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Looking for a fuss-free budget bike for getting around the city? The Urban Soul from KHS could be it - at £299.99 you'll have to go a long way to find a machine as good for the price.
The Soul comes equipped with a Double Butted CrMo top and down tube frame, single-speed freewheel on its flip/flop track hub (which can be converted to a fixed gear in minutes), an upright fit flat bar, front and rear dual pivot brakes, 700c x 26 tires and an all-round great look. There are four sizes: (S, M, L, XL) so you should find one that fits.
Hang on, £299 for a complete bike! The Soul's price made raised a few quizzical eyebrows when we saw it at the Cycle Show last year. Sure you can get bikes this cheap and much cheaper still, but our experience is that they're usually not very good – the Urban Soul's spec sheet suggests that this bike should have a much higher price tag. For the time being at least it's such a bargain because KHS are selling direct in the UK via their website and that allows them to slice margins thinner - that said, even with a retail margin on top the Urban Soul would still be an ultra-competitive proposition. One note of caution though, at the time of posting it's not on the KHS UK site… KHS tell us that they are taking orders for bikes due in April.
For the money you get a full cro-mo frame with double butted top and down tubes and a cro-mo fork, a set up that allows the bike to be fairly rugged yet keep the weight down. The steel isn't super thin so the ride doesn't have that springy classic steel feel but it does take the high frequency buzz from the road, and that mated to the conservative geometry of the frame makes for a very tame ride. That isn't a bad thing for what this bike is designed for, in fact it works very well in keeping you on a straight course even over badly pitted roads. If it could be adapted to attach gears this bike would work very well as a tourer, where stability is called for. Novice riders will find confidence in it and everyday urban riders will be able to pay more attention to traffic.
The rest of the Urban Soul has obviously been put together to represent value and although most of the components are unbranded, they don't seem to be too shy of quality. The handle bars and stem are fairly generic cross country mountain bike alloy units. The stem is a sensible length which is part of the relaxed steering - think canal long boat, and the bars are narrower than you would find on a mountain bike (540 rather than 600) so you will be able to thread yourself through stationary traffic without clonking too many wing mirrors.
Long drop callipers offer enough clearance for full mudguards to be fitted but would work much better controlled by levers with a slightly higher leverage for a bit more power and a softer feel, but they are fine for everyday duties which this bike is intended for. The grips are an Oury copy which are a little on the fat side, especially with winter gloves but are comfy and the soft tactile rubber keeps your paws glued to the bars.
Matching the colour of the brown grips is a comfortable saddle, made by Velo, with the shape normally found on a much more sporty bike – it reminded me of the Charge Spoon. The saddle was a great success for a bottom used to riding on such narrow perches. I hate the huge squidgy sofas normally specced on cheap bikes which feel dead comfy sat stationary in the show room, or maybe for the first 10 minutes before the savage rubbing files the skin from your nether regions. Plus it gives it a more gentrified, traditional look, along with the understated graphics and dark green paint job. Metal caged pedals made it look more expensive and kept wet and muddy feet firmly rooted (especially after our Road.cc Christmas ride along the Avon canal towpath eh Tony!).
The hubs are a little bit compromised, we like the track style nutted axles adding precious security to your hoops but the bearings on our test rig were a bit on the rough side (although positively smooth compared to the Colnago Super Singlespeed costing over 4 times as much!) A 16 T freewheel is screwed on to the rear hub as standard although you can flip the wheel round and screw on a fixed cog if you so desire. The Weinmann rims have a slight areo profile making it look more urban and the extra material in the rim made sure they stayed true over the couple of months and the numerous pot holes that this bike has ridden over. Black wall Kenda tyres do a good job of keeping the puncture demons at bay and the 26c carcass means a bit more forgiveness when bumping up kerbs.
Interestingly, if you do chose to go the fixed gear route and you fancy pulling your tricks out at the park with only a few alterations this bike would make a good freestyler. Other than a 19T cog and lock ring, you will need a shorter mtb or bmx stem, and the brakes taken off, this un assuming town bike can do bar spins! This makes it a very cheap freestyle bike, relative of course because BMX bikes still offer much better value for money.
A simple singlespeed work horse that will reliably escort you about town. It is also a dark (green) horse that would make a good fixie freestyle bike too with some minor changes.
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Make and model: KHS Soul
Size tested: 54cm
State the frame and fork material and method of construction. List the components used to build up the bike.
Cro-mo frame with double butted down tube and top tube. Fork has cro-mo legs and hi-ten steerer, clip on rear cable guides
Tell us what the bike is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about the bike?
Urban riders who are looking for simplicity and reliability on a budget. Although the manufacturers don't say anything about this, we think that it could be used for fixie freestyle (not jumps or ramp riding though)
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
Pretty good standard machine welds. Full complement of eyelets for racks and mudguards
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
No fancy tubes here
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
Very neutral and conservative. It is more stretched out that normal town bikes. If you are a more experienced bike rider you will instantly feel comfortable on this bike but the relaxed geometry will give confidence to novices.
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
Good sizing, not too stretched and the sloping top tube gave good clearance.
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
Fat Krayton rubber grips, 26c tires and a slim padded saddle was a great set up more suited to experienced riders and one that novices would fast enjoy.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
There isn't much give in this steel frame, it provided ample comfort but without the zing of super light steel bikes.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
There was possible more play in the generic/unbranded chainset than there was in the chainstays. There was no rubbing or flexing when sprinting on the pedals.
Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so, was it a problem?
Not a problem. This bike can even bar-spin!
How would you describe the steering? Was it lively, neutral or unresponsive? neutral, made even more conservative by the longish stem
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
It feels sure footed and robust. Confidence inspiring with very placid handling to be point of being boring even – but that isn't a bad thing in a bike like this
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?
Saddle was good, similar to the excellent charge spoon. the 26c tires were a good choice.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's efficiency? would you recommend any changes?
The 44x16 gearing may be a little high for places with hills!
The brake levers are fairly hard work operating dual pivot callipers
Did you enjoy riding the bike? yes
Would you consider buying the bike? for my pub bike
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? already have
Anything further to say about the bike in conclusion?
A slightly brighter colour scheme maybe.
Age: 36 Height: 78 Weight: 178
I usually ride: Sparton, brakeless fixed My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, sportives, fixed/singlespeed, mtb,