Reviewed: Kinesis Tripster AT
- Brand: Kinesis
- Model: Tripster AT
- From: Upgrade Bikes
- Price: £699.99 (frame set only), £1699.98 (full bike, with Rival 1 build kit)
- Tested By: Hannah
- Test Duration: 6 weeks
The Kinesis Tripster ATR in its titanium form can perhaps be considered one of the original gravel bikes. Or adventure bikes. Or whatever term it is you’d like to give to drop bar bikes designed to be taken off the beaten track. A couple of iterations down the line, the Ti ATR (Adventure, Tour, Race) is still up there on many a shopping list – so versatile it’s arguably the chameleon bike against which others are measured. Of course, titanium comes at a price which means it maybe a little out of the reach for some pockets, particularly for those who are looking for their first gravel grinder or a bike to complement an already stacked shed of mountain and road bikes.
Step forward the new Kinesis AT (All Terrain). Built in alloy, it shares its geometry with the ATR. Unsurprisingly, the change in material means some subtle differences to the frame build and Kinesis has been rather clever in utilising the benefits of aluminium. It has deliberately shaped the tubing to provide a stable platform for bike packing luggage, for example – the kind of touch that is barely visible, but brings a little joy when you realise it.
The frame brings with it massive clearances, or ‘beyond gravel’ as Kinesis call it. Anything up to a 52mm tyre will clear the frame, and fork comfortably hosts a 45mm tyre. Again, it’s a nod to the do-it-all nature of the bike.
The AT is available as a frame only option, but a SRAM Rival 1x build kit is also available, meaning you don’t have to worry about choosing parts (from the plethora of standards out there) if you don’t want to. Kinesis have told us that their dealers will include the hard work of building up the bike for the price of the build kit (£999) plus frame (£699), meaning you get a full bike for just shy of £1700.
On top of the load-lugging design tweaks, the bike has three bottle cage mounts, lending it to multi-day adventures into the wild. It is easy to stare at the AT and wistfully dream of settling off with the bare necessities and the knowledge that the bike will cope with everything from road to trail. It is the sort of bike that is made for events like the Torino-Nice Rally, the Kinesis-sponsored The Distance, or any self-powered exploring. Sadly, time and life restricts me to more of a smash and grab approach to riding. So rather than load this bike up and go for the long haul, I’ve been checking out what this bike can do on the mix-it-up commute, the evening trail play, and the ‘do I need a mountain bike at all’ XC ride. In some ways, this feels like dealing the Tripster a little short, but for most people this will be the bike’s bread and butter. Jam will come, but only if the daily grind is dealt with well. Let’s face it, if it’s the tool that Kinesis poster-boy Bruce Dalton chooses for some fun in the woods, then it’s only right we try it out too.
Designed with input from the late Mike Hall, the AT comes in two colours – the ‘seeon’ yellow we have here, plus a more understated ‘Arran blue’, inspired by the skies of the Scottish Island. The black contrasting sections are designed to be seen even when the bike is carrying luggage, and to work in conjunction with luggage straps, so that the bike looks neat under load. It’s certainly caught a lot of attention while I’ve been testing it – I’ve had many comments on its looks, and while fluoro yellow wouldn’t have been my first choice for a bike, I’ve grown to quite like the design – there’s enough black and the details are simple enough that I think it manages to be a good looking bike rather than the assault on the eyes that I’ve seen some similarly coloured bikes deliver. It also has some nice little adventure themed details that help remind you to ride the path less ridden.
I’ve been testing the 54cm frame, which is a touch smaller than I might ordinarily have chosen (On the road I would choose a big-for-my-height frame of 56cm), but it fitted me well and matches my 176cm height to the suggested frame on the geometry chart. Indeed, I think a larger frame would have definitely given me too much reach. The frame is available in seven sizes, ranging from a 48cm frame up to a 63cm option. I didn’t strip all the kit off the frame to check, but the claimed weight for a 54cm frame is 1.84kg, plus 534g for the fork and axle. Built up, mine weighed in at 10.16kg (with the 27.5in wheels, Vee Rail tyres, and tubes), and 9.40kg with 700C Reynolds ATR Carbon wheels, WTB tyres, tubeless.
