frame are some of Kinesis's own Crosslight Pro forks, carbon legged with alloy dropouts and steerer it's nice to see a carbon fork at this price. Initially we got some of the dreaded and infamous carbon-fork-cantilever-brake judder but after a bit of tinkering and raising the straddle yolk it went away completely. There isn't a hole in the crown should you want to fit a cable-stop hanger there if the problem refuses to go away though. The fork compliments the bike well, good mud-clearance, not too light, neither too heavy, taking the buzz off the trail and fuzzy tarmac and feeling confident rather than noodly and fragile.
Component wise the wheels are an obvious cost-cutter. Although they’re laced to well respected Mavic CXP22 24/28 hole rims and the wheels as a whole have stayed tight and wobble free the hubs, down in the catalogue as Formula, are unfortunately not up to par. Calling the bearings 'sealed' is optimistic at best, we managed to reduce them to a rusty pulp over two days damp riding, admittedly both days were long, wet, muddy, puddly and a trial for any component but the hubs were, in short, completely fuggered. Thankfully the old-fashioned cup-n-cone and bearings construction means that they are mendable and if you’re prepared to give them regular love and attention they’ll see you fine. Some new bearings and a fistful of decent grease had the wheels spinning if not as good as new then passable and good enough to keep us going while saving up for something with a bit more longevity.
The Kenda CX 700x35C tyres have a cartoon-like aggressive tread which makes them treacle-draggy on road, when climbing out the saddle you can hear the knobbles rip chunks out the tarmac. If you wanted to do more road based or genteel towpath action on this bike then you'd do well to swap these for something slicker and swifter and if you were racing you'd possibly look to strap on something lighter and less knarly. But for general pratting about off-road they’re a honeyed barrel of giggles as their fat carcass and chunky square edged tread design means you can make the bike do really bad things, really fun bad things, and rag it about pretty much like a mountainbike.
Tektro CR-520 brakes work well, aping the sticky-out design of the 'cross popular Froggleg brakes that offer gappy clearance between pad and rim should things get claggy and yet plenty stopping power, for a cantilever. The V-brake style fixing hardware of the pads make them easy to adjust too compared to other CX brakes, although the stock pads aren’t the best and wear alarmingly quickly, we replaced them with some metal-shoed V-pads for a better feel and easy pad replacement.
The FiveT opts for Tiagra 9 speed mechs and shifters, but goes off piste for the Truvativ Elita 48/34 chainset with external bottom-bracket, and it all works well and only slightly more clunky than the stuff in the shiny shiny cabinet, but like most low-rent external bottom-brackets this one is ageing prematurely, it's what they do. To fit in with it's "bit of everything" character the gearing is a bit of an unhappy medium, if you wanted to race then the gearing is too easy, and the gap between the 48 and 34 chainrings is too big so changing between the two leads to frantic rear gear changes to keep the same cadence, although the 34/25 means you can ride up some stuff others with hardman ratios might be off and scrabbling up. If you fancy a bit of pannier hauling then the easy end of the 12-25 cassette is too harsh for anything more than Touring Lite with, so you'll want to change that cassette for something larger if you're regularly loaded, or swap the chainset for a triple, luckily the frame is designed with room for an third chainring in mind, although you'll need new front changing gubbins as the STI is only a double clanger. But for swashbuckle commuting and jousting in-the-hills fun the gearing is fine, we still don't like that chainring jump though, even if it means we can grind up more hills. The KMC chain comes with a tools-free split-link making removal and cleaning easy, handy for a bike that could and should spend most of it’s life parts-deep in mud. Small round of applause for that tiny detail that often gets overlooked.
The KMC oversize handlebars are nice and wide at 42cm c-to-c with the tops extending almost the whole width before bending sharply forwards which we found great for on-the-tops control and it leaves plenty of room for cissy-levers, if that's your thing, and we even liked the curve of the not-quite-shallow drops. That Selle San Marco 'Ponza Power Lux' saddle isn't going to win any prizes but it's comfortable enough and even after several big rides didn't have our arse pining for a something else which is a high praise. Unfortunately it sits on top of The Ugliest Seatpost In The World. It does it's job perfectly well, contributes to a unfair percentage of the bike's total weight and we were thankful we couldn't see it whilst pedalling, it shouldn't matter but, well, you know.
Once on board there really is not much to report, and we mean that in a good way. Handling is neutral, with maybe a slight leaning towards the twitchy end of the steer-o-meter, far from being damning this is just what you want when you can't hold on much for the last 7 minutes of a 'cross race, are shooting for that gap between the buses or carving round a downhill bend with all your worldly possessions in panniers. The ride is stable and reassuring rather than nippy, on road it’s not going to win any prizes, especially as those tyres really bog it down, slicker treads would really up the nip nicely, but off-road it’s beautifully stable and you can punt it down stuff with gay abandon in the knowledge that it’s not going to want to buck you off at the first sniff of bump.
Out the box we found the position on the long and low side, which was fine on road but made any dirt steeps a wee bit compromised and we guess that quite a few people would want to play with stem flippage and swappage to get their position right, even just moving the STI units up on the bars would make a great difference.
