KHS showed a pre-production prototype of its 2014 DH 650 at Interbike Dirt Demo, and it looked very promising. Logan Bignelli's success at the Red Bull Rampage and his prominent results on the World Cup DH circuit have underscored KHS's efforts to be recognized alongside the big brands as a contender in the gravity game. The Southern California brand has been in the mid-sized wheel game since Kirk Pacenti released the first true mountain bike-specific 650B wheels and tires. It's first downhill racer was the 26-inch wheel DH 300, and team manager Quinton Spaulding admitted candidly that it was good, but not an exceptional competitor. Spaulding says that when KHS added 650B wheels and adjusted the frame geometry, that everything worked better. The 2014 DH 650 is the second version of KHS's mid-size-wheel downhill racers and it is longer, a bit slacker, and its suspension travel has been extended to 9,3 inches. Two builds will be offered: a pro-spec model at $6499 and a slightly more affordable version at $6299.
| KHS is close to production with the new DH 650. The aluminum chassis features a dual-link suspension, one of the longest wheelbases on the World Cup DH circuit and 27.5-inch wheels.|
The bigger story is the 'Neutral Link' rear suspension. The dual-link suspension's lower link pivots concentrically with the bottom bracket. The link, which houses the bottom bracket assembly has a knuckle machined into it that forms the lower shock mount. The upper link compresses the shock from the top, while the lower link participates by compressing the shock from the bottom. We surmise that the two actions are tuned to control the suspension's leverage rate as the wheel moves through its travel. The concept of compressing the damper from either end is shared by a handful of DH designs - Trek and Commencal come to mind. The damper is a Fox DHX with a Ti. spring - a pro-only perk that should change to a steel spring by final production. Up front, Spaulding says that KHS will probably stick with the Manitou Dorado fork, in spite of the fact that both Fox and RockShox have 650B DH forks coming down the pipe for 2104 model bikes. He insists that the inverted fork is a better performer.
| (Clockwise) KHS chose the race-proven Fox DHX shock for its nine-inch-travel rear suspension. Note how the bottom bracket revolves inside of the lower link pivot. The pivot rocks on large bearings clamped by the twin-spar frame members. The chainstay bridge is squished to provide frame clearance at full suspension compression. A look between the the twin-spar frame members reveals the articulating lower shock mount. |
When asked about KHS's long-time commitment to 650B. Spaulding says that the DH Team had problems initially finding tires that were race worthy and resorted to using one-off tires produced by Vee Rubber until its official sponsor could deliver a race worthy design in the mid-diameter format. This season, however, Maxxis is KHS' tire sponsor, so with the world's most popular DH tread profiles available in 650B, that issue was put to bed. With no further technical impediments to 650B downhill bikes, the new KHS DH 650 should be a promising step forward in the evolution of the species.
| (Clockwise) Final spec has not yet been decided, but KHS plans to stick with the inverted-style Manitou Dorado fork. A look down the DH 650's top tube reveals its hydroformed construction. Beefy through-axle rear dropouts and a sturdy derailleur hanger are lessons learned on the pro DH circuit. Stan's tubeless ZTR Flow EX rims and Maxxis High Roller tires are a welcome sight for 650B fans. |
While the DH 650's frame numbers may change as final testing draws to a close, presently the team settled on a 63.5-degree head angle, 17.5-inch chainstays, a 14-inch bottom bracket height, and a long-ish, 49.5-inch wheelbase. The DH 650's axles are in line with the center of the bottom bracket (zero bottom bracket drop),
which is no possible with 26-inch wheels. The effect is more stable cornering, better suspension performance over square-edged bumps and better roll-over across chatter sections. The sum of the DH 650's numbers indicates that it is a dedicated race platform than it will be a playful park bike. It's long wheelbase, roomy cockpit and slack steering geometry are designed keep the bike glued to the ground at speed, over terrain that would intimidate all but the most accomplished bikehandlers. The Devinci Wilson has similar numbers and handling traits. Of course, that is all speculation, but we will keep tabs on KHS' 2014 DH 650 as it reaches final production and prepare a ride-report when it comes on line.KHS Bicycles
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