Twenty years ago Kona’s sloping top tube and compact rear triangle frame design helped redefine riders’ expectations. The Kula Deluxe won’t attract the attention it might have done back in the day, but it’s the Canadian company's spendiest hardtail.
Light, very capable and great fun to ride, it's a superb all-round trail bike that’s more versatile than its cross-country race tag suggests. But at £1,800 it's a very expensive option, and right up there with some very good full-suss weaponry.
Ride & handling: A masterpiece of taut, lively responses
We can’t think of the last time we picked holes in a Kona’s handling, and the Kula Deluxe is no different. It delivers out-of-the-box surefootedness with an extra dose of rigidity and a surprisingly sprightly turn of speed thrown in for good measure.
The light, stiff chassis delivers on the promise of instant power transfer and snappy steering responses, but the thin tube walls shrug off trail vibrations and temper any tendency for harshness at speed.
Kona market the Kula hardtail range as cross-country race bikes. But with the Reba fork and big tyres soaking up everything from small roots and rubble to big, square-edged hits, we began to find ourselves riding the Kula in a very un-racy way, seeking out rougher lines, braking later into turns and using trail undulations as launch pads.
The wide bars, comfy saddle and confidence-inspiring handling make this a great all-day trail blaster that easily outshines its full-suspension Hei Hei stablemate in the overall fun department.
Frame: Scandium tubeset gives perfect blend of drivetrain rigidity and comfort
The Russians used to add scandium to the aluminium alloys used for making missile fins and Mig fighter jets during the Cold War. By increasing the material’s strength and resistance to fatigue failure, they were able to reduce weight and still keep their missiles pointed in the right direction.
Kona use much the same thinking in the Kula Deluxe’s frame, which features big profile scandium alloy tubes with notably thin walls to make a chassis that’s stiff, strong and light all at the same time.
New for 2010, Kona have equipped the Kula Deluxe with an integrated headset and claim more stability as a result. The long, oversized head tube certainly gives a twist-free platform, but we doubt most riders will notice the difference.
Equipment: Quality RockShox, Mavic and RockShox kit
At £1,800 – a lot for a hardtail – you’d expect the Kula Deluxe to be kitted out with a wishlist of goodies. The RockShox Reba fork, Mavic Crosstrail wheelset, Shimano SLX hydraulic discs and Deore XT shifters are all decent bits of kit, but we'd expect more for our money.
The fork features SRAM’s usual adjustable compression damping knob, which effectively locks the fork out if you rotate it as far as it’ll go clockwise. But there’s no bar-mounted remote option — a strange omission on a range-topping bike.