Kona Zing £999

The newest road bike from the North American brand

BikeRadar score 3.5/5

The US/Canadian outfit Kona’s origins lie in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s, but it also produces cyclo-cross bikes, classic steel bikes, tourers and road machines. The Zing is its least expensive aluminium bike.

  • Highs: Fine handling from a well-finished aluminium frame
  • Lows: Basic wheels and average kit don’t shine against the opposition
  • Buy if: You’re looking for a quality aluminium frame and are prepared to upgrade later

The Zing’s kit doesn’t hit the level of some of its peers. Its Tiagra groupset is upgraded to a 105 rear mech, to catch your eye in the showroom, with FSA supplying a compact Vero chainset. The budget wheels comes from Shimano, its basic but tough R501s.

The highlight of the Zing is the attention-grabbing, well-finished aluminium frame, which is paired with a Deda carbon fork. In fact, it looks so striking that our security guard took a picture of it for a cyclist friend before we went out on our first test ride. The frame may have a relaxed head tube, but its steep seat tube lends it a bit more aggression – though racier ambitions will be slowed by its modest wheelset and a wheelbase that’s more than a metre long. The frame has internal cabling, but because of its position the cable barrel adjuster for the rear mech does catch on the front brake when you turn the bar. A little thing, but slightly annoying.

Other contemporary features include the oversized down tube, a top tube that narrows as it nears the seat tube and moderately sized seatstays. The efficient pedalling through the lower part of the frame and decent comfort through the top – aided by 25mm Continental tyres – mean the bike should have pretty wide-ranging appeal. The compact chainset and 12-28 cassette are a pretty good combination too, unless you’re racing. But for any rolling route or steeper hills you’ll be glad of that 28-tooth sprocket.

The kit is all fine, if not inspiring. Shimano’s usual cup and cone hubs are serviceable by the home mechanic, and though the Tektro calliper brakes are pretty basic, upgrading to cartridge blocks is a straightforward job. But we feel that a frameset of this quality deserves better.

There’s a lot to like about the Kona, but it's heavy among its peer group – more than half a kilo heavier than Boardman's Team Carbon and a whole kilo more than the Rose Pro SL 2000. This weight and the longish wheelbase contribute to a sweet-handling, comfortable bike, but for a machine calling itself the ‘Zing’ it lacks sharpness. And you really do need to upgrade the Shimano entry-level wheels to make the most of the eye-catching frame, which we found to be never short of admirers.

This article was originally published in Cycling Plus magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.

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