by Ben Haworth
April 30, 2010
Could it be the magic at last?
Benji’s Kinesis Decade Virsa
Price: £349 frame only
From: Upgrade www.kinesisdecade.co.uk
I think I’ve finally found the perfect build – and perfect type of trails – for this bike. In a nutshell: wide-ish flat handlebar, 90mm stem, decent 100mm fork, fast but grippy tyres, singlespeed (sorry!) and then take it to some tree-lined singletrack dirt.
Here is my bar of choice – Easton EA70, 31.8mm clamp size, 685mm wide, 9 degree sweep. Shame the graphics end up looking a bit dipped when the bar is positioned in “my” preferred way but hey-ho. I had been riding the bike with riser bars on but they felt too high. Specifically, the front end too tall in relation to where my feet were – stay with me here! – I felt too much inside the bike, wallowing around with my arms outstretched in front of me like Frankenstein. With these wide flat bars on I can “get over the front” of the bike and work/hustle it much better. And the low BB is great when cornering and it’s also great at keeping the centre-of-gravity low on techy steep descents (which helps offset running “only” 100mm travel forks). I feel in control and nicely inside the bike rather than “lost”.
I’m been using a few 100mm forks on the bike lately because we have a group test of them in an upcoming issue of the magazine. These are the Marzocchi Corsa Ti forks. A bit cushier and heftier than other all-out-racerboy forks but so far, so good. Their “trail riding” (not “race course”) nature seems to suit the bike extremely well actually.
Geax Saguaro TNT 2.2 – one my Top 10 Tyres of All Time (and those who know my rubber obsession will appreciate what an accolade that is! ;)) Fast, grippy in all but true filth, great “working edge” to them, nice volume, very easy to run tubeless.
Side profile of the Green Goddess in her natural terrain (the seat post has been dropped a little bit in case you were wondering). Let’s talk pseudo-science for a bit now for those that like that sort of thing… in this guise we’ve measured the geometry (unsagged 100mm fork) as: 69 degree head angle, 72 degree seat angle, 300mm BB height. I like these numbers. Combined with longish (600mm) top tube and shortish (425mm) chain stays (on our Large size) it’s winning formula. It’s not a twitchy death trap on fun stuff. Nor is it a cramped cockpit that’s unsuitable for long days out. It’s long and low. Long and low works very well for me.
I am not a singlespeed zealot by any stretch of the imagination, but there’s no denying that, on the trails that this bike excels at, there are more con’s than pro’s to running gears. The terrain that suits this bike best has minimal elevation and maximum flow. You provide the sufficient two gear options yourself: stood up or sat down. Adding gears just adds to the weight of the bike and slows it down. And yes, gears make the bike noisier as well as spoiling the bike’s aesthetics (don’t pretend that a bike’s looks aren’t important).
The Kinesis Decade Virsa has perfect geometry for 100mm fork-ed, singletrack pinning. It’s not a bike for rocky trails (although it will do okay on them). There’s a bit of lateral flex in the main tubes that “works” on tight, woodland singletrack. This flex doesn’t work so well on fast, rough, open trails. The back end is actually pretty flex free from what I could tell; it’s a fairly firm ride. Again, this is good on “stompy”, pedally singletrack but not so good on rough terrain where the bumps and shocks are not that muted.
Let’s not dwell at what the bike isn’t so good at because that would be missing the whole point of this bike. That would be like damning a Downhill bike because it wasn’t so good as a commuter. Basically, if you want a 100mm fork-ed hardtail for riding trails that are fast and narrow (ideally under tree cover) with lots of swoops and dips then there’s not many bikes that are more capable and suited to that sort of thing than this bike. There are steel hardtails with more “refined” ride feels out there (not to mention a bit lighter) but they’re more expensive and don’t have the Virsa’s totally sorted geometry.
And I haven’t even mentioned the paint job this time.