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Bicycle Review: KHS AM1000

By MBT Staff

If a little bit of everything defines your kind of trail, meet your new sidekick.
The Fox Vanilla R is good on its own, the KHS 4 bar linkage makes it great.

The Spec Sheet: What does $1499 net you?

All Mountain Perfection

It’s a long way between Rancho Dominguez, California and the suburbs of Buffalo, NY and yet the KHS AM 1000 felt almost as if it were designed with our favorite loops specifically in mind. Considering the AM portion of its name is derived from the All Mountain discipline of riding, it appears KHS has hit its mark with the AM 1000. These may be times of an ever-increasingly specialized bicycle industry and yet riders today seek a single bike that can do it all more than ever before. We don’t hide from the fact that our test riders tend to view the All Mountain segment of the industry with great favor, in fact the conditions and terrain surrounding MBT Headquarters literally demand bikes with the ability to change personalities like an undercover agent and to alter skins like a chameleon. Our crew have cut their teeth on bikes like the Kona Dawg and Santa Cruz Nomad so it goes without saying that our expectations out on the trail are fairly high. As such, we took delivery of the KHS AM 1000 and reviewed its spec sheet with great interest; KHS apparently selected a fine assortment of components that coincide precisely with our own trail taming taste. We set out to discover just how versatile the new AM 1000 actually is, after all, we needn’t travel far to begin putting the All Mountain moniker to the test. After a solid month of intense treatment, did the KHS live up to its name? It’ll be our pleasure to tell you all about it.
The AM 1000 is a balanced bike, a well engineered chassis and excellent suspension choices allow the rider to focus on the trail ahead.

The AM 1000 comes out the gate swinging with an extra beefy 6061 aluminum frame with 4-bar linkage connected to a Fox Vanilla R coil over shock (with preload and rebound adjust). The front end is graced with 130mm Marzocchi All Mountain III air sprung fork (with rebound adjust) which adds up to a healthy 6" travel frame design. Transferring the power to the turf is Sram’s X7 27 speed drivetrain, TruVativ FiveD crank set, and WTB Weirwolf DNA tires wrapped around Weinmann DM-30 Doublewall rims. The package also presents great attention to detail; a Cane Creek Hammer headset, TruVative Team stem, oversized alloy riser bars, Hayes sole HFX hydraulic brakes with 8" rotors, WTB Power V comp saddle, TruVativ Isis bottom bracket, Shimano hubs, and Power Tools grips.
The Marzocchi AM series fork offers up about as smooth a stroke as we've ever ridden.

While we are certain riders will appreciate the component selection alone for the sheer incredible dollar value KHS has managed to achieve in the AM 1000, to fully realize the scope of their vision requires simply swinging a leg over one.

The Mission: To Tame the Untamable

We weren’t going to limit our test course to the single track loops and wide open flats that we send lesser bikes. No, the AM 1000 simply begs its pilot to dish out punishment whether it be through steep grades, technical descents, or even simply those tricky lines that have taunted you for years. We broke our testing terrain down into several varying conditions: We began with cracked back roads leading to concrete obstacles, curbs, steps, and rails. We then progressed into sandy chop, rutted fire-roads, and small elevation changes. From there it was off to a network of overgrown ATV trails complete with fallen trees, foliage concealed stumps, and oozing low lands. Finally we took the AM 1000 up to the mountains for some downhill runs, sprinted climbs, and medium sized drops.

The Ride: At One with the One-Thou

 

While the Sram X-7 group is a thing of beauty, 27 gear combinations is even prettier.

Swinging a leg over the KHS AM 1000 instills an immediate feeling of confidence. The frame’s roomy geometry combines with beefy cockpit components into an unmistakable sense of all-terrain hunger. That feeling was only amplified out on the trail. If we were forced to summarize the KHS riding experience in a single word, that word would be “stable”. It doesn’t take long to start relying upon the excellent suspension balance that exists between the Fox Van R and the Marzocchi AM 3.

We ran the shock at it’s full 6" of travel, backed the rebound adjuster four clicks from the fastest setting, pumped 43 psi into the forks and slowed the rebound by a couple of clicks (silent rotations in this case). The Marzocchi AM 3 manages to dazzle with a very supple initial stroke that quickly stiffens up as the hits demand more of its travel. Regardless of what we subjected it to, never did it’s performance fade or travel seem to run out. This is especially impressive considering that it stole none of the spotlight from the 4 bar linkage and Fox Vanilla R making up the rear of the symphony. Rock gardens, stumps, wash outs, and roots vanished below the AM 1000 without so much as a jolt of deflection or a hint of rider impact.
From the saddle. The beefy feeling AM 1000 will make even the most neurotic of riders forget all about carefully selecting their lines.

Out on the trail we initially found ourselves sticking to the tried and true lines out of sheer habit before venturing further and further off the beaten path. By the conclusion of our test, line selection had ceased to become a factor entirely, instead allowing our test riders the luxury of enjoying the ride and focusing only on putting the power to the ground. That initial feeling of confidence we mentioned earlier only became stronger and stronger as the test wore on.

What does it do where? We know what you’re thinking, it simply could not have done everything well. To that we must insist that it often appeared as though the KHS design team had been out on our loops, literally engineering the AM 1000 around the conditions we know and love. Chalk it up to that ability to change identities that we were talking about earlier; the mark of any true bike intended to conquer the back woods and the varying conditions there within. This machine takes to the trails like a fish to water. We’ve decided to break down its proficiency into categories.

