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Having a cyclo-cross bike in your possession during the wettest drought in history is a godsend. After the fun I'd had with the Decade Tripster I was looking forward to testing its slightly racier sibling, the Kinesis Crosslight FiveT, for commuting and general day to day riding duties.
The Five T can be bought as a frame or, as our test bike, a full build. At £999.99 for the PureCX carbon forked version (we have this one) or £934.99 if you go for the alloy Crosslight 3 fork, (going the carbon version will save you 180g off of the alloy's 660g) its bang on the money for the bike to work scheme It's pretty good value as well considering the full 10 speed Tiagra groupset and Shimano wheels. With a size range of 48 – 63cms in 3cm increments you should be able to get a decent fit.
With a gusset welded at the down and head tube junction be under no illusion that the FiveT is intended to see some abuse. The welds aren't smoothed or any of that rubbish; they look tough and purposeful, just what you want on a bike you're going to chuck around the woods or be chaining to lampposts and the like.
The driveside chainstay in relation to the non drive has a much larger profile, ready to tame bottom bracket flex during those hard out of the saddle efforts.
The double butted 7005 alloy frame comes complete with bosses for mudguards, rack and twin bottle cages. The cables for the rear travel along the top tube as you'd expect on a crosser keeping things out of the way of the mud, plus more importantly if you were to use the FiveT as a year round commuter, out of the way of salty road spray.
Compared to a like for like road bike, the Kinesis has a slightly longer wheelbase making for a more stable ride and obviously greater clearance for mudguards (or just mud). The taller bottom bracket also aids clearance off road but also helps on the road when it's wet, greasy, icy or snow-covered, as you can pedal through the corners keeping the power balanced without grounding a pedal. The racy intentions are there though; the 125mm headtube is short enough to get a decent drop from saddle to bars for those headwind-cheating sections.
A neat little touch is the way the top tube flattens underneath as it joins the seat tube for extra comfort when its on your shoulder during races. It isn't very noticeable just by looking (probably why it took me three weeks to find it!) so it doesn't ruin the aesthetics of the frame. The tube also increases in width as it joins the seat tube, designed to resist any twisting in the front triangle.
The chunky profile of the PureCX legs suit the solid look of the frame as they join that gusseted junction and provide plenty of stiffness as it soaks up the bumps. Eyelets are included for mudguards.
Bringing everything together is a deep beautiful paintjob. The blue and cream colourway really makes the FiveT standout, though if it's not to your taste there is a gloss back and blue option.
It's nice to see a full groupset these days with more and more manufacturers speccing differing cranks and the like. The 50-34 Tiagra compact chainset hints at the more all round versatile nature of the FiveT rather than a full-on crosser but there is a 46T option if you require it. The 12-28 cassette gives a good spread of gears - perfect if your rack is loaded up in hilly terrain.
Shimano also provide the wheels; they're R500's fitted with a 700 x 32mm touring style tyre from Freedom, while braking is taken care of by Tektro's frog leg style cantilevers.
Other than that we've got a smattering of FSA for the steering, namely the Vero shallow drop bars and OS190 stem and a Selle San Marco saddle.
You can feel from the moment you start pedalling the Crosslight wants to get a move on. The steepish 73 degree seat tube puts you in a great position for getting the power down and when you do the FiveT accelerates quickly thanks to the stiffness of the front and rear triangles.
A mixture of a 125mm headtube, that short stem and shallow drop bars means you can get low and attack the pedals, maintaining the position for as long as you want. This is especially true off-road as the entire mix of components and frame absorbs the bumps and the Kinesis really flies. Technical sections can be handled easily in the drops with the steering confident without being twitchy.
Its not all mad panic though; ease the pace back a touch and the Kinesis is happy to cruise all day long. On the road with the tyres pumped up to 80psi the FiveT will happily roll along at a decent pace.
The Freedom tyres have a touch of drag and while a slick set of 25's will see the average speed increase the benefits of hitting rough surfaces and potholes without fear of damaging the rubber is a big plus. Grip levels were surprisingly good for what feels like quite a hard compound and all but the tightest corners can be taken flat out.
As a commuter, it's spot on; the mudguard mounts mean you're set up for all weather eventualities and the rack option is ideal if you're not a fan of using a rucksack. The high bottom bracket lifts you just a touch in traffic helping you see pedestrians and the likes over the tops of cars and vans. As with off road the steering is quick enough to get you out of trouble without being too quick to get you in trouble in the first place.
The frame does a great job of absorbing the buzz of whatever surface you are riding on, ideal if you've got to get on it day in, day out. As with the Decade Tripster the FiveT spent a lot of miles on a gravel canal path with the tyres pumped up to max psi for the road section of my commute each end - there was no major discomfort or teeth chattering. While we're on the subject of comfort the Ponza saddle was very pleasing on the sit bones.
Shimano's latest edition of the Tiagra groupset is dependable and wears well with solid shifting even when it gets dirty, sliding up and down the 12-28 cassette without any complaints. Plus it's cheap to replace so it won't matter to much when a twig gets jammed in the rear mech.
