It's on the descents where things get good. And I mean really, really good, especially if you're the type of rider that enjoys tight, technical downhill trails, the kind where a new chunky puzzle waits around every corner. In those types of situations, the VHP absolutely thrives, and even if you make a mistake or three there's a good chance this bike will let you get away with it.
Steeps, rough tracks are its forte, and it exhibited a surprising level of nimbleness at slower speeds. It was easy to unweight and move the back end around when necessary, and carving into sharp turns didn't pose any problems either. If anything, the way that the VHP 16 sits into its travel when cornering had me on the hunt for tight sequential corners – the way it grabs onto the ground through the turns is a downright addictive sensation.
If I lived on Vancouver's North Shore, the VHP 16 would be on my shortlist of ideal bikes for that zone, an area filled with countless square-edged hits and momentum sucking roots. Put that type of terrain in front of the VHP 16 and it'll just plow right on through, unphased and ready for whatever's next. Bigger drops were dispatched with zero issues – there's a smooth ramp-up at the end of the stroke, and I didn't have any harsh bottom-outs.
It's also worth mentioning how satisfyingly silent this bike is. I'm a sucker for a quiet bike, and the Kavenz passed that test with flying colors. The idler pulley and the chainstay angle reduces any possible chainslap noise to a bare minimum, which meant that the only thing I heard out on the trail was the sound of my tires rolling over the ground and the wind rushing past my ears.
Downsides? Well, even though I mentioned that the Kavenz felt surprisingly nimble in the steeps, it's not all that lively when it comes to hitting jumps or popping over mid-trail obstacles. It's more of a ground-hugger than an aluminum kangaroo, and it takes more effort to get it airborne compared to bikes with less rearward axle paths. It's obviously still possible to take to the sky, it's just that it doesn't have the 'pop' to its handling that would have encouraged me to seek out bonus air time. Speeding up the rebound on the DHX2 shock helped, and I'm sure an air shock would add a little more pep to the VHP 16's step, but at the end of the day it wouldn't be the bike I'd pick if I wanted a spritely, energetic jumping machine.