Our very own Bruce Willis lookalike, Andi Sykes, tested out three titanium hardtails from Kingdom, Nordest and Sonder for Issue 122 of Singletrack Magazine. Here is his review of the Kingdom Vendetta X2.
Kingdom Bike is based in Copenhagen and like many other brands from around the world, it designs and develops bikes at its HQ, then has frames manufactured elsewhere in the world. In this case, China.
While some bike manufacturers might offer steel, alloy, and even carbon frames, Kingdom only uses titanium for all of its bikes, even the full-suspension models. Part of this decision is simply down to the brand’s love of titanium frames, and how high-quality Ti frames make the Kingdom team feel. Looking over the brand’s website you’ll learn that they are all quite nostalgic about some of the original titanium frames, so when the company formed in 2013 this is the material that they decided to use.
Titanium also has characteristics that make it perfect for building a hardcore hardtail frame. Its ability to dampen vibrations and shock make it perfect for a bike without bouncy bits. Corrosion or rust isn’t an issue either, not to mention the fact that its resistance to fatigue is legendary – just what you need from a bike you’re likely to chuck about.
For our Ti Hard review, Kingdom sent over the Vendetta X2 built up with a collection of rather tasty titanium and carbon parts. The X2 is the most affordable frame in the Kingdom range and costs just €999; however, it gets the same geometry and design as the more expensive €1,899 Vendetta frame.
To bring the cost of the Vendetta X2 down by such a huge amount, Kingdom took a long look at its flagship hardtail and identified the areas that absorb most of the manufacturing cost. For example, a top Vendetta frame uses a CNC machined titanium headtube, a beautifully made piece of engineering that takes hours upon hours to manufacture. However, as we all know ‘time means money’, so the Vendetta X2 sacrifices this indulgence in favour of a straight headtube – it does the same job, and allows you to run a tapered steerer, but it costs a lot less.
Other areas where the Vendetta X2 has been adapted to cost less is the lack of internal tubing for routing cables and hoses, instead tabs are tacked on to the outside of the frame and hoses or cables are zip-tied in place. It might not be as neat as internal routing, but it’s a much more cost-effective solution, and it’s also going to win you a lot of friends at the local bike shop if you need to take it in for a cable swap.
The Vendetta X2 also uses round ‘Breezer’ style dropouts, rather than custom CNC options, again saving time and money, but performing just as good a job. Kingdom has also removed its ‘custom’ option from the X2, meaning that all frames use the same off-the-shelf geometry, and it’s only available in sizes medium, large and X-large.
For our review we asked for a large frame to be supplied, but in the end we were only able to get our hands on a medium-sized bike. Thankfully, Kingdom has done a pretty good job of its stock geometry and the medium gets a roomy, if not progressive, 442mm reach, matched to a slack 64.5° head angle and well-thought-out 74° seatpost angle.
If you’re between sizes, or just prefer a longer frame without sacrificing standover, then you’re going to love the Vendetta X2’s design. The radically sloping top tube matches the angle of the seatstays, it’s extremely pleasing to the eye and, practically, it means that our medium frame has a standover of just 735mm.
The 423mm chainstay length of our medium frame is mirrored on the large and X-large models too, but thanks to the generous reach and slack front end the wheelbase of our bike is a roomy 1194mm. This suggests an agile ride, with ‘loves back wheel’ attitude for ‘jibbing’ in the woods while retaining stability to hit warp speed on gnarly rocky descents.
For the build, Kingdom really pulled out all of the stops for our test bike. Up front we have a 150mm travel Cane Creek Helm air fork. We’re seeing these forks more and more often, and due to a recent price reduction I expect more manufacturers will start speccing it over a Pike or Fox 34. The Helm offers plenty of adjustments, has a really solid chassis, looks great, and is a solid performer too.
Keeping a Burgtec Ride Wide handlebar in check is a prototype Kingdom titanium stem. At the time of writing these are still in the testing phases, but Kingdom is planning on offering this 135g Ti stem on builds in the future. We had no issues with it during our time, but my eyes do water sometimes when I look at those rear-facing clamp bolts. Burgtec features elsewhere with a set of Bartender lock-on grips, Burgtec Cloud saddle and Burgtec chainring.
