Kinesis FF29 ride and a stunning SDW triple
For some one that says that he’s road riding all the time I seem to be clocking up a lot of dirt miles. I rode off road last weekend despite having road raced in the morning. On Friday evening I accompanied Richard Sterry on his South Downs Way Triple attempt. By the way he did it in 37 hours. Hats off to you Richard. Awesome! However, I was in a curry house bloated and beered when Rory turned up with a Kinesis FF29 to ride. How could I not join them on the Downs despite it being 11pm? I was out on the FF29 again this morning.
One reason for this dirt enthusiasm is that I am trying to decide on a new bike. I wanted a Whyte 29CS but the 2013s won’t arrive until August at the earliest and there are no more 2012s available. I have the wheels and tyres, transmission, finishing kit, half the brakes, an FF29 frame on the way (more or less decided) but no forks. There are no 29er taper forks in the UK! It seems that anything that you want these days is out of stock. What a crazy industry?
So what’s the FF29 like?
You can study geometry charts as much as you like and read the reviews and catalogues but nothing beats riding a bike. My first encounter didn’t start well as bikes delivered to Indian restaurants late at night are rarely set up to perfection. At least I knew what I needed to do to get the bike set up for my weekend ride. Swapping the brakes over would stop the surprise skidding that kept me alert at 2am. Last week I rode a pure race machine, 80mm fork, 100mm head tube and racing decals all over it. The FF29 is billed as a trail bike but it felt more or less the same as the race bike. The main difference was the fork length -120mm (note the long stanchions in the picture). I took a similar route and on the Kithurst downhill I had two advantages: 1, prior knowledge (no surprises) and 2, 40mm more travel – 50% more! I went from feeling ambivalent to excited by the bike. Very few 29ers run 120mm forks. The result is a quick steering fast machine with more than enough fork to get you out of any trouble. It climbed as well as the racing thoroughbred and I wasn’t aware of the longer fork on the climb. It was more comfortable than last weeks race machine.
Initially the bike felt a tad too small (the large is way too big) but with the saddle right back, an 80mm stem and USE 720 bars it felt OK. The result is that it feels like a big wheeled 26er as Steve Worland has said. His comment made me think so I measured up my trusty Kona King Kahuna. How about this? The wheelbase of both bikes is 1100mm. The chainstays of the Kona are 15mm shorter and the BB to fork is 15mm less on the FF29. The longer chainstays are great for climbing, no front end lift and very capable when out of the saddle. The short front makes for a real quick steering bike so if you want to be the King of Stanmer then this is the bike for you. Dom the designer wanted it to feel like a 26er he’s succeeded.
The bike tested had Sram X7 transmission and Avid brakes, heavy wheels and a Fox Talas 29er fork. Mine will have Sram X0, Shimano XT brakes, Superlight Bor EXM333 wheels, Maxxis Ikon tyes, Fi’zik seatpost, Selle Italia SLR saddle, New Ultimate 80mm stem, USE flat Atom 720mm carbon bar, YAWYD top cap and a fork….my preference is a Rock Shox SID but beggars can’t be choosers so I’ll take whatever I can get.
Hopefully, I’ll be out on the FF29 again tomorrow.
Here's the ride on Strava, not many people have done the Kithurst descent or the Chantry Hill climb.
Foot note: And I have been out again Tuesday morning. Conditions were perfect after the rain - no more dust and much more grip. Since the first ride I have fit my rear wheel with an Ikon and put a Conti X King on the front. Its a great combo and the whole set up felt perfect on the Lion Trail. I felt quick but there is a tree down that I had to climb over so whilst I thought I was fast, there is no time to note. The FF29 past the Monarch's Way test. Check it out.
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