The frame feels stiff enough, punching on the pedals produces very little sponge in the rear, although being a little on the chunky side it sometimes took two kicks to get the bike to actually surge. Certainly tight enough for an hours cut'n'thrust round a muddy field but certainly not harsh for longer jaunts and when loaded up there's no frame flex or shimmy. All good. Even after consecutive big days in the saddle on the FiveT we didn't feel in any way battered, we suspect that it's stability and good trail manners went a long way towards this.
This bike is a bit like a good friend that doesn't know what to do with their life so we'd buy it a pint, take it to the side and have a good chat, because we like them. If you want a bike that wants to do the one specific thing well, be that 'cross racing, commuting, touring or training then there's something that will need to be changed, tyres, gearing or forks, but if you understandably can only afford just the one bike instead of three then it is more than good enough to do all of the above without the compromises being actual hindrances. A commuter during the week that can morph into a cheeky racer or bridleway warrior for the weekend, easy. Winter road hack that can handle a bit of rough-stuff, no problem. Ride to work bike that can handle a little camping adventure come Friday evening, go for it.
A great value and wholly capable do-it-all bike that would need a few tweaks should you want it to shine at any specific discipline, and better wheels. It's also available as a frameset so that might be a good option as a starting point if you want it to perform in one particular function more than another.
road.cc test report
Make and model: Kinesis Crosslight Five T
Size tested: 57cm
About the bike
State the frame and fork material and method of construction. List the components used to build up the bike.
Frame - 7005 series double-butted aluminium
Fork - Crosslight Pro carbon with alloy steerer
List the components used to build up the bike.
Crankset Truvativ Elita 48/34 172.5mm
BB Truvativ Giga X Pipe XR
STI Levers Shimano Tiagra Dual
Rear Mech Shimano Tiagra
Front Mech Shimano Tiagra
Cassette Shimano HG-50 12-25t
Chain KMC Z9000
Rims Mavic CXP22 24/28H
Tyres Kenda CX 700*35C Folding
Headset FSA Orbit
Brakes Tektro CR-520 Black (Frog Leg style)
Saddle Selle San Marco 'Ponza Power Lux'
Handlebar KHS Alloy 31.8 420mm
Grip Black Cork Tape
Stem KHS Alloy 31.8 110mm
Seatpost KHS Alloy 27.2 350mm
Sizes - 48, 51, 54, 57, 60, 63cm [c/t]
Colour - Supergloss Black/Tech Blue or Tech Blue/Off White
Tell us what the bike is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about the bike?
Kinesis say - "The FiveT features ‘aStay’ chainstays and although designed primarily as a 'crosser, it has clearance for 3 rings, twin bottle mounts, rack and mudguard eyelets and an eyeletted alloy fork option. These features mean it performs equally well as a ‘crosser, tough tourer, commuter or all three!"
They're almost right I think, it performs quite adequately as a ‘crosser, tough tourer or commuter, but if you want to specialise in any of the three you'd want to make some subtle changes.
Frame and fork
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
The welding and the finishing are almost too good for the money, and we do like that paint-job, and the fork is a fine if un-glamourous model that will see you good whatever you want to do on it.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
The frame is 7005 series double-butted aluminium which is perfectly acceptable at this price and the fork is carbon with an alloy steerer, something you'll have no qualms about crashing about off-road or over crappy roads.
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
The frame shares the race winning geometry of it's posher bothers the EVO4 and Pro5 apparently, which is nice to know. In use it's spot on, not too fast, nor sluggish.
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
We found the sizing was spot on for this size of bike, although a bit of height on the front end would have been welcome for more techy off-road.
Riding the bike
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
The FiveT was lovely to ride, get on, pedal, keep going, stop. Nothing nasty to report at all, even at the end of big days in the saddle.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
It all felt good, even loaded up and pointed off-road the bike was a confident and sure-footed beasty.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
Those chunky ‘aStay’ chainstays certainly helped power go to the rear-wheel, and kept the bike mud free to boot. What's not to like?
Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so, was it a problem?
No, but I have small feet.
How would you describe the steering? Was it lively, neutral or unresponsive? I'd say just the sharp side of neutral, in a good way.
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
The bike handled fine, we put it through it's paces on and off-road, loaded up with panniers and fast and free with just a pump and saddle-bag, and we really couldn't fault it.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?
Those big voluminous Kenda tyres certainly helped with off-road comfort, although that transferred to on-road dragginess. The saddle wasn't a pain in the butt either.
Wheels and tyres
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes, very much.
Would you consider buying the bike? Maybe, it's cracking value, but I'd have to change bits to make it do what I wanted.
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes. But it's a crowded market so worth looking at something more racing, commuting, touring specific if required. Also it might be worth taking a look at the frameset only option.
Anything further to say about the bike in conclusion?
The FiveT has the potential to be a great bike, the frame is a sound platform on which to base things, and a different set of more sealed hubs and a change of tyres or gearing should see you good for whatever way you want to hack it for quite some considerable time.
And a nicer seatpost.
About the tester
I usually ride: It varies as to the season. My best bike is: The one I\'m on at the time
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, cyclo cross, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mtb, Fun