There has never been a better selection of superb bikes on the market than there is for 2008. With lightweight, effective and affordable suspension being watchwords for manufacturers this year, it would seem that Kona has its work cut out to shine against such stiff competition.
In its favour is a well established pedigree for producing effective hardcore bikes, and a reputation among trails riders for bikes with ‘just right’ geometry. Last year’s predecessor to the 4 Supreme, the Kona King, surprised a few people by being both a lightweight and very fast short-travel trail bike.
Ride: more than just a cross country race rig
I really liked the intuitive ride position and new frame design. Even better, the 4 Supreme rides nice and light too. The first time I rode this bike off-road in anger it took a category XC win the the superb Newnham course, but it's got a lot more to offer than just an XC race rig.
The 4 Supreme is top of the tree in the new 4 series, and carries on where the King left off. An updated Race Light scandium frame, with a swoopy top tube for increased standover (and better aesthetics), plus a modified linkage rocker are the most obvious changes.
Frame: light and strong plus it looks good too
Look beneath the avant-garde colour schemes and there’s plenty going on. The scandium frames, while light, have proven plenty capable of taking a serious long-term beating. The sorted geometry is a huge plus, too, and there is rarely a problem getting one to fit given the extensive frame size range. Kona’s frame angles have often inspired bigger bike companies; this bike has an intuitive ride position that makes the 4 Supreme feel like you’re slipping on a comfortable pair of trainers.
Looks can be a pretty important differentiator in these time of almost universally sound bikes, and in this case the green/white colour scheme got the thumbs-up from everybody. Neat little touches like the cable routing guides suggest a thoughtful integrated approach, rather than just being slapped on as an afterthought. It’s a small detail, but it’s appreciated by riders.
Equipment: mix 'n' match does the job
It’s not all roses, though. Kona, being a relatively small company, often struggles to match the component specs of the bigger companies at the same price points – and this is something that will be particularly important in 2008’s highly competitive marketplace. The 4 Supreme has an eclectic build spec, rather than the blanket Shimano builds found elsewhere. Shimano (XT) shifting is mixed with FSA wheels and Race Face Evolve components to get things moving, and presented no performance problem. Since your riding speed must be proportional to braking confidence, there’s no excuses with the excellent new Hayes Stroker Carbon fitted – they proved both a powerful and well modulated stopper.
The WTB saddle proved comfy, and the Maxxis Crossmark tyres were fine for mixed trail conditions, but we weren’t keen on the grips. Contact points are always a matter of personal preference, anyway, and are easily upgraded.
There’s something strange at work here. The paper specification may not send pulses racing, but the sum of this bike is much more than the components alone would suggest. Fast, light and capable, it’s all in the ride, and the 4 Supreme should certainly be considered if you’re a skilled trail rider looking for some fast action and also fancy the odd race.