by Ben Haworth
March 15, 2010
Accidental singlespeeding in Shropshire.
Benji’s Kinesis Decade Virsa
Price: £349 frame only
From: Upgrade www.kinesisdecade.co.uk
Last weekend I was meant to be riding a Welsh trail centre (Penmachno) on my Green Machine. I thought it would be a safe “weather proof” option – as well as being a valid test arena seeing as a lot of people mainly (only!) ride trail centres these days.
As with a lot of riding plans made in the UK, the weather had other ideas. Basically the weather was far too nice to “waste” zipping around a trail centre! So we headed over to Church Stretton in Shropshire. Anyone who knows me, knows that I’m always looking for any excuse to ride the trails around there. I love ’em.
The last few times I’ve ridden Church Stretton I’ve been on “my” bike: a 140mm travel Cannondale Prophet MX with Fox 36 forks up front. Needless to say, riding the same trails on a 100mm fork-ed steel singlespeed was quite a bit different.
Uphill, the light weight of the bike (22.7 lbs) didn’t quite offset the lack of gears! The long top tube and wide-ish bars give a nice area to thrutch and heave about in, which was nice.
I can climb some pretty steep stuff on a singlespeed – up to a point. The climbs up out of Church Stretton are just that little bit too unrelenting and long for my singlespeed abilities. Having said that, I wasn’t any slower than my riding buddies in reaching to the top of the climbs. Granny ring and biggest rear cog climbing is about the same speed as walking pace after all.
I had worried about how such a “skimpy” bike would behave on the descents. I needn’t have worried really. A bike with a good 100mm fork combined with decent tyres and brakes is a pretty capable machine. Admittedly we did keep away from the rockier, tech-ier descents but on the off-camber and steep stuff the Virsa was sure footed. I attribute a lot of this to the low BB height, it just makes the bike feel like its hugging the ground more and definitely makes tight hairpin turns much easier to execute.
The bike just loved being whipped along the stoopid-fast 18″ wide singletrack that is characteristic of the area. The frame has a definite lateral twang to it – which can take some getting used to after riding other stiff-as-a-corpse bikes with bolt-thru this and oversized that – but once you’re used to it it does seem to add a little bit more glee to riding a hardtail at high speeds over not-too-rough, nicely tight-lined terrain. It’s not noticeably flexy or soggy at the back where the pedaling power is applied, it’s actually a very responsive, firm feel at the back. It’s a fun and rewarding bike on “pedal ‘n’ pump” trails.
Running the fat but fast 2.2 Geax Saguaro tubeless tyres (with Stans NoTubes rim strips and Caffe-Latex liquid) is a massive part of why this bike rides as it does. They’re speedy but grippy and can be run at lowish pressures without pinch flatting or squirming all over the place.
Other bits? The Magura Durin SL fork is great. Light to loft. Stiff under braking. Firm but not spikey. The Tektro Auriga Pro brakes have been a pleasant surprise. Powerful out of the box and with more and more feel becoming apparent the more I ride them.
I was all set to put a 120mm bolt-thru fork up front but I’m not sure I will now. What I will do is put some gears on the bike. I don’t think it needs that many (and I don’t want to add weight to the bike too much) so I’m going to try a 1×9 setup for awhile.