Not everyone likes the way 29ers look and feel, but there’s no denying their smooth rolling ride rhythm on rough trails. Kona have been producing 29 inch wheeled bikes since the start and they are at the forefront of Scandium frame production too. Now they've combined this experience to make one of the best wagon wheelers we’ve ridden.
Ride & handling: Typical smooth ride quality of bigger wheels
Never judge a big wheeler by a ﬁrst ride. If you’ve just climbed off a 26er the Kahuna will feel strangely numb in comparison. Big wheel diameters soften the hard edges of bumps and the fact that the bottom bracket is a good 2in below the wheel axles lowers your centre of gravity, boosting stability to the point of almost dull neutrality. That’s not a criticism. It’s these characteristics that make the best big wheelers easy to ride.
The Kahuna ﬂows singletrack with conﬁdent momentum. A long top tube (23.5in on our 18in test bike), steep seat angle and in-line seatpost sits you well forward on the bike, nicely balanced for both climbs and descents, and the front end geometry livens up the ride just enough to keep the steering quick and easy on twisty singletrack.
Despite – or perhaps because of – its neutral handling feel you’ll end up bowling along at a rate of knots that’ll quickly stiﬂe your mates’ comments about clown wheels.
Frame: Top quality lightweight Scandium chassis
Kona are one of the few manufacturers who have really focused on Scandium frames, to a point where we no longer have any durability reservations about the low weight and stiff but strangely compliant ride characteristics of a frame like this.
The compliance, aka comfort, is probably mainly due to the fact that top quality Scandium alloy is really tough, so can be built with thinner tube walls, but it’s hard to split hairs about the feel of tubing when you’ve got big wheels, soft fat tyres and suspension.
The steep angles (71 degree head, 74 degree seat) of the Kahuna add extra zest to the stable handling of the bigger wheels. A 6mm longer offset than normal on the Fox fork counters the potential nervousness of a steep head angle when the fork compresses.
Frame construction detail is very tidy. The big down tube morphs from a ﬂared girder shape into the reinforced head tube down to laterally ovalised at the bottom bracket, and the low top tube is almost box-section. The compact back end is nicely put together but suffers from mud piling up on the front mech because of the big tyre.
Equipment: Great fork and well thought-out parts
The King’s drivetrain is ﬂawless – Shimano XT shifters and rear mech are supported by an SLX crankset and front mech.
The Fox 32 F29 RL fork offers 80mm of plush travel, FSA wheels are up among the best 29ers available in terms of combining strength with low weight and the Maxxis Ignitor treads combine easy-rolling comfort with superb traction.
Kona’s own-brand bar, stem and seatpost are all classy offerings and the WTB saddle is comfy enough for most riders.