Kinesis Tripster AT frameset and build kit - review
Kinesis launched the aluminium Tripster AT earlier this year but can it live up to the reputation of its titanium sibling?
The Kinesis Tripster ATR has been one of the British brand's stand-out bikes since it was launched in 2012. With clearance for 45mm tyres and a geometry designed to be equally at home both on and off-road, the disc-specific frame helped set the benchmark for the emerging adventure bike category. There was one problem - the price. The beautifully-finished titanium frameset costs £1,850 so our ears pricked up at the introduction of the Tripster AT, an aluminium version of the ATR with a £700 price tag.
Now we've had the chance to spend a couple of months on the Tripster AT, testing Kinesis' latest adventure bike on everything from one-hour lunch rides to weekend loops linking together roads, bridleways and those 'I wonder where that goes...' tracks we all regularly pass by.
The verdict? The AT brings the versatility of the ATR to a far wider spread of adventure-seeking cyclists, offering a lively, responsive ride capable of clipping along on the road or picking a tight line through the rough stuff. Fit the AT with 650b wheels and you'll truly take advantage of the frame's generous clearance. On the flip side, the ride quality isn't quite as smooth at it's titanium sibling, and the AT comes up against some strong competition as an alloy adventure bike.
The Tripster AT is primarily available as a frameset for £700, while Kinesis can also supply the SRAM Rival 1 build kit featured on our test bike for an additional £1,000. We'll come into that but first let's take a closer look at the frame itself.
Geometry is key to a bike like this and the Tripster AT shares the same tried-and-tested numbers as the titanium ATR. On our 55.5cm test bike (one of seven sizes available), that means you get a 560mm virtual toptube, 172.5mm headtube, 1044mm wheelbase, 73 degree seattube angle and 70.5 degree headtube angle (you can see the full geometry chart on the Kinesis website).
That translates to a relatively tall, slack setup well-suited to the Tripster AT's versatile persona. While the AT is certainly at the relaxed end of the spectrum for road riding - if you're used to an aggressive, head-down position then the AT's lofty front end and high bottom bracket will make the bike feel tall - the head angle and long wheelbase contribute to the bike's confidence-inspiring off-road ride. Ultimately, a machine like the AT is designed to move seamlessly between the road and dirt, and that's where it excels thanks to a geometry which strikes a balance between the two.
- Price: £700 (frameset + £1,000 for build kit)
- Sizes: 48, 51, 54, 55.5, 57, 60, 63cm
- Size tested: 55.5cm
- Colours: 'Arran Blue'; 'Seeon Yellow'
- Website: Kinesis UK
The frame is made from a Kinesis' own Kinesium aluminium alloy, with tube profiles specific to the AT. Aesthetically, it bears little resemblance to the ATR, with angular tube shapes used throughout, particularly on the downtube - contrasting to the titanium frame's sleek lines. It gives the alloy frame a more aggressive profile, which is evident in the ride itself. On top of that, there's a lot of tyre clearance, - up to 45mm with 700c wheels and 52mm with 650b wheels.
Otherwise, you’ll also find mudguard eyelets, three bottle cage mounts, 12mm thru-axles front and rear, and a threaded BSA bottom bracket shell. The addition of a third bottle cage mount was the suggestion of Mike Hall, the ultra-endurance rider who was tragically killed during the Indian Pacific Wheel Race earlier this year. Hall also worked with Kinesis on the Tripster AT's graphic design and the finished frame includes a number of details influenced by the Transcontinental founder.
What's immediately obvious from the Tripster AT, despite the adventure-focused geometry, is that this is a bike which still retains a performance edge. The aluminium frame provides a rigid, responsive platform and there's no sense of effort being wasted by the frame itself. If you want to attack a short climb or a fast off-road loop, the AT is up to the task. For the record, we weighed our test bike at 9.87kg (the frame itself is a claimed 1,840g) and with wide tyres fitted you're not going to sail along like a featherweight road bike, but the Tripster AT provides a solid chassis to nip along at speed.
While the stiff chassis has a jump to it if you press hard on the pedals, the steering remains relaxed enough to tackle the type of technical terrain that might otherwise be beyond the limits of a regular road bike. On one of my favourite test loops there's a fast section of road which leads directly onto a rutted gravel track and the AT handles the transition comfortably, remaining planted and relatively passive, letting the rider dictate what's happening beneath them, rather than the bike setting an agenda of its own. Equally, the Tripster has a composed air when grinding up steep climbs, or careering down the other side.
