Kona's Stinky line is their full-on freeride family, but triple-crown forks limit their versatility. The single-crown Coiler gets an inch less travel, but it's a great bike if there are also pedalling and cross-country style trails on the agenda.
The Coiler frame ain't no shrinking violet though, with square-headed Clump tubing maximising connectivity behind the head tube to create a tight and tough front end. The steeply sloped top tube is pipe braced, too, with a bulged seat tube section reinforcing the pivot for the long 'tow truck' style rocker link. Also, a sliding chuck for the bottom end of the rear shock makes it slightly more linear rather than falling rate.
For easy repair, the whole dropout block, including the rear seatstay pivot, is replaceable on both sides and the polished driveside chainstay shrugs off knocks. It's only a QR axle rear end though, and despite having a seat tube mount for a DOPE anti-brake jack arm, there are no ISCG tabs on the bottom bracket. There's limited clearance above the 2.4in Maxxis tyres, although you do get a bottle cage mount.
The Coiler's kit pack matches its longer ride character. The Marzocchi 66 RV ETA fork is impressively smooth on the descents, while the ETA rebound lock chokes it down for steep, technical climbing sections. The Fox DHX 4.0 shock also has adjustable ProPedal so you can run it super-active for descents but stiffen it up to combat squishy pedal feel on the climbs.
With a relatively lightweight rear wheel for this type of bike the 32-spoke Singletrack rims are still pretty tough. But the lightweight, high-pressure Maxxis AdVantage tyres trade speed for ultimate trail stickiness. You only get 180mm rotors on the Hayes brakes though, which reduces their power noticeably, in return for not much weight saving.
RaceFace's Evolve DH crankset, seatpost and handlebar are very sturdy and the AM stem didn't feel flexy. But you're not getting much advantage in kit terms, considering the high price of the Coiler Deluxe.
The Kona is also comes in low on the scales, but the way the weight and length are distributed is the most important aspect. Light, fast-rolling wheels create a feeling of easy speed and acceleration. Compared to equivalent heavier bikes (say a Norc) it feels like a cross-country rig in the way it picks up speed and hops around.
A short front centre (the length from the front wheel to bottom bracket), combined with a relaxed seat tube, means the front end is equally easy to lift and lever around in tight sections. The short wheelbase means the bike fits into tighter spaces easier and the low bottom bracket boosts confidence. This all gives it a real edge on skinny Shore sections.
With full seat extension, fast-spooling wheels and a healthy top tube and stem stretch, it also shows the others a clean pair of heels on climbs. It's faster out of corners and surges well up short, technical sections. Despite the low bottom bracket, it's not as well grounded as rivals like the Norco Shore Two
The Coiler suffers when things get bigger and faster though. The Marzocchi fork and Fox shock do a good job of controlling impacts, and it happily tackles slow-speed drops. But the bike just isn't as well tied together once serious side loads and stability issues start to appear.
Despite the low bottom bracket, it's not as well grounded as rivals like the Norco Shore Two, and you have to consciously squeeze it down on to the ground rather than just let it squat naturally. There's noticeable flex coming from the wheels and particularly the QR back end when you crank it over into the corners, and we ended up spat over the top of berms or just wandering outwards a few times. Jack and loss of traction can upset composure under hard braking unless you fit the DOPE brake arm upgrade.
The Maxxis AdVantage tyres are rated at 45-65psi, which makes them quite skittery. But there's a definite 're-grab' from them after the initial let-go, and
we often found ourselves clawing back on to the track when we thought it was all over.
Kona's Coiler is a slightly curious beast but we really enjoyed it. The frame's sturdy enough, but it lacks the bolted back end and ISCG mounts of a truly serious slam rig. But we couldn't help liking its easy, agile-handling character - especially on Shore sections.
Value for money isn't a strong point of the Kona either, and in many ways it's a slightly awkward compromise between full-on freeride and all-mountain. But we enjoyed it on the trail and while it struggled with fast and furious terrain, it excelled on North Shore sections and cross-country-style singletrack.