My test bike was delivered with a top end bespoke build: Shimano XT Di2 gears, Praxis Alba chainset, a set of Reynolds carbon wheels, Ritchey WCS flared bars, Vee Rail tyres in both 27.5×1.95in and 700x40C sizes, plus a set of WTB wheels in a 27.5in sizing, and a set of WTB Riddlers in 700x45C, just for good measure. Since this isn’t the build kit option, and whatever you might choose to fit your Tripster AT out with will be a personal choice, I’ll only touch on these build choices where I think they might be helpful to anyone deciding what their own build might look like.
Whether you go for the build kit or frameset option, you’re going to receive an alloy frame with colour matched carbon fork, headset, seat clamp, and cable port hardwear. Along with that, you’ll get the thru-axles – 12mm front and rear.
12mm front axles seem to be a new standard that is wriggling its way into the gravel scene. While it works, especially on a bike like this that is capable of stuff as rough as many mountain bikes, I think I’d prefer to stick to a 15mm mountain bike standard – plus it would make the repurposing or swapping of wheels a touch easier. Of course, if you’ve not already got a garage full of old wheels, this might not bother you at all, and most major manufacturers are now producing 12mm end-caps.
The frame features a 12x142mm rear axle. Again, it’s a feature that we are seeing more of, and wholeheartedly welcome. The minor extra inconvenience when removing the rear wheel is made up for by (generally) better power transfer and a more comfortable frame… in short, they often bring stiffness where you want it, and allow flex in the right places too. The AT’s axle threads into a semi-captive bolt rather than into the frame. Now, having a replaceable axle nut is A Good Thing should you be the kind of person to strip threads on a regular basis. However, as designed, it’s all too easy to slam your axle back in having fixed that puncture, knocking the nut out of the frame and into the long grass.
These axle niggles were just a minor annoyance, but early on in testing I had the experience of the rear axle working loose out on a trail. The axle disconnected from the nut, the nut disappeared somewhere on the trail and I had a long carry home. This was a one-off and an inconvenience at the time, but needn’t have happened at all.
Starting with geometry, the bike feels good. It is by no means a ‘cross race bike, but neither is it as upright as some gravel bikes we’ve tested. A tallish head tube inspires confidence – there’s a good ‘sit up and cruise along’ ride position to be had, but if you want to get your head down and get moving you can do so. This was pleasant on shorter riders, but should come into its own on all-day and multi-day trips. Should you wish a more aggressive position, there’s room to manoeuvre with a negative rise stem.
To me, the AT felt particularly well balanced on the steepest climbs, where I found I could switch between sitting and standing and back again without trouble. On other bikes I often find it’s a case of committing to one or the other, or risk a wobble or spinning out.
To begin with, I started the test on the 700x40C Vee Rail tyres with the Reynolds wheels. As is to be expected, the bike happily mixed up road, towpaths, moorland paths and packhorse trail. The combination of alloy frame and stiff carbon wheels gave the bike a direct feel. In some ways this could be seen as a euphemism for uncomfortably harsh, but that would be doing the Tripster AT a huge disservice. If your intended usage is fast, efficient travel over gravel and smoother trails, this set up makes for a mile-muncher extraordinaire. The stiffness accentuated the bike’s cornering ability. It has a snap to it and the balance is such that it’s forgiving of a last minute tweak mid-turn. All this meant that even over rougher ground, I found myself revelling in picking the fun wiggly lines rather than just covering the miles as the crow flies.
I found the Vee Rail tyres a little draggier than other 40c gravel tyres that I’ve used. The WTB Riddlers helped with rolling resistance as did my preferred Panaracer Gravelkings. Despite all the tyre swapping, I ended up deciding that for my style of riding and the local terrain the rigidity of the Reynolds wheels was a little much for me. On balance, I think I’d rather sacrifice a little weight for more comfort (and some pounds in the pocket).