Pedaling: 27 gear combinations to work with creates an odd (yet comforting) sensation that there is literally a gear for every situation. The bike’s firm and beefed up chassis combines with anti-squat tendencies found within Fox’s ProPedal platform to result in surprisingly efficient power bursts. The AM 1000 is an effective sprinter when judged on its own merit; a work of engineering art when considering its long travel suspension.
Hayes hydraulic Sole offer just the right amount of grip to slow the AM 1000 without a hint of twitch.
Bliss. The AM 1000 is an explorer's dream.

Climbing: In case you suspect the weak link in any true All Mountain rig lies within its climbing prowess, KHS intends (and succeeds) at presenting a powerful argument to such logic. The AM 1000 puts every bit of its girth to good use by carrying its weight low in the frame. The result is a bike that doesn’t simply climb, it claws its way upward. Spec’ing WTB’s Weirwolf DNA tires is the proverbial icing on the cake. The tread pattern surpasses the definition of effective and boarders on extremely aggressive. So much so that out of the saddle pounding (when the rear wheel un-weights) results in an explosion of terrain and bits of raining roost. Once again we have to credit the bike’s designers with choosing components that work in perfect conjunction with not just each other but toward a accomplishing a single goal.

 

When KHS says All Mountain, that's exactly what they mean. The rear triangle is immune to stutter or deflection.

Descending: After evaluating the bike’s tendency to devour technical trail clutter, we suspected the AM 1000 would make for a well adept descender. We were proven correct as we blasted along the black loam of the Allegheny mountain trails and floated over randomly strewn half buried rocks, stumps, tree limbs, and moderate drops. Relying partially on the WTB Weirwolves’ impeccable traction abilities and wide foot print, we were able to make full use of the Marzocchi AM3's butter-smooth stroke. On even the most technical of the high speed descents, the coil sprung Fox Vanilla R remained supple, active, and plenty rigid without overloading the fork. That sense of stability we mentioned above was downright omnipotent once gravity began to take hold.

Braking: We have a long standing relationship with the Hayes single piston hydraulic brake system. The AM 1000 makes effective use of the 8" rotor setup with near perfect modulation and excellent resistance to heat-fade. We have tested this system with lighter cross country oriented rigs in which a handful of brake lever was so gripping that it could get the bike tumbling. This is not the case with the more linear feeling modulation of the AM 1000.
We walked away astonished with the WTB Weirwolf DNA, this tire means business.
Alligator skin. A closer look at the tread pattern reveals exactly how the WTB DNA manages to claw forward over most any terrain.

Cornering: The AM 1000 chassis is very roomy, and as a result excels at wide sweeping berms and sloped off cambers. This is a bike that rewards the rider who carries speed around switchbacks rather than taking the “gun and run” approach of carving through. In fact much of the bike’s potency isn’t revealed until its rider comes to understand his braking points and begins using the bike’s ability to carry momentum along the course. The beefed up KHS settles into its sweet spot by flowing along the trail and trusting that the suspension will take care of the rest.

Jumping:
The SRAM shifters are comfortable yet effective.

Lets get one thing clear right away; never does anyone label the AM 1000 as a Black Diamond or Dirt Jump design. Having said that, does the AM 1000 fly a true course? Surprisingly, better than we expected it would. With increased air pressure added to the Marzocchi’s fork legs, the front end becomes immediately effective at absorbing big hits. Really pushing the limits could result in blowing through the Van R’s travel, however; a fix that ironically involved softening the shock’s settings so as to prevent forcing the fork through its more supple travel. This is an instance where compression adjust on the Van R would have been invaluable. We believe, however, that you will instantly come to appreciate the rigidity KHS’ 4 bar linkage adds to the equation. The AM 1000's engineers have done their homework on what makes the 4 bar linkage setup such a desired configuration; the rear of the bike is active but resilient to energy burning pedal bob.
Ergonomically, the AM 1000 feels big in the air, those same traits of beefed up components and chassis stability that make this bike an absolute joy to blast along the trails don’t lend themselves very well to being airborne. Not a major concern, however, as treating this bike like a Dirt Jumper would be missing the whole point.

Lets tie it all together
The atom. Did we mention the KHS impressed us? If not, it did.
Like everything else on the AM 1000, the cleated pedals are over sized and ready for trail duty.

In case you are beginning to feel a theme throughout this report that suggests we were quite impressed with the KHS AM 1000, then we can only say that it’s because we were. Despite having our pick of the proverbial litter in the realm of mountain bike hardware, we, like you, are endlessly seeking that “one bike that does it all” prospect. While the AM 1000 may not be the first bike we’ve encountered that fills such shoes, it is perhaps the closest we’ve ever ridden that manages to do so for such a low retail price. Regardless of whether a mountain resort happens to cast a shadow upon your back yard, or your definition of entertainment involves pedaling through miles of sandy uphill single track, the AM 1000 is at the ready. You would be hard pressed to locate a bike (in any price range) that so harmoniously fuses component specs; the AM 1000 feels like a bike, not a collection of bolted together parts.

Durability is always a factor to consider when treading in the All Mountain waters, and the AM 1000 stood and delivered in this category as well, never giving our test riders a single instance of mechanical failure to report. Would we lay down our hard earned smackers for the AM 1000? Quicker than you could spell KHS. At $1,499 you are paying for the hardware, KHS decided to include the engineering marvels, confidence boosters, and endless miles of sheer giddy fun that comes packaged with each and every AM 1000 free of charge.
The real deal. The $1499 KHS AM 1000 offers serious bang for the buck.