Kona have really embraced the idea of creating tough, dependable road machines that can take a few knocks and come back fighting.
The Honky Tonk is one such bike, and it comes at an affordable price. But that doesn't mean that the Vancouver bike builders haven't skimped on the details.
- HIGHS: Looks, value, and a super supple, smooth ride
- LOWS: Slow front shifts and a bit weighty for faster riders
- BUY IF… You want a retro-styled steel steed capable of commutes and much more
The Honky Tonk's frame is made from a basic steel with a fine reputation - Reynolds 520. Manufactured under licence in Taiwan, it is mechanically-butted to save weight and maintain strength. The frame's tubes are combined with a lugged crown fork, beneath a deep, lustrous black paint finish that features retro-style graphics. The bike certainly appears to be a more exclusive offering than its £899 / $1,100 price and simple TIG-welded joints suggest.
The choice of components are more in line with the price though. Shimano’s new Sora levers are low down in the gearing hierarchy, although they do feature the dual-lever shifting of pricier groups. Rear shifts are quick and slick, helped by the simple cable route exiting from the side of the shifter. Shifting at the front is noticeably slower. It requires a lot of lever swing to upshift and half a crank's rotation too long for the chain to settle.
The slim, shallow drop bars are comfortable to hold and feel flex-free. We had no problems with the Kona-branded saddle either – it's slim and channelled, with a swept down nose.
The Honky Tonk rolls on WTB Freedom Racine Elite rims, built onto basic Formula hubs. Despite the hefty hubs and fat 28c tyres, they didn’t show the weight we expected and they performed well, after a few early pings and creaks. They were helped by the Continental Ultra Sport 28 tyres which offer some cushioning while remaining tough and as grippy as you like in the wet. Someone at Kona certainly knows how to spec a bike correctly – tyres like this wouldn’t be out of place on a bike twice the price.
The Honky Tonk is full of character. It's not a racer's rig, or even the ideal candidate for a fast winter trainer, but it's a highly accomplished cruiser with a lovely, lively sprung frame and smooth wheels. We spent hours on back lanes and byways enjoying its plush ride.
Because of its weight, It won’t be a bike you’ll attack the climbs on, but it's a fine place to be for descents. It gives a real feeling of solidity, and those great tyres make short, surefooted work of tight corners.
The Honky Tonk is a traditional tourer with upstart retro looks and smart handling, and with its value price, we reckon it's the ideal steel commuter. We’d add mudguards and a rack and use it for commuting, and save the great outdoors for the weekend – it might just encourage your inner explorer to become more active.
This article was originally published in Cycling Plus magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.