Kona Dawg Supreme - First Ride£3,552.43

Alpine-capable 6in machine

BikeRadar score3.5/5

One criticism frequently levelled at Kona is their stalwart reliance on their tried-and-tested non-Horst link, rocker activated shock suspension platform. True to form, this year’s Dawg Supreme rocks the same ‘faux-bar’ configuration, but has gained an inch of travel and a hefty pricetag, pigeon-holing it right in there with the all-mountain big boys. So can it bite as hard as it barks?

Ride & handling: Direct steering, bottomless suspension and it just feels right

From the moment we got a leg over the Dawg we knew we were going to get on. Ride it to the trails and you feel acquainted. By the time you reach the end of the first bit of singletrack you feel like you’ve known it for years – it’s that good. The steering is direct, the suspension feels bottomless yet taut and the whole thing works beautifully.

The front end stays accurate and only wanders when gradient of ascent gets properly steep. The Dawg lives for the way back down though – the Pro-Pedal platform damping is buttery enough to be left engaged and once into their stroke, the Fox shock and fork are ultra-smooth and progressive. 

One criticism is that the Dawg is almost too well-mannered, it feels like a sorted 5in as opposed to a £3,500 6in all-mountain screamer. Yet its lean weight means that speccing a hooligan part such as an adjustable seatpost won’t hamper its usability and would turn it into one of the finest alpine rigs out there.

ona’s dawg platform gets increased travel for 2009: ona’s dawg platform gets increased travel for 2009

Frame: Fancy materials create a light, stiff frame with confidence-inspiring geometry

At the heart of the Dawg is a Race Light scandium butted frame. We measured the head angle at 67.6 degrees and, coupled with a 24.3in top tube length and 14in bottom bracket height, it meant our 19in model felt roomy and planted. 

Scandium was first used by the Russians to build missiles and Kona reckon that when mixed with aluminium alloy it increases strength by a staggering 50 per cent, allowing the use of much thinner tubes and so dropping frame weight by 10 to 15 per cent. 

Fancy material is found in the suspension rocker arms – they’re cast magnesium which saves both weight and increases frame stiffness.

Scandium tubes are light but strong enough to handle mountain duties: scandium tubes are light but strong enough to handle mountain duties

Equipment: Great spec, but pricey and we'd swap the saddle 

The Dawg straddles the strength versus weight divide just right. Mavic Crossmax ST wheels, QR15 Fox Float forks and Shimano XT live up to their reputations faultlessly and provide a confidence-inspiring core. The shock is a Fox Float RP23, featuring the useful three-position adjustable Pro-Pedal option. 

Maxxis Ignitor tires offer epic rolling speed and are as predictable as beans on toast. Despite their tight tread pattern they clear quickly in all but the stickiest of gloop. 

Even Kona’s pewter-coloured own branded kit is spot-on. The Shimano XT brakes really are some of the finest you can get hold of, with loads of feel, power and adjustment on tap. Our only gripe was the WTB Rocket saddle, which grips you in place instead of letting you move around.

The curved top tube gives ample clearance for all out trail attack: the curved top tube gives ample clearance for all out trail attack

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