Interbike 2012: KHS SixFifty 608 Test Ride

Ive spent plenty of time riding a full-suspension 650b bike over the course of this summer, but I had yet to see how the tweener wheels handle in a hardtail package. So, when I wandered over to the KHS booth and noticed the beautiful carbon frames rolling on WTB Laser Disc 650b wheels, I had to grab one and take it for a spin.

The KHS SixFifty 608 frame is a beautiful full carbon monocoque with a tapered headtube in the size large and greater frames. The top tube is a flattish squared tube that meshes beautifully at the headtube junction with the rounded downtube. The bottom side of the downtube features a long indention, allowing the cable housing to be recessed back into the frame. I found the red and white paint scheme to be a welcome change from the tired black matte frames that everyone has been running for years.

A SRAM 2×10 drivetrain cobbled together from a combination of X-9 and X-5 parts provides forward motion, Avid Elixir 1 brakes provide stopping power, andon the front end there’s a 100 mm X-Fusion Velvet RL.

Out on the trail the super light, very stiff carbon frame was incredibly responsive! The smaller (than 29er) wheels made me feel like I could flick the KHS to my hearts content and place the wheels wherever I wanted them. Climbing was superb, and descending was great as well. The tire spec was too narrow (at least on the front) for my taste, but with all of the 650b tires coming to market that can easily beresolved.

General Thoughts on 650b Hardtails

This was a gorgeous bike that handled superbly, but KHS also produces a 29er model of this exact same bike. While I had a great time on the 650b hardtail, I dont think Ill be trading in my 29er anytime soon. I could feel the very tangible increased rollover power, extra momentum, and larger contact patch benefits when switching back and forth between 650b and 29er today. Especially in a hardtail package, 29er wheels arent that hard to control, even in tight terrain.

After riding 26 wheels, 650b (27.5) wheels, and 29 wheels at Outdoor Demo, I honestly think that 650b is much closer to 26ers in how it handles than it is to 29ers. Is that good or bad? Im not sure, but I think perhaps some marketers are trying to overhype the benefits of 650b wheels over 26ers. As I mentioned in my Jamis review, I still think the wheel sizes will filter out by application. We shall see

Bottom Line

The KHS SixFifty 608 is a gorgeous race-ready carbon fiber hardtail that, with a few key upgrades, could shed even more weight in a hurry! However, if youre already a 29er fan, they also produce this bike in the big-wheeled variety. Unless some serious science comes around to tell me why a 650b wheel works better in a hardtail package, Im going to stick to my wagon wheels for all cross country applications.

MSRP $3,299

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13 thoughts on “Interbike 2012: KHS SixFifty 608 Test Ride

  1. Wow, $3300 seems a little pricey for a hardtail, especially given the component mix. I wonder how much of the pricing has to do with availability of 650b components? The Jamis you reviewed also seemed a little expensive too.

      • If only some company would come out with a reasonably priced, well spec’ed 650b hardtail ;)

        Seriously though, $3,300 for x9/x5? that’s crazy!

      • Also, that X-fusion fork doesn’t cost any more than any other fork. The drivetrain and brakes are identical. Leaving the wheels as the only genuinely 650b-specific part.

        I’m stumped as to why it would cost so much.

  2. grrr i was in Vegas like last week(6-10 (interbike). Planning fail on my part. worst part of it I missed my Sunday Morning Ride becasue of an eventful saturday night. lol REGRET!

  3. to clarify: i was in Vegas the 6th through the 10th. Just finding/knowing about interbike was the planning fail. Doing this at work makes me type and sumbit a little faster/careless than i normally would. oops.

  4. I’ve seen that style downtube before, on some obscure european brand, first heard of them on BikeRumor, sent an e-mail trying to get some of their stuff to test, never heard back. Trying to remember who it was, but can’t find the e-mail I sent. Driving me crazy!

    Anyhow…not surprised the 650B wheels ride more like 26″, they’re actually closer in size to 26″ than 29″

    • Yeah true that. A lot of people I talked to yesterday mentioned that a 26″ wheel with a tall tire is about same size as 650b with a shorter profile tire. But supposedly there’s less flop w shorter tire so better performance. Long story short: 29er isn’t going anywhere.

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