The Kinesis Crosslight FiveT is billed as an all-rounder. We’ve spent a month in its company, so what did we find?
The frame is well thought out. Made from 7005 series double butted aluminium, the top tube flattens at its junction with the seat tube for easy shouldering, a feature that may prove as useful to urban users carrying bikes into apartments and offices as to cross-ers. A further aid to carrying can be found in the cable routing, which runs along the top of the top tube. The short, 11cm head tube was intelligently paired with a high fork crown to offer generous mud clearance without raising the front end of the bike unnecessarily. The carbon bladed Pure CX fork steered accurately and can be expected to provide greater comfort than the optional Crosslight3 alloy fork. The 42cm chain stays also offered plenty of mud clearance but contributed to the FiveT’s stable, not rapid persona.
We were pleased to see a set of Shimano R500 wheels rather than a generic brand. Inexpensive but adequate to the task, they rolled smoothly and met any challenges thrown their way (pot holed fire roads, rutted dirt tracks, on-and-off kerb moments on the way home).
Kinesis UK supply two sets of tyres with the FiveT, for road and cross. On the tarmac, the Ryder Freedom rubber was comfortable but sluggish, perhaps not an entirely unexpected finding from a 25c tyre, but we mention it lest, like us, you’d fancied a cross bike for winter training rides with the Sunday chain gang. An early jaunt with friends equipped with road bikes exposed the FiveT’s lack of acceleration (we were dropped smartly when sprinting back up to speed from junctions and traffic lights) and greater effort was required to retain the cruising speed of companions rolling on smoother, narrower rubber. If you’re considering a cross bike for winter training rides, then on the evidence provided here, those rides should be solo efforts.
The Maxxis Raze 33c cross tyres were excellent on grass, gravel fire roads, and rutted tracks of hard packed dirt. On road, they were adequate: far from fast, but not overly sluggish. Our final point on the tyres is to commend the performance of the Ryder Freedom road tyre on gravel. A logistical hiccup meant our first off-road outing was made on the road tyres, but they were fast and fun and by no means overwhelmed by gravel fire road.
Full marks to Kinesis for a full Tiagra drivetrain on a £999 bike. Perhaps this is the advantage of purchasing from a small supplier over the big manufacturers who routinely substitute chainsets and calipers with third party or generic replacements and then optimistically bill the spec as, say, Shimano Ultegra, based on little more than the rear mech. Perhaps for companies producing huge numbers of bikes each year, the economies of scale are irresistible, but with smaller brands, competing on quality, you can get more for your money. The FiveT is a case in point. The Tiagra drivetrain (front and rear mechs, chainset, STI levers) performed faultlessly on-road and off, even when used with the optional BBB 46 tooth chainring.
The San Marco Ponza Power Lux saddle was another bonus at this price point, and while not a winner with our test pilot (saddles are very much an item of personal preference) we couldn’t fault its appearance or construction. The cockpit comprised a 90mm FSA OS-190 stem and 40cm FSA Vero bars: both intelligent choices for a 51cm frame. The compact bar quite made the bike for us; the final piece in a jigsaw begun with the high fork crown and short head tube. Its shallow drop offered comfort and was perfectly adequate for the limited need for aerodynamic positioning when riding off-road.
The brakes were the only area of concern. On road, the supplied Tektro CR-520 cantilevers were inferior to say, a Shimano 105 caliper, and off-road were capable only of slowing the bike rather than providing any meaningful stopping power. Full actuation of the brake lever was required to generate sufficient pad-to-rim pressure for even mild deceleration, necessitating a position on the drops for braking, which was not always desirable; the limited lever actuation available from a position on the hoods simply wasn’t enough. The reinforced structure of a cartridge pad may have improved matters, but ideally we’d like to have seen a cable operated disc brake. The £999 Genesis Croix de Fer comes with Avid BB7’s, but has a steel fork. A case of swings and roundabouts, perhaps.
We had a lot of fun on the FiveT, which easily met the limited off-road challenges presented by fields, fire roads, and dirt tracks. The frame design was well considered and if purchasing, we’d choose the carbon fork over the aluminium option for reasons of weight and absorbency; the additional £65 still leaves the complete bike at a Cycle To Work scheme-friendly £999. The brakes were disappointing, but the rest of the spec represented excellent value. The FiveT’s finish divided opinion among our riding companions: ‘not for everyone’ about covers it.
The FiveT is billed as a bike on which to ‘commute now, and cross later’, and if you’re seeking a machine that will accommodate a little off-road action on the ride home, it’s hard to beat. Be warned: drop handlebars and 700c wheels do not a road bike make. If you’re riding the FiveT with roadies, you’ll struggle to keep up. Equally, cross bikes have a fairly narrow performance window for off-road use: take the FiveT down anything steep and rocky and you’ll discover its limits pretty quickly. But for traffic-cheating short cuts on the way home, and options for something more adventurous, it’s just the ticket. Hard to have more fun with change from a grand, we’d say.