Bicycle review: Kross Level B11 (2014)

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It’s been long since I last felt an under-10 kilogram mountain bike beneath me, and the joy is hard to describe. Still, this hype doesn’t do the Level B11 any service, for Kross’s top level cross country machinery had to pass the test of our sharp eyes. It seems the bike manages to help the team’s riders dominate the Polish XC scene, but this is just a mere first step on the road of fame that Kross wants to walk on. So, is it a good start?

One doesn’t need a competition in order to experience the limits you can reach with the Level B11. Actually, a few days of wandering the mountain trails make it very clear that off-road with a touch of tricky trails are where this bike belongs. I also wanted to put to the test the myth of brands, more exactly to see how much of a serious job do contenders like Kross do. Even if the stealth appearance doesn’t really make the Level B11 stand out, it’s just the kind of bike that holds a lot of surprises.

Frame/On the trail

A light bicycle is a fast bicycle, there’s no doubt about that, and even if the Level B11 isn’t the lightest of them all, tipping the scale at about 9 kilograms, it does help you roll faster, and transforms uphill sections in easier tasks, even for those that previously found them impossbile. The seat tube sits at an expected 73-degree angle, helping the rider in what regards climbing, while the head tube tells me I’m dealing with an agile bike, despite its 29 inch wheel. And, no, the 29er that’s as maneuverable as the 26er doesn’t really exist, but the Level B11 performs reasonably from this point of view. Further agility is provided by the 730mm-wide handlebar, that also contributes to XC-specific position on this Kross model.

As for actual weight, the frame is heavier than expected. Weighing  1.58 kilograms, and having a stiffness of 63.29 Nm/degree, it doesn’t blow minds in terms of stiffness-to-weight neither, with a value of 40.05 Nm/grad/kg. Still, if you weigh under 90 kilograms, the deflection will be minimal, so you’ll enjoy, like I did, the full features of this model, and get the best of this carbon frame.

Another sign of quality are the details of the frame, starting with the finishings, similar to those of premium manufacturers. We’re dealing here with a top notch bike, and things like the tapered head tube, inner cable routing, 12mm rear thru axle and Direct Mount for the front derailleur only confirm this. However, you’ll have to do with the single water bottle mount that exists.

Specifications

They do get better than this, for the simple fact that two higher versions of the model exists, naturally, with greater components. On the other hand, the parts present on this bike are more than enough to meet the demands of a serious XC rider, and anything else would simply have the purpose to reach a lower weight or get more bling-bling. For those of you who want nothing but the best, know that those two upper models include a Rock Shox SID XX World Cup and a 1×11 drivetrain. For the according price, of course.

In our case, a Fox Float fork delivers fine performances in the range of the 100mm it has, weighing just as much as the frame does. You won’t be able only to ride fast on this bike, a pair of SRAM X0 brakes stopping you just as quickly, as long as you don’t approach downhill sections, where they, along with their 180mm/160mm rotors will show their limits.

In terms of drivetrains, you have a 2×10 system, that includes SRAM X0 derailleurs, SRAM X9 shifters, and an at-first unidentifiable crankset, which I later realised it was SRAM’s S2210, which has carbon arms, tipping the scale at 680 grams, w/o bottom bracket, therefore slightly heavier than the X0.

The Fizik Tundra 2 saddle and the handlebar grips perform poorly in terms of comfort, and the handlebar itself has a rather akward position. You can turn it around an roll it towards yourself, but you won’t press enough on the front wheel. Speaking of wheels, the DT Swiss XR 1501 set weighs, fully equipped with Schwalbe Rocket Ron tires a mere 3.52 kilograms, and the freehub makes a very pleasant noise. Grip is good on dry surface, but water puts them in a difficult situation, so watch out!

Conclusion

Nothing compares to riding freely with a light hardtail over the mountains. However, a light hardtail usually has a heavy price, and Kross doesn’t stray too far from this, pricing the Level B11 at a range corresponding to the performances of the bike, but at a lower value than those of premium manufacturers’. All in all, the Level B11 is a formidable XC weapon, but even more than this, it’s the proof that Central Europe can provide bikes just as great as the rest of the world.

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