The R500 wheels had their work cut out with the crap weather and rough terrain but to be fair to them they didn't miss a beat remaining true and rattle free. At 1900g (Shimano quoted) acceleration was pretty good considering the 37mm wide tyres and once up to speed rolled very well.
On the downside, braking from the Tektro cantilevers was nonexistent from the off and caused a few bum clenching moments as I continued to ride in my 'brake at the last second' style. The rim surface and pads started to bed in after some wet miles but the overall performance was never really on par with the rest of the build. There was very little bite and a vagueness passed up through the lever the harder you applied it. Definitely somewhere to upgrade over time but a change of pad compound will most likely sort it out.
Overall though the FiveT is fun - and that's what it's all about. Riding a cyclocross bike on the road can see a few compromises but the versatility of this frame outweighs them and being able to just clatter the bike over anything on the commute home after a hard day or a weekend forest blast is a bonus.
The frame is the heart of the bike and as usual, Kinesis has delivered here. It's a frame thats going to last. The spec list is sensible and there is nothing that should let you down - well - apart from those brake pads. If you want to go your own way with the build the frame is a mere £270 which I think you'll have to agree is great value.
A cracking entry level cross bike with versatility - just sort out those brake pads!
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Make and model: Kinesis Crosslight FiveT
Size tested: 54
State the frame and fork material and method of construction. List the components used to build up the bike.
Frame is butted 7005 alloy with the option of alloy/alloy or carbon/alloy fork.
Crankset: Tiagra 10sp 172.5mm 50/34. 'BBB' 46t chain ring available.
STI's: Tiagra 10sp
Rear Mech: Tiagra 10sp
Front Mech: Shimano Tiagra
Cassette: Tiagra CS-4600 10sp 12-28
Chain: KMC Z9000
Wheels: Shimano R500
Tyres: Freedom 700 x 32mm
Headset: FSA Orbit
Brakes: Tektro CR-520 Black (Frog Leg style)
Saddle: Selle San Marco 'Ponza Power Lux'
Handlebar: FSA Vero Compact 31.8 420mm
Grip: Black Cork Tape
Stem: FSA OS 190, 31.8, 100mm
Seatpost: K-UK Alloy 27.2 350mm.
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?
"The Crosslight FiveT frame is a true all round performer, it's a superb 'crosser with many of the features of the EVO4. Its got clearance for 3 rings, twin bottle mounts and rack and mudguard eyelets, the 'Crosslight3' and 'PureCX' forks have eyelets too, should you want to take it touring or commuting."
That's what Kinesis say and its about right. The FiveT is hugely versatile.
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
The usual Kinesis high quality topped off with a deep paint job.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
The frame uses 7005 alloy which is double butted to put strength where its needed.
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
All the info you will need is here: Kinesis
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
Pretty usual stuff, a virtual (ie. straight) top tube of 55cm on our 54cm frame size.
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
Yes, well balanced with good shock absorbancy.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
The 'assymetric' seatstays keep the bottom bracket area stiff and certainly no complaints elsewhere.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
It felt good, more so off road than on, which'll be down to the tyres.
Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so, was it a problem?
How would you describe the steering? Was it lively, neutral or unresponsive? Quick and lively.
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
Very stable, yet it was quick and engaging when you needed it to be.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?
The Selle San Marco saddle was very comfortable while the shallow drop bars always leave you in a comfortable position.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's stiffness? would you recommend any changes?
If you really went for it there was some flex in the Tiagra chainset, but only noticeable under really hard efforts. The bar and stem combo show high levels of stiffness as well.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's efficiency? would you recommend any changes?
Everything worked well together here to be fair.
Tight on road and off.
Tell us some more about the wheels and tyres.Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the wheels or tyres? If so, what for?
For a low spoke count wheelset the Shimano R500's stood up well to the constant hammering I gave them.
Tell us some more about the controls. Any particularly good or bad components? How would the controls work for larger or smaller riders?
I'm becoming a big fan of these FSA Vero bars - the shallow drop is just right.
Anything else you want to say about the componentry? Comment on any other components (good or bad)
A good sensible build using parts that are cost effective and up to the job.
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes.
Would you consider buying the bike? Yes.
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes.
Anything further to say about the bike in conclusion?
The FiveT is a do-it-all, well built bike with a decent spec list for the price.
Age: 34 Height: 180cm Weight: 78kg
I usually ride: Genesis Flyer My best bike is: Ribble Gran Fondo
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, club rides, sportives, fixed/singlespeed,
As part of the Tech Hub here at F-At Digital, our senior product reviewer Stu uses the knowledge gained from putting well over a 1,000 products through their paces (including hundreds of bikes) to write in-depth reviews of a huge range of kit. After first throwing his leg over a race bike back in 2000, Stu's ridden more than 160,000 miles on road, time-trial, track, and gravel bikes, and while he's put his racing days behind him he still likes to smash the pedals rather than take things easy. Although, as he spends a fair bit of his time reviewing ebikes these days he's becoming an expert in letting the motor take the strain. He's also waiting for 23mm race tyres to make a comeback!