That said, the Tripster AT has a noticeably harsher ride quality than the ATR. That's not an entirely fair comparison - one is made from titanium and the other aluminium, with a £1,150 price difference - but it's one quickly worth noting when addressing the Tripster as part of a family of bikes. The AT's front-end is a little prone to high-frequency chattering over particularly rutted or washboard surfaces but, all things told, it's not an unnerving experience and the ability to run the wide tyres at low pressures works wonders.
On that note, the generous tyre clearance means the AT has huge off-road potential. Generally speaking, 45mm is at the top-end of what we're seeing on adventure bikes with 700c wheels and, like many bikes in this category, the AT is also capable of accommodating smaller 650b wheels, with the benefit of increasing clearance even further (up to 52mm, according to Kinesis).
Kinesis provided our test bike with both 700c and 650b wheels, and that allowed us to explore the AT's off-road prowess - with the right tyres, this a drop-bar bike capable of tackling genuine mountain bike trails. Ultimately, what wheel and tyre size you choose depends on what you want to get out of the bike. While increasingly wider rubber increases the AT's performance on dirt and gravel, there is obviously a negative effect on road speed and agility.
That's what a bike like the Kinesis Tripster AT is all about - choice and versatility. It's a machine capable of opening up a new world of riding, immediately beyond the roads we ride day in, day out. It sends an inquisitive road rider's sense of adventure and exploration into overdrive, while still retaining an agility that can't be matched by a mountain bike.
In fact, to kick-start this test I picked up the Tripster AT from Kinesis' headquarters in Horsham, West Sussex, and embarked on a 90-minute ride so they could show me their local lanes and bridleways - the very type of terrain the AT is designed for. Leading the group into an off-road section I heard a call from behind, advising of an upcoming turn. I accidentally turned early, heading onto a woodland trail, but rather than turning back we ploughed on.
None of us knew particularly where we were going - even the locals - but we forged a path through the trees and overgrown summer brambles, bunny-hopped tree roots and weaved our way along tight singletrack, and hiked the bikes over a stile before following our noses back to the road and eventually rejoining the original route to find the cafe stop. Cue smiles all round and relief at the prospect of cake.
As we said at the top, the Tripster AT is primarily sold as a frameset (the aluminium frame comes with a carbon fork), so there's potential for a wide range of builds, whether you want to piece something together yourself or through your local bike shop.
With that in mind, we won't go into too much detail on component choices here but Kinesis do also offer a £1,000 build kit which includes a SRAM Rival 1 transmission, TRP Spyre cable disc brakes, Kinesis Crosslight Disc V5 wheels and Challenge Grifo 33mm or Gravel Grinder 38mm tyres. Our test bike showcased the build kit, with the exception of the Challenge tyres (we had VeeTee clinchers fitted).
SRAM Rival 1 suits the Tripster AT well. It's an increasingly popular groupset on bikes with an off-road edge, whether that be a gravel bike like the AT, a cyclo-cross bike like the Ridley X-Night or a disc-equipped road machine with wide tyre clearance like the Mason Definition2 - the Ridley and Mason being two bikes to recently arrive at RCUK sporting the single-chainring groupset.
With a 40-tooth chainring and 11-36t cassette, the Tripster AT in this build offers a suitable spread of gears for road and off-road use - importantly, you have a climbing gear smaller than a compact chainset with a 30-tooth cassette sprocket, giving the Tripster a wide enough range to tackle short, sharp dirt climbs. At the other end, 40-11t has its limitations on the road but really you've got to be going some to regularly top out. Top-end road speed isn't what the AT is about.
The TRP Spyre brakes are excellent as mechanical discs go but can't match the latest hydraulic stoppers for modulation and all-round performance. They're reliable and consistent but lack a little in all-out power. That's our main sticking point with the Tripster AT as a complete bike - at £1,700, it comes up against some stiff competition and we'd like to see hydraulic disc brakes.
Almost every brand has an adventure bike these days - it's one of the industry's hot topics - but Kinesis were among the first with the original Tripster ATR. The AT is an important addition to the British firm's Tripster family and takes the ATR's proven performance and wraps it up into an excellent all-round package at a much more affordable price. While the aluminium frame has a slightly harsh edge and we'd prefer hydraulic disc brakes included as part of the build kit, this is a bike ready to put a smile on your face. Are adventure bikes a fad? That's for you to decide but, having ridden a handful this year, there's one thing we do know - they're damn good fun and the Kinesis Tripster AT is no different.
- Versatile geometry
- Responsive aluminium frame
- Generous tyre clearance for off-road detours
- Mechanical disc brakes (build kit)
- Slightly harsh ride