Kona’s hardcore range is the deepest and longest established around, and they’re totally committed to the dirt scene, with both sponsored jump sites and a top roster of riders. What the Stuff loses in specific focus it makes up for with versatility on the trail.
Ride & handling: Steadier, more conventional feel than a pure jump bike gives all-round versatility
Rather than being built up as a pure dirt jump bike, the Kona is specced in a more conventional mountain bike style, giving it more of a hardcore trail hardtail feel.
Chunky tyres make it slower off the mark than more dirt-jump-specific bikes and slower to drop into smooth, carving turns on hard surfaces. They grip properly off-road though, so you can claw up stuff in the granny ring rather than just slipping and having to walk straight away.
The fact that you can get the saddle up high makes a big difference to rideability too. However, at 15.8kg – and nearly 35lb – it’s definitely a lot more of a grind than a conventional hardtail.
The payback for the extra effort comes at playtime. The frame and the fork are resolutely accurate while the big volume tyres and rebound adjustable damping mean it controls ugly landings well.
The tall bar setup lets you pull wheelies and ‘pop-before-you-drop’ front-end lifts more easily, but it does make it feel less planted at the front wheel when you’re trying to rip it round berms looking for the next launch.
The slack seat angle and slow turning of the tyres also give the Stuff a more stable and relaxed feel than a pure dirt jump bike. The additional weight affects its agility in the air, though, and when you’re trying to find speed in tight or slow-rolling trails.
The double chainring setup creates more chain-slap over rough ground too, although you’ll soon screen that out if you ride this bike a lot. The slowing and stabilising effect of the knobbly tyres will obviously vanish if you switch to something slicker and more ‘street’ too, so that’s a problem that’s easily remedied.
Frame: Proven platform with lots of size options
The Stuff shares its frameset with the £600 Shred and it’s been around for a while. On the downside, that means you still get V-brake stubs despite both bikes coming with disc brakes, but as a plus, you know this is a seriously solid and proven platform for learning your skills on.
The tall inset headset head tube backs on to a big square-headed main tube, which then tapers towards the seat tube. Rectangular seatstays and oval-to-round chainstays complete the chassis circuit.
Kona’s singlespeed Shonky bike (£700) is the pure dirt choice at this price, so the intentional versatility of the Stuff is clear. For a start, it comes in a full range of frame sizes. A quick-release seat clamp and a long seatpost means extending the saddle to ‘proper’ pedalling height is easy too, and it has mounts for a water bottle cage.
Equipment: Double chainring and chunky tyres widen appeal but transmission is below average
The kit Kona have provided also delivers value in terms of versatility. Specifically, the FSA crank that the Stuff comes with is a double chainring setup, and it has a 24-tooth inner ring for twiddling back up to the top or tackling trail centres.
The tyres are proper big off-road treads rather than groomed trail or street slicks. The cranks still spin on a downhill strength bottom bracket for maximum security and there’s a chunky polycarbonate bashguard to help keep the chain on.
The Marzocchi Dirt Jumper 2 fork is an impact-eating classic, and comes complete with a 20mm bolt-through axle, as well as an external rebound adjuster to help you control bounce. It is pretty stiff though, even before you add any air preload, and you’ll just have to get used to the clanking top-out that tends to occur when you pull up.
We’ve no complaints about the super-broad Alex rims though – they bulk up the big Kenda treads even more and handle a hammering as well as anything with a flashier name. The Tektro hydraulic disc brakes with 160mm rotors are adequate rather than amazing.
The bar is a bit narrow too, but the stem is well sized and the chunky saddle will stand a few spills before its guts come out. The stem bolt is hollow, so you can route a brake through it for barspins too. The white grips and replaceable pin platform pedals complete the contact points in secure style.