Kinesis Tripster AT 2018 Mountain Bike Review

Kinesis Tripster AT 2018

Reviews / XC Bikes

Kinesis 18,272

At A Glance

The Tripster AT is the long-awaited sibling to its titanium counterpart the Tripster ATR. Respected and lusted after in the adventure biking world, it's price tag put it firmly out of reach for most, but not anymore. This version is mostly the same, but with some tweaks from the late, great Mike Hall who was integral to its development.

Buy XC Bikes on

Now there are plenty of arguments about when is a mountain bike not a mountain bike, but for me, it's what you do that defines mountain biking, not what you ride. For me, this is a drop bar bike for long trips, adventures and exploration off-road.

We asked for a build on the Tripster AT to be full on off-road specific, as it is possible to build this up as a comfy road bike. It's available as a frame only, but also with build kits from Upgrade. The numbers on the frame show the intent for a confident handling bike, with a 71 head angle, a 70mm bottom bracket drop and 440mm chainstays. This is slacker, longer and lower than a classic cyclocross bike.

The clearance allows for 700c x 45mm or 650B x 52mm tyres, and the back end has a 12mm bolt through for stiffness. The bottom bracket is threaded, there are three bottle cage mount, and the frame is rack and bike bag friendly of course!

For our special build, we get the Lauf Grit forks, which are pretty quirky but offer up 30mm of maintenance free travel for only 900g. We also see the Tripster AT in 650b mode, rather than 700c and a set of 1.95 Vee Rail tires in the mix for fast rolling fun. The wheels are Reynolds Carbon ATR2 Disc wheels, which provide a stiff and strong package and keep the weight down at 1550g for the set.

The bling factor is pretty high with Shimano Di2 matched up to some TRP Hylex brakes to give proper power and control, and the cranks are Praxis Works in the form of their Lyft carbon cranks. All in, it's a no-compromise build and designed to give the best of off-road performance with maximum mile covering efficiency.

On The Trail

It was always going to be a novel experience swinging a leg over such a different looking bike, but the most notable thing about this vessel is how comfortable, and at home, I felt on board. Instantly it felt good, the familiarity of chunky-ish tyres and disc brakes that gave full control made me feel relaxed, no skinny tyres and barely adequate brakes here!

The drop bars are what sets this bike apart from what would almost be a lightweight hardtail. Fortunately, the drops are flared, and offer a wide position for stability and control. The overall feeling is a bike that is low, balanced and purposeful. That purpose most definitely is to go far and do it fast.

Putting some power into the system, it's clear that this is a rapid machine and coupled with the Reynolds wheels it's very quick off the mark. The power transfer is instant and having swapped straight from an enduro bike, the Tripster felt like an e-bike.

Climbing was always going to be good on a bike like this and was to be expected on smooth fire roads, but it impressed on more rough stuff as well. The hubs near instant engagement made pedalling through awkward rocks easier and the low bottom bracket, although feeling vulnerable to pedal strikes kept things stable. On very steep climbs, the front did become more liable to wander and was a bit harder to manage.

Once engaged in more mountain bike activities, the Tripster AT continued to shine beyond my expectations. I had assumed I would need to dumb down the terrain to get the best from the bike but time and time again it surprised me. No, you can't smash through rock gardens or race your local enduro trails, but you can get fully off road and get far from the madding crowd.

Taking the Tripster AT out on a local 'easy' mountain bike loop, not only did we ride it faster and more efficiently, but the descents, usually flattened into boredom on a big-rig became technical challenges to be conquered. I care not for Strava times these days, and the refreshing feeling of seeing an old trail through news eyes was invigorating.

It’s fair to say you can pick your way through some pretty rough territory but things get proper exciting when you hit the sweet spot. That spot is on flowing singletrack terrain, low on the drops and hammering the pedals. Feeling like you're riding a Speeder from Star Wars, fully committed to the front end of the bike and going all out. Flowing trails where pedal input is needed to keep the speed high is where the Tripster really shined for me.

The Lauf fork definitely needs a mention, as it's a wacky looking piece of kit. Designed to give 30mm of travel in a very low weight package it flexes and takes the sting out of the hits, and coupled with the larger volume tyres make things very comfortable other than on bouldery terrain. The main drawback to these is the lateral flex that is noticeable even when sprinting out of the saddle, giving a wandering feeling to the front wheel. Once accustomed to this it is all pretty predictable, and in corners, it never felt bad, just slightly low on accuracy when the ground gets unhelpful. Straight-on hits and roughness of a linear style are more easily dealt with. Overall, I would definitely rather have these than a rigid fork, and happily lose a bit of stiffness for the compliance and comfort offered.

The controls all felt familiar if a little high tech, the Di2 offering effortless shifting at the touch of a button. The TRP Hylex brakes gave reassuringly powerful stopping with a great lever feel; the only issue was not being able to shift while down on the drops. The Di2 is well integrated to the brake lever, but designed to be used on the hoods.

My best rides out on the Tripster AT were from my door, where I could easily spin out for 15km before hitting the trails, flowing through some berms and rollers before cruising home. Distances shrink, and maps can be looked at differently. I probably won't be selling my big bike yet, nor growing a massive beard and disappearing into the wilderness for weeks on end, but nor will I be very happy about giving this bike back.

Overall

I have used the Tripster AT far more than I thought I would, and have ridden further and faster than ever before. It's a long way from the modern enduro bike fashion, but for covering the distance, thrashing down singletrack and keeping you honest, it is an amazing bike. Comfortable, efficient and far more fun to ride off-road than I ever would have thought, the Tripster AT takes mountain biking back to the raw exploratory style that created the genre.

Buy XC Bikes on

This review was in Issue 52 of IMB.

For more information visit Kinesis

Related

By Ewen Turner
Ewen Turner is a self-confessed bike geek from Kendal in the Lake District of England. He runs a coaching and guiding business up there and has a plethora of knowledge about bikes with an analytical approach to testing. His passion for bicycles is infectious, and he’s a ripper on the trails who prefers to fit his working life around his time on the bike.

Tried this? What did you think?