Kona have always had an extremely loyal following for their full-suspension bikes, mainly due to their excellent handling, dependable toughness and durability. The Tanuki DL goes back to those core values in terms of chassis and character, but the total package stops it realising its potential.
Ride & handling: Tough and technically adept trail frameset let down by underwhelming shocks
While head angles of bikes tend to get the most attention, the seat angle is also very significant in terms of where you sit on the bike. A steep seat angle will push you forward, effectively shortening the top tube reach. This is great for front wheel traction in corners, and it works well on climbs because the front wheel is less likely to come up. It can feel precarious on descents unless you stand up and move back though.
Kona make their already steep seat angle even greater by using an inline seatpost. As we’ve said, this works well in the steeps, but many riders will be more comfortable sticking a layback post in and creating a more conventional feel. Wherever you end up sitting, the front-end geometry of the Tanuki is well suited to tackling technical terrain. The relatively slack head angle syncs with the shorter stem and wider bars to give the steering a stable feel.
Add quality tyres and forward weight placement, and on smoother trails you can really carve corners and push the pace hard. The steep seat angle lets you drop right off the back easily on steep descents. Combined with the steady front end, powerful back brake and neutral back end it makes the Tanuki a confident ride on “What, down there?” trails.
While we like the basic shape and long-term strengths of the Tanuki, the current suspension setup definitely holds back its true potential. The Turn Key damping on the RockShox Sektor fork is okay over rolling terrain, but start hitting square edges or repetitive impacts and it spikes, jumps and jars badly. Unfortunately the Fastrax rear shock is just as restrictive.
High levels of stiction stop any trace of bob even without using the lockout lever, so it’s okay on climbs if you can cope with the 14.24kg (31.4lb) weight. But hit anything more taxing than smooth rolling singletrack and, even after fettling the pressure and rebound setting for hours, it was still spiking and clunking or bouncing unpredictably. This undermines the natural confidence of what’s otherwise a promising chassis. Unfortunately there isn’t a more expensive option with a better shock and fork either.
Frame: Takes design cues from Kona's higher-end bikes, but with simpler suspension
While the top bikes in the Kona range now get their multi-shock Magic Link suspension, the Tanuki keeps it simple. It does get some real benefits from the Magic bikes though – its tapered head tube, machined rocker link and chunky seatstays are all shared with the Cadabra bikes. The overall kinked top tube layout is also the same, just in an extensively hydroformed, cheaper 7000 series rather than scandium alloy.
Asymmetric chainstays join low on the steep-angled seat tube, just above the bottom bracket, where conventional Konas have always connected for a potentially very active feel. Conventional cage placing is great for keeping bottles clean, and complete outer cable runs prolong shifting smoothness too. Kona pivots also have a great long-term reputation. There’s not much height clearance above the tyre if it gets clarty though.
Equipment: Tough, totally reliable stop/go kit and wheelset
The kit follows the robust reliability theme too. Shimano wheels run forever if you look after the cup-and-cone bearings. Maxxis Ardent tyres are some of our favourite all-rounders whatever the location and they’re tough enough to match the riders Konas generally appeal to. Avid’s reliable Elixir brakes also get big rotors at either end to boost power.
The Sektor is designed to be the new tough guy in the RockShox fork line-up too. The tapered head tube increases stiffness, although we’d like a screw-through 15 or 20mm axle rather than quick-releases. Nine-speed transmission is a bit last year but it works fine and saves money. Kona finishing kit is all decent and in the right sizes for all-round trail use, although the choice of an inline post is potentially controversial.