Helping to get the most out of that low standover is a 150mm BikeYoke Revive dropper post. We’re absolutely loving these posts at the moment. They’re reliable, sturdy and smoother than a cashmere codpiece. Honestly, what else could you want from a dropper?
We have a feeling that if titanium rims were available, Kingdom would be the first to use them but, as they aren’t, they’ve gone for something that looks just as swanky – a set of Sixth Element carbon 29er wheels, built on Hope Pro 4 hubs with orange decals to match the frame. Between the carbon hoops and the Maxxis rubber, a CushCore tyre protection system had been fitted. SRAM might have lucked out in the fork, dropper and wheel departments, but makes a comeback with a 1×11 SRAM GX drivetrain and powerful SRAM Guide RS 4 piston brakes.
After admiring the svelte tubing and aggressive design of the Vendetta X2, I finally relented and decided to take this beauty out for a spin in the muck and grime – conditions the X2 was designed for.
A lightweight frame, short rear end and carbon wheels all point to a bike that enjoys having its pedals stamped on, and uphill you instantly feel the Vendetta surging forward with every crank. There’s no hiding the fact the X2 is a hardtail – you need to get out of the saddle more often than a full-suspension bike, but as long as you’re smooth and keep rolling the Vendetta will truck on.
As the climbs steepen though you’ll start to notice that super compact rear end. With such a short chainstay and a relatively short reach, I did find that our medium framed test bike could get a little fidgety on the climbs with a little front-end wander. It’s not a major issue on smoother trails, but on natural rocky and rooty climbs I wished I was on the large size frame so I could get some extra weight over the front.
I also noticed that the compact back end which is so eager to transfer power is a little less forgiving than the other Ti frames we had on test. The fact that there is quite a lot of bracing around the rear could add to this feeling, and I expect the chunky carbon rims aren’t quite as forgiving as the alloy wheels on the other bikes we’re riding. On the other hand, the CushCore system in the rear wheel does give you a little extra adjustment and will allow you to run lower tyre pressures without that risk of puncturing or damaging those pricey carbon rims.
Once the trails flatten off, the Kingdom covers ground as fast as my son bolting from his chores. The long wheelbase and 150mm travel fork are just the tickets for building up momentum on fast flowing trails, and once you keep on the pace the Vendetta X2 loves to be flung into rockier situations – just keep your wits about you and lean on the supple Helm fork and it’s amazing what the Kingdom can safely drag you through.
Remember that you’re on a hardtail, keep those legs absorbing the shocks, choose your lines carefully and the X2 is a hell of a lot of fun. The compact back end and average reach means that the front wheel can be hoisted around with little effort, while once airborne the Vendetta performs as well as its dirt jumper looks suggest.
Those DJ looks also translate well in terms of flickability and of all the Ti hardtails we have on test, this is the bike that would feel most at home at the BMX track, pump track or even skatepark.
Overall, the most aggressive and confidence-inspiring bike on test, but at 178cm tall, I found the medium frame too short and would prefer a large, which I believe would climb better without spoiling the downhill prowess of the Kingdom.
Kingdom Vendetta X2 Specification
Price // £3999.00 as tested
Frame // Kingdom Vendetta X2
Fork // Cane Creek Helm Air, 150mm travel
Hubs // Hope Pro 4
Rims // Sixth Element Carbon
Tyres // Maxxis DHF 29×2.3 F, Maxxis DHR 29×2.3 R
Chainset // SRAM GX
Rear Mech // SRAM GX 11-speed
Shifters // SRAM GX 11-speed
Brakes // SRAM Guide RS
Stem // Prototype Kingdom Titanium
Bars // Burgtec RW
Grips // Burgtec Bartender
Seatpost // BikeYoke Revive Dropper
Saddle // Burgtec Cloud
Size Tested // M
Sizes Available // S, M, L, XL
Weight // 29.02lbs/13.23kg
|Price:||Price: £3999.00 (as tested)|
|Tested:||by Andi for|