Words by Robert Johnston | Photos by Finlay Anderson

After 15 years of making high-end aftermarket components, Giacomo of 77designz decided to put his engineering expertise to a bigger product and started a bike brand offshoot by the name of Kavenz. They released their VHP series of bikes into the market a couple of years ago and have been slowly refining the details with small iterations and new models along the way. I had been dying to get my hands on one to put to the test, so was stoked when the VHP16 V6 frame turned up at my doorstep ready to be built and hit the trails across Scotland. It was worth the wait, as it turned out to be one of my favorite enduro bikes to date. Read on to find out why.


• 160mm High Pivot Horst Link Suspension
• HTA 64
• STA 77.5 (effective)
• REACH 480 (Large)

Price: From €2,645 (Frame only, raw)
Website: Kavenz.com


Seeking to obtain their ultimate characteristics for a full suspension mountain bike, Kavenz developed their VHP (Virtual High Pivot) line of bikes. They came to market with an initial 29” wheeled 160mm travel enduro offering called the VHP16, which has since been joined by the VHP15 (150mm) and VHP18 (180mm). These all share a common mainframe, which has a replaceable lower shock mount which allows the user to switch between each of the different travel versions in combination with a different shock or set their VHP up with a 27.5” rear wheel. The VHP16 is optimized for a 170mm fork but is said to be happily compatible with a 160mm to 180mm.

Kavenz VHP16 V6 Mountain Bike Review

Suspension | The VHP suspension uses a high pivot point variation of a Horst Link suspension system, which is equipped with an idler pulley wheel around the main pivot to tune the pedaling characteristics. The high pivot point delivers 15mm of rearward travel, which theoretically allows the rear wheel to move out of the way of obstacles easier and increases stability as the bike is compressed. The idler wheel’s position let Kavenz design the VHP16 to have roughly 140% Anti Squat at sag across the gear range, a fairly high figure which falls throughout the travel to increase comfort and traction deeper in the stroke. Thanks to the Horst Link design, Anti Rise is not extreme like high single pivot bikes such as the Deviate Claymore, sitting at roughly 85% at sag. This prevents the rear end from firming up excessively under braking, while still offering some counteracting force to rider weight transfer when braking to give more composure in steeper terrain.

Frame Details | The VHP frames are made with EN AW 7020 T6 aluminum tubing and a machined center spine, with mainly straight lines to give the most efficient use of material in a function-first approach. Sitting concentrically to the main pivot is a narrow/wide 14t alloy idler wheel, with a discrete chain guide surrounding to keep the chain in place through the rough. An optional BB-mounted ISCG05 tab can be purchased separately to add a bash guard. Shared between all suspension pivot points are the same S6902 LLU MAX bearings, and the pivot axles are all titanium. There are bottle cage mounts on the inside of the front triangle with space for a large bottle. Cables are routed internally, with small holes at the headtube and larger ports with 3D printed guides at the exit points of the front triangle and chainstays that can be swapped out to accommodate various different cable thicknesses, or plugged for use with wireless drivetrains. Kavenz kept to the most common standards with the VHP series: the bottom bracket is threaded; there’s a 148mm rear end; 31.6mm seat tube; and the head tube is tapered with the common 44/56mm Zero Stack headset standard. Because of the elevated chainstay and idler design, the chain sits quite far away from the chain, so there’s only a thin rubber chain slap protector added for the most extreme chain movements. The only slight disappointment is the proprietary derailleur hanger, opposed to the SRAM UDH.

