Kona were one of the ﬁrst mainstream companies to follow Gary Fisher into the world of bigger wheels. Add a similarly advanced interest in freeride and aggro riding in general, and it’s no surprise the Big Kahuna is one of the ballsiest frames around.
Ride & handling: Rough and ready
Kona are one of several brands using backswept bars on their big-wheeled bikes, which combine with the steep seat angle to give an overly compact, hands-by-your-knees riding feel at ﬁrst.
When you knock the saddle right back on its rails and get off-road, though, that weirdness disappears in favour of a naturally surefooted and relaxed feel that’s still light and nippy enough through the tight stuff. The stiff frame puts maximum power through to the back wheel, which will please powerful riders.
Even with the smooth wheels and rearward weight shift of the bars, the basic fork and stiff frame mean that ground shock soon starts to make your wrists and soles of your feet ache on rough ground. It’s a heavy bike too, so beyond short grunt climbs, upward mobility isn’t a strong point.
Frame & equipment: For fork's sake
The short, stout tapered head tube is backed up by big square-section main tubes, with shared seams up front and a broad ovalised overlap at the bottom bracket. Big machined plate chainstay heads, a steep seat angle and the broad stance, round tube A-frame stays give plenty of tyre room.
It’s an IS brake mount out back and the dropout rack mount drillings aren’t matched on the stays, if you’re thinking of off-road touring with it. The biggest black mark in equipment terms is the fork, though.
The RockShox Recon has simple damping and soon gets overwhelmed on long rocky or step sections. And despite the tapered head tube, the steel steerer isn’t tapered to match and the stanchions are steel too, which adds some serious weight.
At least all of the negatives are in one easily – if expensively – upgradable area and the wheel package almost makes up for it. Easton wheels are light and tight and the Maxxis Aspen tyres are our favourite 29er speed rubber, offering surprising grip and smoothness.
The 10-speed SRAM shifting was less than smooth after only one ride though, and the bottom bracket started grinding in under an hour, so check that your shop has prepped the bike properly.
With a big, stiff frame and sorted angles, the Big Kahuna is an obvious choice for big, powerful riders. Despite a good wheel package, the very basic fork really lets it down and you’ll soon ache if you get too aggressive with it.