Over four racing days at the Nové Město XC World Cup last week, ex-World Champion Maja Włoszczowska rode an all-new prototype Kross Level carbon hardtail. Sharing a similar overall profile to the current Level B, this unlabeled cross-country bike has several distinctive features that suggest a more refined, more comfortable ride…
Kross Level carbon XC race hardtail mountain bike prototype
Four years ago the ex-World champ, and multiple Polish national champ was at the Czech World Cup, racing her way towards the Rio Olympics on a then new carbon Kross Level hardtail. And it seems that was probably the plan this year again, with another new Level XC hardtail for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics that weren’t meant to be.
The changes visible on the outside of this prototype frame are subtle. But we’ve also heard there is some interesting material science lurking inside of the EU-made cross-country bike.
A carbon XC hardtail fit for technical World Cup racing
Still racing for their factory team, Maja Włoszczowska was the only Kross rider at the Czech World Cup not racing the 100mm Earth full-suspension bike. Already known to prefer the lighter hardtail even on the technical Nové Město course, this new prototype features dramatically flattened seatstays that are sure to flex enough to soak up some of the rear wheel impacts from the drops & rock gardens that litter the track.
What’s new in this new prototype Level cross-country hardtail?
The kinked toptube and even profiled bulging shape of the headtube look unchanged on this next gen Level, although the overall top & down tube profiles do appear less angular in cross-section. But those flat seatstays also appear thinner laterally, as they taper sharply away from the seat cluster to make room for these 29er Mitas Scylla tires.
Comparing the current Level to this new bike, there also appears to be much less room between the 29″ rear wheel and the BB/seattube, suggesting shortened chainstays for more agile handling. Those revised chainstays are also now taller (likely to balance stiffness lost to the flexing seatstays), and are more wide-set as they wrap around to join the wider, flared base of the seattube.
Up front we can see that the new bike gets revised internal cable routing into the top of the downtube vs. the previous external setup, while still keeping the same driveside cable port to route a stealth dropper for the 27.2mm seatpost. It also sticks with a PressFit bottom bracket.
At the rear of the bike, the thin seatstays and boxy chainstays come together with a shorter, but deeper extension above the bolt-on thru-axle (like on the Earth). The prototype hardtail also moves to lighter flat mount rear brake mounting, even though Maja’s XTR brakes & 160mm rear rotor require an extra post mount adapter.
Like at the headtube, we also get more of a peek at some of carbon weave around the seatpost clamp, perhaps suggesting these two areas get reinforced vs. the UD carbon of most of the rest of the frame’s layup.
We haven’t received any confirmation from Kross, but rumor has it that this carbon hardtail incorporates Graphene fiber in the carbon layup to somehow optimize lighter weight and increased stiffness – a first for the bikemaker. Plus, the new hardtail is said to be slated for manufacture in Kross’ carbon factory in Poland, joining the Earth full-suspension bike for complete in-house EU production.