A winter XC bike jacked up on steroids – Kinesis Maxlight FF29

This review was part of our ‘Greater than the Sum of the Parts’ article where three member of our UK team built their own custom bikes to suit there very different riding styles.

Jumping aboard and pedalling out of the carpark on my ninja-black Kinesis Maxlight FF29 felt pretty fantastic; a big climb beckoned straight off the bat, and I was keen to see what she could do. Coming from a big-hitting full-suspension bike, I was amazed at the explosive acceleration of the Kinesis Maxlight FF29 – boy, it’s climbing easily!

Cats bike action shots-2-3-2

When I was offered the chance to build a dream bike, I was really excited and knew exactly what I wanted. After a summer spent throwing myself down some certified gnar, I wanted to spend the colder months enjoying the majesty of ‘the UK trail centre’ once again. I wanted to smash out endless training miles and take on some winter endurance races, so an XC hardtail seemed the logical choice. So was I going to have to go ‘full XC’ with head-to-toe lycra and no dropper seatpost? I think not!

Kinesis Maxlight FF29

My personal bike choices have been changing over the years. Like many riders, the start of my mountain biking history was a trusty hardtail before I advanced onto bigger-hitting full sussers for Alpine riding. Somehow, my priorities are pushing me back full circle. I needed a hardtail in my life! This was to be a bike that enjoys the Scottish winters, and despite carbon being the material de jour for light hardtails, none of the anorexic plastic bikes out there really appealed.

I wanted something with a more honest and exclusive feel to it, something that would not feel too fancy to take out on muddy winter days. The Kinesis Maxlight FF29 seemed to offer all I needed with amazing mud clearance, great looks, and a killer price – and it’s also 27.5 plus tyre compatible, which is a great bonus!

Kinesis Maxlight FF29

Having ridden slacker-angled bikes for several years, I found the ‘traditional’ steep-angled XC machines intimidatingly twitchy – what’s the point of battling up to the top, only to teeter on the precipice of death on the descents? No, I needed a bike with super-fun descending capabilities to keep the uphill worthwhile. The Kinesis Maxlight FF29 has a 69 degree head angle when combined with the amazing 120 mm Fox Float 34 Fit 4 fork, which has superb damping and enough chassis stiffness to provide pinpoint accuracy when at warp speed on the hard pack. Once you power it up to speed, this bike simply flies on the descents.

The drivetrain and brakes for the Kinesis Maxlight FF29were a very easy choice for me: I wanted reliability, affordability, and high performance, and that meant Shimano XT. I find the XT brakes blend the perfect amount of stopping power with great levers to suit my smaller hands, and the 1×11 Shimano XT drive train with a 32T chainring is perfect when winding the bike up to full speed. Even in thick mud the gears keep shifting precisely, and with the lightweight build the bike simply skips up the hills.

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This exercise was about building up my dream bike, so I did treat myself just a little in the bar and stem department with a full carbon setup from ENVE. They are wildly expensive and pushed the bike price a little higher than I would have liked, but it does save a lump of weight, and the rake and rise feels just perfect on the trail. They help filter out some of the trail buzz too, and the steering is razor sharp. A female-specific SDG Allure saddle and the latest 30mm ODI Elite Motion grips finish off the contact points.

After splashing out on some sexy carbon for the cockpit, I put on my ‘sensible hat’ when choosing the wheels. The Hope Tech XC rims and Pro2 hubs have a legendary reputation for being affordable, tough, and durable – and as I love the sound of the freehub, they were the perfect choice for the build. Weighing just 1741 g, they spin up well and have so far proved excellent hoops. As this was to be an XC bike with an injection of a big dose of fun, there was no point in putting some toilet paper-thin XC tires on it, so a Schwalbe Hans Dampf and Nobby Nic provided weight-conscious fun with a healthy measure of added grip and support.


Kinesis MAXLIGHT FF29: This is a bike that is shaking up the UK hardtail scene. Bags of mud clearance, cheap, and light enough to race at the weekends.


Shimano XT 1×11 drivetrain: This is a bike that will be ridden through the winter, so it needs to be tough, reliable, and precise.

Hope -Tech-XC-wheels

Hope Tech XC wheels: light, tough, and with a freehub that sounds like a wasp on meth! What’s not to love?

Schwalbe Hans-Dampf-and-Nobby-Nic

Schwalbe Hans Dampf and Nobby Nic: There was no room for super-thin-walled XC tyres here.


Shimano XT brakes: Lightweight and rugged, Shimano XT have been tried and tested, and the levers suit my hands.


Fox 34 120mm Float Fit 4 fork: This bike will be pushed beyond a normal XC bike, so the burly Fox 34 up front will provide balance and control on tough trails.


RockShox Reverb dropper post: Essential – no compromise to weight will be made here.


ENVE Carbon stem and HDR bars: A concession to luxury, the ENVEs may be overpriced but they are oh-so-good.


ODI Elite Motion Grips: With a skinny 30mm diameter and grippy surface, these are the perfect grips for smaller hands.

Ever since my first ride on a 29er, there’s no going back for me. I love the way they roll over roots and rocks, and they way they steam up the climbs. The Kinesis Maxlight FF29 is just what I was hoping for: fast and aggressive, but light enough for the occasional marathon race or a quick dabble in XC. I love the raw speed of the hardtail and the simple, low-maintenance build. There is nothing on the bike that I would change – it all works brilliantly together to form a svelte, fun, and riotously fun trail centre missile, and I cannot wait to rack up more miles through the winter.

Other bikes from this feature: Liteville 301 | Kingdom Switch

Words: Catherine Smith Photos: Trevor Worsey

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