Kross Level A3 (2012)

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What is your most recent memory of a vehicle produced in Poland? Perhaps the Polski microcar, which ironically, was very functional in spite of its Lilliputian dimensions. This seems to be the only memory I can now recall and if I start thinking about two wheels rides, I wonder who came first Kross, or Cross ? Perhaps this issue should be clarified from the beginning, since the pronunciation of the two brand names can not make a clear distinction. So the next question is Kross from Poland or the Bulgarian Cross? And, here we go, problem solved, now we know exactly from which countries the two bikes come, and we’re free of any confusions. However, it’s worth knowing that the Polish manufacturer seriously began building bikes in 1997.

I was very curios to ride the Level A3 Kross since the brand is relatively young and eager to prove itself across Europe and what is most important, it plays in the league of affordable bikes. Let’s see then, what the Polish have prepared for the masses on the niche of 500 euro bicycles.

Frame/On the track

It is easy to see that Kross dubs the successful recipe of Slovakians from Kelly, but we’re not pointing our finger to them, as, in the end, it’s the buyer who takes advantage of this situation. Frame finishes, especially welds are very good for this price segment, managing to leave behind even some famous brands. Paint is all right, although I never personally liked its matte appearance. One can really make a parallel with Kellys when it comes to design, and, as you can further read in this article, specs sheet.

Rider’s position is sporty, slightly bent forward, and the agility of the bike is completed by a headtube angle of 71 degrees. Where some competitors in this segment prefer to play the card of stability, using an angle of 67-68 degrees, Kross boldly chooses an angle that will satisfy those riders who want quick feedback from the steering. Talking about XC bikes, 71 degrees is also limit for the headtube angle. And for this style of riding, especially if you are a beginner, this bike is an option to consider.

Weighing 2.120 grams, the Level A3’s is one of the heaviest frames we met on the bikes we have disassembled for our testing purposes. But, there is still hope, as this increased weight enhances headtube  rigidity, which, according to our measurements is of 114.1 Nm/degree. For 10 kilograms force, the frame will twist less than 1 degree. This means that heavier cyclists will get along with the bike, which manages to provide the same performance when cornering or breaking hard, whether you weigh 70 or 100 kg.

Position on the steepest uphill is good, as a seat tube angle of 75.5 º is almost standard for this segment.

Obviously, Kross Level A3 is not a bicycle built for racers, or ready to propel you into the top of the competition rankings, but its given configuration makes it an attractive hobby bike also fit for longer mountain tours. Unless of course, the weight of 14.3 kg will not ask its toll and make you strike back.  .

Components

As Level A3 is sold for approximately 500 euro and the frame is quite all right, it was obvious that the manufacturer also had to do some savings. You can see it in some details, but as we dissembled the bike more shortcomings did not hesitate to appear.

However, I’ll start with the good part. The brakes for instance, Shimano M446 with 160 mm rotors are more than enough for this bike. Even more interesting is that the same brakes can be found on more expensive models coming from premium producers.

Weighting 2.640 grams, the XCM Suntour fork is a necessary and accepted evil in this class, and the good news is that the Taiwanese manufacturer brings constant improvements to one of the world’s most popular forks (it’s notoriety was somehow undesired)  So, you get a functional fork that offers decent comfort and comes with standard Lock-Out.

26 x 2.10 Schwalbe Rapid Rob tires prove to be decent and provide an acceptable grip on dry trails. In wet condition they start calling on you, but you can take solace in the fact that they will be durable. In fact they are the entry level of the German tire manufacturer.

If I start thinking that Sram has already presented the first 11 cassette, I would be tempted to say that the 8 gears drive train fitted to this Kross comes from another era. But as I said above, a compromise had to be done somewhere. For this price I would have expected a 9 gear cassette and a higher quality bottom bracket. Crankset is mounted on a tapered square spindle and not Octalink, and the derailleurs hardly do their work.  Altus derailleur for chainrings and an Alivio one to manage sprockets are both noisy and leave place for minor flaws, but it’s also true that they don’t give you too much hassle. The Shimano Alivio levers are equipped with a thumb lever but you can forget about 2 way release function in this price segment.

Joytech hubs are also running well and the rims produced in house by Kross seem to durable (although the rear wheel of the bicycle had a small lateral oscillation).

Finally, I should mention the very narrow handlebars, measuring only 600 mm which takes the fun away as you ride.  I would have preferred a 660 mm handlebar for this bike, as it certainly would have changed its behavior and control. A set of plastic pedals is also in the menu set which I recommend you to get rid off if you want to cycle in the mountains, same as you could do with the set of grips which actually refuses to stay in one place on the handlebar. It’s like having a throttle grip on both handlebar ends.

Conclusion

Level A3 Kross is a living example that you can build a bike with decent entry-level specs and provide it for a reasonable final cost. The Polish managed to come up with a bicycle ready to meet beginners’ needs or those of cyclists who don’t want to spend a lot of money as they only ride a few times a month. Compared to competition, this bike is slightly better equipped, but let’s not forget the small details where Kross clearly made us understand that savings had been made.

In my point of view, Kross is a powerful new player, coming up strong, definitely trying to make life harder for Cross, Kellys and why not, even DHS. To what extent it will succeed, we will have to wait and see same as we keep an eye on the reliability of the bikes this brand has to offer.

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