Geometry | Kavenz believes that the correct fit of the bike is crucial, so offers a semi-custom geometry to let the customer obtain their perfect size, with 36 possible sizes. Reach lengths are offered in 20mm increments from 440mm to 540mm; seat tube lengths can be chosen between 420mm, 450mm or 480mm; and the head tube can be 110mm or 125mm. Consistent between all sizes is the 425mm static chainstay length (419mm with MX setup), which grows to 436mm at sag due to the rearward axle path, tops out at 440mm (at 100mm travel) and returns to 435mm at bottom out. For comparison, the Specialized Enduro tops out at 2mm rearward travel (444mm) and finishes at 13mm shorter than static, or 429mm. The effective seat tube angle is 77.5° with a 170mm fork; the head tube angle is 64°, and the bottom bracket sits 34mm below the axles. The wheelbase for the large size measured in at 1252mm as tested with a 180mm fork.

Spec Options | The VHP16 retails for €2,645 as standard in raw, without shock, and is claimed to weigh in at 3.28kg for the frame and hardware, without shock. A Fox Float X2 can be added for €495, or a DHX2 with an SLS coil of your chosen weight for €695. Kavenz offers the VHP range in a few different finish options: raw (tested); powder coated in a choice of 216 RAL colors for €145; or black anodized for €265. You can also add on a Fox 38 Float fork for €1,040 at the point of purchase, and a BikeYoke dropper post in a range of sizes from €227. The Kavenz VHP16 frame carries a 5 year warranty. You can purchase one direct from Kavenz, or from some select dealers, such as Cycolo in North America. They offer the Kavenz VHP16 with a choice of shocks for $3,599.00.

Kavenz VHP16 V6 Mountain Bike Review


Kavenz provided me with a semi-custom frame with a 480mm reach, 450mm seat tube and the taller 125mm head tube; which was fitted with a Fox DHX2 coil. It was up to me to build it up into a full bike, giving me an opportunity to use it as a test rig for a number of components I was given on test, as well as spec’ing it with some of my favorite components.

Build Selected | An Ohlins RFX38 was trusted to lead the way, which I fitted with a 180mm air spring to maximize the hard charging capabilities. Initially I ran the Fox rear shock, but shortly after commencing the test I swapped it out for an Ohlins TTX22 coil to match the fork. I picked up a Shimano SLX shifter and Deore 12spd derailleur, intrigued to see how the budget combo would stand up to some punishment. DMR provided me with some 165mm AXE cranks in a suitably matching raw/silver colorway; and I ran the trusty OneUp Composite bar and a Race Face Aeffect R stem. The brakes were Hope’s excellent Tech 4 V4 with 203mm rotors on both ends. I alternated between a OneUp 240mm V2 dropper, or the 210mm V2 dropper with an Aenomaly Constructs Switchgrade; topped with an SQ Lab 611 saddle which is my butts favorite. I experimented with a few different wheelsets, from the Nukeproof Horizon V2 alloy, through the SILT Carbon AM, to some Crankbrothers Synthesis Carbon E11, giving me a good feel for the stiffness of the frame, and settled on the Nukeproof up front and SILT in the rear. These were shod in a WTB Verdict TCS Light and Judge TCS Tough High Grip tire pairing, which proved to be excellent. All in all this purposeful and suitably burly spec tipped the scales at 35.5lbs (16.1kg) – a fairly typical weight for a modern enduro bike spec’d properly.

Kavenz VHP16 V6 Mountain Bike Review

Climbing | Fitting the Kavenz with a 180mm fork skewed the geometry slightly, but even so the seat tube angle proved to be sufficiently steep to give a nicely centered seating position. The extension of the rear end at sag put to rest any major concerns with the short chainstay length on paper, with a much more balanced figure when seated, which only grows as the terrain gets steeper and you sit further into the rear travel. Thanks to this, in combination with a healthy amount of Anti Squat, the uphill capabilities of the VHP16 are very good. You can still produce some pedal bob when pedaling in squares, but some slightly smoother pedaling strokes receive a nicely balanced level of support. The VHP16 has an impressive ability to maintain momentum and traction when climbing over roots and rock ledges, feeling to hang up notably less than many competitor bikes, likely thanks to that rearward axle path and the lower pedal kickback than lower pivot point bikes. In terms of resistance from the idler, I’d say it’s lost in the noise when it comes to muddy drivetrains, only adding a little roughness when it gets particularly gritty and otherwise doing little to slow you down. That said, the Kavenz is not a featherweight bike, and there’s no mistaking that you’re on a relatively burly enduro machine with sticky rubber when you’re earning your turns.