Switching to the 27.5inch wheels had me seeking out even more fun. Perhaps it was aided by the additional contrast between carbon and alloy wheels, but with 2.75×1.95in of rubber the bike felt so comfortable and that much more ready to handle the rough stuff. There’s not a ton of clearance – I didn’t have any 2.75×2.0in tyres to try out, but you shouldn’t expect to get anything especially big and knobbly in – it’s definitely not a ‘drop bar bike with mountain bike tyres’ monster truck.
With the extra cushioning of the 1.95in Vee Rails, I found myself bunny hopping off and over rocks, whooping my way down rough rocky lanes, and generally having an awful lot of fun. The benefit of the slight flare of the bars is really apparent here, giving a confident and balanced grip on the bike as you hurtle along.
Helping keep the wildness under control, this bike had been kitted out with Shimano RS-785 brakes. These were excellent, giving good modulation as well as overall oomph, and allowed me to let the bike roll fast and loose. While I’ve not had this bike long enough to really pass comment on durability, these gave me no difficulties at all despite taking the bike down some good rotor-warming descents.
While we’re mentioning Shimano, I may as well cover what is probably the blingiest item in the build: the Di2 shifting. Set up with a left paddle to move up the block and right paddle to move down it, it’s incredibly easy to shift. This is a real bonus when surprised by a technical section when you want to be concentrating on handling rather than grabbing levers. Having sung its praises, I’m not entirely convinced whether Di2 makes for the most sensible option on a bike that is intended to go long and far. While battery life is excellent (many days and hundreds of miles worth), it would be deeply upsetting (and tiring) to lose shifting midway through an adventure. Finally, that beautiful and expensive rear mech almost became a distraction as I feared for its wellbeing through rockier sections of trail.
I don’t feel I’ve had the bike for long enough to really comment on durability – and in any case the components aren’t the main issue here. However, I did manage to remove paint right down to the metal with just a very short spell of wheel rub (due to a one-off issue with the rear axle), so potentially this is an issue to keep an eye on. Cable routing is sensible, so you shouldn’t have any frame rub issues from this, if you’re loaded up with anything that might cause friction spots it might be worth adding some protection.
Three Things That Could Be Improved
- A means of holding the rear axle nut in place so it doesn’t pop out into the long grass on the trail after you’ve fixed a puncture.
- The frame didn’t provide the very smoothest ride we’ve experienced, although this was countered by the ability to run high volume tyres
- Erm…we’re struggling to think of one.
Three Things What We Loved
- Adventure themed decals with 360 degree interest.
- Balanced and confident handling for fun trail days, but with long distance lugging potential.
- Tripster ATR flexibility at a lower price point.
It’s a shame not to have had the opportunity to load this bike up with luggage and head over the hills and far away, as at this price point there is an increasing amount of competition in the ‘drop bar fun on local trails’ category. Luggage carrying ability is also an aspect of the bike that has been specifically tweaked from the ATR model, and it would be nice to see just how much difference it makes. However, if it’s local fun you’re after, then the AT will certainly given you that, and if the opportunity to travel comes up then you know the bike is ready to handle it. Choose your build kit wisely, and you can probably make this bike suit whatever riding you want, and probably some riding you haven’t thought of yet.
Specifications (as tested)
Frame // Kinesium alloy frame
Fork // Kinesis Tripster Disc Thru Axle Carbon Fork
Wheels // Reynolds ATR Carbon (700C), WTB KOM Alloy (27.5)
Tyres // WTB Riddler 700x45C, Vee Rail 700x40C, Vee Rail 27.5×1.95in.
Chainset // Praxis Alba
Rear Mech // Shimano XT Di2
Shifters // Shimano
Cassette // Shimano XTR 11-40
Brakes // Shimano RS-785, 160mm rotors.
Stem // Ritchey WCS 75mm
Bars // Ritchey WCS flared Evomax 44cm wide
Bartape // Kinesis
Seatpost // Ritchey
Saddle // Ritchey
Size Tested // 54cm
Sizes available // 48, 51, 54, 55.5, 57, 60, 63cm
Weight // 10.16kg / 22.42lbs (with 27.5in wheels, Vee Rail tyres, and tubes), 9.40kg / 20.74lbs (with 700C Reynolds ATR Carbon wheels, WTB tyres, tubeless)