Descending | I’m at risk of sounding like a fanboy but the Kavenz is awesome in just about every way. The geometry balance is dialed and the way that the “short” rear end on paper grows thanks to the high pivot as you go deep into the travel means the harder you push it, the more stable it becomes. As you initiate a turn, you’re given a shorter wheelbase that makes it tip in faster, then the harder you push the bike the more stable it gets. That said, it’s not extreme and doesn’t require you to fully “learn” the handling, with an intuitive response that just seems to know what you need when you need it.

Kavenz VHP16 V6 Mountain Bike Review

I found that with a fairly quick rebound setting to increase the level of pop, and fairly high levels of compression damping, I was able to obtain plenty of platform to push off and stability in harder compressions without receiving any harsh sensations. Ever. Hucks to minimal landing and hard g-outs highlighted the impressive composure of the rear end, with both the Fox and Ohlins shocks. The braking characteristic prevents any excessive firming of the rear end when decelerating too, albeit producing the need to offset a slight forward pitch of the chassis by sitting into the rear of the bike a tad. It’s still a fairly long travel, bump eating enduro bike, so it’s not going to win a pumptrack race or slopestyle event, but it does feel to ride less challenging terrain impressively well given its gnar-taming abilities. The chassis has a sturdy feeling without being harsh, allowing a stiff wheel like the SILT Carbon AM to be fitted to make hard cornering a pleasure, or a softer alloy wheel to get the most compliance and traction.

In terms of durability, all the frame hardware stayed tight and the pivots ran smooth throughout the 3 month testing period. The idler wheel is still spinning without a hitch, I didn’t drop a single chain, and the chain slap is close to non-existent so the Kavenz runs beautifully quiet and smooth.

Kavenz VHP16 V6 Mountain Bike Review

The Wolf’s Last Word

All in all, I’ve been very impressed by this small German company’s first bike offering – so much so, that I persuaded my house mate to buy one! The Kavenz VHP16 is a great example of a well engineered enduro bike, blending some phenomenal descending performance with pleasant climbing manners, and a bike that I can highly recommend.

Price: From €2,645 (Frame only, raw)
Weight as Tested: 35.5lbs (16.1kg)
Website: Kavenz.com


Frame: Kavenz EN AW 7020 T6 | 160mm | 14t idler
Fork: Ohlins RFX38 M.2 | 180mm
Shock: Ohlins TTX22 Coil

Brakes: Hope Tech 4 V4 | 200mm 2.3mm rotors
Handlebar: OneUp Carbon 35mm | 800mm | 35mm Rise
Stem: Race Face Aeffect R 35mm | 50mm Length
Seatpost: One Up V2 240mm / 210mm + Aenomaly Constructs Switchgrade
Saddle: SQ Lab 611 Ergowave Active | 14cm

Rear Wheel: SILT Carbon AM
Front Wheel: Nukeproof Horizon V2 alloy
Front Tire: WTB Verdict | TCS LIGHT HIGH GRIP | 29″ x 2.5″
Rear Tire: WTB Judge | TCS TOUGH HIGH GRIP | 29″ x 2.4″

Bottom Bracket: Praxis BB30 Threaded
Cassette: Shimano XT Hyperglide+ | 10-51T
Cranks: DMR AXE | 32T | 165mm
Shifter: Shimano SLX | 12spd
Derailleur: Shimano Deore | 12spd

Kavenz VHP16 V6 Mountain Bike Review

We Dig

Rough terrain sensitivity
Impressive composure
Competent climbing manners

We Don’t

I’m struggling here…
Not ultra light?


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